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Shopaholic and ‘hoarder’ from Newbury Park gets to grips with her 43-year buying addiction

Michelle is keeping more than 30 hats that she still wears. Michelle is keeping more than 30 hats that she still wears.

Thursday, February 7, 2013
3:00 PM

A self-confessed “shopaholic” has given the heave-ho to 1,000 items of clothing as she deals with a hoarding habit which was getting out of control.

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Still to go

Michelle still wants to part with at least:

200 pairs of shoes

200 belts

200 hats

60 bags

Michelle Rees, who lives in Newbury Park, has taken decisive action after she found herself overwhelmed by cupboards and boxes stuffed with vintage clothes which she has been buying for 43 years.

On Monday, the reflexologist sold 1,030 pieces, including suits, dresses, trousers and jackets dating back to the 1960s which had taken over her front room.

But she still wants to sell 660 items, including shoes, belts, hats and bags to help her deal with spending and hoarding which she felt was “getting OTT”.

She said: “There wasn’t enough room.Either the clothes had to go or I had to go. People have addictions to drugs, smoking – I’m addicted to buying clothes, but I enjoy them and because it’s from charity and second-hand shops, I don’t spend a lot of money.”

Decades’ worth of clothes in 50 bags have gone to a Lincolnshire buyer, with Michelle even parting with her some of her favourite leather jackets for only £1 each.

Her second-hand gear dated from the 1940s to the 80s, but she has also amassed books, records, CDs and about 40 of her own portrait paintings, all of which must go.

Michelle, who previously ran the Gym Juniors club in east London and who is in her 50s, said: “It was becoming an issue that I couldn’t find things [in the house].

“I’m wading through clothes in cupboards and drawers. I thought it’s got to end. It’s the practicalities of space, I would like to have a spare room that’s empty.”

She moved to her house in 1975 but had already been buying the outfits which would eventually dominate her surroundings. Her family even suggested she find a TV programme that could help her deal with her clutter, but she found it hard to part with any clothes.

She said: “I never tried to get rid of things. I love wearing different clothes, it’s just enjoyable.

“Bags are just lovely and I like to match what I’m wearing.”

While Michelle is getting to grips with the amount of clothes in her home, for some people compulsive hoarding can become a significant problem.

The hoarder may collect items of no value, such as junk mail or carrier bags, and it can take over their life, to such an extent that their work performance or social life suffers.

It is recommended that compulsive hoarders seek help from a GP.

Michelle, a singer with the Redbridge Music Lounge, said: “I did consider going to get help. It’s finding what kind of help you can get.

“I think I’m mastering this myself. I managed to bag these things up. To anyone who is a hoarder, to bag it up, it’s very cathartic. I got rid of 500 items last year.”

She will now enjoy walking and dancing around her transformed front room and may no longer spend so much of her money in charity shops.

She said: “I went into a charity shop on Friday but I didn’t come out with anything. I couldn’t have done that years ago.”

If you are interested in making any bulk purchases from Michelle, call 07958 619 608.

Compulsive hoarding

- For those with more serious experiences of hoarding, help is available.

Treatments such as cognitive behavioural therapy can be used to help someone understand why they find it difficult to throw things away and why their clutter has built up.

This is combined with practical tasks and a plan.

Dr Steve Feast, the executive medical director for North East London NHS Foundation Trust, said: “People with hoarding difficulties often suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder, which may or may not be directly connected to their clutter problem.

“Hoarding is also often associated with anxiety and depression.

“Compulsive hoarding is challenging to treat because many people who hoard don’t see it as a problem, or have little awareness of their disorder and how it’s impacting on their life.

“However, it’s really important to encourage a hoarder to seek help, as their obsession cannot only cause loneliness, but may also pose a health and safety risk.

“If not tackled, it is a problem that will most likely never go away.”

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