Celebrate!

Life is full of good things. Take the time to celebrate.

  • Celebrate with your loved one – plan special days where you spend time together doing fun things. Rob and I schedule “our days” twice a month and on those days, we may go to the museum, a park, a movie, a play, or something else that we never seem to find time for with out regular day to day schedules.
  • Celebrate friendships – a lunch or a drink together – plan times to keep the friendship alive and happy. I have a small group of women that meet once a month to talk about our wins and goals. I also love to give a couple of parties each year so that I can bring together a bunch of good friends.
  • Celebrate birthdays – anything from a long phone call to a full out party. I feel that birth days are important and should be recognized. Some years it may be a big celebration and other years something smaller and more personal.
  • Celebrate the completion of a project – instead of rushing on to the next thing that must be done, take a few minutes to congratulate yourself on a job well done and celebrate. Take a walk, enjoy a cup of tea, take some down time on the deck. 
  • Celebrate sunsets or sunrises – get outside with a favorite beverage and just soak up the splendor. 

Sometimes when things seem the toughest, it is so wonderful to reflect on the wonderful day to day occurrences and just celebrate!

Jonda Beattie

Time Space Organization 

Interview Series: Hoarding Expert; Hilde Verdijk

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 Hilde Verdijk. Hilde has been a professional organizer since 2005. She specializes in working with chronically disorganized clients and clients with hoarding issues. She also offers training about hoarding for related professionals and caregivers. Hilde is a Master Registered Professional Organizer with the Dutch Professional association of Professional organizers (NBPO) a subscriber of The Institute for Challenging Disorganization and one of only two CPO-CD®s in Europe.
She is also a member of the Dutch National Hoarding Work Group, which strives to educate the public and serves as a network for professionals. Hilde also contributed a chapter in the first Dutch book on hoarding, Problematische Verzamelaars (Problematic Collectors).

Questions & Responses

What Training have you taken?

Most of my training came through the ICD  (The Institute for Challenging Disorganization ). I have read a lot of books and taken a lot of workshops and training. I have the Buried in Treasures training certificate given by Lee Shuer and last year I took Randy Frost’s training in Scotland. There also have been Dutch conferences specifically on hoarding, which I attended, with Dr Satwant Singh as keynote speaker (he was also a speaker at the Portland ICD conference.)
Yourganize is also a member of the National Working Group Hoarding, an organization consisting of people with different disciplines. The Working Group includes staff of the GGD (local health organizations), social workers, Mental Health professionals, therapists, mind-care staff, and nurses. We share information and new research all the time and make sure referrals happen more quickly and easily.

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

Over 60% at the moment. Some have had the proper diagnosis, and some may have hoarding tendencies, but it is not the main part of the problem.

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

A lot of the time. Some people treat the term hoarding like it is a badge of honor. “Oh, I’m a hoarder.” It can be used as an excuse. I also see clients challenged by OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). I live in an area where there is a high percentage of autism, partly because of the type of industry in this area. About 75% of my clients have some form of autism.

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

I use the Clutter/Hoarding Scale®. I also use my senses, vision and smell tell you a lot. I inform my clients that safety comes first – for you – the client, for me, for your neighbors, for first responders. I look for smoke detectors and fire extinguishers. I look at the structure of the building and notice if there are unobstructed entrances and passageways. And we always start at the entrances to make the building more accessible and therefore safer to work in.

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

I usually work alone on the organizing. Sometimes I bring in my son for heavy lifting, I taught him how to handle the stuff and more importantly how to talk to the client. If I would want more people on the team, I would go for a therapist to handle the mental health issues. It’s still difficult to find suitable team members.
If a client refuses to get help from some of these sources, organization alone just can’t work. I had a client who was OCD, OCPD (Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder), on the Autistic Spectrum and an alcoholic. The client refused to talk with anyone, wouldn’t let me talk to anyone and had a delusional idea of what an organizer without this support could do. I had to quit working with them, also because she started stalking me.

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

Be extra careful when clients have addictive issues. I have learned to add a clause to my contract saying I would not work with anyone under the influence of drugs or alcohol and I don’t work anywhere that has weapons in the home. I can’t work where I don’t feel safe.

