The Hoarding Ice-Breaker Form was created by Cherry Rudge, a Professional Hoarding Practitioner based in Surrey (UK), whose father had hoarding behaviours.

Cherry was alarmed at how many bags of unused medication she and her teams were removing from people’s homes whilst decluttering and organising them.

Most of the boxes contained prescribed anti-anxiety or anti-depressant medication – but why weren’t people taking them?! And why hadn’t medical professionals delved into the root causes of their illness?

Cherry’s research identified that in addition to having anxiety and/or depression, the clients in question generally had two other key things in common:

  1. Impaired Executive Functioning (to a greater or lesser extent) which affected their ability to:
    • plan
    • organise
    • make decisions
    • remember things (working memory)
    • prioritise
    • manage their time
    • multi-task
    • start/finish tasks/projects
    • control their impulsiveness
    • control their attention, behaviours, thoughts or attention
  2. Chronic Disorganisation – Disorder had been a factor in their life for many years, and persisted despite self-help attempts to get organised

In most cases clients also had:

  • Chronic ill-health, mobility issues or age-related issues
  • Symptoms of Neurodevelopmental conditions such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Autism, Dyslexia or Dyspraxia; other neurological conditions (eg. brain tumour; Acquired Brain Injury; Dementia);
  • Been victims of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) or trauma
  • Accumulated items belonging to others

All of which sapped their energy, which reduced their ability to bring order to life in their homes; made them feel embarrassed, unwilling to ask for help or allow people into their home, for fear of being ridiculed or judged.

And on top of that, they probably forgot to take their medication, because of their working memory problems!

Instinctively Cherry understood that the prescribed medication wasn’t actually addressing the root cause of her clients’ anxiety and depression, and that if clients received a diagnosis that explained their impaired Executive Functioning and then received appropriate treatment and practical help and support it could potentially reduce the amount of anti-anxiety or anti-depressant medication being prescribed, and improve the client’s ability to create order from chaos!

The main challenges to this happening were firstly getting people to acknowledge they had a problem, and then finding a way of getting them to talk to their their GP (or other medical professional) without making them feel more depressed or anxious.

A simple ice-breaker form (with a few tick boxes) seemed to be the solution. Cherry drew inspiration from something similar that the charity OCD-UK had produced, and – with their permission – the Hoarding Icebreaker Form was born!

The form was launched in 2018 at the very first conference hosted by the charity HoardingUK; now has its own website; been updated several times; translated into several languages and been adapted and used successfully by charities, housing associations and other organisations to start conversations around the World.

Cherry found it empowering to receive her own ADHD diagnosis (at the age of 56 – which apparently explained a few things!) after becoming a Trustee of the Fastminds Adult ADHD Support Group in Kingston-upon-Thames.

It’s increased her passion for raising awareness about the need to reduce the stigma and misunderstandings associated with clutter, disorganisation and hoarding behaviours, by delivering training and consultancy services, and campaigning for:

  • Compulsory trauma-informed training for medical and other professionals (eg. GPs; Psychiatrists/Psychologists; Social Workers; Support Workers; Citizen’s Advice; charities; Environmental Health Officers; Solicitors, etc) about:
    • chronic disorganisation and hoarding behaviours
    • hidden disabilities associated with impaired Executive Functioning that can lead to clutter, disorganisation and hoarding behaviours, and the types of challenges people affected by them face on a daily basis.
      • Conditions include ADHD, Autism, Dyslexia and Dyspraxia (Developmental Co-ordination Disorder), Bipolar Disorder, migraines, PTSD, Acquired Brain Injury (ABI), viral infections (eg. COVID-19), etc.
      • Executive Dysfunction difficulties such as:
        • communicating – for example, they may: struggle to initiate conversations or express themselves – especially on the spur of the moment; have a different perception of a situation; avoid situations (even replying to emails, etc) that they feel could potentially involve or lead to conflict
        • remembering appointments (and getting to them on time if they have remembered), people or where things have been put;
        • planning ahead (eg. meal planning, budgeting, etc);
        • managing money (which can lead to debts);
        • prioritising what tasks to do and when – especially when multi-tasking is required;
        • regulating emotions (which can lead to family conflict, issues with relationships or employment, etc),
  • Fast-track medical assessments for people affected by clutter, disorganisation or hoarding behaviours – especially if they have a mental illness or family history of chronic disorganisation and/or hoarding behaviours.
  • RADICAL improvements to services and treatments for anyone with impaired Executive Functioning – especially those with hidden disabilities who have co-occurring/co-morbid conditions, such as sensory issues, visual or hearing impairments, mobility issues, etc.

For more information or to enquire about adapting the Hoarding Ice-Breaker form, please use our Contact Form.

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