Search This Blog

Thursday 4 December 2014

Historical Hoarding Training for Professional Organisers

On Friday 28th November 2014, 
history was made 

Around 10% of the Membership of The Association of Professional Declutterers & Organisers UK (apdo-uk) came together with fire officers for the UK's first ever Hoarding Awareness Training for Professional Organisers - a fun, warts and all day designed to help people decide whether they want to take on the types of challenges associated with helping people affected by hoarding.

The event was held at Surrey Fire & Rescue Service's HQ in Reigate, and was led by Heather Matuozzo of Clouds End CIC and Cherry Rudge of Rainbow Red, advisors to The Chief Fire Officers Association's (CFOA) Hoarding Working Group.

Heather gave a fascinating insight into Hoarding Disorder - which was classified as a mental illness in The American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM5) published in May 2013 - and outlined typical traits of individuals with hoarding behaviours; the necessity to be a detective when assessing and working with them - in order to discover what the underlying reasons are for the hoarding - and ideas for motivating people to help them with decision-making.
Andy Honey of Clouds End CIC described examples of complex hoarding cases involving a multi-agency approach, and outlined options for inspiring people to disposal of unwanted items, whilst Cherry showed outlined processes, stakeholder complexities and possible risks involved when multiple agencies are involved. 

Professional organisers thinking of working with individuals with hoarding tendencies were left under no illusion about how overwhelming and time consuming it can sometimes be when working with them.  

Bryn Strudwick - Group Commander, Community Safety Manager of Surrey Fire & Rescue Service - outlined examples of fire safety dangers associated with hoarding, and what can be done to reduce the risks.  Shocking photos demonstrated where people hadn't appreciated the risks to them and their homes.  

Delegates were given a copy of Surrey Fire & Rescue Service's brand new Multi Agency DVD Staff Training Package, entitled Keeping YOU Safe from Fire Campaign.  The pack is designed to help agencies work with them to protect vulnerable people in Surrey living in the community from the risks fire.

Vasoulla Saviddou - who appeared on TV in Britain's Biggest Hoarders in 2012 - gave a fascinating insight into her personal experiences of having hoarding behaviours, and how it felt for her to have professional organisers helping her.

Heather commented: "Many thanks to Bryn Srudwick for organising a 'groundbreaking' and 'pioneering' training session - combining some natural partners for helping people with hoarding issues."
Final thought…
Never underestimate the power of your actions.
With one small gesture you can change a person’s life.

For better or for worse….

Delegate feedback
"The 'Working with Hoarders' training day today in Reigate was brilliant! Thank you both Cherry and Heather (and Andy and Vassoulla). I feel my understanding of my work is improved whether I eventually work with serious hoarding or not."
"Very insightful and I believe a must for everybody working with hoarders or contemplating to do so.  What a brilliant day!   Thanks so much." 
"The info day at Reigate was just great. So informative and interesting.  I'm so glad I managed to get there."   
"Thanks Heather and Cherry - found it very useful, not least as it really brought home what working with hoarders might involve."
Further hoarding awareness training for professional organisers planning on working with hoarders is planned, in association with Fire & Rescue Services across the UK.  

For information please contact Heather Matuozzo or Cherry Rudge.

Sunday 19 October 2014

A grand day out at the Hammersmith Hoarding event on 15th October 2014

It was all go on the apdo-uk stand at Wednesday’s Hoarding event at Hammersmith Town Hall (15th October 2014), where I was representing apdo-uk. People literally queued up to find out about the services of professional organisers!
apdo-uk’s stand was located immediately inside the main entrance to the hall, so it was impossible to miss us! A steady stream of guests started arriving from 9.30am, and my last consultation of the day finished at about 6.15pm (even though the event officially finished at 4pm!)!

It was good to meet probationary apdo-uk member Trio Wilson of Clear Space for Me who visited from Oxford, and I have to give a special thank you to fellow member Caroline Vienot of The Passionate Organiser for helping out on the stand and answering questions for a while when it got too busy – otherwise goodness knows what time I’d have got out of there!

