Interview Series: Hoarding Experts – Wendy Hanes & Angela Esnouf

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

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

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

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

Questions and Responses

What training have you taken?

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

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

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

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

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

What do you mean by the term ‘squalor’?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Diane
N. Quintana is a Certified Professional Organizer, Certified Professional
Organizer in Chronic Disorganization, ICD Master Trainer and owner of DNQ
Solutions, LLC based in Atlanta, Georgia. Diane teaches busy people how to
become organized and provides them with strategies and solutions for
maintaining order in their lives. She specializes in residential and
home-office organizing and in working with people challenged by ADD, Hoarding,
and Chronic Disorganization.
Jonda S. Beattie is a Professional Organizer and owner of Time Space Organization based in the Metro-Atlanta area. As presenter, author of three books as well as a retired special education teacher, she uses her listening skills, problem solving skills, knowledge of different learning techniques, ADHD specialty, and paper management skills to help clients tackle the toughest organizational issues. Jonda does hands on organizing, virtual organizing, and moderates a Zone Plan Teleclass for those who prefer to work on their own with organizational coaching.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

When to Hire a Professional Organizer


I have had clients greet me at the door with the comment, “My mother would just die if she knew I paid someone to come in and help me with this project.” Somehow we just feel that we should be able to do everything ourselves with no support.

Well, I am a professional organizer and I have hired other professional organizers to help me – more than once. I also hire a cleaning person, lawn care, an accountant/CPA, a webmaster/graphic designer. Why should I take on projects that I could do but am not really proficient or projects where I just don’t want to spend my time? I am really much better served doing what I do very well and love doing, and hiring out the rest. This way I can devote more time helping my clients.

There are many reasons to hire an organizer. Let me list a few.

  1. You are in way over your head and your therapist has been recommending one for years. You might be a hoarder. You might me suffering from depression. There may be many reasons but a professional organizer can partner with a coach or therapist to give the maximum help and support.
  2. You have a permanent condition that makes it hard to get and stay organized. Clients with ADHD, TBI, or other conditions can reduce stress and anxiety by working with a professional organizer on a regular basis.
  3. You are going through a life event that has thrown you off your organizational game for a while. You may be getting married, going through a divorce, combining families, having children, downsizing, dealing with illness or death. These events take an enormous amount of energy and added stressful tasks on top of living your day to day life. Hiring a professional organizer to get you through this event just makes sense.
  4. You need help in an area that you are not proficient in or that you just hate to do. You hate organizing your computer files or your paper files. You are terrible at laying out an efficient kitchen. You love to look at your photographs but have no idea where to start in organizing them.
  5. You have a couple of projects where you would like a “kick start”. You’ve let that extra bedroom or the basement get out of control over the years. Now, you’d like to reclaim that space but it overwhelms you. you may just need a professional organizer to get you started and then finish it yourself.
  6. You can definitely do the projects yourself but you would like some accountability and support. This is where organization coaching can be useful. I have a Zone Plan Coaching teleclass where I lead groups through projects via group calls and virtual support.

As you can see, there is a wide range of possible ways to use an organizer. What is your reason to give us a call?

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Off the Floor and Out the Door

You’ve had enough of all the clutter lying around. You decide to take action – either by yourself, with a friend, or with a professional organizer.

You start the sorting process. This box I keep. This box I donate. This box is for items that I plan to give to specific people. This I trash. This I will try to sell. You are on a roll. But time gets away from you and you need to stop for a while. You know that you still have a lot to do. So, you just stack up those sorted boxes and get on with life.

Much, much later, you start in again – and then later you start yet again. Meanwhile, those sorted, labeled boxes are stacking up.

STOP!

You don’t have to finish the whole job before getting those boxes out of your space.

Go through the keep box. Ask yourself where you would use these items. Take the items to that space even if it messes that space up a bit.

Put the donate boxes into your car and in the next day or two take them to your donation site. If you have time, inventory them for a receipt. If you have not had time for 2 years to inventory the items – just take them anyway.

Take the items from the box for specific people. As yourself when you will see those people next. Make a note to take the item to them at that time. If it will be more than several months, you might mail the item. Remaining items put in your gift holding area until the proper time.

Trash – well, you probably did do that one.

Go through the sell boxes. Decide now – are you going to consign them, take them to an antique shop or flea market, or get someone to put them on Craig’s list or EBay for you? Make those contacts and see what will sell. If after a couple of years of saving up stuff thinking you will eventually have an estate sale, ask yourself how much will you really make? Is it worth having your house look like a storage unit for the last few years?

Get everything you have sorted out of your living space. Then, repeat the process when you have the time. You can do this decluttering project in bites. Reward yourself after every round! Enjoy your open space.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Why Every Professional Organizer Should Hire a Peer


I am a Professional Organizer and I have hired other Professional Organizers quite a few times. I’m not referring to the times I have hired others for sub contract work; but actually hiring them to help me with projects in my own home or office. I have hired Laura Ray (http://organizeatlanta.com/) to help me declutter my inbox. I have hired Tami Puckett (http://www.mindfulredesign.com/) to use her redesign skills to implement the suggestions of my Feng Shui consultant, Jenna Boyd.

Each time I use their expertise, I learn from them. I also get a reminder lesson on what it feels like to be the client. How hard it is to listen to their advice without taking things personally! How hard it is to embrace their suggestions without making excuses!

Right now I am using Tami Puckett to help me stage my home. What patience she has! How difficult I can be!

Tami remarks that she feels the painting and surround in my tiny breakfast room needs to be removed and the wall repainted. I disagree. I think it is a lovely piece and really shows how the room can be utilized. Next session, Tami revisits her proposal. I am beginning to acknowledge that not everyone would love it and they just might wonder how hard it would be to remove and repaint. We also discuss the paint color in my living room. “A soft off-white,” Tami says. “But I love this green. Green is the sign of health!” Tami replies, “It’s not your house anymore. Off-white is better.”

Ouch! It’s not my house anymore. She is so right. It turns out that as we work through the changes I am seeing that. I am also very much aware of how my clients often feel. Working with Tami on this project has been very therapeutic. I am ready to say “Good-by” to the house. I’m getting pretty excited about finding a new house and making it a home.

Oh, and the wall painting and surround will come down next week.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer