Finding Your Tribe

I speak for myself, but I can’t imagine anyone not wanting a group of friends that are there for you when things get rough. Close friends that will support you and hold a space for you. They are your sounding board and cheering section. They plant seeds of hope and ideas for wonderful things to come. When you find your group you hear yourself say, “These are my people!”

A tribe both gives and takes so there needs to be a balance with the understanding that at different times there may be a bit of unbalance as one of the tribe needs more attention. While thriving in your group you want to have fun and do things together. You want to share celebrations. This is how to really get to know each other. When you are a part of a tribe you show up for other members and speak up when you need them to show up for you.

You can have more than one tribe. When you join up with a group and you know that feeling of belonging and know that the group will give you joy and a sense of purpose you know that this is also your tribe. My tribes include my closest friends, my spiritual group, and my professional groups. All these groups feed me and make me happy and whole. 

Having said all of this, I have to say I am really looking forward to meeting up again in person with my ICD (Institute for Challenging Disorganization) group at the conference in a few days. What fun to hug, laugh with, and catch up with everyone while at the same time we share learning and innovative ideas. What a great tribe!

Adult Children – Dealing with Ilness and Death

I have written about this before but due to a tragic incident over Labor Day Weekend when a dear friend found her adult son dead in her home, I feel moved to address it again.

All newbie adults as well as any other adults that are single should be aware that they have responsibility for their health and financial records. Parents cannot get access to them without permission. Therefore, it is a good idea to have adult children sign a health care designation or health proxy in case there is an acute situation. This is also true with a financial power of attorney. If an adult child gets into a wreck and has brain damage, without a power of attorney the parent has no right to sigh up for benefits for him.

HIPAA is the acronym for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act that was passed by Congress in 1996. HIPAA requires the protection and confidential handling of protected health information. Many health providers will request a person to sign a written authorization before they disclose protected health information. This is sometimes called a HIPAA release, HIPAA waiver, or a release of information authorization. This is what a parent should have for their single adult children.

And if you are the durable power of attorney for healthcare for your child and if you are currently authorized to act, you have the right to request and obtain information. If your adult child is older and financially independent, a durable financial power of attorney will allow you to manage their finances if they become incapacitate and unable to make those decisions for themselves.

Now, having said all this, it is time for me (again) to have a discussion with my single adult son.

 

Organizing Outside Storage Areas

Although here in Georgia temperatures continue to spike into the 90’s on some days, there are now some cooler days and the promise of fall. This promise inspires us to organize our sheds, garages, and other outside storage areas. It’s time to stash our summer equipment and muck out the debris that has been tracked in. 

Storage areas can get pretty messy and unorganized in a year. They are not in your main living area and therefore not so visible and annoying. It’s easy just to walk in and dump items “just for now”. This is especially true if you have purchased some new items that don’t really have a “home” yet.

Before you start on your project, take a good look at the way it is now. Notice what is working (don’t mess with that area) and what is not working. Envision how you want to use this zone. Your vision might include a place to:

  • park your car
  • store trash cans/recycling
  • store gardening tools and accessories
  • pot or repot plants
  • work on projects and store tools
  • store bikes and other sports equipment/outdoor games/camping gear
  • store outdoor entertainment supplies
  • store extra household products

Bring everything outside or if this is a large or very filled area, pull out stuff by sections. Sort like with like. Notice if you have duplicates or near duplicates of some items. See what is broken and decide if you really need to replace it or to trash it. Make note of what you have not used at all this past year. Give away or sell tools you no longer use. The Tool Bank is a great place to donate tools for community projects. (http://toolbank.org) Get rid of expired seeds or old chemicals.

Next decide where to logically place your zones. Items that are used frequently are best stored near entrances. Seldom used items can go to the back of the storage area. As you group your items in each zone, look for containers to hold small items together. A clear shoebox without the lid can hold gardening gloves. A flat basket can hold small gardening tools. Use shelves, pegboards, hooks, and nails to keep items off the floor. Avoid stacking containers because, for sure, you are going to want something that is in the bottom container. Label containers that are not clear.

Knock down cobwebs, look for any structural damage, sweep the floor, and start putting things away. You’ll be amazed at how much room there is now that all the items have been purged, bunched together and logically stored. 

Now, reward yourself! A hot shower and a cool drink might be just the thing.

Gratitude

I am grateful for a lot of things but high on my list is my family. My family is very supportive, and I know if I had a need, they would be there for me as I would for them.

This past week I was blessed with a visit from my son, daughter-in-law, and grandson Oliver. I got to see Oliver, who does a great impersonation of an elephant using his arm as the trunk, see his first live elephant. I got to watch him develop his pouring skills in a small pool on my deck, and I got to introduce him to the joys of ice cream.

I also had real quality time with my son, Ben, and his wife, Kellie. We got to catch up on all that was going on in our lives, exchange menu and recipe ideas, and just talk, talk, talk. I loved it!

Although it will be a while before I get to see them again in person, they are great about doing Facetime and I usually get at least one long chat a week and keep current on what is going on in their lives and Oliver’s newest milestones. He is now 20 months and it seems he is learning new things daily.

I have also had contact via emails and Facebook with my sisters, brother, and various nieces and nephews. This past week my husband had a pacemaker put in and a follow up biopsy for a neck cancer. We have had a lot of encouragement and follow up with both his side of the family and mine.

Next month I look forward to visiting my sister, Ann, who lives in Florida and my brother, Jim, is trying to schedule a visit here in October. My husband’s family are planning on coming here for Thanksgiving. I know that we all live very busy lives and I am grateful that we take this time for each other.

 

Why Maintenance Is an Important Part of Your Routines

I think we’re all pretty much aware that once we clean up our kitchen, do our laundry, or pay our bills we can’t really sit back and say “Well, that’s behind me!”. These routine tasks need to be repeated over and over to stay on top of clutter and stress.

Consider that this is also true of any organizing project.

You’ve done it! you have finally finished organizing your (fill in the blank- files, closet, workshop) and it feels so good. You cross the project off your “to do” list.

But wait, it’s not really “finished”. It needs a maintenance plan. Otherwise, a week or month later, you will stand in front of that “finished” project and wonder what catastrophic event happened and could this area be declared a disaster zone.

Let’s look at a couple of examples:

  1. Your bedroom closet is a sight to behold. All the blouses are arranged by short sleeve and long sleeve. Your slacks are hung by color. There is space between hangers. Lovely! Now, to maintain that order, take a moment and turn all your hangers backwards. The first time you wear an item, turn the hanger to the correct position. This way you keep track of what you are actually wearing. When you buy a new items of clothing, consider getting rid of something you already have (maybe one of those items whose hanger is still backwards). When laundry is done, hang up what goes into your closet in the correct place right away. It’s easier now because you have the room. When you take items out of the closet to wear, put the empty hanger to one side of the closet. Once or twice a year schedule a time to reorganize and clean out your closet. Don’t wait for it to become a disaster again. Following these maintenance practices will keep your closet looking great.
  2. Your pantry is beautiful! All expired foods have been disposed of and your goods are nicely lined up, in containers, labeled, and reachable. To maintain that order, every time you come home from the store, put your pantry items away correctly. Don’t just shove them in where there is room. Have all soups in one place. Ditto for fruits, vegetables, pasta, cereals. If you bought a an of tomato soup and you already have one in the pantry, put the new one behind the older one so items don’t languish and become expired. At least once a year, schedule a time to take items out, wipe down your shelves, and check for nearly expired items.

I recommend using a zone plan for maintenance on your entire home. This keeps you from zigzagging around with your projects. Divide your home into zones and schedule one zone for each month.

I offer a teleclass to help you with this process. 

A little maintenance on a regular schedule keeps the big disasters from happening.

Interview Series: Hoarding Expert; DorothyTheOrganizer

Over the next few months, we will be interviewing professionals who work with the hoarding population. We are asking them to share their insights on people who hoard and people who think they have the hoarding disorder.

We recently interviewed Dorothy Breininger. Dorothy, also known as DorothyTheOrganizer has worked years on A&E’s hit show, Hoarders. She has served on the board of directors for the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals, is a member of the Institute for Chronic Disorganization and sponsor for the Los Angeles Hoarding Conference. She has appeared on the Today Show, Dr. Phil Show, and featured in the LA Times, Forbes Magazine, Women’s Day and Entrepreneur Magazine. She has authored Stuff Your Face or Face Your Stuff, When I Roll Out of Bed Tomorrow Morning, I Just Want to Be Happy, and co-authored Time Efficiency Makeover: Own Your Time and Your Life by Conquering Procrastination.

Dorothy is a sought-after national speaker, a United States Small Business Association Award Winner, and a multi-year recipient of NAPO’s “Most Innovative Organizer Award”.

Questions & Responses:

What training have you taken?

I started in 1995 and almost all is self-taught. The first cases I worked with, I did not even know was hoarding. I got in on the ground floor around the time when Randy Frost and Gail Steketee were doing their research. David Tolin was writing his book and doing research also. I called on some different local government agencies like HUD, Adult Protective Services (APS), the Housing Authority, Code Enforcement Agency to name a few to see if they were willing to help with some of the cases. In 2003, with other local government officials, I started a hoarding task force. In 2004 the CDC started calling hoarding an epidemic. I learned from working with all these people and groups.

As you start working, are there times when you discover this is something other than hoarding?

Sometimes the person who is calling about a family member (who they believe has a hoarding problem) actually is so overwhelmed with clutter in their head that they perceive the other person’s clutter or collection as hoarding. Their mind is over-full of thoughts. You can call it mental clutter or mental hoarding. Some famous people in LA have so many fans that are always receiving gifts. They also get tons of swag and freebies from vendors and awards shows. The celebrities don’t know what to do with all of this stuff, so they keep it. They generally have very big houses with lots of room, but these items accumulate. Is it a hoard? To some perhaps. To the celebrity, it’s a mass validation of the successful career.

As an aside, I want to say that I work for a show called Hoarders. We realize that this label “Hoarders” is not a nice label to use when talking about an individual with a challenge.

What tool do you use to determine the amount of clutter?

I use the ICD® Clutter-Hoarding Scale®. Therapists use it and when I teach, I pass it on. But I also use the five senses. Hearing: both what people say and noises in the house, Smell, Sight, Touch, and Taste. I also look for visual density. If you look at a shelving unit and you see it is not only full of books but also stuffed full. In all the nooks and crannies between and on top of the books. Then they add a hook and may add a string that they connect to another hook and put items on the string. That is visual density.

How do you determine if the working area is safe for you and your client?

Two ways. First, I just go on an assumption that it is always dangerous. Even if I don’t see anything at first, I assume something might be under the hoard. Second, if there is any obvious abusive behavior going on. (for example, substance abuse or verbal abuse), we may walk away from a job. We also ask them how they would like to be referred to – not as a hoarder but perhaps as a collector or a packrat.

How do you put your team together when working on a project?

We want physically strong people usually for the TV show – emotional strength or physical strength. Everyone must know that there should not be any laughter in front of or too near the client. If the client hears laughter, they assume people are laughing at them. The team must be super respectful and must be able to touch and show affection. When doing interviews, we ask each applicant to “share about a tough time in your life.” It is important to have a personality fit.

Do you have different lead organizers depending on the level of the hoard?

Yes, on a just-completed hoard we had 40 people working. It was a huge job. Some of the people were friends and family. We also had bio teams and community teams. We place the teams in different areas around the home. Most of the people on the teams have no training. I train them as we go. Each team has a leader. For this hoarding job I had 6 teams. Every morning we had a team meeting. The worker bees are on one side of the room and the team leaders are on the other side. I give general instructions to the whole group and more specific instructions to the team leaders.

Do you come up with a set of rules when working with a client?

It depends. If a client gets bogged down and can’t think of any rules for things to keep then, we work on some criteria like “We can get rid of it if it’s soiled or if it’s broken.”

Would you be willing to share something you learned – maybe the hard way – from a client?

In my 30s when I started working, I was absolutely sure that my way would be the best way to complete a job and I was would do marathon work – overtime, into the night, very late. (laughter). I pushed too hard. I learned that when a client pushes back, that means something – like they are tired, can’t work as fast as I was expecting. I was always willing to compromise my health, or sleep or healthy eating to keep working. I’ve changed big time here.

We are fascinated by the fact that before you started on the show, you once spent a year and $40,000 of your own money helping a 76-year-old avoid jail. Could you tell us more about that event?

I bring this back to NAPO. I became program coordinator and then chapter president of my local chapter. LA county called NAPO and asked if anyone could work with a person who hoards. Because of my volunteering, I was known in the NAPO Chapter the call was referred to me. They had a “hoarder” that was going to be put into jail if he could not meet code compliance. I agreed to take on the job. Then they told me, “But, we can’t pay you.” This individual (Lloyd) lived in a tough neighborhood in LA. He had 5,000 bikes and bike parts. He had all these wheels hanging from the ceiling. It was a beautiful hoard. He was an engineer in the past and was now sleeping on a recliner on the front porch in an area where there were murders regularly.

I had to pay people to help me.

We formed a task force for Lloyd. Building and safety, vector control, HUD, Senior Services, professional organizers, volunteers, City Council women, prosecutors, a judge – we all formed this task force. We saw a lot of crossovers on what the groups did. I did not get paid for this work and I did pay many other individuals for their help on this case. Once the clean up was done, Lloyd met a woman from church and he proposed to her. Of course, we organized the wedding and we ended up on the Today Show with Ann Curry and Katie Couric! Shortly after this the Hoarders TV Show contacted me. 

What do you think about the expression “passive decline”?

Judith Kolberg and I were in Japan at a conference in December and I heard her use the term, ‘passive decline.’ It’s not a term I’ve used so far. I do feel it effectively describes the state of a home in which there is very little human activity anymore – either because a person has run out of space, energy, and motivation to either deal with the hoard or add to the hoard.

What advice would you give someone considering going into the field?

#1. Self-care. Get yourself in the right frame of mind. If you intend to stop work at 5:00 – then stop. If you need extra sleep, get it. If you must take a moment to return an urgent family phone call while with a client, excuse yourself and do so (off the clock).

Do you have any articles or books that you’ve written that you’d like to share?

Stuff your Face or Face your Stuff (Hoarding food on my body vs. hoarding stuff in my home)

Saving our Parents DVD (scams, hoarding, etc. with our aging parents)

DorothyTheOrganizer Master Organizer Class releasing in October

 

Thank you very much for this fabulous time spent together learning more about the work you do.

If you are or if you know a professional who works with people with hoarding tendencies, please feel free to get in touch with us. We’d love the opportunity to talk with you, too!

Diane N. Quintana is a Certified Professional Organizer, Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization, ICD Master Trainer and owner of DNQ Solutions, LLC based in Atlanta, Georgia. Diane teaches busy people how to become organized and provides them with strategies and solutions for maintaining order in their lives. She specializes in residential and home-office organizing and in working with people challenged by ADD, Hoarding, and Chronic Disorganization.

Jonda S. Beattie is a Professional Organizer and owner of Time Space Organization based in the Metro-Atlanta area. As presenter, author of three books as well as a retired special education teacher, she uses her listening skills, problem solving skills, knowledge of different learning techniques, ADHD specialty, and paper management skills to help clients tackle the toughest organizational issues. Jonda does hands on organizing, virtual organizing, and moderates a Zone Plan Teleclass for those who prefer to work on their own with organizational coaching.

 

Reclaiming Your Laundry Room Zone

Laundry zones get a lot of heavy usage. They can be large or small and can be located in many places in homes. Some older homes have laundry zones in the basement. I remember my mother’s was in the basement and even had a laundry chute where clothes could be dropped from either the main level or upper level of the house and end up in the basket in the basement. ( I believe a cat or two also got a laundry chute ride.) Some are at the top of the stairs behind folding doors. I’ve seen them in closets off hallways or next to the closet in a master bedroom. Mine is a small storage room/laundry zone off the kitchen. What you don’t want to see is mounds of clothes migrating into adjoining areas. 

Keeping up with the laundry becomes less of a chore with a well organized space and a plan for keeping on top of the never-ending influx of dirty clothes. The idea is to keep the laundry moving. Only bring to the laundry zone, the items you intend to wash right away. Leave everything else in the designated dirty clothes hampers. As soon as the tub is washed, get it in the dryer or drying rack. And as soon as clothes are dry, get them back to their “home”. Delegate putting items away to the family member who owns the items. Even young children can sort and put clothes away. If an item needs repair or ironing, have a designated place to store those items and then schedule a time to do that task. You really don’t want your holiday table cloth in the ironing bin in August. 

A stack of colored laundry baskets is a handy way to sort clean clothes for each member of the family and one for the bath/bed linens. When laundry is taken out of the dryer and folded, immediately put it in the correct basket. Each family member can pick up their baskets, put their clothes away, and return the basket. 

Maximize your area by installing shelves or using over the door storage. You’ll want your laundry soap, dryer sheets, stain removers, sponges, and scrubbing brushes near your washer. If you buy your detergent in large containers, transfer some into smaller containers that are easier to handle and will less likely be spilled. Post a stain-removal chart on the wall. Make sure your area is well lit.

Have a container handy for tossing in items you find in pockets or loose buttons. If possible, have your ironing board, iron, and water spray bottles in this location.

It’s wonderful if you have counter space to fold clothes but if you don’t, you can use a table in a nearby room as long as you remove the clothes right after folding them. A bar or  bracket to hang hangers for shirts taken out of the dryer in useful. It does not have to be large but just enough to hold what would come out of one load (because, of course, you are going to immediately put them away ;-} )

Whether you do laundry daily or once a week, have a planned time scheduled to handle it. That keeps laundry from accumulating in heaps around the laundry zone.

Having this zone organized  may not make you love to do laundry but it certainly will make it less of a chore. 

Are You Ready for Back to School?

It seems impossible that summer break is over and that school starts next week here in Georgia. Even though the thermometer outside is reading in the 90’s, make a plan for your budding students to transition from vacation mode into school mode. 

  1. Set the stage for a great experience. 
    •  Keep a positive attitude. Don’t express any worry or doubt you might have about the upcoming year (I know that third grade is tough)but play up the positives (I understand they are teaching a unit on space study this year).
    • Take away the fear of the unknown. If your child is going to a new school, visit it ahead of time. Go to the orientation meetings. Find out schedules and teachers’ names and talk it up in positive terms.
    • Teach by example. Let your child see you enjoy reading, learning, and enjoying new experiences like art exhibits, concerts, or museums.
    • Allow time for morning routines. Plan for extra time in the mornings to get ready. This is easier if bedtime is also earlier.
    • Encourage your child to be self-sufficient. Have him do chores at home, develop checklists, have him prepare his clothes and backpack before going to bed.
  2. Develop good study habits.
    • Set aside a designated study area. This can be in his room, or in the kitchen or dining area. Just keep it consistent. 
    • Plan the best times for schoolwork. Know your child’s peak times for best work and his schedule.
    • Use a calendar. Have one visible to show special activities, appointments, and study times.
    • Chunk up big projects. By breaking down the big projects into smaller parts, the project is not some overwhelming and your student can say “done” more often. 
  3. Organize school materials.
    • Obtain and use a planner. In the beginning check the planner with your student every evening and morning. Then encourage your child to do this on his own.
    • Synch the planner with the calendar. 
    • Organize notebooks, folders, and binders. Have a home for each item so they are easy to use and find. Color coding for different subjects helps.
    • Organize and minimize study supplies. Containerize them so that they are easy to carry to school and use at home. Check the school supply list. Avoid buying “fun” items that are a distraction.
    • Choose the best backpack for your child. Check if the school has any restrictions before buying. Keep in mind what he will be carrying each day.
    • Set up home files. Keep in a file all returned and graded school papers until grades come out. If the grade lines up with what you have, then purge most of the papers only keeping ones that show growth and creativity. 
  4. Individualize study to suit your child.
    • Know your child’s learning style. Is he a visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learner? Use his strengths to help him learn new material.
    • Make learning real. Use new skills in real life settings. Use math to shop or cook. Use reading to follow directions or enjoy a funny story. Use writing skills to make lists or write a letter.
    • Set up the best study environment for your child. Discover if he works best alone or with others around. Does he work best in a quiet atmosphere or one with background noise.

Just for fun, start a “back to school” family tradition. Have a cookout before the first day of school or have a trip to a favorite restaurant or ice cream shop. Talk about the fun and excitement of the upcoming school year. Have a surprise wrapped up for the children to open when they come home from school on the first day.

Let this school year be the best and most productive ever!

Interview Series: Hoarding Expert: Sherry Pruitt

Over the next few months, we will be interviewing professionals who work with the hoarding population. We are asking them to share their insight on people who hoard and people who think they have the hoarding disorder.

Recently, we interviewed Sheryl K. Pruitt, M.Ed., ET/P. Ms. Pruitt is the Clinical Director of Parkaire Consultants in Atlanta, Georgia. She founded this clinic to serve neurologically impaired individuals. Ms. Pruitt is an author and speaker who educates children, adolescents and adults about neurological disorders and the coping skills needed to remediate deficit areas caused by these disorders. She speaks locally, nationally, and internationally on neurological disorders.

In the interest of full disclosure, Diane is a consultant at Parkaire Consultants as the professional organizer to whom the other consultants refer.

Questions & Responses:

If you are working with someone with the hoarding tendencies, do you or a designated professional go to the home?

I do not go to the home but we refer to Diane who does go to the home.

If not, how do you verify the level of the hoard?

I use Randy Frost’s Clutter Image Rating Scale. I find that to be very reliable and helps us know when to refer.

What percentage of the people you see at Parkaire Consultants do you suspect of having hoarding tendencies?

About half of the people we see with OCD and Executive Dysfunction here at Parkaire probably have some hoarding tendencies.

What are common co-occurring disorders that you find with the Hoarding Disorder? OCD, ADHD, SAD, GAD, MDD?

Hoarding used to be considered a sub-set of OCD – Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. That is often accompanied with ADHD – Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and problems with Executive Functioning skills. All of these are genetic, neurological disorders.

People who hoard often have a type of OCD which I refer to as the ‘Moral Policeman’ or “Just Right” OCD. Something is either right or it’s wrong. There is no in-between. They can get stuck not knowing the right thing to do. What is the right way to dispose of something or the right place to put something? When they don’t have a definitive answer, they do nothing which adds to the piles of things.

They can also have Tourette Syndrome (TS). The TS portrayed on television is only about 3% of the TS population. Usually it is evidenced as least two muscle tics and at least one vocal tic that have been present at anytime for more than twelve months.

Other common co-morbid disorders are other anxiety disorders as well as mood disorders such as Major Depressive Disorder and Bipolar Disorder.

We also see social, learning and memory problems in this population.

How do you treat hoarding problems?

Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy (ERPT) and other therapies are used for the co-morbids and our hoarding specialist directs the intervention for the hoarding. We also refer to a psychiatrist for the appropriate treatment of some of the co-morbid disorders.

What do you think about support groups like Clutterers Anonymous or Overcoming Hoarding Together?

Groups like these are great because they demonstrate to the participants in the group that they are not alone. Sure, everyone has their own story but there are similarities. Participants in the group can empathize in ways that people who are not living in such devastating circumstances cannot.

Do you think online support groups like the Facebook Clutter-Hoarding Support Group are beneficial?

Yes. For the same reasons as I just gave. Of course, in an online group you can remain somewhat anonymous. You are, therefore, not as vulnerable as when you attend an in-person support group and it might be a good option.

Thank you very much for this fabulous time spent together learning more about the work you do.

If you are or if you know a professional who works with people with hoarding tendencies, please feel free to get in touch with us. We’d love the opportunity to talk with you, too!

Diane N. Quintana is a Certified Professional Organizer, Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization, ICD Master Trainer and owner of DNQ Solutions, LLC based in Atlanta, Georgia. Diane teaches busy people how to become organized and provides them with strategies and solutions for maintaining order in their lives. She specializes in residential and home-office organizing and in working with people challenged by ADD, Hoarding, and Chronic Disorganization.

Jonda S. Beattie is a Professional Organizer and owner of Time Space Organization based in the Metro-Atlanta area. As presenter, author of three books as well as a retired special education teacher, she uses her listening skills, problem solving skills, knowledge of different learning techniques, ADHD specialty, and paper management skills to help clients tackle the toughest organizational issues. Jonda does hands on organizing, virtual organizing, and moderates a Zone Plan Teleclass for those who prefer to work on their own with organizational coaching.

 

Interview Series: Hoarding Expert; Dr. Roberto Olivardia

Over the next few months, we will be interviewing professionals who work with the hoarding population. We are asking them to share their insight on people who hoard and people who think they have the hoarding disorder.

We recently interviewed Dr. Roberto Olivardia. Dr. Olivardia is a Clinical Psychologist, Lecturer in Psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and Clinical Associate at McLean Hospital. He maintains a private psychotherapy practice in Lexington, Massachusetts. He is co-author of The Adonis Complex, dealing with various manifestations of male body image issues. He has appeared in publications such as TIME, GQ, and Rolling Stone, and has been featured on Good Morning America, CNN, and VH1. His blog, “Psychology in Sync” is featured on the Psychology Today website

We are looking forward to his presentation, Obsessed and Distracted and Impulsive, OH MY!: Helping Clients with ADHD and /or OCD at The Institute for Challenging Disorganization conference (ICD) in Orlando this September.

Questions & Responses:

Since the DSM-5 was published, have you diagnosed anyone with the hoarding disorder?

Yes, but not a huge amount. I am working with a couple of cases now.

If you are working with someone with hoarding tendencies, do you or a designated professional go into the home?

Some I do. I used to do a lot more home based, especially working with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), but now we depend more on Skype.

Do people accurately report the severity of their hoard?

In my eyes, people vastly underestimate. But if they say, “I’m a hoarder,” then yes, they are usually right. Quite often a family member will call in expressing concern for their loved one who hoards. When the family calls, we look at it more closely.

How do you treat hoarding problems?

When possible, we have the person bring samples of what they hoard into the office to go through. For example, if the hoarding situation deals with papers and files, we have the clients come into the office with the items and we go through it. One client had boxes and boxes of clippings. None were related in any way to him – just informative pieces – which as you know you can now access easily on the internet.

What common comorbidity issues do you find?

I see specifically OCD and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Most common in ADHD are severe executive functioning deficits. They are looking for the most perfect organizational systems which they don’t find so they can’t organize.

We also see Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD). Someone with OCPD is often very rigid. They have a hard time making decisions because, for them, there is a right way and a wrong way. These are individuals that others might refer to as being “anal” . They feel they are right about how they are doing something and can’t budge. For example, an OCD person fears throwing something away because they might need it while an OCPD person won’t throw something away because it not the right thing to do and may actually think you are wrong and immoral if you throw that same thing away of yours.

We also see Depression, Bi-Polar Disorder, and a history of trauma, including emotional abuse, neglect or loss. With trauma we see emotional abuse and emotional neglect or loss. I had one client who had both of his parents take their lives at an early age and his hoarding was based on this trauma.

Do you feel that once you get one issue taken care of, then the hoarding is easier to work with?

Yes, although it depends on each situation. Unresolved trauma and loss – if you process that first then it is easier to let go of items. One client was hanging on to an old, broken clock. It was not a valuable clock but for him it was a memory and he stated that he wouldn’t have any more memories so this one was important to hold on to.

One client with ADHD was also an impulsive spender. We had to deal with how much he was spending before we could deal with what was already in the house.

Another client had enough flatware and dishes for 40 people and lived alone. But he hated washing dishes and silverware and only wanted to do them once a month. He also spent a lot of money on clothing because he hated to do laundry. He tried to do the same with food as he hated grocery shopping, but he couldn’t maintain it because when he bought a month’s supply of food some would go bad. These treatments are different from treating Bi-polar Disorder or psychosis.

What do you think about task forces like the one in San Francisco?

Task Forces are great. Anything that brings awareness to the challenges faced by those who hoard is very positive. After all, studies show that 3 – 4% of the population has hoarding problems. For people who are local to the Boston area, I refer them to Boston University. Gail Steketee does amazing work there.

What was your most difficult hoarding situation?

I work primarily with eating disorders in men. I had a client who would binge on food and then vomit. It was a hoarding problem because he then kept his vomit in jars. The jars let him know that he had gotten rid of the food he had binged on. He became quite ill. The good news is that with treatment, his bulimia was resolved. He also hoarded food because he was afraid others might eat it. This caused problems with rot and with bugs.

This was a very layered treatment.

Can you share something you learned from experience?

Often one issue is a sign of other issues. If there is a food hoard, I try to find out where this problem comes from. I get into their own space and hear how they describe it. I wonder about the hoard – is it something the client is trying to work out or is it something he is using to avoid working something else out. This shows that as human beings we don’t all work through issues the same way. Everyone has a story.

Are groups like Clutterers Anonymous or Overcoming Hoarding Together helpful?

I have found that they are helpful. Participating in these groups helps people eliminate a lot of shame. Some go to support groups and some participate online. They might hear someone’s hoarding story and extract pieces that they can relate to. They may find some common core.

Do you have a shareable list of resources for people challenged by hoarding or their families?

The Boston University Hoarding Research Project has good information and pamphlets.

The International OCD Foundation hoarding link has information for both those who hoard and their families.

Professional Organizers who have experience in the area of hoarding are a good resource.

There are books to recommend for hoarders and for their families.

 

Thank you very much for this fabulous time spent together learning more about the work you do.

If you are or if you know a professional who works with people with hoarding tendencies, please feel free to get in touch with us. We’d love the opportunity to talk with you, too!

Be sure to check back with us to see who we interview next in this series!

Diane N. Quintana is a Certified Professional Organizer, Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization, ICD Master Trainer and owner of DNQ Solutions, LLC based in Atlanta, Georgia. Diane teaches busy people how to become organized and provides them with strategies and solutions for maintaining order in their lives. She specializes in residential and home-office organizing and in working with people challenged by ADD, Hoarding, and Chronic Disorganization.

Jonda S. Beattie is a Professional Organizer and owner of Time Space Organization based in the Metro-Atlanta area. As presenter, author of three books as well as a retired special education teacher, she uses her listening skills, problem solving skills, knowledge of different learning techniques, ADHD specialty, and paper management skills to help clients tackle the toughest organizational issues. Jonda does hands on organizing, virtual organizing, and moderates a Zone Plan Teleclass for those who prefer to work on their own with organizational coaching.