At the Association for Professional Declutterers and Organisers annual conference

Jen OwenJen Owen is a Research Associate at the NIHR Policy Research Unit in Health & Social Care Workforce, King’s College London. (482 words)

Unit researcher Jen Owen virtually attended the Association for Professional Declutterers and Organisers (APDO) annual conference on 20th May 2021. APDO represents the UK decluttering and organising industry. Founded in 2004, it now has a community of over 400 professionals across the UK.

Caroline Rogers started off the day with a presentation based on her recent paper ‘Home and the extended-self: Exploring associations between clutter and wellbeing’. As a Professional Organiser herself, Caroline was motivated to study for a MSc in Applied Positive Psychology and Coaching Psychology, to see if the positive wellbeing outcomes of being on top of clutter she noticed in her clients were universal. Her presentation outlined the current significant gap in literature on clutter, and how she went about exploring the associations between home self-extension variables (subjective clutter, objective clutter, home self-expression and declutter habit) and wellbeing (measured quantitively through the PERMA model). Her findings challenge existing theories of clutter as being maladaptive, instead drawing attention to its subjective nature, and offer a refined definition of clutter as “A subjective experience of possessions (material or other) that inhibits the curation of self-identity at home”.

Caroline is the founder of the UK Clutter Research Group – a cross-disciplinary group of academics in human geography, sociology, economics, social care, and psychology – of which Jen is a member. We meet quarterly to report on research developments and share findings. If you are interested in attending, please contact Caroline directly.

Amongst other presentations in the afternoon, Wendy Hanes and Angela Esnouf, of Hoarding Home Solutions in Australia, presented on ‘Managing Hoarding in COVID times’. Drawing on their experience of working with and providing training to, the Australian Department of Families, Fairness and Housing, during lockdown restrictions, they shared the things they learnt, and the strategies they used to help keep people engaged, motivated, safe, and on track during this difficult time.

They outlined specific practical examples for building respectful trusting relationships, using assessment tools to identify risk and encourage targeted activities to improve safety in the home, and providing avenues for people to seek support that may help them stay motivated and accountable.

Jen is a part of a team in the Unit working on the NIHR School for Social Care Research funded project ‘Social care responses to self-neglect and hoarding among older people: what works in practice?’. Working in six sites in England, we will be conducting interviews with safeguarding managers, practitioners, service users and family members. As part of this we intend to examine local referral pathways, practice approaches, inter-professional/agency working, and the use of specialised agencies such as hoarding services. The insights gained from attending this conference reinforce the need for this research, and also avenues for future research on services supporting older people with clutter.

This was my first time attending the APDO Annual Conference, and given the Association’s strong links with research into clutter and hoarding I will certainly attend again next year.

Jen Owen is a Research Associate at the NIHR Policy Research Unit in Health & Social Care Workforce, King’s College London.