Interview Series: Hoarding Expert Dr. Becky Beaton

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. Becky Beaton. Becky is a Licensed Psychologist (PH.D) with over 25 years of clinical experience. She is also a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), a Nationally Board Certified Counselor (NBCCH) Fellow, a Certified Professional Counselors Supervision (CPCS), and the founder and clinical director of The Anxiety & Stress Management Institute, located in Atlanta, Georgia. She was the treating psychologist on over 60 episodes of TLC’s popular series “Hoarding: Buried Alive.” Becky was also on Good Morning America, The Anderson Cooper Show, CNN Headline News & Evening Express, and the Meredith Vieira Show.

With all that going on, one of her favorite things is watching a sunrise.

Questions and Responses:

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

Absolutely! We were very excited to finally have the official diagnosis versus it just being part of OCD from the DSM-5 because as you know not every person who hoards has OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and not everyone who has OCD hoards. They realized the neurobiology was different in someone who hoards from someone who has straight OCD unless they have both at the same time. Every time we find someone who meets the criteria, we do the diagnosing here at the Anxiety and Stress Management Institute.

If you are working with someone with hoarding tendencies, do you designate a professional organizer to go in and work with them inside the home?

We do refer out to professional organizers, hopefully you guys are getting the referrals (we are!) but it’s sometimes difficult for people to afford a therapist and a professional organizer at the same time. There are times when we have to find someone from the community to go in and help. We really feel like the therapist needs to go in at least once to see what’s going- preferably more. We train our interns here – we teach them about hoarding and how to work with people challenged by hoarding tendencies. They are basically free labor. They can go out into the field and be our supplement to the psychotherapist.

What common comorbidity issues do you find as you start working, are there times when you discover this is something other than hoarding?

I see quite a few. It depends. I often see PTSD. I see it over and over. They have had a trauma one of the traumas sets off the hoarding. Another comorbidity I see is Major Depressive Disorder. Sometimes it’s not hoarding. They don’t have the energy to clean up. Depression can go along with hoarding. ADHD, I see constantly. Treatment for that really helps. Social anxiety disorder where they don’t want to get out and see people. The hoard becomes their bunker.

How do you treat hoarding problems?

We use memory reconsolidation. You bring up an old memory and then we can change it. That’s why memory is fallible. Researchers have found that you have 5 hours to change it before it becomes restored. It restores in its new form. You can add insights to it. You can do things to it. Emotional learning. Bring in the senses. Recreate the memory. Plant a new idea in juxtaposition to the old idea. Anything that is robust will change the memory and alter the person’s perception. The science is backing up why newer trauma treatments work. Refer out for a couple of sessions trauma treatment that helps them view the world differently so they’re more open to learning new behavior patterns. Treat the trauma first and then work on the hoard. Exercise works better than any treatment. They will think more clearly. Exercise will help depression and ADHD.

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

My personal experience is yes for the most part. Sometimes there is a personality disorder in addition to the hoarding disorder and they do not do well in support groups. They can derail the whole group. For the most part they can become a cheering team. The support group help each other clearing out their things.

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

I think they are great. They provide resources and support.

What was your most difficult hoarding situation on the show: Buried Alive?

I have several that were pretty difficult. I’m a big animal lover. They learned not to send me on those shoots. There was one where there was a dog who was in bad shape, he was obviously neglected. That was one show where I cried. We took it to the vet and one of the vet techs ended up keeping it. The family was ok with it because they recognized they couldn’t take care of the dog. We also had to report the mother to the Department of Family and Child Services because of the condition of the home and what was happening with the kids. There was a whole wing of the home where there was no electricity. It’s really difficult when there is someone who can’t take care of themselves and who is being harmed as a result of the hoard.

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

Can you tell us some of the big take-aways from doing the television show?

I learned a lot from the organizers I worked with on the show. For instance; about the Ideal self as opposed to the real self. The ideal self says I want to clean up the hoard to have the grandchildren over; the real self says I don’t want anyone in here touching my stuff so I’m going to continue hoarding. I’m happy that the show didn’t try to take on too much. We tried to do just one room. I learned about the Importance of being very respectful of pacing – slower is faster otherwise you can be hurtful. Be true to your word. If you promise not to touch something, don’t touch it otherwise you lose the clients’ trust. You will also traumatize the person. Be clear and stick to what you will do and not do. It’s important to teach clients how to organize. Prior to the show I didn’t have any training in organization. I learned how important it is that the organizational systems work for the clients. Really tapping into how that individual’s mind works and work with them even if their way to organize is not conventional. Celebrate the small things. Don’t mess with what’s working.

 

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 affected by ADHD, 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; 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.

 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.