You are not alone says Surrey hoarder during Hoarding Awareness Week

A hoarder who is trying to overcome her addiction has opened up her home in an effort to break taboos and allow more people to seek help.

Mandi Simms’ problem crept up on her as a reaction to stress, depression and anxiety about 10 years ago but has since learned she isn’t alone.

As part of Hoarding Awareness Week she is speaking out to raise awareness of the help that is at hand, be that from charities, the council or even Surrey Fire and Rescue, so others can find the help they need

She said: “I am a massive advocate for wanting to support mental health in the community, but I was lucky.

“I went to the doctor to talk about the darkness, mental health.

“I wasn’t feeling great, and I was just very lucky because I didn’t visit because I thought I had a hoarding disorder, I didn’t think I had one, I just thought I was someone with a lot of stuff.

Then the realisation dawned. “I really do have a problem here.

“The “Oh my goodness what am I going to do with it?”, hit me,” and that’s when Mandi began the process of trying to overcome her disorder.

She said: “It’s been a long journey. I’ve been very open about it now.

“If I stand up and speak up about it, I can help people behind closed doors who have hoarding behaviour impacting their life.”

Mandi’s problem is far from resolved – even after admitting she was a hoarder – because it is more than simply admitting there’s an issue and clearing out your home.

“You wouldn’t take alcohol away from an alcoholic and just leave them, saying ‘you’ll be fine now’.

“It’s not as simple as clearing a house and leaving them behind.

“Some people aren’t ready to have their houses cleaned”, she added, “a vast trauma clean” might seem like the obvious answer but does nothing for the root cause.

Mandi said: “It doesn’t solve the problem. You have to spend time finding out why and how you got there.”

And that is why she has decided to speak up.

As part of her journey she set up a pop-up shop in Walton’s Heart Centre to gradually part with her vast collection of shoes, clothing and pretty much anything else.

Mandi said: “People often think, and you see the programs where people go in, get the skip and cleaners in, but there will always be a reason, like any other addiction or compulsion, hoarding is used to cope and get through life.

“It’s the glass of wine that creeps up to a bottle, you don’t see it when its happening to you.

“There will usually be a few triggers, it’s often loss, breach of trust, grief, rejection, bereavement.

“For me it was my dad.

“My dad had a sudden heart attack. He was my biggest cheerleader.

“He was always there.

“Losing him, without saying goodbye, was hard.

“I didn’t deal with it properly.

“If you need time to grieve, you need time to grieve, I think that’s what I potentially didn’t do and the hoarding just masked the loss.”

Hoarding became her coping mechanism, until it overtook her life and became the problem.

Mandi said: “Grief and loss were really big causes.

“My addiction was my go-to and now I want to help others.

“I still get overwhelmed. I still find it very difficult to cope, my home is very overwhelming.

“When you have a lifetime event happen and it really rocks you, you will go to whatever you feel will help you cope.

“It wasn’t drink or drugs or fitness, it became possessions over people.”

There is now very little space in her home. Having people over isn’t an option “Sadly there isn’t the room for them” she says.

“I know it’s not right, I don’t talk about what’s normal, but to not be able to move around in your own home is sad for me and the consequences, the consequences on friends. It makes other people sad, my friends, as they don’t know what to do to help.”

Hoarding Awareness Week runs from May 13 to 17 with the intention of trying to bring into focus on a disorder that can creep up on people.

Surrey Fire and Rescue also offer home visits to help install smoke detectors, devise escape plans, and provide fire-retardant bedding.

They can also signpost people to other support.

Mandi has also said she is happy to share her story and offer any advice from her pop-up shop – as well as sell her vintage clothes.

She added: “Its all vintage, pretty things, sparking things, very eclectic. My home is very organised; shoe mountains, not dirty.

“For me this is a journey and I’m still on it.

“The pop-up shop is to declutter, piece by piece, and to help me believe it is possible.”

Surrey County Council has released tips to help and reduce the risk and impact of hoarding while the Mary Frances Trust is also at hand for those seeking support.

For more on Mandi’s story and to seek support, including details of peer support groups visit: The Mary Frances Trust.

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