Social Worker Fiona Harding of
Hammersmith & Fulham
Adult Social Care Team
with apdo-uk Member
Heather Matuozzo of Clouds End CIC
Whilst I didn’t get a chance to go round and see any of the stands, I’m told by Head of apdo-uk’s Hoarding Advisory Team Heather Matuozzo (of Clouds End CIC) that there were multiple agencies represented at the event, including social services, mental health (MIND), London Fire Brigade, the local Hoarding Support Group, Orbit Housing Services, clearance company Just Clear and a gentleman who was explaining about ways of selling unwanted items online.

Social Worker Fiona Harding of Hammersmith & Fulham Adult Social Care Team was there - she's co-author of an article entitled "Developing an Approach to Working with Hoarding: Space for Social Work" 

On the apdo-uk stand we had enquiries from all sorts of people including social workers, occupational therapists and community nurses from across all three Boroughs hosting the event (Hammersmith & Fulham, Kensington & Chelsea, and City of Westminster), and we also heard some very interesting experiences about and from quite a number of hoarders!

People were keen to learn about the Clutter Image Rating Scale which was devised by pioneering psychologists Dr Gail Steketee and Dr Randy O. Frost in the USA as a way to measure the degree of clutter in the kitchen, living rooms and bedrooms of hoarders homes.  It has been adopted as a best practice gauge by agencies all over the world who support hoarders, including social services and Fire & Rescue Services.

There was also interest in how to take part in hoarding research being done by Professor Paul Salkovskis, Dr James Gregory and Dr. Claire Lomax at the University of Bath

Plus, of course, the usual “where/how do I start decluttering?!”

One particularly interesting and relevant conversation was about DBS checks (what used to be CRB checks) and whether it is compulsory for professional organisers to have one - which currently it isn’t. However, it was made clear to me that anyone working with hoarders and vulnerable adults should definitely consider getting DBS checked if they want to get work from councils. Certainly Heather makes it compulsory for anyone working for Clouds End CIC to have a DBS check; fortunately, she can arrange this service as Clouds End is a Social Enterprise company.

At lunchtime author James Wallman gave a short talk about his book “Stuffocation”, and Heather gave a very well received Clutter Clinic talk, which resulted in a stream of people coming straight to visit the apdo-uk stand afterwards – whatever you said, thank you Heather!


In the absence of apdo-uk leaflets to give out, I had to use my own business cards - as you can see, quite a few were taken during the day!  

Recycle, shop online & donate to The Firefighters Charity

One of my top highlights of 2014 was visiting the Houses of Parliament in May to help launch the first ever UK Hoarding Awareness Weekorganised by the Hoarding Working Group of the Chief Fire Officers Association, of which I'm a member.  

As a result I'm also now working closely with Surrey Fire & Rescue Service, which has well and truly opened my eyes and given me a much greater understanding and appreciation of the extraordinary lengths the Fire & Rescue Services (FRS) go to to try and prevent fires and accidents, as well as fight them.

Neenaw! Just £5.00 buys a toy fire engine
Which is why I'm doing my bit to support The Fire Fighters Charity, not only by buying Christmas cards and gifts from them, but also by promoting their recycling services - something very relevant to decluttering!

Things like textile recycling, door to door clothing collections, and printer cartridge recycling helps them raise money towards the £9 million pounds per year it costs to support serving and retired members of the fire and rescue community when they are in need. 

For example, the charity runs three rehabilitation and recouperation centres; a help-line; a magazine; health, well being and welfare services, plus local support for people in their homes.

So please help me help our brave firefighters and their families by giving a donationbuying something from their online shop, or depositing your unwanted items at Fire Fighters Charity textile banks at fire stations, community sites and supermarkets across the UK (they're bright yellow with the Charity's logo on them so you can't miss them!).  Enter your postcode here (scroll down to get to the table) to find your nearest bank.