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

Get a good education. Learn, read, and talk to experienced organizers. Watch the TV shows and try to determine if that approach works and does no harm. Get your credentials.
Don’t share information about clients with journalists ever! Clients should not be exposed in tv shows that are not sincerely trying to offer help, most of these shows here in Europe just want “juicy stories” and not the background information.
If you are offered a job and you don’t feel up to the challenge, then don’t do it! Pass it on to someone better suited to handling it. You might harm your client if you don’t, but also yourself and your business.

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

My own website has a whole part dedicated to hoarding, and it’s referred to often at conferences here in the Netherlands as being quite thorough, which is nice. But please note that it is all in Dutch.
Also, there is an open Facebook page for the public, to ask questions and be educated. There are professionals involved to refer to, but it’s meant for potential clients and 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!
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 and Letting Go of Books

Whenever I start talking with clients about maybe donating some books and organizing the rest, I know that I will get some strong reactions. Mind you, these are people who have asked for the help.

Many people feel strong connections to their books. Textbooks they had in college remind them of their classes and experiences in college. Old cookbooks remind them of meals and feasts they have prepared in the past even though they know they will not use them again. Some books just remind them of a time or place or memory.

One episode with Marie Kondo showed her advising a woman to part with books that she had read or likely never would read. To me, this sounds reasonable. A tweet went out about how you should fill your apartment and world with books. That every human needs an extensive library and not clean, boring shelves. The tweet went viral.

Other people, when considering their collection, realize that their interests have changed and that they are still learning and growing. They can pass on books from their past.

I have always felt that you could have as many books as you want if you honor them by making sure that each has a home on a bookcase. Having said that, I did have one client who not only had bookcases around almost every wall but in one room he called the “library” he also had bookcases running down the middle of the room – like a public library. Still, the books were on shelves!

I recently had a client from the past contact me because her books are blocking pathways in her home and the apartment complex has told her she is breaking safety codes.

When helping someone with their books, a great way to begin the discussion is to start by grouping books by genre. When we start some of these sorts, we almost always find some books that are duplicated. We also find books with similar themes, topics, pictures and can eliminate some. We may find books that are damaged and moldy and those usually go (and cannot be donated). We talk about how these books when mixed in with “healthy” books can ruin the good ones  We may find books that were bought on a whim or just because they buyer liked the author but the book not so much.

Knowing the “why” of keeping the book makes it easier to make not only the decision of if you really want to keep it but also where you will store it. My challenge to you is to really look at each book you own and remember why you are still holding on to it. It really might just be that it is still there because it was put there once and forgotten. It might be fun to clear the space either to enjoy some empty space or to allow something new to come in.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Interview Series: Hoarding Expert; Alison Lush

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 Alison Lush.  Alison is a member of Professional Organizers
in Canada (POC) and The National Association of Productivity and Organizing
Professionals (NAPO). She is also a Certified Professional Organizer, a Certified
Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization, and an ICD Master Trainer.
Because she lives in Quebec, she conducts her business in both French and
English.

Everything related to organizing that Alison studied, she
wondered about in terms of her own life. She developed the understanding that
she has a “relationship” with her things. There is a flow – things come in and
things go out.  Her
home supports her goals.
Alison never wants to stop learning. She recognizes the importance of education and plans to be engaged in professional studies forever.

Questions & Responses

What training have you taken?

I began with training from the POC (Professional Organizers in Canada). I have earned my NAPO (National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals) CPO® and my CPO-CD® (Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization) through ICD (The Institute for Challenging Disorganization). Recently I  earned my Master Trainer certification.

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

I believe that it is less than 5%. We must remember that only medical professionals – psychiatrists – can make that designation.

