Trevor Laffan: Space is the final frontier when you have a home full of clutter

Most of us have a messy room or two - but what about when the clutter gets out of hand...
Trevor Laffan: Space is the final frontier when you have a home full of clutter

CLUTTER: Trevor Laffan says ‘stuff’ tends to hang around his home and move from room to room!

I SAW a programme on TV recently about a guy who had a serious problem with hoarding. He basically turned his house into a skip.

There wasn’t one square inch of floor space visible and, to get from one room to the other, he had to climb over piles and piles of rubbish. There were some rooms he couldn’t even get into. It was disturbing.

His bed was covered in so much rubbish that he had barely enough space to lie down on at night. The kitchen was completely unusable, so he was surviving on fast food and the remains of the food, and the containers it arrived in, were strewn about the floors.

There were creatures living there too. The house was alive with cockroaches, flies and bluebottles and there were droppings from rodents scattered around the place. It was hard to watch.

There was a happy ending of sorts though when the house was made fit for human habitation again by a team of volunteers, supervised by professionals, who removed tons of waste and gave the place a good clean. How long it will stay like that remains to be seen.

According to the Mayo Clinic in America, a hoarding disorder is a persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions because of a perceived need to save them.

A person with a hoarding disorder experiences distress at the thought of getting rid of the items, so excessive accumulation of items, regardless of their actual value, occurs.

Hoarding often creates such cramped living conditions that homes may be filled to capacity, with only narrow pathways winding through stacks of clutter. Countertops, sinks, stoves, desks, stairways and virtually all other surfaces are usually piled with stuff.

And when there’s no more room inside, the clutter may spread to the garage, vehicles, yard and other storage facilities.

Hoarding ranges in severity and, in some cases, it may not have much impact on your life, while in other cases it seriously affects your ability to function on a daily basis. There are five stages, with five being the most severe form.

Apparently, most of us have a messy room or two. Laundry unfolded, paperwork stacked on the desk, some clutter and a bit of mess are a normal part of life, and that’s OK according to the professionals. However, there is a point where the mess gets out of hand and becomes a problem, and that got me thinking.

My house has stuff. I call it stuff because the term covers a multitude.

Since we started our lock-down, I’ve been doing some painting and I keep finding stuff. I’m constantly moving stuff out of my way and, no matter where I put it, it always manages to get in my way again. It never goes away.

Some of the stuff that lies around the house is unnecessary and has outlived its usefulness. It has no specific function and most of it could be reasonably described as rubbish.

I suspect every house has stuff that belongs in a skip, but has never made it that far for one reason or another. It might even be broken, but sentimental value saves it from the bin. You can’t remember where it came from or how it got into the house in the first place, but it should be gone.

Instead, it’s put to one side until there is a clean-up, and then it’s moved to a temporary holding station in a back room, and when that room is due for a tidy up the stuff is moved upstairs to a semi-permanent spot in the spare bedroom.

After doing its purgatory there, the stuff eventually finds a more permanent home in the attic or out in the shed, where it will continue to create clutter and get in the way for the rest of your natural life.

There are a few small ceramic bowls in our kitchen that I think are used for baking, but we don’t bake much so they are really surplus to requirements. They don’t have their own designated space, so they’re kind of nomadic. They spend their time lazing around on various surfaces, so I often put them in the oven out of the way, but they always escape.

We are in a particularly dangerous phase at the moment because my late mother-in-law’s house is being readied for sale so extra stuff is appearing in our place. We recently inherited some extra drinking mugs. We have a cupboard bursting at the seams with cups and mugs, so we don’t need anymore, but still they come.

I have a small office downstairs, but it’s becoming very clear that I am the only one who thinks of it as an office. Everyone else is of the opinion that it’s just a junk room, which is why I share that space with a heap of coats, gear bags, tennis racquets, spare parts and other stuff.

I have a desk in there too and when I started out, there were six drawers in it. It still has six, but I have only access to one of them. The rest are full of small stuff and it’s a constant battle to retain control of my bit.

I’m being squeezed out. Stage one hoarding has begun.

At stage five, individuals may not be able to live in their own home. They may also discharge waste into non-toilet receptacles and keep them in the home.

This stage can also include such characteristics as severe structural damage to the home, broken walls, fire hazards throughout the home, no electricity or running water, clutter on every surface, and most of or the entire home becomes inaccessible.

I feel a little weakness coming on. I’m going for a lie down while I still have a bit of space on the bed.

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