With your help we can make life easier for the wonderful people who help protect and save us, and help recycle and re-use our planet's precious resources at the same time.

Thank you.


Thursday 16 October 2014

Friday 3 October 2014

Dementia awareness training

There are plenty of things about my job which give me enormous amounts of pleasure, and the training I've received this week has done just that.  

On Monday I was very fortunate to be a guest of Surrey Fire & Rescue Service for a half day practical training session that they're giving ALL their staff - both firefighters and office-based - in order to help them improve the way they help and protect people with dementia.

I won't give the game away and explain what the training consists of, just in case you're due to attend the training and don't know what to expect!  Suffice to say it was BRILLIANT, disconcerting, disorientating, a little painful at times (but not in a kinky way!) and DEFINITELY not death by PowerPoint! 

I feel very honoured to have been given the opportunity to attend Surrey FRS's training, and proud to live in a county where people with dementia can sleep safer in their beds, knowing that if there is a fire they'll meet firefighters who will be dementia aware, and should hopefully be more respectful and patient with them as a result.

I came away feeling I had a much better understanding of the difficulties faced by older people, and particularly those with dementia.  Especially with things like not being able to see or hear things clearly, disorientation and feeling hopeless.

I'm also now a total convert to the need for people with dementia to have a home safety visit from the Fire & Rescue Service, and fitting Telecare systems in the homes of people with Dementia. 

I learned that of 8 deaths in Surrey caused by fire in the home, 6 of the people had dementia.  All of them had smoke alarms, but NONE of the smoke alarms were linked to a Telecare system.

Telecare enables people to remain people to remain independent in their own homes, by providing person-centred technologies to support the individual or their carers.

It costs from around £55 per quarter, and includes things like:

Wearing a pendant alarm means that when the pendant is pressed, the alarm is activated and a call is automatically made to a care centre, this is staffed 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Without having to get to the phone, the caller can then speak to a specially trained operator, who will respond to their needs and organise appropriate assistance.

As dementia is a progressive disease (contrary to what a social worker told me once....), it's important to get Telecare installed in a person's home sooner rather than later, so that they get used to having them around; otherwise they may not remember to use them in the event of an emergency, or attempt to disable them - which defeats the object of having the system to help keep them safe!

Then on Tuesday I was in Guildford learning about "Understanding how to support people with dementia, & their carers", which was organised by Surrey County Council as part of their Dementia Friendly Surrey Campaign.

As someone who is currently caring for a close family member with Alzheimer's, the training was very timely and often poignant.

Not only was it a great opportunity to find out whether what I've been doing so far had been along the right lines (fortunately it seems it has - much to my relief), it helped me understand the enormous benefits - to me personally and for my business - of being able to respect, empower, engage and embrace people with dementia and their carers, in order to improve the quality of their lives - which was the key message of the day.

The training was delivered by the wonderfully inspirational Sarah Mould, a former Occupational Therapist turned trainer and consultant in dementia care with The Dementia Training Company.

I learned that the main risk for developing dementia is having poor blood circulation and high blood pressure, and that the most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer's Disease.

And apparently it's not just the elderly who are effected - it's becoming more common for people in their 30s to be diagnosed with dementia, which is utterly shocking.  

Equally shocking is the number of people aged over 65 living with dementia in Surrey alone.  In 2012 it was around 15,500, but by 2020 that figure is expected to rise to 19,000 (a 23% increase).  Extrapolate that type of scary statistic across the UK, and then across the world, and it becomes something of epidemic proportions.

Which means an increasing number of my friends, family, colleagues, clients and potential clients will have dementia - a sobering thought.  And even though dementia isn't necessarily hereditary, of course there's a strong likelihood I could have it too one day.

So if you come across someone who shows signs of looking as though or saying they're a bit lost or confused, or finding it difficult to explain what they're trying to do, or looking around anxiously, or having difficulty handling or understanding their money, it's quite possible they may have dementia-type symptoms.