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

The term hoarding is used too loosely and too quickly. The term should never be used unless a proper diagnosis has been made. For example, I had someone come to me and say, “I have hoarding disorders.” She had seen professionals and social workers and was very involved in the process. When I met her she was preparing to move. She had been in her current home for 17 years. As we started to work, the diagnosis seemed not right. She had no trouble getting rid of items, even items I had left behind for her to take out. When I asked her again about who diagnosed her, she stated, “Oh, I diagnosed myself.” When she was in the program, the staff accepted her diagnosis as gospel. After more work and conversation, I suggested that she might be affected by chronic disorganization rather than hoarding.

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

I use the ICD Clutter-Hoarding Scale®. I also do an interview with the client. I used to rely on my eyes but now I go with the feeling. I try to go into the home like I am wearing blinders – like I am blind, and I only listen to the client.  I ask myself: What is the client feeling about the clutter? If I didn’t, I might want to start clearing an area that didn’t bother the client. I want to be sure I am addressing the needs of the client.  Thanks to the Clutter-/Hoarding Scale®, I also pay attention to odors and safety issues.

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

I pay attention to the rats’ nest of cords. I want to be aware if circuits are being overloaded. I also listen to the client. If they say something like, “Oh, we had a flood upstairs last year.” I start to look at the structure and to look for mold. I am conscious of the air quality.  I also am always aware of what exits are available.

Do you usually work alone or with a team?

I tried a couple of times to work with a team, but I have found that trust and instinct are critical and very personal, so I prefer to work alone.

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

I had a client who called but seemed very ambivalent
on the phone. But she also seemed very desperate. I met with her. She lived in
the upper level of a duplex with the owner living on the main level. She had to
move in two months. I proposed bringing in two organizers to help sort. She
agreed to that arrangement. She put down a deposit. When we arrived about 10
minutes before our appointment and were sitting in the car, she called us and
told us not to come in. She didn’t feel ready. We gave her some time and waited
in the car. She never let us in even though she prepaid. Lesson: listen to your
gut.

Another client owned 14 properties. The entire
first floor of the area we were to work in was filled with flat baskets and
these baskets were filled with paper. This was her filing system. She was
wanting to micromanage the job. I referred two junior organizers and a tech
person to her. She wanted help getting a filing cabinet set up. When I tried to
talk to her, several times she put up her hand and said, “Stop talking!”. I
finally got on the phone with her for about a half hour and basically fired
myself. I felt we were not the right fit. I closed the account and sent her the
$57 left in the account. She was not happy with me or the way I closed out the
job. I wish I had never started, and I wish I had kept a good paper trail.
Lesson: when there have been verbal conversations, follow up with an email
spelling it all out and keep copies of the email correspondence.

Then there was Christopher. I worked with Christopher for two and a half years. He had a white-knuckle grip on everything. If he had a corner piece of Styrofoam from years back, he wanted to hang onto it because it might come in handy. I had helped him unload a part some years ago. How do I know if this is Chronic Disorganization or hoarding? If the client is willing to let you walk out with some of the items you have sorted, it is probably not hoarding. If there is a very powerful emotional psychic glue between the client and him letting go of items, it might very well be hoarding. Lesson: know what you are working with.

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

Get a good education. Volunteer in the professional community. Really become a part of that community. The professional community provides great resources. You can ask questions in the online forums to get advice when you are stuck.  

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

I would love to share my YouTube channel – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCSO8GIf5LswoDiU3OgBjdqw/videos .
Just last week, my most popular video passed 250K views, and very soon I will
have 5000 subscribers.

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. 

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Zone Plan – Back Entry Hall


I organize and deep clean my home using my Zone Plan. (https://timespaceorg.com/teleclass/) Each month (except for July and December) I concentrate on one zone in my home. In the spring I like to work on my back-entry hall and one storage wall in my laundry room. While this is really two different areas, both are small and when I have completed these areas it means I have completed my whole home and am ready to start again next month.

Although most of my guests enter through the front door, there are times when they do come in the side door. This is also the door that the family uses most of the time. I like this area to be warm and welcoming. I have hung and placed whimsical art here just for fun. This is also an area where incoming and outgoing items are held. Current outerwear is left here on hooks. Cloth grocery bags, when unpacked after a grocery run, are hung here until the next person makes a run to the car. Outgoing mail is laid on the bench until the next run to the post office. While this is a staging area for incoming and outgoing items, nothing is allowed to stay long. The vision for this area is to have a welcoming, uncluttered entrance. Right outside the door are two planters and a whimsical frog to greet you.

