Their idea of 'helping' her is to send a team to clear the entire flat. This sent my mum into a panic: how would they know what is valuable and what isn't. And with hoarding only recently being recognised as a form of OCD, clearing the junk would not be addressing the source of the problem.
Frustratingly for mum, she knows that she has a problem and has even asked her GP for help but there seems to be a lack of support for this condition. Perhaps because not much is really known about it.
To appease the council I been going over to her flat at weekends to help her start sorting. It's a daunting task with every dimly-lit room being stacked high with boxes and bags all in a coating of cat hair and dust (with the occassional fossilised cat poo thrown into the mix). It's physically and emotionally draining for both of us but mum is being surprisingly cooperative about getting rid of things and we often unearth stuff from when my brother and I were kids that makes us laugh - there was a smirk on my face as I put a smeg-head badge into the box for him. Her goal - apart from being evicted by the council of course - is to get the flat in a state that she could have the grandchildren over, which would be brilliant for all of us.
I've found the most useful tip is to get stuff out the house immediately: rubbish bags and recycling straight out to the bins, old furniture/junk - that hopefully the council will remove - straight out into the back garden, and boxes for me, my brother or for charity into my car. We also give ourselves a little cheer whenever we clear a cardboard box and flatten it for recycling! Also some proper storage has helped; we replaced two knackered old chests of drawers with an Ikea unit that holds multiple boxes which is useful when you're trying to group similar things together as you're sorting.
A few finds...
Matching family kaftans (Dad looking especially cool) in The Dressmaker Special
Angry bird... crap crafts started early for me. This was an Easter egg holder I made at school. I took a photo for posterity before it went to the big chicken coup in the sky aka the bin
I've brought back three carloads of junk - enough for several car boot sales. All the things for charity needed sorting and cleaning/laundering first; and if I didn't do it quickly then I had two little helpers going through the boxes too. "What is this mummy?" said E clutching a Zippo lighter - eek!
Mum's now at the stage that she can get to the windows and see the beds again. Mr has been helping with the flatpack construction and putting up blinds for her (her cat likes to shred nets). She seems determined to carry on decluttering and is waiting to hear back from the council to see if what we've done is enough. I'll definitely have to go back and help more but I'm looking forward to a weekend off to just relax a bit.