Also look out for things like difficulties with speech, or having problems with what you're saying, asking you to repeat yourself frequently, or - the classic - repeating themselves frequently too.

Please don't turn away from these people, or ignore them - imagine how that would feel if someone did that to you under similar circumstances.

  • Be conscious of the cognitive difficulties a person may have
  • Make sure the environment supports effective communication - for example, you may need to move to an area which is quieter and less distracting for them
  • Keep calm and slow down when you're talking to them, at an appropriate volume  
  • Speak clearly at an appropriate volume, using excellent non-verbal communication (eg. calm facial expressions) and non-threatening body language
  • be specific about what you're telling them or asking them to do - DON'T spout lists at them as choices - it's unlikely they'll remember what you've said
  • Write things down to aid understanding
  • Use pictures to aid understanding (photos are better than drawings)

I applaud what Surrey County Council is trying to do through its Dementia-Friendly campaign, and I am proud to be helping it become a more inclusive and supportive place to live for people with dementia, their families and carers.   

This blog is just the first of many things I'm going to do to help cascade what I've learned this week.  

What will YOU do to make YOUR community more dementia friendly?  

Because what you do now to make it easier for people with dementia to live well could make life easier for you or your loved ones in the future.

Food for thought...

For more information:

Wednesday 24 September 2014

Hoarding Awareness Training for Professional Organisers in the UK - 28th Nov 2014

Are you a professional organiser who works with hoarders? 

Or have you thought of becoming a professional organiser and working with hoarders, but want some reassurance before giving it a go?

Then please join Cherry Rudge of Rainbow Red and Heather Matuozzo of Clouds End CIC on Friday 28th November 2014 for a special training day aimed at helping professional organisers understand and cope with some of the challenges we face when working with people affected by extreme clutter.  

Cherry and Heather represent The Association of Professional Declutterers & Organisers UK (apdo-uk) on the Chief Fire Officers Association’s (CFOA) Hoarding Working Group, which organised the first ever UK Hoarding Awareness Week in 2013.

CFOA's Hoarding Working Group is working to create integrated best practices amongst the UK Fire and Rescue Serviceprofessional organisers and other agencies working with hoarders.

Surrey Fire & Rescue Service (who are also Members of CFOA’s Hoarding Working Group) have kindly agreed to host the day at their Reigate HQ, and are keen to raise awareness of the safety issues relating to hoarding; they will give an overview of how professional organisers, hoarders, the emergency services and other key stakeholders can work together to reduce the risk of fire or accident in a hoarder’s home. 
The day will cover a wide range of topics including:
  • Identifying the traits of hoarders
  • Hoarding disorder - mental illness & other health challenges
  • Conducting interviews and assessments & report writing
  • Using the Clutter Image Rating Scale
  • A talk by representatives from Surrey Fire & Rescue Service’s Fire Investigation & Community Safety Management teams about:
    • home fire safety visits, and follow-up actions taken if there is extreme clutter
    • hoarding protocols
  • A hoarder’s experience of working with professional organisers, support services (eg. social services), therapists, etc
  • Social housing & Hoarding Taskforces
  • Social Services, direct payments, etc
  • Eviction and re-housing
  • Practical challenges – getting rid of stuff, short-term storage, etc
  • Hoarder support and self-help groups
  • Safeguarding ourselves as professional organisers

There will be plenty of opportunities to ask questions and share knowledge and experiences – please help us make the day as interactive as possible; our aim is to end up with a network of professional friends and colleagues who follow common best practices when working with hoarders, and support each other through what can be challenging and draining experiences.
 Date:               Friday 28th November 2014
 Time:               Registration from 9.30am for a 10am start
                        Estimated finish time: 4pm
 Venue:             Surrey Fire & Rescue Service HQ, REIGATE, Surrey 
                        (A map will be sent to you once your booking is confirmed)
 Costs:              apdo-uk Members:             £70
                        Non-apdo-uk Members:     £100
Refreshments:    Tea, coffee & biscuits will be provided. 
                        Feel free to bring your own herbal/decaffeinated, drinks.
                        Please bring your own lunch as there is no canteen on site. 
Spaces are limited to about 20, so book early to avoid disappointment. 