The storage hall in my laundry has many purposes. I have a wall unit that holds overflow from other areas in my home. This one wall holds entertainment supplies, recycling bins, a cat box, extra litter, bird seed, tool kits, cleaning products, extra file crates from the office, and a hanging rod for clothes taken from the dryer. What a hodgepodge! Surprisingly, this zone works well. However, as I go through this zone, I look closely at what is there. I purge when I see items that are no longer used or items that got dumped in there because it was handy but that really belong in the storage shed. When I finish this zone there will be less clutter and more open spaces.

At the end of the month, I will reward myself by buying some fresh blooming flowers to place in the pots outside the door.

For more help in organizing your space, order my workbook, From Vision to Victory: A Workbook For Finding a Simple Path to an Organized Home. https://timespaceorg.com/books/

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Interview Series: Hoarding Expert Cris Sgrott

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 Cris Sgrott.  Cris is a Certified Professional Organizer,
Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization, ICD Master
Trainer, productivity consultant, speaker and business success educator
dedicated to helping individuals and businesses become productive, organized,
and successful.

Cris was born and raised in Brazil and moved to the US at the traumatic age of 15. She has lived in several states and driven cross country twice. Cris loves road trips, and to watch independent/weird movies that nobody else seems to enjoy. Whenever she has time, you can find her riding her road bike, hanging out with people, or of course organizing something at the house!

Questions & Responses

What training have you taken?

I earned my NAPO (National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals) CPO® certification in 2011. I have taken lots of training through ICD (The Institute for Challenging Disorganization)and in the same year, 2011, earned my CPO-CD® – and became a Master Trainer in 2014. I completed Denslow Brown’s Coach Approach for Organizers Foundation Courses and I am currently working on my certification for NASMM (National Association of Senior Move Managers).

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

There are seven organizers on my team. I, personally, work fewer hands-on hours now and less than 5% of the clients we work with have hoarding tendencies. 60% to 70% of our clients are chronically disorganized or have ADHD.

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

Yes. It seems like 100% of the time they have something else going on in their brain. We see clients with childhood trauma, depression, people going through transitions, people suffering a lot of loss. I find that hoarding is often a surface diagnosis. Go below that and you find something else. I always say that we are one nervous breakdown away from becoming a hoarder.  

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

We use the ICD clutter/hoarding scale. Usually our clients are just at a 3, although recently we had a level 5. I teach a class to real estate agents and use the clutter/hoarding scale to inform them about what severe clutter looks like. The class helps us all talk using the same language.

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

My organizers are good and very tolerant and have a lot of compassion. We do discuss the projects to determine if we need pest control, hazmat suits, or gloves. We always bring a change of clothes. We are not afraid of the bugs. I had a client once that called to say she had one “mice”. We called for pest control and I believe they killed over 200.

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

We have a team of seven. We use our own Policies and Procedures handbook. Before hiring, I make certain that the applicant has the same core values as my company.

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

I learned a couple of things in the past. I no
longer allow anyone else to call for a potential client. The person I am going
to work with must make the call themselves. The person I’m working with must be
invested in the project – it doesn’t matter if someone else is paying me.

Also, I never start new clients around the
holidays anymore. The holidays are a highly charged time. I had a client have a
massive panic attack once because of this. She had no support and she called me
for 3 days about every 3 hours.

I presented a class with Roland Rotz, Ph.D. titled Case Study: Ethical Disasters in Chronic Disorganization (December 2013) for ICD in which we discussed identifying red flags and green flags (a term coined by Dr. Rotz) when working with a client. If you are a premium ICD subscriber you can access this class through the ICD vault.

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

Understand what is happening. Get all the education you can. Don’t start off your career with a difficult hoarding situation. See if you can assist or shadow someone who works in this field before you try it on your own. Everything I learned about hoarding, I learned through ICD.

