Hoarding and spatial awareness-: How ROMBi can help.

A hoarding disorder can be described as acquiring an excessive number of items and storing them in a chaotic manner. This may result in visibly unmanageable amounts of clutter or in less tangible forms.

Signs of a hoarding disorder can include finding it hard to categorise or organise items, having difficulties making decisions and/or keeping items that may have little or no monetary or personal value.

Someone struggling with a hoarding disorder may struggle to manage everyday tasks, such as cooking, cleaning and paying bills and may not know how to let things that they don’t want go, in case they lose valuables with them.

Items that someone might hoard include newspapers, magazines, books, clothes, leaflets, letters, including junk mail, plastic bags or cardboard boxes.

But when is hoarding considered a significant problem?

The NHS describes hoarding as a significant problem when:

  • the amount of clutter interferes with everyday living – for example, the person is unable to use their kitchen or bathroom and cannot access rooms
  • the clutter is causing significant distress or negatively affecting the quality of life of the person or their family – for example, they become upset if someone tries to clear the clutter and their relationship suffers

One way of perceiving hoarding is as an effect of issues with ‘perceptual organisation’ (spatial awareness), which makes organising an acutely draining experience. Hoarding is a tangible expression of this.

To the extent that we can influence it, our ability to organise anything in our experience in a satisfactory way depends on the coherence and versatility of our ‘perceptual organisation’. If coherence is poor, eg, an effect of a lot of friction and contradiction in our experience, or the versatility is underdeveloped compared to the complexity of the thinking that we want to be doing, then we experience blocks, an in the form of an ongoing inability to decide, organise, or act. As a chronic condition, this has cumulative effects throughout life.

Geometric information, taken in through the hands (ie tactile) which does not rely only on auditory and visual inputs is necessary if there is to be any significant improvement. It makes vital conceptual tools available immediately. Our mental processing knows how to use the information, as templates, for sorting and organising data, information, ideas and thoughts in effective and relevant ways. We can observe the effects of this as things begin to work out much better and with ease, we may notice greater clarity, simplification of what might have been overcomplicated before, greater vitality, optimism, steady changes and much more.

Perceptual organisation is normally measured in psychological tests by blocks and shapes, noting our ability to put them together according to patterns. This is a perceptual process that relies on our discreet awareness of space and time, and the conceptual tools with which to organise things in the way that we want them to be.

With regular structured handplay (block play), someone struggling with hoarding could begin seeing positive effects quite quickly, and more as they continue.

ROMBi was especially designed for developing perceptual organisation. Educationalist and psychoanalyst, Penny Georgiou, commissioned the design of ROMBi in response to her work with university students who found difficulties in organising their studies, including research, writing essays, dissertations, and preparing for examinations.

Penny explains how individuals can work with jigsaw puzzles and even children’s puzzles. The main thing is the repetition of the handling and the putting together of the patterns. When a puzzle is completed, the mind takes the information from the experience and allows increasingly clearer ideas on matters that may have felt overwhelming or confusing before.

ROMBi users tend to begin having effects quite quickly, for example, a clearer mind, a sense of focus, forgetting about overthinking and being able to just do what they need to do, Ongoing practice is priceless and life changing. Regular play, preferably daily is recommended until the improved organisational structures become established and self-perpetuating. Ideally, this happens in childhood, but when it hasn’t happened earlier, ROMBi is designed to build those organisational foundations through practice at any age for a willing participant.

We encourage puzzle users to make a note of any changes that they notice. This is interesting and encouraging for the user, as here they not only experience improvements but they notice them too. These enables their ideas and expectations to change in viable and creative ways. Without pressure or undue effort, development will naturally tend to go further and faster with surprising effects.