Since appearing on the Channel 4 documentary Obsessive Compulsive Hoarder, Richard Wallace has become Britain’s (if not the world’s) most famous sufferer from a condition that is said to affect up 3 per cent of the population.The 63 year old has made great strides in his recovery, storing far less junk than he used to. His large garden now only holds 16 cars, surrounded by trolleys, chairs and walking frames, while a marquee stores 36 years worth of newspapers and magazines.
Since his first appearance on TV, Mr Wallace has been receiving help from a psychologist and from Andy Honey, his friend who lives next door with his wife and two children. With Mr Honey’s help, more than 100 tonnes of jumble has been removed from the house and garden, while therapy has helped him turn a crucial corner.
“The biggest progress that I have made is that I am not collecting on the same scale as I was,” he explains. But the hoard is not going down as fast as Mr Honey would like. “Richard is looking at a five-year programme,” Mr Honey said. “But I’d like to think it will be under control in another 18 months. He doesn’t need to clear every single room, but I would like to see the things that he needs become accessible to him and the papers stored in a way that he can get to them.”
Dr Stephen Kellett, a psychologist from Sheffield University, says that the recent reclassification of the illness may bring more research and funding. “No one knows the answer to what causes it,” he says. “There is some evidence about the role of childhood trauma – loss, neglect, separation – and to some degree there is a genetic component there.” But there is no hard evidence to quantify its prevalence. “It tends to be seen as treatment-resistant,” Dr Kellett says. “Normally outcomes are not brilliant; levels of relapse are very high.”
1. Do you fid it difficult to use your rooms because of clutter?
2. Do you find it hard to disregard, recycle or give things away other people would normally get rid of?
3. Do you collect things you can get for free, or buy more than you can afford?
4. Do you experience any emotional distress because of the clutter?
5. Is your clutter and/or inability to throw things away having an adverse effect on your social life or relationships?
If you have answered yes to these questions and think you may have an issue with hoarding, speaking to a counsellor could help you uncover the cause and work on reducing the compulsion.
I am a member of the British Association of Counselling and Pyschotherapy (BACP) and of the Hampshire Association for Counselling and Pyschotherapy. As a Member of BACP I am bound by its Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy, the Ethical Guidelines for Researching Counselling and Psychotherapy (where practitioners undertake research) and subject to the Professional Conduct Procedure for the time being in force. I hold full Professional Liability Insurance and a clear enhanced Criminal Records Bureau check.