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Why do people hoard items?

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The hoarding of items is particularly common in the UK, with more and more self-storage facilities and units being used as a place for people to keep their collectables.

Like most human behaviors, saving and collecting possessions can range from being totally normal to excessive or pathological. Most children have collections at some point and approximately 30% of British adults define themselves as collectors. Hoarding and Compulsive Hoarding are some of the more commonly used terms to refer to an excessive and problematic form of ‘collectionism’.

A recent study by Multicube, self-storage providers in Leeds, has tried to uncover the reasons why people just cannot part with items too them. Below are some of the most remarkable findings.

Hoarding has often been considered a symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). It is clear that in some cases, hoarding can be a symptom of OCD, for example, when hoarding accompanies a fear of contaminating/harming others if “contaminated” possessions are discarded or superstitious thoughts such as the unreasonable belief that throwing something away will result in a catastrophe of some kind.

However, recent research has shown that in most cases, hoarding appears to be independent from other neurological and psychiatric disorders, including OCD. These individuals do not experience intrusive thoughts, images, or impulses (that is, obsessions) or repetitive behaviors (that is, compulsions) as defined in the current classification systems and required for a diagnosis of OCD. This means that a large proportion of sufferers may remain undiagnosed and thus not receive adequate treatment.

Symptoms may include a persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions (regardless of the value others may attribute to these possessions) with strong urges to save items and/or distress associated with discarding, and the accumulation of a large number of possessions that fill up and clutter active living areas of the home or workplace to the extent that their intended use is no longer possible, i.e. you can’t cook in the kitchen or sleep in the bedroom. Symptoms may also be accompanied by excessive collecting or buying or even stealing of items that are not needed or for which there is no available space.

Just under half of people in the UK hold on to their items due to nostalgic reasons, according to a survey by OnePoll.

Even though a third of the sample argued that de-cluttering their home made them feel "relieved" and "liberated", nearly half of adults in the UK are still hoarding in their homes. Popular items that are kept include photo frames, clothes that no longer fit, teddies and music collections.

The poll, which sampled 2,000 people online, also saw that wedding dresses and lava lamps were popular items to keep. The British Heart Foundation (BHF) is actually offering a new service to collect unwanted goods for free. Mike Taylor, BHF's retail director, said: "We would like to encourage everybody to start thinking about having a spring clear-out."

If you happen to fall into one of these categories and you do not want to part with your valuables, you can always invest in storage facilities to store them in. Alternatively if this article has raised a few alarm bells, you could clear out this spring-out with the old and in with the new.

Do you have any questions? Please ask.