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

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.

& Responses

training have you taken?

I have taken most of my training through ICD
Institute for Challenging Disorganization –

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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 (  series and my blog on my website (

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

Controlling School Paperwork

It’s back to school time already. School generates a lot of paper even though more and more of it is on line. Plan for the onslaught of paper now. Have in place a plan to store the needed paper before the paper starts to build up.

You will likely receive:

  • General school information such as a school calendar and a calendar of events, papers with school hours, rules, fees, sports information, contact information, PTA news
  • Welcome letter from your child’s teacher with her information
  • List of needed school supplies
  • Lunch schedule
As the school year progresses, student work and art will also pour in as well as updates on festivals, field trips, and special programs.
Some parents do very well with having a notebook for each child that holds school information and schedules as well as report cards. Some parents prefer to scan the forms and reports and keep them on a folder on their computer. A bin or folder is helpful to keep up with graded papers and art work.
Always keep graded school work until the end of each grading period. If there is a question about a grade, you have something to carry into the conference. At the end of each grading period, cull most of the work keeping only the best.
When the school calendar comes in, immediately put important dates into the family calendar. You don’t want to be surprised when there are teacher workdays, early dismissals, or field trips.
When the first general information comes, put into your phone important contact numbers such as the main office, the guidance counselor, or the nurse. Put titles into the contact list as you may not immediately recognize the name (Nurse Sara Nightingale).
Set up a plan for all incoming paper your child carries home. Have a landing pad or active folder for all papers that you need to see such as field trip permission slips, picture day schedule, and item requests. At the beginning of the year, each day ask your child, “Do you have anything that needs to be put into the basket or file for me to look over?”. As the school year progresses you can fade out the questioning and let your student become independent. 
Most schools have planners where the children log in their homework assignments. If the school does not have one, it is a good idea to purchase one anyway. At the beginning to the school year, check the planner daily. Have a calendar at your child’s study area where he can learn to schedule projects that take more than one evening. Weekly clean out the backpack and put all graded work and art into the bin.
The year will run so much more smoothly if you start off with a good paper plan. 

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Organizing the Bathroom and Linen Closet

Your bathroom is one of the smaller rooms in your house but it is also one that is heavily used and holds many items. A bathroom can get disorganized and cluttered quickly, so it is important to have a plan for how you want to use this place and how you want it to look. Keep clutter to a minimum.

Look at the storage space you have available. Think about what you use daily in this zone. You may not have room to store back up supplies, first aid items, or cleaning materials.

Use the medicine cabinet, drawers, or space under your sink to store the items you use regularly. Store your daily grooming supplies here. Use a bin, small basket, or drawer for cosmetics you use almost daily. A medicine cabinet above the sink can store toothpaste, dental floss, deodorant, q tips, and cotton balls. Hair dryers, curling irons, gels, sprays and all items for hair might be stored in a container under the sink. If your space is limited, you might also have a hanging bag on the back of your bathroom door for storage. An extra roll of toilet paper and personal hygiene items could also fit under the sink.

If you have drawers or shelves, designate each area as a container for like items. One drawer or basket might hold everyday make up, another might hold eye products, and a third hair products, etc.

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

Shampoo, body wash, soap, and a wash cloth may be stored inside your shower or tub. There are shower caddies that fit over the door of your shower or over the shower head. Another option is to use a shower dispenser to hold shampoo or body wash.

Medicines can go in bins on a shelf in the linen closet or in the kitchen. Both places are better than the actual bathroom as moisture and heat can ruin some meds. Consider sorting your medicines by type and placing them in separate bins. One bin might hold outdoor items like sunscreen, bug spray, or Benadryl. Another might hold Tylenol, aspirin, and cold/allergy medicines. Get rid of expired items while sorting. Not only do some medicines lose their effectiveness over time but they can actually become harmful. Dispose of these items responsibly. Do not toss medicines in the trash and Never flush them into our water system.

If you have a linen closet, keep extra towels, cosmetics, and cleaning supplies there. The linen closet is also a good place to store any duplicate items. But as you organize, be ruthless about throwing out items. You don’t need 5 partial bottles of shampoo, 6 sample soaps, or that free sample in foil of a shampoo/conditioner that came in the mail.

