I became a hoarder after my marriage broke down – my house was constant mess

A single mum who cluttered her house with stuff she never used is now helping other hoarders to clean up their homes.

Janine McDonald was always neat and tidy until the breakdown of her marriage, post-natal depression and the looming threat of redundancy badly affected her mental health.

The 52-year-old constantly tried to clear her house in Salford, Greater Manchester, but always found an excuse to put it off.

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As her home grew steadily messier, Janine began to see the impact it was having on her mental health and decided to do something about it.

She said: "My house looked like I’d been burgled.

"There was stuff on every single surface.

“I knew things had to change so I started saying to myself ‘just do three things every time I went into a room’."

Janine said she'd choose three things – tidy, throw or give them away.

It helped her to turn things around and said it wasn't "overwhelming", so she soon started to make progress.

Within months of starting this back in 2010, Janine saw her cluttered house begin to transform along with her mental health.

But after being made redundant from her corporate manager’s job in 2014, the single mum-of-two had to live on a £800 monthly Universal Credit payment.

This affected her mental wellbeing and it was a constant battle over the next few years to keep her mental health in check.

As she gradually got better she began looking for employment that would allow her to work during school hours and term times.

Knowing she was unlikely to find this in the corporate world, Janine decided to inquire at the Job Centre about setting up her own business.

Just a fortnight before the first lockdown in 2020, she started Clear the Clutter Now which has gone on to help scores of people to overcome their messy habits.

Janine uses her first-hand experience of clearing clutter to empathise with her clients and help them to overcome their issues.

She has also worked with several hoarders, alongside other healthcare professionals, to tidy their homes.

"There was one client you couldn’t get from the kitchen into the lounge, and you had to go out of the back door," Janine explained.

"They have everything – a lot of it was clothes, DVDs and broken things they hadn’t thrown away.

"A lot of hoarding is psychological or from physical trauma and that can go back to being a very young child.

"People with neuro diversities struggle with organisation and procrastination."

She added: "What I’ve found is that people with ADHD traits are finding me to help support them.

"I do it online and in person – depending on where they live.

"I get to know them and get to know the journey they have had and talk to them about how they would like their home to feel, and how they would like their homes to be."

The mum describes herself as being very "hands on", and she says overcoming hoarding isn't about investing in more storage, but using what you have and making the most of it.

She added: "Ultimately every decision is the client’s – I may ask them quite a few questions, but I always allow them to decide whether it’s time to let something go.

"I share my journey with them too and they can see that I understand how they’ve got themselves into this situation.

"There’s no judgement – I’m very reassuring.

"They’ve already done the hardest thing in reaching out to me, so I say ‘now I’m by your side and we’re doing it together’."

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