Decluttering the homes of people with hoarding behaviours: Local authority commissioning, professional practices, and user experiences

Jennifer Owen Final reporting   2023


About 2-5% of the UK population have hoarding behaviours. The impacts of hoarding on people and where they live vary. They can include physical health, mental wellbeing, social, relationships, and environmental problems. For example, there may be increased risk of falls, depression, isolation, insect/vermin infestation, eviction, fire, and death. Family members are often very concerned. Many people come to the attention of local councils at ‘crisis point’ and helping them requires a lot of resources and well-organised multi-agency approaches. Research advises a ‘slow and steady’ approach to decluttering and cautions against ‘blitzing’ or ‘deep cleaning’, which can cause more distress. Research has shown that some councils struggle to match up limited budgets and staff shortages with this approach, and sometimes pay professional decluttering services.

This study builds on a current NIHR SSCR funded study ‘Social care responses to self-neglect and hoarding among older people: what works in practice?’. Early findings have shown that help for people with hoarding behaviours is variable, partial, and disjointed. There has been no research into the relationships between councils and decluttering services, including how they are chosen/commissioned and regulated, their accreditations or qualifications to undertake the work, expertise, what they provide, what they charge, methods of working, and what happens as a result (positive and negative experiences).




This study will explore the activity of professional decluttering services for people with hoarding behaviours, investigating contacts with councils, how help is organised, and what happens.

New information will then be able to be provided for councils and practitioners, as well as voluntary groups and those supporting people using or thinking about decluttering services, including people themselves and family members.

This research will also assist the Association of Professional Declutterers and Organisers to better support its members and produce a HoardingUK online directory for individuals and councils wanting to make informed decisions.


It will:

  • Identify and read any research on the subject
  • Speak with council social care staff who support people who are hoarding to understand how decluttering services are chosen, used, and managed
  • Speak with and observe people who provide decluttering services, and those who have/are receiving this support (funded or signposted to by the council), to understand their experiences and suggestions of what might improve their working with local councils and other groups.