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

I have an extensive list of resources for people who want to recycle stuff on my website if they live in the Washington, D.C. area, there are also several national resources. Anyone can take advantage of my video book club which are also on my website and on our YouTube channel.

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.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

The Last Stage of Life

One of the presentations I attended at our last NAPO conference was on the topic: The Last Stage of Life – Practical Preparations for Everyone. The well-versed presenter was Audrey Billet. This might sound like a morbid topic, but it is really a very practical way of preparing for the future. On a personal note, you can have no idea unless you have experienced it yourself, what a blessing it was that my late husband and I had all the conversations and paperwork in order before he became ill and died. I did not have to second guess what his wishes were during my time of grief.

It is important to have conversations with loved ones before something catastrophic happens. What surprised me was that I had not considered that this would also mean my unmarried son. If you have a child that is now of legal age, as a parent you have no right to get his medical information or make a decision on what should happen if they are in a terrible accident or become too ill to make their own decisions unless you have the paperwork to show that they allow you to make those decisions. If you have an elderly parent or spouse, you should also have conversations around topics such as memory loss and assisted living. I know that my mother always used to say, “The most horrible thing I can think of is to wake up somewhere and have no idea where I am.” When you hear a statement that, it is the time to talk about what she would want when the time comes to consider such options.

Audrey stated that everyone should have:

  1. An advance directive (living will) updated every 5 years
  2. A durable power of attorney for healthcare
  3. HIPPA releases
  4. A durable power of attorney for finances
While looking up HIPPA releases, I discovered that if your loved one does not have one in place with their medical insurance company, they too will not discuss anything with you.
Now I have all of these things except I should have HIPPA releases in other places besides my main doctor. But if an emergency happens to me, where would first responders find this information?
Places first responders might look:
  1. On a person’s body – a medical alert bracelet can connect them to a database
  2.  The fridge – some states have programs that train responders to look for a tag or yellow dot & responders might look in the fridge for diabetic medicines
  3. The front door – there is a program called Vial of Life that provides people with a form – then a sticker is on the front door to alert responders
  4. Your wallet or purse – first responders may not look there but the medical professionals in the emergency room will
  5. Your cell phone – ICE stands for In Case of Emergency – if you make this entry on your phone with a phone number of who to contact – this will probably be checked at the emergency room
Having basic information on hand for EMTs or paramedics is important but there is not a set location on where to keep this. It is a good idea to have it in more than one location.
Audrey also recommended a book, Being Mortal by Atul Gauande, as a useful resource on this topic.
I highly recommend that if you have not already made these preparations, you schedule a time to do so now. Then share with your loved ones what you have done and where the paperwork is filed. 




Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Interview Series: Hoarding Experts – Wendy Hanes & Angela Esnouf

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 had the fabulous opportunity to spend some time with Wendy Hanes and Angela Esnouf from Australia when we were at the NAPO (the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals) conference in Fort Worth, Texas in early April.

Wendy Hanes
is a CPO® and a CPO-CD®. She is the only organizer in
Australia to hold these prestigious international designations. Additionally,
Wendy holds specialist certificates in Chronic Disorganization, ADHD and
Hoarding from the ICD (The Institute for Challenging Disorganization).

Angela Esnouf is the past president of the Australasian Association of Professional Organizers. She and Wendy are actively involved in building the professional organizing industry in Australia and raising the standard of service through professional development.

Questions and Responses

What training have you taken?

We have participated in classes through the ICD (The Institute for Challenging Disorganization) and in a variety of workshops. Dr. Randy Frost ran a workshop and Lee Shuer ran a Buried in Treasures workshop. We have also participated in two workshops on Motivational Interviewing. Angela took Denslow Browns’ course in the Coaching Essentials Program. We attend lots of conferences to increase our knowledge on hoarding and organizing. Locally, the Catholic Community Services hosts a conference on hoarding and squalor.

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

Angela has about 70% and Wendy has anywhere from 70 – 100% of clients with hoarding tendencies. Wendy stated that some of her clients are very engaged and some are very resistant.