If you miss out this time, don't worry - we're going on tour with this training around the UK, so we'll hopefully be coming to a town near you soon - certainly before UK Hoarding Awareness Week 2015.  

To reserve your place or for more information, please contact Heather Matuozzo (Clouds End CIC) or Cherry Rudge (Rainbow Red).
We look forward to seeing you on November 28th for what promises to be an exciting, honest and revealing warts-and-all day of camaraderie 
and FUN!

Monday 26 May 2014

Clutter/disorganisation & Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Aspergers, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD/ADHD)

A friend very kindly sent me a recent article from The Guardian newspaper, entitled "A letter to my son....whose flat is filty - the letter you always wanted to write".

The article is in the style of a letter from a Mum to her son, and highlighted for me something I've seen a lot of since I've been a professional organiser: that some of my clients who have difficulty coping with clutter or disorganisation show symptoms related to being on the Autism Spectrum (also known as Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD).

And yet - for the most part - my clients don't seem to know it; instead, they often struggle with things like Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, depression or anxiety due to low self-esteem, partly due to their inability to be what I've heard some of them describe as "normal". 

I've heard comments like "I want to have an immaculate house like my neighbours, but I can't seem to get my head around organising things or keeping regular routines" or "people tell me I need to do this or that, but it makes me feel upset and pressured because I find it so difficult to do what others seem to find easy."

Not once have my clients ever said they've been tested for or diagnosed with Autism - a condition that affects more than 10% of adults (about 588,000 people in the UK today) - ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) or ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).

I find it desperately sad that so many people slip through the diagnosis net - mostly because little was known about Autism and/or ADD/ADHD when they were younger; they've been left to fend for themselves, without the right kind of help or support, or - most likely - were either too embarassed to ask for help, or didn't know there was help available in the first place. 

I belong to The Association of Professional Declutterers & Organisers (apdo-uk), which published a newsletter with useful guidelines for helping people with ADHD get organised.

One of apdo-uk's advisors - Jan Assheton - provides coaching solutions and training relating to ADHD and Asperger's. Jan says "The condition rarely exists alone and may be diagnosed alongside Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Depression, Anxiety, Asperger's, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Hoarding Disorder and Sleep/Eating Disorders."

I personally believe that many people at the chronic end of the clutter spectrum -who have hoarding disorder (a mental health condition) - are prime examples of vulnerable people affected by these types of conditions, or a combination of these and/or other physical, neurological or mental health problems.

Some hoarders in the past have been unlucky enough to end up suffering the humiliation, embarassment and trauma of having to undergo an enforced major clean-out by Environmental Health and/or eviction - expensive "solutions" which recent evidence proves can do far more harm than good to the recipient, and result in them feeling worse than ever about themselves. 

It can demotivate them from any desire to declutter.  In fact, it can result in making them hoard all over again in no time as a way of trying to control their lives and surround themselves with items to create a "comfort zone" of personal possessions that make them feel better.

Some hoarders have been known to be so traumatised by clean-outs or eviction that they've taken or attempted to take their own lives - if that's not a cry for help or in despair, I don't know what is.

A diagnosis of Autism or ADD/ADHD could have resulted in the type of practical support - for example, training, counselling and/or medication - which could have helped prevent their extreme situation from occuring in the first place, or funding for the services of empathetic, non-judgemental professional organisers to provide motivational support, advice and practical assistance.

Which is one of the reasons why I'm so committed to UK Hoarding Awareness Week, the recent campaign by The Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA), which I helped to organise.  The aims of the campaign are to:

  • To spread more widely an awareness of hoarding facts                       
  • To promote greater understanding and acceptance across those who can influence change
  • To encourage a stronger tendency for those who can influence change to support and promote at key moments.
By raising awareness of hoarding amongst the likes of GPs, mental health services, social services, Vulnerable Children and Adults Teams, Environmental Health, landlords, housing associations, Citizens Advice and the emergency services, it will hopefully reduce the number of people falling through the hoarding "net", so that they get the right type of help at the right time, and don't have to endure extreme measures which could blight the rest of their lives.

