Every so often, someone will reach out to me for professional organizing services because they want help with their parent or spouse, whom they describe as a “hoarder.” Usually the parent or spouse tells me that the loved one with hoarding behaviors doesn’t recognize their problem, hasn’t asked for help, and doesn’t know that the parent or spouse is looking into getting a professional organizer for them. They want to hire me to clear out the stuff and get the person organized. So this is what I tell them:
I have two requirements for working with people with hoarding behaviors
- The person whose stuff it is has to be the one to contact me for help, via a phone call or email. When they personally ask for help, it tells me they are motivated to do the hard work of sorting, deciding and letting go.
- The person with hoarding behaviors has to be in touch with a mental health therapist. This is because the organizing process can bring up a lot of emotional issues for the client, and they need to have a therapist in their corner to help them process through all of their feelings.
I work with all of my clients (including people with hoarding behaviors) in a collaborative manner. This means the client and I set realistic goals together and then work together side-by-side over a number of weeks or months to clear out the space and achieve those goals. The work is slow, but the progress is steady.
Also, I cannot cure anyone’s hoarding disorder. I am not a mental health professional nor medically trained, so I cannot diagnose nor treat hoarding disorder. I can only accommodate it when it comes to project management and creating storage solutions for clients.
As you can see, there are no surprises when I work with clients who hoard. There are no ambush or “gotcha” sessions. There are no forced clean-outs. I don’t force people to discard any of their things.
Sometimes this is dismaying to the parent or spouse, who is deeply frustrated, concerned, angry or saddened by the hoarding person’s behavior. I can understand those feelings. Unfortunately, I cannot change someone who does not already want to change.
If the person who hoards does not want to work with an organizer, they might be open to joining a hoarding behaviors skill-building group. These groups, called Buried in Treasures, are often run by social workers in and around the Portland Metro area. Anyone can call 503-352-2400 to join a group. There is also low-cost therapy available through Pacific University’s psychology clinics, located in Portland and Forest Grove. You can call 503-352-2400 to find out about those too (they run the Buried in Treasures group, hence they have the same phone number).
I hope this post helps you understand what my process working with clients who hoard is like. Please feel free to call me at 971-226-6055 or fill out the form on my contact page if you have questions or are ready to seek help with your organizing project.
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