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

Yes. 50% of the time it is ‘passive decline’. This is a situation that mostly occurs in the elderly. It can look like hoarding, but the person is not actively accumulating. They have fallen into a slump. They are simply not keeping up with any clutter removal. So, all the stuff in the home continues to pile up.

What do you mean by the term ‘squalor’?

Squalor is a description of the environment. There is lots of filth, debris, rotting food and garbage. This co – occurs with ‘passive decline’. This term was coined by a pyscho-geriatrician: Professor Steve McFarlane.

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

We use the ICD Clutter Hoarding Scale. This tool provides us with lots of information about the home. It will help us determine if mold is present, if there are infestations, and what personal protection as organizers on the job we need to stay safe. We have used Randy Frost’s Clutter Image Rating Scale but find the information it provides is not as in depth.

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

Wendy always does an in person visit before starting the job. She looks for biohazards like a smell indicating mold. She also keeps an eye out for pet feces and looks to see if the cat boxes are full to overflowing. If the home is in an area where drug use is prevalent, she looks for evidence of drug use – indicating that needles may be hiding in the hoard. If necessary, Wendy will call a forensic cleaner to come in a do a pre-clean before any work is started.

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

This happened early in my career
(Wendy). I found out how clients can use you. I was brought in by a Community
Housing Project to work with a woman who was in danger of being evicted. I made
lots of suggestions and she agreed to everything! I was very surprised by her
reaction. I was anticipating some resistance to all the changes I wanted her to
make. I made my report to the Community Housing Authority and recommended that
the woman’s lease be extended. They agreed. I went back to work with the woman,
to implement the changes she had so readily agreed to and found that she didn’t
answer the door or her phone! I had been played. She only agreed to the changes
so that I would write a positive report. I have since found out that she is
still playing the same game!

Angela found out the importance of setting and sticking to boundaries. She was working with a client – doing some de-cluttering and came across a bag of souvenirs from a trip. The client told Angela they were from a cruise she had taken. Angela told the client that she had always wanted to go on a cruise but that her husband wouldn’t agree to go. So, the client said that the next time she was planning to go on a cruise, Angela could go with her.  Then the client wanted to be Angela’s best friend! Angela’s tip is don’t divulge any personal information.

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

Get trained! You don’t know what you don’t know. These clients are very vulnerable people. If you go in like a steam truck wanting to clear everything out, you can do more harm than good. They may isolate themselves further and they won’t trust you anymore. There may be backsliding. It’s important that there is no judgement in the work we do and that we inspire trust in our clients.

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

Yes. Go to our website: Hoarding home solutions.com.au/resources. This is a serious subject. We offer a training course in which we chunk down the information into manageable units. We offer practical solutions to empower people to work through this challenge. The course is online and is a series of webinars and videos. It is 13 modules and takes between ten to twelve hours to complete.

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

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.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Interview Series: Hoarding Experts – Rachel Seavey

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 Rachel Seavey. Rachel founded Collector
Care when she discovered her passion for those with hoarding disorder. She
helps others shed their emotional and physical clutter. Rachel’s media
appearances include the Emmy-nominated A & E series Hoarders, the CBS Sunday
Morning Show and The Lady Brain Show.  Rachel also hosts “Hoardganize” a
popular organizing podcast for listeners struggling with organization. She is
fluent in Spanish and loves to travel. When she is not de-cluttering, extreme
cleaning, or blogging, she’s with her son, dogs, and bearded dragon – living
life and having fun.

Questions
& Responses

What
training have you taken?

I have taken most of my training through ICD
(The
Institute for Challenging Disorganization – https://www.challengingdisorganization.org/
).

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

While a lot of the clients I work with have
characteristics of hoarding, I believe only about 25% are true hoarders
.

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

Yes. It could be an injury that has suddenly
made a person less mobile and so less inclined to pick up after themselves, so
stuff accumulated or grief that has thrust the person into a depression. Or
another clue may be the level of clutter.

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

My team uses the ICD clutter hoarding scale.
We keep laminated copies in our trucks and refer to them whenever we have a
question.