So I urge anyone who has an influence over assessing children's health to look carefully at whether they might be affected by ASD and/or ADD/ADHD; a simple diagnosis could make a HUGE difference to the quality of their lives - and the lives of their loved ones - in the future, and help them live a more cluttered, organised and stress-free life. 

To those of you responsible for providing support to vulnerable adults, I urge you to put yourself in their shoes, and consider having them assessed for ASD and/or ADD/ADHD before making life-changing decisions which could cost more than just money.

As the daughter of a hoarder, I thank you in advance, from the bottom of my undiagnosed ASD/ADD/ADHD heart.

About Autism & ADHD

The National Autistic Society (NAS) is the UK's leading charity for people with autism and their families. According to their website, Autism condition is a complex developmental disability involving a biological or organic defect in the functioning of the brain.  It is a lifelong developmental disability with no cure; children with autism grow up to be adults with autism.

NAS says that Autism affects how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people. It also affects how they make sense of the world around them. It is a spectrum condition, which means that, while all people with autism share certain difficulties, their condition will affect them in different ways. Some people with autism are able to live relatively independent lives but others may have accompanying learning disabilities and need a lifetime of specialist support.

According to NAS, ADHD is a condition related to Autism, that makes a person inattentive, impulsive and hyperactive. An increasing number of children are diagnosed as having both ADHD and autism. Some parents are apparently only diagnosed with ADHD after their children have been diagnosed with autism.

NAS has developed a framework for understanding and responding to the needs of children and adults on the autism spectrum. The framework is also useful in identifying underlying issues, reducing the disabling effects of the condition and providing a cornerstone for communication. It also forms the basis of all autism-specific staff training and an ethical basis for intervention. The acronym for this framework is SPELL. SPELL stands for Structure, Positive (approaches and expectations), Empathy, Low arousal, Links.

For more information about Autism, Asperger's and ADD/ADHD:

To find a professional organiser for help with decluttering and getting organised, check out apdo-uk's website:

Friday 16 May 2014

Parliamentary launch of UK Hoarding Awareness Week - 19-25 May 2014

When I first started Rainbow Red back in 2011, no-one – especially me - could have predicted that three years later I – the daughter of a hoarder - would be one of the organisers of the first ever UK Hoarding Awareness Week, and a guest of The Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) at a Parliamentary launch event in the riverside Common Room bar of the House of Commons.

Much to my continued amazement, this is a real life true story.

There I was this week enjoying afternoon tea - with the likes of a Shadow Minister, MPs, senior representatives of CFOA and the fire and rescue service, charities and housing associations, plus fellow professional organisers and hoarders featured in tv documentaries – all of us discussing the safety risks associated with properties affected by hoarding, and the importance of multi-agency partnerships to help safeguard people affected by hoarding.

Left to right: Heather Matuozzo (Clouds End CIC), Vasoulla Savvidou,
Richard Wallace, Cherry Rudge (Rainbow Red), Andy Honey (Clouds End CIC)
I attended with my friend and esteemed apdo-uk Hoarding Advisory Team colleague Heather Matuozzo (owner of Clouds End CIC, a social enterprise which provides practical help, support and training on all manner of hoarding-related topics).  We'd been invited to join CFOA's Hoarding Working Group, advising them on the best approaches for the fire and rescue service to work with hoarders, and develop a Toolkit for the campaign.

Heather's colleague Andy Honey was also at the Parliamentary launch.  Andy appeared in Channel 4’s documentary “Obsessive Compulsive Hoarder”, a programme which showed how he helped hoarder Richard Wallace (from Westcott near Dorking, Surrey) clear tonnes of clutter from his garden and home.  The experience changed both their lives.

