A room full of junk

Linda, 57, lives in Northamptonshire and has been a Grand Union customer for over 20 years. When a contractor came to her property in December 2019 to carry out some electrical work, Linda’s home was so cluttered, the contractor left without being able to do the work.

Linda was referred to our Wellbeing & Support team, but then the pandemic struck and Linda didn’t feel ready to engage.

Eighteen months later, Tony Burns, one of our Wellbeing & Support Coordinators, persuaded Linda to enrol on a hoarding programme that we were offering to customers and since then she’s made excellent progress, clearing her bedroom so it’s clutter-free and comfortable again.

Linda says: “I would walk into my bedroom, look at it and walk out again. There was only just enough room for me to get to sleep. It was cluttered with everything from paper and boxes of things I never used.

“Starting the hoarding course gave me the motivation I needed. A small skip was delivered and during the first six weeks of the course I filled that skip and asked for another, a bigger one this time.

“Now I can see the floor and the bed and I can sleep comfortably again.”

The two-part hoarding programme Linda embarked on was delivered by a clinically qualified counsellor from the mental health charity, Mind, for Grand Union customers who struggle with hoarding and associated behaviours.

The aim was to improve customers’ safety, quality of life and emotional wellbeing through six weeks of cognitive behaviour therapy, tackling the root cause of hoarding and dealing with thoughts, feelings and behaviours. The second part of the course consists of 10 weeks of mentoring from a trained Mind volunteer.

“The course has made me think more logically and helped me with decision-making. Picking something up now, I think do I need it or use it? If I’ve had something for five or six years and not used it or thought about it, then I may as well give it to someone who will use it or throw it away. It’s a useful tip for shopping too – if I don’t need it, I put it back on the shelf. It’s a wonderful feeling and saves me money too!

“It also made me realise that I don’t have to do a whole room or everything at once; I just start off in one corner and then leave it, rest, sit down, do whatever I want to do and then go back to it.

“I’ve always had clutter around me, I’ve never really been a tidy person, but I turned a blind eye to it before. I think it was my safety zone, my own little bubble, something I did to comfort myself from psychological issues in my past.

“The course taught me that I don’t need the safety net, I have my husband and my children, who are all so supportive of me.

“When I walk into my bedroom now, I feel so proud. I’ve got a desk in there and a little office set up with my laptop and a TV too. It might only be one room that’s clear so far, but it’s a big sense of achievement for me. I’ve accomplished something good and I feel better in myself, knowing I’ve done that myself.

“After I finished the bedroom, my husband and I tackled the back part of our long living room and that’s now my sewing room. The other half of the living room is next!

“I’ll start with getting boxes for things I’m throwing away and things I’m keeping. I won’t set a target date, because then if I don’t do it, I’ll be disappointed in myself and feel I’ve let myself down. I will do it when I’m able to and when I can make the right decisions about what I’m getting rid of.

“I’d recommend the course to others, 100%. It really does help, as it changes the way you think about clutter and hoarding. It’s a wonderful feeling to have that change of thought, the best thing in the world.

“If you need help, please speak to Grand Union as the help is there, even if you think it’s a dead-end situation. I honestly thought I’d be evicted.

“I’m getting better, slowly, but you need to take that first step and ask for help. If you don’t, you’ll get into a rut. If it wasn’t for Tony and the Wellbeing & Support team, I’d still be in that rut. Tony and the team have been wonderful, I can’t fault them.

“Grand Union has helped me a lot over the years, with computer courses and help with Maths and English, and now I’m getting some welfare benefits advice in relation to my PIP review.”

Tony adds: “At the start, Linda wouldn’t let me into her house as she was so embarrassed, but now she’s a completely different woman. She’s been given the tools to take back control and she’s taken it on.

“Linda’s so happy with herself and there’s been such an improvement to her wellbeing. It’s great to hear how well she’s doing.”

For privacy reasons, photos are stock images to represent Linda’s situation, and are not of her home.