Experts have made a 'clutter scale' of pictures showing rooms in increasing states of mess to help people decide if they have a hoarding problem – with Bucks Fire and Rescue warning against the dangers of excess clutter.

The images show a kitchen, living room and bedroom on a sliding scale from "completely clutter-free to very severely cluttered."

Each series has nine photographs and people can pick the one that comes closest to the level of disorder in their home.

The first picture in one series shows a spick and span kitchen, with subsequent images showing more and more detritus.

In the final image, the room is crammed from floor to ceiling with junk.

Created by academics Gail Stekeree and Randy Frost, the scale is being promoted to raise awareness about the condition.

Fire services have joined forces with campaign groups to raise awareness about the condition, which can prove fatal if left unchecked.

Karen Lock, from Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service's community safety team, said: "Hoarding can create significant risks to the individual, the community and the emergency services.

"Hoarders often store large quantities of combustible items such as books, newspapers, magazines and wood.

"High levels of clutter in the home make it much easier for a fire to start, and increase the risk of it spreading quickly, cutting off your escape routes."

Megan Karnes, director of charity Hoarding UK, said people with hoarding problems were facing eviction instead of getting the help they needed.

She said: "We want systemic change that will better allocate time, money and resources."

She added: "Stop spending money on court and provide support to the person."

According to Hoarding Disorders UK, between 2.5 and 6 per cent of the UK are affected by the disorder.

Director Jo Cooke said: "Compulsive hoarding can make life a misery, affecting health, well-being and lifestyle, and posing a significant risk of fire, illness, infestation and other dangers.

"Hoarding touches the whole family and, in extreme cases, impinges on basic freedoms, such as space in which to eat, do paperwork or even sleep."

According to Ms Cooke, the World Health Organisation will recognise hoarding as an official disorder later this year.

She added: "Hoarding is not a lifestyle. We have to recognise that it's a mental health disorder.

"Hoarders don't choose to live this way and it needs to be identified and treated."

Someone is deemed to have a hoarding problem when their home becomes excessively cluttered, when they have problems discarding things, or when it interferes with everyday living.

The International OCD Foundation also promotes the use of the scale.

It said: "For some, a small pile of things in the corner of an otherwise well-ordered room constitutes serious clutter.

"For others, only when the narrow pathways make it hard to get through a room does the clutter register.

"People can just pick out the picture in each sequence [that] comes closest to the clutter in their own living room, kitchen, and bedroom.

"This requires some degree of judgment because no two homes look exactly alike, and clutter can be higher in some parts of the room than others.

"In general, clutter that reaches the level of picture four or higher impinges enough on people's lives that we would encourage them to get help for their hoarding problem.”