It was a great pleasure to meet Richard on the day of the launch, as well as the delightful, fun-loving Vasoulla Savvidou of “My Hoarder Mum and Me” fame.  She's the mother of the beautiful and gorgeous Jasmine Harman, founder of Help for Hoarders who I signed up as apdo-uk’s first not-for-profit partner in 2012, and who addressed the apdo-uk conference in 2013.  What fascinating, lovely people they all are.

Anyway, back to the Parliamentary launch. 
Lyn Brown (Shadow Fire Minister) and Jim Fitzpatrick MP
It was hosted by Jim Fitzpatrick MP, and included Shadow Fire Minister Lyn Brown drawing attention to facts, figures and popular myths about hoarding, and Ian Bitcon - CFOA UK Strategic Lead for Hoarding (West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service) outlining various specific hazards to fire fighters, including blocked access and egress (entry and exits) due to piles of materials such as stacked newspapers.

A fire safety video was shown - produced by Hampshire Fire Service, in association with The Building Research Establishment (BRE), and co-sponsored by apdo-uk and Clouds End CIC; it demonstrated the effectiveness of a sprinkler system in putting out a fire in a hoarder’s home. 
Dave Curry and Katie Cornhill of Hampshire Fire Service,
with Paul Fuller, President of CFOA
and Heather Matuozzo of Clouds End CIC
Personally, I find it difficult to believe that many hoarders would agree to having a sprinkler system installed, as there’s a risk that the water would damage their precious possessions in the event of a fire starting and the sprinkler being activated.  Of course, if they’re installed in advance of someone moving into their new home, then it’s a fait accomplis; who knows how they’d react in the event of the sprinkler being used, but that’s probably a debate and blog for another time.

Mark Andrews of The London Fire Brigade explained protocols they developed for working with hoarders - in association with Heather at Clouds End - which have very successfully involved multiple agencies working together.  And finally, Andrew Chaplin - CEO of Foundations, the national body for home improvement agencies and handyperson services in England - outlined how they handle challenges they face when working with hoarders.

And then it was time for the buffet and mingling. 

I bet the producers of the hoarding programmes never thought they would see hoarders having afternoon tea with MPs in the Houses of Parliament!

Whilst UK Hoarding Awareness Week (#HOARDAWARE2014) starts on Monday 19th May, the need to help hoarders is constant. 

I’m delighted that CFOA’s campaign is raising awareness of the dangers of hoarding, which is said to affect anywhere between 1.5% and 5% of the UK population. 

As a professional organiser who also happens to be the daughter of a hoarder (and someone who tripped over a door wedge at work many years ago and slipped two discs - see my previous blog on the subject), I’m extremely risk aware of slip, trip and fall hazards.

Properties affected by excessive amounts of clutter present extreme risks and fire hazards. Hoarders are vulnerable (often secretive) people, and can be in denial about the dangers they create with their clutter; unwittingly they create conditions which put people’s lives in danger – their own, plus visitors, neighbours, the local community and the emergency services. 
By working closer together, the emergency services and organisations (such as local government, mental health, social services, social housing landlords and professional organisers) will be able to improve the holistic care and support (medical, practical, financial and psychological) that hoarders, their families and their support groups need – most importantly, funding to pay for the services of empathetic professional organisers who work with hoarders and help make a practical difference to their lives.

So, if you're a member of any of these professions, or know someone who is, please start discussions to get the ball rolling and help safeguard your community - because who knows, you might even be living next door to a hoarder and not realise it.

For further information about the UK Hoarding Awareness campaign 2014, do please contact me (Cherry Rudge) or Ian Bitcon of CFOA, or follow Rainbow Red on Twitter (@RainbowRedUK) or Facebook (Rainbow Red – Decluttering, organising and project management).

In the meantime, now I’ve recovered from the 2014 Parliamentary launch, I’m off to think about next year's campaign, and introduce myself to my local fire and rescue service to see how we can work closer together – all in a day’s work you understand, nothing to do with firefighters in uniform, honest….!