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Hoarding and squalor clients’ relationship ‘saved’ by Home and Community Services

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For the past 36 years, Colin and Michael have been a strong team – fighting through any challenges that came their way. 

But when Colin’s habits began to change a few years ago, and eventually worsen in the past couple of months – a strain began to inflict upon the pair’s relationship.

“My tendencies to holding onto things began to really test us,” says Colin. “I began to think, if I don’t do something about this – I might lose him.”

Colin had slowly developed a hoarding disorder, an issue affecting an estimated 2.6% of the Australian population – often unrecognised by those outside the family home.

Like most people with hoarding tendencies, Colin’s habits came from his family’s affinity to holding onto items, particularly if they were in working condition and had the ability to be fixed. Michael, Colin’s partner, first noticed the depth of the problem when they moved into Colin’s mother’s house following her passing.  Once the pair acquired her house and some possessions, Colin’s  hoarding tendencies increased dramatically.

Soon, Colin and Michael’s home became very near uninhabitable – with hardly any floor space visible and no room to sit inside the house.  

Boxes of items began to pile inside the corridors, and items cluttered the dining room table, rendering it and many other rooms, unusable.

“I knew I had a lot of clutter, but I never thought I’d be anywhere near the ‘squalor’ side of it,” says Colin. “I’m starting to look at things with a different view these days.”

Colin and Michael first contacted Catholic Healthcare’s Home and Community Services team after being referred from their local hospital.

“It’s been nearly ten months now – and you just wouldn’t believe the difference in the house. We can actually have people over now!” says Michael.

“We’ve been talking to Ofa and she’s been helping us through the process of letting things go. And the house is really starting to get in order now.”  

Ofa, Colin and Michael’s Hoarding and Squalor Community Services worker has been helping the couple in working through milestones in clearing the home – starting with the simple task of clearing the dining table and slowly working through to other rooms of the house.

 “It was a really difficult process to begin with – I was tasked with mid-week homework, which got me into the habit of saying, “I don’t need this now” and I can let it go,” says Colin.

“At the end of the day, it’s been a marvelous result. Not only has it helped us live comfortably again, but it has helped our relationship to repair as well. We really couldn’t be more grateful.”