If you don’t have a linen closet, use towel hooks, over the toilet shelving, or baskets to store your extra towels, wash cloths, and toilet paper.

When you have your bathroom organized and decluttered, then work on a maintenance schedule to keep it under control. Then the next time you revisit this zone, it will be an easier process.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

The Zone Plan: Organizing Your Entry Hall

I work with a Zone Plan to organize and deep clean my entire home. In the spring I like to concentrate on my back-entry hall and one storage wall in my laundry room. Although most of my guests enter through the front door, there are times when they do come through the side door off the car port plus this is where the family usually enters so I want this area to be warm and welcoming. I want this area to make people smile when they enter my home. I have hung and placed whimsical art in this area 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 trip 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. At the most items may linger a day or two. The vision is to have fun accessories and not clutter in this area. Right outside the door there are two planters and a whimsical frog to welcome you.

The storage hall in my laundry has many purposes. I have an elfa wall unit to hold overflow from other areas of 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 am sure some of the items can be purged, like that container of cat food the cat will no longer eat. Some items get dumped in here that really belong in the storage shed so now is the time to move them to their final destination. When I am finished, there will be less clutter and more open spaces.

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

For more help on organizing your space, order my workbook, From Vision to Victory: A Workbook For Finding a Simple Path to an Organized Home.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

The Beauty of the Zone Plan

Stuff comes into our homes all the time. Sometimes it is something we buy to freshen up the look of a room. Sometimes it is a gift. Sometimes it is an inheritance. All of this can be good. But often the item is just placed somewhere without a lot of thought and/or it is added to what we already have with nothing going away. This can add to a lot of visual clutter in our homes.

I have a system in my home and one I share with my clients that keeps that clutter under control. The system is called the Zone Plan.

This is how it works:

  • You divide your home into 10 zones. My zones include the office, the living room, the kitchen, the laundry room, the master bedroom, the baths, the guest bedroom, the attic, the storage shed, and the entry hall and storage closets. 
  • Each month, except for July and December, you work in one of these zones. The intention is to redefine your vision for the zone and note what is not working with that vision.
  • Then you brainstorm what needs to happen to change what it is now to what matches your vision.
  • You develop a plan and schedule times to work on the project.
  • You touch everything that is in the zone. You decide what supports your vision and stays, what goes, and what is moved elsewhere.
  • At the end of the month you celebrate your wins and move on to the next zone.
The beauty of this plan is that you know you are going to get to every area eventually. If you open your linen closet and see that it needs some work, you can just smile and say, “Your turn is in June!” and shut the door. By completing a zone project instead of zig-zagging through your house, you feel a real sense of accomplishment. 
For more information on the Zone Plan visit my website – – or send me an email at .

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Turn Those Piles into Files

You come in from a meeting and you are tired. You bring in the mail but don’t have time to mess with it right now. You are afraid if you file the paper away you will forget it. So, everything gets dumped on the desk or countertop.

Meanwhile, your desk or countertop becomes one big inbox with piles everywhere. Some paper has been there so long that it has actually stuck to the surface or has fallen behind the desk or is so buried that unless there is some trigger to dig for it, it is forgotten. The clutter is overwhelming and slows down your productivity.

See if some of these tips work for you:

  • When you bring in paper, do a quick triage. What is obviously trash or needs shredding? What needs action soon? What do you need to take some time over and ponder? 
  • Have a trash can and shred box nearby and get those papers handled right away
  • Have a landing pad for all items needing action soon
  • Have a basket or bin for magazines or articles you want to read and ponder. When that basket gets full, acknowledge that you have more than you can handle and either set aside some time to read or dispose of some of the material
  • Have a folder or box for ads or upcoming workshops or events that you are considering
This should corral most of the paper but still very little has gone away.
Here comes the hard part:
  • Schedule regular times on your calendar to pay bills or check on bill pay. Then after paying, immediately file or get rid of paid bills
  • Weekly, at a scheduled time, take care of any receipts or invoices that need entering or filing. If possible, scan these items and get rid of the paper
  • Chose a couple of items you want to read and ponder and either look through them now or remove them to another location to read later. After reading them either dispose of them or file them
  • Schedule a time at least monthly to look through ads and coupons you have saved and toss any that have expired or that no longer interest you. Look over any upcoming events and see if some no longer appeal to you or have passed their due date. Dispose of all expired items.
  • Empty the trash can and the shred container
While you may never get your desk completely clear of paper, do realize that paper you keep has a purpose and when that purpose is completed, the paper should go somewhere else besides on your desk.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Organizing the Garage

Now that the weather is cooling down a bit, it’s a great time to organize your garage.

Before pulling out all that stuff onto the driveway, take a good look at what is in your garage now. Why is it there? How did it get there? Do you still need it?

Decide on the functions of your garage. Is one of the functions to park your cars? 82% of homes have two-car garages or larger, but only 15% use them to park the car inside.

Do you keep your lawnmower and gardening supplies in the garage? What about bikes and sports equipment? Do you have a workshop area with tools? Do you keep your recycling bins here? What about a shelf or tow that stores all those extra packages of paper towels or packages of soft drinks? Do you still have boxes of stuff from your last move that have never been unpacked because you have no room in the house?

Once you have decided how you plan on using your garage, divide it into zones. Items that you frequently use outside like yard and garden tools are best stored near the garage door. Items used frequently like recycling bins or overflow storage of house supplies should be stored near the door to the house.

Decide on how much space you can devote to each zone and still have plenty of room to navigate and use each zone. Now you are ready to start pulling things out.

Pick one zone area. Pull everything out of that area and sweep it out. Put back what belongs in that zone and leave anything else on the driveway (or if you are only doing one zone at a time, put the rest near the zone area planned for it). As you put items back, make sure you still need them. Do you really need two hedge clippers? Why are you still holding on to that broken weed eater?

Continue going from zone to zone. Look at the shelving and storage options you have at hand. Is there a better way to store items in the zone? Shelving makes it a lot easier to get to boxes and containers. Using clear containers to keep like items together makes finding them, using them, and putting them away much easier. If it is difficult to get  to an item that you need, the likelihood of getting it put back away is slim to none. If you can’t easily see what is in containers, label them.

Once you have completed this task, hopefully you will have room to park at least one car. Your future you (the one coming out to the car on an icy morning) will thank you for taking the time to do this chore now.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Organizing Space With a Small Child

That new bundle of joy comes into your home and suddenly your home explodes with baby clothes, furniture, baby accessories, toys, books, feeding apparatus, and more. How did this happen and what to do now?

  1. Utilize the container system. I feel that as long as you can contain items in an orderly fashion, you can have as much “stuff” as gives you pleasure. A container can be the shelf for the books, the drawer for the sleepers, the hammock for the stuffed animals, the room for toys, and even consider your house as a container. When a container is full, no more items can come in unless some go away first.
  2. Set ground rules for gifts. When a baby first arrives or even before, there are parties and gifts start arriving. It helps everyone if there is a gift register and there is no sin in taking back to the store duplicates or items that just won’t work in your space. After that first influx, let it be known that gifts should just appear on birthdays and special holidays – not every time someone is out shopping and sees something cute. Let gift givers know your boundaries – like no gifts with batteries or a gazillion small pieces or items bigger than a breadbox. If a grandparent or favorite uncle brings in a large or loud gift, thank them and tell them that they should keep that toy at their home for baby to play with when they visit.
  3. Set limits on books. Children have favorites that they love to hear over and over again but I have seen bookcases overflowing with books – for children not even in kindergarten. Cull books regularly. Locate independent book stores that will accept used books for credit. Remember the library? What fun to go once a month or every two weeks and pick out some books to enjoy!
  4. Rotate toys and books. If there are too many books and toys around, the children tend to play with one of them a few minutes and then drop it and go to another one, etc. They get bored easily and can’t focus on any one thing. I have been in playrooms where you can’t even see the floor. Decide on a good number and variety of toys depending on your child’s attention span and age and then store the remainder of toys. In a few months, put away some of the less played with toys (or give them away if all interest is gone or they have aged out of it) and then bring out some of the stashed toys.
  5. Arrange the storage of items that are out so the toys, books, puzzles, etc. can easily be put away. Have items at eye level for the child. Have bins labeled with words and pictures and do not put lids on the bins. Make it easy for small children to scoop up their blocks and dump them into the appropriate bin or container. Teach children at a young age to put their toys away at night.
There is no right way to all of this. Find what works for you and your family. Remember that the house belongs to the adults – not the children. Find your happy place and then enjoy it together.
For more ideas see the following: both books are available on Amazon or Barnes and Nobel.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Organizing the Office Zone

For years I have been maintaining my home using a Zone Plan. This plan has me touching everything in my home at least once a year. When I work in my designated zone each month, I declutter and get rid of anything I no longer need or love.

The first zone I work on each year is my office. After a year, files are way too stuffed. Project bins are still hanging around even if the project has been completed. Some new items have been added and not enough stuff has gone away. So now is the time to look open-eyed at the office and work my plan.

  1. What is bothering me in this zone?
  • Clutter
  • Too much on the desk top
  • Files too full
  • Too much  paper lying around screaming  “do me”
     2. How do I want my office to look and feel?
  • Uncluttered
  • Clean
  • Welcoming
  • I want to feel productive and happy
  • I want empty space to allow for growth
     3. What do I need to do to meet this vision?
  • Clear our all desk drawers and the desk top
  • Purge files and remove what is now archival to another place
  • Clean out bins of completed projects and ready the bins for new material
  • Clear all surfaces – leave out only what I need and love
  • Declutter and organize bookshelves and the storage credenza
  • Deep clean room
      4. Schedule times to do each task.
  • Pull out calendar and see what times are available to work on zone
  • Write on calendar what tasks I plan to do on available dates – not only date but also time of day
By the end of the month, I will say “good enough”. Daily and weekly maintenance are scheduled but I won’t have to visit this zone again until next January. I reward myself with fresh flowers on my desk and make my plan for the next month in a new zone!

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Lighten Up for Spring

Spring is around the corner! This is the time we want our home to feel fresh and ready to let the sun light shine in. The living room is usually the first thing you see when you walk into your home. That is why I chose the living room to organize and clean during the month of March in my Zone Plan program.

My first step in working with this zone is to review my vision for the living room. I like to start my day here with coffee and the newspaper. Later in the day, My husband sits in his chair with coffee and the paper and maybe watches the news on TV. Together we often connect in this room and plan our day, week, and the future. For entertainment we work on the daily jumble and crossword puzzle. On a more passive note, we often listen to music or perhaps watch a DVD or television. if we are having a light meal, we may eat here. We entertain family and guests in our living room and welcome people from our front door. I want to feel relaxed in this room and ready for guests at any time.

Papers, books, brochures, and magazines can accumulate here as we relax and read/discuss the literature. It is a central gathering place for family and friends. Look around your area. What has accumulated? Make a plan for that paper that is going to end up here. My rule for newspapers is when a new one comes in the old one leaves. Magazines have a basket to hold them – but again, every month a new one comes in so keep those magazines circulating. When a new one comes in, out with the old. If you have an article that you have not yet read but want to read, leave this one magazine out on the coffee table and read it in the next few days. Have a landing place for that one book you are now reading in the living room and a tray or landing pad for any brochures you are checking out. When finished with book or brochure, recycle or put them away.

Multimedia like DVDs and CDs are usually found in the living room. Take time to sort the entire collections. Cull out the ones you are ready to donate or pass along to a friend. I use the container system for our DVDs and CDs. I have allotted containers that fit into our entertainment center. We can keep as many as will easily fit into those containers. As I usually only do this task once a year, it is important to leave a little extra room for new ones coming in or make it a rule that when a new one does come in, an old one goes.

This month I change out accessories to match the season. Gone is the nut bowl, the poinsettia, and the winter candle. In their place I have fresh spring flowers and a pastel candle. I clean and polish as I declutter each area.

When the zone is complete, I celebrate by having a nice glass of wine, a lit candle, and some down time with my hubby.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer