Spring cleaning is a tradition for many people.  Garages, basements, and attics get cleaned out, and big items that are no longer wanted are put at the curb.

That disposal is a challenge this spring because many local municipalities have cancelled or postponed their annual spring large garbage pick-up due to the COVID-19 situation.  Normally, residents would have the opportunity to leave those items at the end of their driveways.  However, for residents of Champlain Township, Hawkesbury, East Hawkesbury, the large garbage collection is cancelled this spring.  In The Nation, it has been postponed.

Another complication due to COVID-19 is that thrift stores are closed and are not accepting donations due to the risk of infection.  Recently, a heap of unwanted materials had accumulated in front of a thrift store on Cartier Boulevard in Hawkesbury, even though the store was closed and was not accepting donations.  The heap remained for a couple of days before it was removed by a bulldozer, organized by the municipality.

For people who want to get rid of things they do not want or need, not having the opportunity to do so this spring is an inconvenience.  However, for others, collecting items and getting rid of them is a serious challenge.

Hoarding, as it is better known, is not like the panic-driven buying of toilet paper we saw in local stores at the beginning of the COVID-19 emergency.  Hoarding is a legitimate mental illness.

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), there are three points in the diagnosis of a hoarding disorder.  One is a persistent difficulty with parting with possessions, regardless of their value, and distress with the idea of getting rid of those items.

The second point is symptoms including an accumulation of possessions to the point where living and work spaces in the home become so cluttered that they are unusable.  These spaces are only decluttered through the intervention of family members, cleaners, or authorities.

The third point is that the symptoms usually cause significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other areas of functioning.

According to CMHA statistics, two to five per cent of the population has a hoarding disorder and 85 per cent of those living in a hoarding situation can identify another family member who also has symptoms.

Additionally, people with hoarding disorders often usually have General Anxiety Disorder or Major Depressive Disorder.

In March, Johanne Renaud, Annie Poirier-Larocque, and Raquel Bouvier-Bédard of the Champlain East branch of the CMHA appeared before United Counties of Prescott and Russell (UCPR) council to outline their strategy for assisting residents with hoarding disorders.

The strategy employs the HOMES—Health, Obstacles, Mental Health, Endangerment, and Structure framework to determine the effects of the clutter on the people in the home.

The CMHA wants to assist people in Prescott-Russell with hoarding disorders.  The intervention plan was developed following the creation of the local Hoarding Response Initiative in 2011.  The CMHA is seeking partnerships with local municipalities to coordinate the safe disposal of materials from homes where hoarding is an issue.

In addition to waste disposal, fire departments and animal welfare authorities are sometimes involved.

The CMHA already has a contract with the City of Cornwall for hoarding issues.  The program has already assisted 40 people in Stormont-Dundas, and Glengarry.  UCPR council has agreed to contact all of its municipalities about the program and the CMHA’s interest in partnerships.

For more information on hoarding disorders and efforts to assist people with them, go to the Champlain East CMHA website, https://www.cmha-east.on.ca/index.php/en/ .