I had the great fortune of attending a conference on hoarding disorder last week called “Too Much Stuff.” It was hosted by the Multnomah County Hoarding Task Force, and featured husband and wife duo Lee Shuer and Bec Belofsky Shuer. The Shuers know first hand what it is like to live with and eventually overcome hoarding disorder, because Lee struggled with hoarding disorder (and admits that he still struggles with aspects of it) since he was a child. The disorder nearly destroyed their marriage, but they found a way to help Lee conquer the compulsive acquiring and saving using the Buried In Treasures workbook and support groups. Interestingly, they didn’t use professional organizers, and Lee didn’t use a therapist. (Typically, those are the first two resources people turn to when trying to get help for hoarding disorder.)
Here are the most helpful tips they gave for navigating this disorder as a couple. Even if you or your spouse do not have hoarding disorder, I think the tips are helpful for coping with other struggles such as chronic disorganization:
Lee used this slide (above) to point out that a person is not willing to go through the effort of making change when their reasons for changing are no more powerful than their reasons for staying the same.
It’s only once their reasons for changing are MORE powerful than their reasons for staying the same that real change can happen (above).
Once Lee felt ready to make changes in his life, he and Bec sat down together and wrote up their reasons for wanting to get organized. I wish I had taken a picture of this slide! I recall it featured items on it such as: be able to find things easily, be able to clean easily, less time spent on stuff management, more room for the cats to play.
The second list they wrote together is their Comfort Agreement (above). I thought this was a brilliant idea and applicable to any couple trying to make difficult changes together. It outlined how they would go through the sorting and discarding process together so that no one would feel blamed. “Please don’t insult my possessions” is such an important rule I think all spouses should agree to when starting on an organizing journey together. I see this rule violated quite frequently, and it makes the organizing efforts feel really stressful and hostile, even for this professional organizer.
With these two documents written, Lee and Bec were able to start the slow and steady process of sorting and removing the accumulation of possessions in their home. Lee says he still has more items to let go of, and it is still a struggle for him to not bring more into the house, but he has several tools under his belt to help him cope.
If you are interested in joining one of the Buried in Treasures support group that proved so instrumental in Lee’s recovery, you can call the Pacific Psychology and Comprehensive Health Clinic at 503-352-2400 to join a group in Portland or Hillsboro. You can also work through the workbook on your own at home. Link here.
Even though Lee didn’t use a professional organizer, I think we organizers can also be of help when it comes to learning the physical process of organizing and finding homes for items. Professional organizers can take a big project like decluttering a whole home and break it down into manageable steps. If you would like to learn about how one of reSPACEd’s compassionate and non-judgmental organizers can help you with your project, please contact us here.
We are always happy to help.
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