Priorities

 

 

Stephen Covey said it so well ~ “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”

We are multi-faceted beings. There are so many moving parts to our lives. We get up in the mornings and take care of our personal hygiene, prepare food, and take care of our home environment. 

We have our work to attend to if it’s running our business, going off to a job, or taking care of our family.

We need to take care of our health. This might involve preparing and eating healthy food, getting exercise, or going to bed at a reasonable hour. 

We have our personal relationships to nourish. It’s so important to give time to our family – both those living in our home and our extended family. Friendships need to be fed and kept healthy. Going beyond our immediate circles and giving to the community is also important.

Our minds need nourishing. We may do that through reading, writing, or working on puzzles.

And we should take time for our spirituality. This might be through setting your intentions for the day, meditation, prayer, or being open to the unknown.

For me, it’s pretty difficult – no, impossible to focus on all of these areas each day. Some things are routines and really run on autopilot. Other days, I really focus in on one area. I may have a big work project that takes up most of my day. I may snack at my desk or on the job. I may not walk. I don’t really socialize. But I would never do this day after day.

Sometimes, family or health crisis takes over and work is set aside, and you just deal with what’s in your face. You go into a survival mode.

Other times you choose to highlight one part of your being because at this moment in time, it is the most important thing to you. So, for a few days this week, I am leaving my house and work behind (but not my husband) and going to visit my son, his wife, and my grandson in Virginia. I have been trying to accomplish this for several months and now it is scheduled. Yeah!

Interview Series: Hoarding Expert; Satwant Singh

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.Satwant Singh RN, MSc DPsych. Satwant is a Nurse Consultant, cognitive Behavioral Therapist and Mental Health and Clinical Lead. He facilitates the London Hoarding Treatment Group. He is accredited as a therapist, trainer, and supervisor by the British Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Psychotherapies. Satwant set up the first innovative primary care CBT service in East London in 2001. He provides teaching and training both nationally and internationally.

Questions & Responses

We saw on your website that you are part of the London Hoarding Treatment Group. Would you please tell us about it?

The London Hoarding Treatment Group began in 2005. It meets once a month and is open to individuals who are self-diagnosed with a hoarding problem. It is also open to other family members. The group often has people pop in from Australia and the Netherlands. This group has become a model for other peer run support groups.

This group is very creative because the people involved can critique their own photos. The London Hoarding Treatment Group was the basis for our book Overcoming Hoarding: A Self-Help Guide Using Cognitive Behavioral Techniques.

How is the treatment group set up?

The treatment group has a once a month meeting and everyone has a buddy or accountability partner. Sometimes the buddy can be ruthless with their critique but its OK because they are operating on the same playing field. The critique is accepted as helpful and not negative.

Do people accurately report the severity of their hoard?

No, they tend to overreport. They tend to say it’s “so awful.” Then I am happy to go in and say “No, it’s not so bad.”

How does the system work?

People bring in pictures of their home and they talk about the picture. They answer questions ie. How does this picture make you feel? How would you want it to be different? What impact has it had on your relationships?
The picture provides an emotional distance from the “stuff”. They can unpack the hoard by talking through the picture. These peer run support groups raise awareness for other professionals as well. 

What kind of funding do you have?

There is no funding, but my employer allows us to use his space for the meetings and I give my time.

Do you go into people’s homes to see the level of the hoard yourself?

Sometimes, if the home is nearby or convenient and I have been invited.

What tools do you use to determine the level of clutter in the home?

We use the Clutter Image Rating Scale and the pictures they bring in of their home. We also use the H.O.A.R.D. acronym tool. This tool has five questions.

 H. Tell me what HAPPENED in this picture.

O. What would you like to OVERCOME and what are your goals?

A. Can you imagine life without ALL of this stuff?

R. How is your life and RELATIONSHIPS affected by this problem.

D. What would you like to DO about it?

What advice would you give someone who is thinking of working with people challenged by the hoarding disorder?

Be aware that you are working with individuals that have a problem – not problem individuals.

Don’t use the word “hoarders”. Instead use words like “a person with clutter issues.” It becomes problematic if you don’t see the person but only the problem and this happens when the word “hoarder” is used. It’s important to treat the person with respect. Never ask the question “why?” because that implies judgement, but instead ask them to tell you the story and engage the person in conversation. There is not much training available. Instead of learning about dealing with the hoard, one needs to learn about how to build the relationship.

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

Look into HoardingUK . They do a series of workshops in the UK that are open to people with hoarding issues and are also open to professionals. 

 Also, our book Overcoming Hoarding: A Self-Help Guide Using Cognitive Behavioral Techniques is written in a user-friendly way while based on cognitive therapy.

 

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!

Please check back with us to see who we interview next!

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.

Organize Your Desk

If you spend as much time at your desk as I do, when it becomes a hot mess, so do you. At least once a year, I take time to reevaluate the way my desk is set up.

Start with the desktop. Remove everything and give it a good cleaning. Envision what you do at your desk. What objects do you use every day? Place these on your clean desk.

As an example, I have a rather small, traditional desk. This has its good points and bad. The desk fits well in my space and has drawers. This is good. The surface is small, and this can be frustrating. I use my computer (PC) every day. Because I have a kneehole with drawers on both sides, there is only one place the computer can sit. I have it connected and on a stand, so it is not easy to move around. I have a landline phone on my desk that sits on the wall side because of wires. I am right-handed so my mouse and coffee mug sit to the right. I also have a Time Timer that I use daily. I usually only have one pen out on my desk and I place it by the phone. I have a rather large desk lamp that takes up way too much space. This is really all I need. However, I also have a fresh flower, a picture of my grandson, and a small dish holding earbuds. I usually have one folder or project that I am working on and my calendar sitting on the desk while I work.

This arrangement is feeling crowded to me. I intend to have two recessed spotlights installed over my desk so the lamp can go. The picture of my grandson can go on the shelf behind the desk where I have some other pictures. The dish with the earbuds can slip into a drawer. I feel this will open up my space and be more calming.

Next, organize the drawers. Each drawer in the desk works best if it has a designated function. Empty each drawer and wipe it out. Determine what will be stored there. One drawer may hold supplies like pens, markers, a stapler, ruler, a pair of scissors, etc. Another drawer might have paper pads, sticky notes, your checkbook. Some drawers in my desk are for my home affairs and some are for my business. I like the way my drawers are set up, so the idea for me is just to get rid of any clutter that is not needed (I mean, who needs 6 pads of paper that have accumulated over the year from charities or 15 pens with black ink?). 

Now, use the desk for a while. Is it easier to maintain? How do you feel when working there? If there are still papers or clutter piling up, go back and re-evaluate. If all is well, enjoy!

The Importance of Ongoing Downsizing

 

 

I am continually downsizing. I’ve had a few life events where the downsizing was intense. The first one came after a divorce. My husband was a packrat and I was overwhelmed with stuff. When I moved out of the home, I basically only took what I needed to live. Then about 5 years ago, I remarried, and both my new husband and I had homes that while not overpacked or huge were full and of course, we had duplicates in housewares and lawn care items. We both recognize that less stuff in our homes makes for less work. So, again, I did a pretty big purge as did he.

Every year, I go through each part of my home and get rid of a bit more. I have earmarked a few things I think my children would like. I have made notes of any item that has a real monetary value, so they won’t have to guess. Recently, I have started going through family pictures and when I have both sons visiting, I go through a tub of them and ask what ones they would like to keep. Then I give the pictures to them on the spot. If they don’t want old family pictures, I now just let them go. I keep personal photographs of my trips and memories, but the boys know that when I pass, they can just get rid of them as they are my memories and not theirs.

My husband and I are also very careful about not buying what we don’t need. While I enjoy and love the items in our home, there is nothing I can think of that would devastate me if I lost it. We both like books but we keep our collection fluid. We pass on to others most of the books we buy. 

It is very freeing not to be tied down by our possessions.

I was recently forwarded a very good article by Jennifer Karami. After she helped move her grandmother into her retirement home, she wrote this for Redfin Real Estate Company.
https://www.redfin.com/blog/senior-guide-for-decluttering/.

I would love to hear about your downsizing experiences – both the wins and the struggles.

Interview Series: Hoarding Expert: Dr. David F. Tolin

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. David F. Tolin, Psychologist, PhD, ABPP. Dr. Tolin is an expert in cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) for anxiety, mood, and obsessive-compulsive and related disorders. He uses evidence-based practices for conditions such as hoarding and hoarding disorders. He is board certified in clinical psychology. He is the author of Buried in Treasures. He has been featured on the TV series “The OCD Project,” “Hoarders,” “The Dr. Oz Show,” and “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”

Questions & Responses

Has your book, Buried in Treasures, been translated into other languages?

Yes. Buried in Treasures has been translated into Norwegian and Japanese and possibly other languages.

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

We used to go into the home. Currently, we rarely go to a client’s home. When we were doing research, we had staff members go in to assess the severity of the clutter in the home.

If you do not go into the home, how do you know the condition of their home?

We use the Clutter/Image Rating Scale and have clients point to the picture which most closely resembles the level of clutter in their home.

Do you find that the clients report accurately?

Yes. If we do not ask a judgmental question regarding the level of clutter; such as ‘is your home very messy or cluttered’ because that could lead to an inaccurate assessment.

What are the most common comorbidity issues?

Major Depression Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity are the most common. Surprisingly, the incidence of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is not that high.

How do you treat hoarding problems?

We use Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy. We ask patients to bring in a box or bag of clutter from their home and we talk about it. We also ask the patients to bring in photographs of their home. The patients share before and after pictures with the group. Everyone is very supportive of one another.

Do groups like Clutterers Anonymous or Overcoming Hoarding Together help patients?

These groups may be helpful. As of yet no research has been done to support this theory.

What are your thoughts on the Buried in Treasures support groups?

I’m in favor of these groups. Randy Frost is currently looking at the efficacy of these groups and feels that they may be as effective as therapy.

What do you think about task forces on Compulsive Hoarding – like one in San Francisco?

They are absolutely necessary. Social services agencies need to coordinate to be effective. I’m happy to see more task forces springing up around the country.

Would you like to add anything?

The defining characteristic of the hoarding disorder is an inability to let things go.

You have a list of resources on the back page of your book, are those still valid?

Yes. Some clients have found the following websites to be helpful:

www.ocdfoundation.org/hoarding
www.childrenofhoarders.com
www.napo.net
www.challengingdisorganization.org

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 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.

Stress Free Project Planning

Many of us have several projects going on at one time or perhaps we are focusing in on one huge project. There is often a time that this project needs to be completed.

It’s not unusual for people to panic and feel stressed, especially as the due date is upon them. This does not have to be the case.

I recommend following these steps for completing a project nearly stress free:

  • Understand your motivation. Why is this project important now? Will it affect your job evaluation? Are family or friends counting on you?
  • Develop your vision. Picture the project completed. See yourself at the end of the job. How do you feel?
  • Brainstorm a list of all that must happen to make your vision come true. Write everything down as you think of it. No matter how grandiose or how small, put it all on the list. The list can be edited later.
  • Write out your goals. This will make it real. Have and end date as part of your goals. For example, “By June 27 I have made reservations for my visit to Virginia.”
  • Write down the time sequence everything that must be done to make the project complete. Then in your calendar plug in all the “do” dates. It is important that you give yourself some “wiggle room”. Don’t schedule so tightly that the project will be doomed if you miss one or two of these scheduled benchmark dates. Life happens and rarely if you are working on something big are you going to get everything to happen just as you planned. This is especially true if you are working with other people.
  • Celebrate and reward yourself for the project’s completion. Lock into your mind how good it feels to have this done and on time. The project might not be done perfectly but it is done on time and good enough.

Following these steps works for things as small as a summer party or as large as finishing a dissertation. For more information on how this works, buy my workbook, From Vision To Victory: A Workbook For Finding a Simple Path to an Organized Home.

Interview Series: Hoarding Expert; Amy Bowles

 

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 Amy Bowles. Amy is the president of Tucson Professional Organizers, in Tucson, Arizona. She is also a member of the American Psychological Association, the Institute for Challenging Disorganization (ICD), and the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO).

Her company’s name, Been There Done That Organizing, LLC, reflects the fact that Amy herself has struggled with hoarding behaviors. She has personally been where her clients are at: overwhelmed with clutter and too much stuff. Helping people discover a less debilitating and more joyful life is her passion.

Questions & Responses:

What training have you taken?

I have a bachelor’s degree in psychology and have nearly completed a master’s degree in rehabilitation and mental health counseling. I have taken classes through NAPO and ICD and I have attended 6 NAPO annual conferences and 2 ICD annual conferences. I worked with my own organizer, ICD subscriber Elaine Kraus owner of Whole Life Organizing in Charlottesville, Virginia, for 2 years when I began de-hoarding my own house. I apprenticed for nearly a year with a local therapist who specialized in working with hoarding clients. She ran a support group that I adapted and made into my own when she stepped down as facilitator. I am a member of the Arizona Hoarding Task Force and I participated in an episode of the Hoarder’s TV show in 2016 as a support organizer. I have also watched every single episode of Hoarders at least 3 times (does that count?) and have learned a lot from the show about what is helpful and what is not when dealing with hoarding behaviors.

What percentage of your clients do you suspect have hoarding tendencies?

I have determined that 53% of my current clients exhibit hoarding behaviors and/or engage in compulsive acquiring. Of those, 95% have diagnosed, co-occurring mental health disorders and/or physically disabling conditions. I also work with a large number of clients whose primary diagnosis is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Both groups experience chronic disorganization as a symptom of their diagnoses.

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

Not usually. During the phone intake and at the in-person consultation I “interrogate” my prospective clients mercilessly (*laughs*). I know just about everything before we start working except maybe their social security number – but I’ll probably find that out too when we get to the paperwork! In seriousness, I ask a lot of specific medical questions right at the beginning – like are there thyroid issues or diagnoses of sleep apnea or diabetes – to see if there is something that medically can be addressed first. I do not want to attribute thoughts and behaviors to a mental health disorder like hoarding when those thoughts and behaviors may be (at least partially) a result of a physiological problem. I ask all about their life–history (the good, the bad, and the ugly), their mental health diagnoses, and any challenging or traumatic experiences they have lived through. Ultimately, my clients need more coaching than organizing. Some may argue that these types of questions are outside the “lane” of a professional organizer, but I submit that I am much better equipped to provide effective coaching, guidance, encouragement, and organizing help if I learn as much as possible about my clients strengths and weaknesses from the outset.

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

I prefer the CIRS (Clutter Image Rating Scale), developed by Dr. Randy Frost and the International OCD Foundation.  If there is evidence of animal hoarding or squalor, then I may use Christiana Bratiotis’ HOMES assessment, the Uniform Inspection Checklist created by Marnie Matthews, or the Clutter Hoarding Scale® developed by ICD. Using these scales can help me provide other helpers, like code enforcement, Adult Protective Services, Child Protective Services, pest control or landlords, with a better idea of the extent of the problem.

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

I start by asking to meet all family members, to make sure everyone is on board with the process. I have also been known to Google particularly troubled clients, and to sometimes perform background checks on certain clients. I also find out in advance if clients have pets, and at the in-person consultation, I determine if those pets need to be crated or put outside while we are working. In addition, I ask first by phone, and then in person about pest infestations, bedbugs, mold, mildew, leaks, rotting food, the use of candles or other fragrances, and the use of space-heaters. Once we begin working together, I also request that clients move objects that are located near HVAC systems and encourage them to keep it that way.

If necessary, to keep myself safe while working, I will wear an N95 mask, or a respirator, if needed. Of course, I have Tyvek suits available, goggles, and a variety of gloves. I also have waterproof and regular boots, if needed. At most clients’ homes I simply wear a hat and jeans and either a short or long-sleeved t-shirt and sneakers.

Do you usually work alone or with a team? If you work with a team, who do you want on your team?

I find it very difficult to work with a team, though I do enjoy it when the opportunity arises. I have involved a team for some short-term bigger jobs, but I find my strength is in the one-on-one work. And I have found that most clients simply aren’t ready for the team approach until we have worked one-on-one for 18-24 months. I would love to clone myself… because this is exhausting work. I would love to find someone like me, who has overcome hoarding and can help others change their minds in order to change their lives.

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

I have learned that 4 hours of yelling at me is my limit. (Thankfully, such experiences are few and far between and the overwhelming majority of my clients are no different than me: they are creative, interesting, funny, thoughtful, helpful humans whose lives have taken a massive wrong turn.) I have a fairly high tolerance for chaos, and my boundaries tend to be somewhat flexible. I am non-judgmental because I know, first-hand, that most of my clients need love, affection, compassion, empathy, kindness, and encouragement more than anything else that I could provide. I have learned that the course corrections most clients need are small but there are a LOT of them needed for clients to effectively turn their lives around, and I am in there with them for the long haul.

I honestly believe that most people, most of the time, are doing the best they can with the skills they have. But still… four hours of yelling is my limit.

I guess I have learned my most valuable lesson from myself, and it is this: My unhelpful behaviors and actions do not determine my value, just as my helpful behaviors and actions also do not. My value remains unchanged, no matter what I do. And I am worthy of love, affection, forgiveness, and everything good in the world. I do not have to earn it. And this is true for everyone. I want to pass this understanding on to my clients, and if they gain nothing else from me, it is this truth that is the catalyst for significant, positive change. I think it was Carl Rogers who said “the curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”

Generally speaking, hoarding is primarily a collection of unhelpful thinking and behaviors, and good news: once we figure out how to accept ourselves, both thoughts and behaviors can be changed!

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

Make sure that you have figured out what empathy really is. And maybe… give up the idea of organizing (*laughs*). You cannot focus on the “stuff,” because it’s not about the stuff! Hoarding is having an emotional problem letting go of stuff – it’s not about about acquiring too much stuff, but about letting go of it.
Ultimately, clients need unconditional acceptance, consistent, unwavering, optimistic hope (that they will regularly borrow from you), complete faith in their ability to change their thinking, and an arsenal of self-help tools that you can share to help them develop their self-efficacy and self-esteem as they venture into effective decision making. You want your clients to become independent and to have faith in themselves that they are capable of making good decisions. They have made so many unhelpful decisions (on a regular basis) that this trust in themselves (and in otherMake sure that you have figured out what empathy really is. And maybe… give up the idea of organizing (*laughs*). You cannot focus on the “stuff,” because it’s not about the stuff! Hoarding is having an emotional problem letting go of stuff – it’s not about about acquiring too much stuff, but about letting go of it.

Ultimately, clients need unconditional acceptance, consistent, unwavering, optimistic hope (that they will regularly borrow from you), complete faith in their ability to change their thinking, and an arsenal of self-help tools that you can share to help them develop their self-efficacy and self-esteem as they venture into effective decision making. You want your clients to become independent and to have faith in themselves that they are capable of making good decisions. They have made so many unhelpful decisions (on a regular basis) that this trust in themselves (and in s) is hard to come by. Stand by their side, earn their trust, and then teach your clients to stand on their own, and trust themselves.

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

I have a library of books I regularly receive from one client and share with the next. I also always keep my library stocked with the books: Buried in Treasures, Stuff and the Meaning of Things, Digging Out, Boundaries (Cloud & Townsend), and Women Who Love Too Much. I happily refer clients to my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/amybowlesbtdto/, and I invite clients to join some of the Facebook support groups I participate with – Hoarding Cluttering Support Group and Women with ADD. I routinely refer clients to the local Buried in Treasures workshop in Tucson, which is currently held twice a year for roughly 16 weeks. My own local support group, Excess Denied, is private, but those who are interested may contact me at excessdeniedtucson@gmail.com. I also offer virtual and in-person coaching and organizing, as well as public speaking on the issue of hoarding behavior. I can be reached at amy@BTDTOrganizing.com.

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 to see who we interview next!

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.

Why I Use the Zone Plan

What is the Zone Plan?

Using the Zone Plan, I divide my home into 10 zones. Each month (except for July and December) I focus on that one zone. I begin by revisiting my vision for the area. I make a list of what I want to accomplish. I schedule time on my calendar to work through the tasks. During that month I touch everything in that zone and give the area a good deep cleaning. I have a teleclass with a group that works on their own zones and projects and that gives us all accountability.

What are the benefits of using the Zone Plan?

  • At the end of the year, I have touched everything in my home. I have made a decision about every object – to keep or to cull and how to store it.
  • It keeps my home fresh. As I start work on each zone, I notice anything that I no longer love or anything that is bugging me and I develop a plan to change it. I might paint a wall or change out a picture. I might play with the lighting. By the end of the month, I am in love with that zone again.
  • No spring cleaning because I do it all year round in the zone I am working. 
  • I visit every part of my home, from attic to out of sight storage. This can give me a heads up on some problems my home might have.  Moldy boots in a spare bedroom closet? (better see where that dampness is coming from) Rodent droppings in the attic? (better call pest control) Dampness under the sink in the kitchen? (better call the plumber) None of these problems can be very old as the zone was done last year.
  • By focusing mainly on just one zone, I give myself permission to not overly concern myself with other parts of my home. If I open my linen closet and it looks a bit messy, instead of jumping right in and fixing it all now, I say “Your turn is in June,” and use my time on something else.

I love the feeling I get at the end of the month when I stand back and look at my freshly cleaned and organized zone.

Interview Series: Hoarding Expert; Ann Zanon

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 Ann Zanon. Ann is a compassionate hoarding expert with over 8 years of experience working with the hoarding population. She is a member of the Institute for Challenging Disorganization (ICD) where she holds several certificates of study in methods of working with clients who hoard. After her move to Houston, Texas last year, she discovered that the laws in Houston relating to hoarding are sadly insufficient and is collaborating with other professionals to start a Houston Hoarding Task Force to make some changes. She is planning a full-day workshop in 2020 to help educated people who work and/or live with people who hoard. She is a member of a mastermind group which focuses on education and sharing hoarding remediation methods. She also has set up a Special Interest Group focused on Hoarding through the National Association for Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO).

Ann has a heart for serving people, working hard, and helping her clients achieve their goals. Besides being a Certified Professional Organizer®, she is also a wife, mother of three grown children, and formerly owned a bakery.

Questions and Responses:

What training have you taken?

The majority of my training has come through ICD (The Institute for Challenging Disorganization) where I have earned most of the certificates offered. I have also earned my NAPO (National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals) CPO® (Certificate for Professional Organizers). My first training was working in an informal mentoring situation under Faith Manierre, CPO-CD® in Connecticut.

What percentage of your clients do you suspect have hoarding tendencies?

I have moved now and so my clientele has changed. When I was in Connecticut, I would say it was about 75% – 80%. However, not all were diagnosed with hoarding disorder.

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

I do. I’ve had clients with severe ADHD and many clients suffering from depression and anxiety. In Connecticut, I worked with a lot of clients with PTSD due to the 9/11 tragedy and Sandy Hooks shooting. I have also worked with clients challenged by bi-polar disorder and one client who had Borderline Personality Disorder plus other issues.

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

At first, I used the ICD Clutter-Hoarding Scale® and I love how inclusive it is. But many clients don’t have the bandwidth to follow that scale so I often use the Clutter Image Rating Scale developed by the International OCD(Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) Foundation and Dr. Randy Frost.

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

I rely on both my visual and tactile senses. I worked in one house where there were 34 cats downstairs but that was OK because the downstairs area was set up as a shelter and was staffed and very clean. But upstairs she was taking care of some hospice cats and this area was not clean and you could both see and feel where cats had sprayed and urinated. So, we had to dress accordingly and use gloves and masks for our safety. I also talk and listen to the client for any clues that something might be unsafe.

Do you usually work alone or with a team? If you work with a team, who do you want on your team?

In Connecticut I always worked alone. Clients are so embarrassed to even have one person in and I did not like them to have to face more than one. Here in Texas I sometimes use a team, especially if we are in a time crunch.

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

Never assume anything is trash. I had one gentleman I was working with and on top of his dresser there were little round paper balls all wadded up. I started tossing them into the trash when he turned around and stopped me. These little paper balls were a fidget thing – tactile objects he kept in his pockets that he played with to help him focus.

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

Whenever someone is coming into the profession, I tell them to get the education necessary to be successful for yourself and your client. Look at your motivation as to why you are doing this.
I was working once with a woman in her 50s. She had 2 children and her husband was straying. Her daughter told her she was marrying another woman and that they were both having babies. Her son got married to his High School sweetheart (who the woman adored) and then quickly got divorced. Her world had turned upside-down in a matter of a just a few months and the stress of these changes were more than she could handle. The woman was very depressed and cried a lot.
I came home and cried each day. The lesson here is that you must learn to take care of yourself. I learned to work with my heart when I was with the client but then get into my head when I was at home. Find out who can help you with restoring your heart after you leave a client.

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

This is something I am working on. I will have resources up on my website soon.

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.

Organizing Your Bathroom Zone

The bathroom is one of the smaller rooms in your house, but it is also one that is heavily used and holds many items. For efficiency and good morning starts, it’s important to have this space well organized. An organized bathroom is easier to clean and it is easier to put your hands on what you need even with one eye shut. Also, an annual decluttering of this area gets rid of any health hazards like expired beauty and health care products. 

Keep the countertop as clear as possible. This makes for an easier clean up and slows down clutter build up. We all know that clutter attracts clutter.

It seems like every bathroom is different. Look at the storage space you have available. Think about what you use daily in your bathroom zone. You may not have room here to store back up supplies, first aid items, or cleaning materials. Use the medicine cabinet, drawers, shelves, or space under your sink to just store the items you use regularly.

Keep like items together in baskets, bins, or caddies. For example, I have a small basket that holds the make-up I use on a regular basis. I grab that basket and put it on the counter when making up and them return the items to the basket and put it out of sight. The medicine cabinet can store toothpaste, other dental supplies, deodorant, q tips, cotton balls, etc. Hair dryers, curling irons, gels, sprays, and other hair items might be in a caddy under the sink. An extra roll of toilet paper and personal hygiene items could fit under the sink.

If your space is limited, you might also have a hanging bag on the back of your door for storage or place shelves above the toilet.

If you have drawers or shelves, designate an area or drawer for like items. One drawer might hold everyday make-up. Another drawer might hold hair products. Don’t overcrowd the drawers. You don’t want a tangled mess.

Shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and a washcloth may be stored inside your shower or tub. There are shower caddies that fit over the door of your shower or over the shower head. You can also use a caddy to hold the items.

As you sort your like items together, consolidate partial bottles and get rid of any items you are no longer using or are past their expiation date.

Medicines are best not stored in hot, humid bathrooms. Think about when and where you take the meds and place them in a container near that spot. I have my meds and supplements in a container in my kitchen pantry. If you have little ones about, make sure all meds are secure. First aid items can also be stored in bins in a linen closet or in the kitchen area.

If you are lucky enough to have a linen closet, keep extra towels, cosmetics, soaps, lotions, and cleaning supplies there. This is also where you can store the extra toilet paper and hygiene items. As you organize, be ruthless about throwing out items like that free sample in foil that came in the mail. You don’t need 5 partial bottles of shampoo, 6 sample soaps, or the items you took from hotels. 

When you have your bathroom organized and decluttered, it will be so much easier to maintain.