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

I always make an in-person assessment first.
If there is mold, I have that treated first. If there are rodents, I sometimes
end up in a catch 22 position. Of course, I want the rodents dealt with first,
but some companies will not come out and bait for the rodents until the clutter
is cleared. If there is structural damage, I will not put the team in danger
. I make sure the damage is fixed before we return to work.

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

Collector Care uses teams. I have five
employees and sometimes subcontract out other NAPO organizers. I insist that
everyone has a business license and insurance. Our truck drivers have slightly
different qualifications.

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

I fit the lead organizer to the job. Most of
the team can do the lead job but if someone is uncomfortable taking a job where
there is a level 4 or 5 hoard, I honor that.

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

I have learned to ask about everything that is
going to be tossed. Ask, ask, and over-ask.  I never assume even if it
seems obvious to me and my team. Once early on, the team and I were working in
a room without the client. There were a lot of dead plants and dead flowers
mixed in with the clutter. They were not on display or even all in one place.
We put all of them in our dumpster. When the client came into the room, she was
very distressed. Some of those flowers were from her mother’s grave. Eventually
the client forgave me, but I never forgave myself. Another time, we were
working in a kitchen. There was a vat of used cooking oil right by the stove.
We secured it and took it to the dumpster considering it a safety hazard. The
client was extremely upset with us and demanded that we retrieve that oil.
Apparently, it was a special oil that came from Italy and it meant a lot to
her. Our team lost time on the job trying to retrieve that oil. We eventually
did find it. Ask, ask, over-ask.

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

I would advise them to take the tele-classes
offered by ICD.  Get all the training you can. I have had organizers
volunteer to assist on some of our jobs just so they can see what it is like
and so that they can better make the decision if this type of client is for
them. They should also be aware that this type of work involves a lot of
physical labor. You must be able to work long and hard. Emotional burn out can
easily happen so plan for how to handle it if it happens.

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

The ICD website has many resources. I also
really appreciate Judith Kolberg’s books on hoarding, chronic disorganization,
and ADD. You can find them on her website.

Do you
have any books or articles you have written that you would like to share?

I would love to share my podcast (http://hoardganize.libsyn.com/)  series and my blog on my website (http://www.collectorcare.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!

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.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

The Zone Plan – Organizing the Master Bedroom

Once a month I choose a zone in my home to organize, declutter, and deep clean. During one of the spring months I choose to work in our master bedroom. It’s a wonderful time to review the winter wardrobe and clean or repair any favorites before I store them away and to discard anything that I no longer want to wear. It’s also a time when I like to clean the windows and let the sun shine in.

When I start to work in any zone in my home, I start with a vision. Because I share this room with my husband, it needs to be a shared vision. We want this room to have a welcoming presence. We want a calming, relaxing feel and a place to feel happy. We like soft light but still have enough light available to read. My husband meditates here so the room should have an uncluttered, peaceful feel.

I use the whole month to work on this zone and I divide the tasks into four sections. I schedule time on my calendar to complete each task.

One week I organize the closet. Rob stores his hanging clothes in his office closet, so this is a job I do alone. I pull out all m clothes, shoes, and accessories and sort them. I get rid of the ones that no longer fit or that I no longer want to wear. I wash the interior of the closet and then replace all items.

Another week, Rob and I clean out our dressers. We take out every article and toss anything that is damaged and put into a donate box anything sill in good shape, but we don’t want. Winter items go into the lower drawers and summer items come up to the top drawers. Meanwhile, the dresser is washed and waxed.

Still another week we work on the wall where the bed and end tables live. I strip the bed down to the frame and wash everything. The duvet goes to the cleaners and then is stored in the closet until it gets cold again. All extra reading material is removed from the end tables, so we only have what we are currently reading. The end tables are also washed and waxed.

The last week I finish up anything that might not have gotten done. It might be the windows or the overhead fan. It might be dusting down the walls and ceiling or cleaning the throw rugs.

By the end of the month, the room will be sparkly clean and welcoming. I will put out fresh flowers and admire our work. I feel we will sleep even better in the clear, clean bedroom.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer