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


The overall aim of this exploratory study is to understand the role of professional decluttering services as part of interventions with people who hoard who are known to adult social care.

Within this we have three objectives:

  1. To capture what is known from academic and ‘grey’ literature/websites about professional decluttering services.
  2. To identity models of practice between local authorities and private decluttering services including:
    • How decluttering services are chosen/commissioned,
    • The qualifications and expertise of the professional declutterers,
    • What the service provision entails, including methods of working, charges, and management.
  3. Go-along to decluttering sessions to observe what the provision of decluttering help entails, and gather the views of people with hoarding behaviours on their experiences of receiving this help.


This project runs from August 2022 – October 2023.


NIHR School for Social Care Research (Grant ref. 102645/CM/KCLJM-P208)

Ethical Approval

This project has been reviewed by the Health Research Authority Social Care Research Ethics Committee (IRAS ref. 315606).


There are three stages to the research.

The first is a review that will scrutinise local authority hoarding guidance documents, and also bring together any international academic literature on hoarding and decluttering and ‘grey’ literature on decluttering, including project reports by charitable and public sector organisations.

The second stage is two sets of interviews. The first set of interviews will be with practitioners who work with decluttering services and other local authority staff identified as involved in commissioning decluttering services. The second set of interviews will be with decluttering services, to capture their ways of working with local authorities on hoarding referrals.

The third and final stage of the fieldwork is service user ethnography and interviews. We will go-along with professional declutterers whilst they work with those with hoarding behaviours to observe how support is provided in practice. This will be supplemented with interviews with those who have/are currently receiving support from a professional declutterer.


Input from people with lived experience and key organisations is an important element of this study. Megan Karnes, Founder/Chair of HoardingUK is a co-investigator on this project, and the organisations on our advisory group are the Association of Professional Declutterers and Organisers (APDO), The British Association of Social Workers (BASW), The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH), and the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC).

With the support of these groups, we will produce findings and key messages for policy and practice, including peer-reviewed academic papers, accessible summaries for practitioners and people with lived experience (and their families or carers), and an illustrated visual output. We will present at SSCR and HSCWRU events, as well as at Hoarding Awareness Week and the APDO annual conference.

Related work

And see

Current thinking on hoarding behaviour (webinar, 28 November 2022).

Half-day event

1 February 2024: New Perspectives on Hoarding Behaviours... from Psychology, Law & Social Care

Our Partners


NIHR School for Social Care Research

Project status: Completed

Principal Investigator