Special Information for People who Hoard
The term "hoarder" has become popular in our culture lately, and people often misuse the term and label themselves incorrectly.
The true definition of a hoarding disorder is "a persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions because of a perceived need to save them. A person with hoarding disorder experiences distress at the thought of getting rid of the items." (Source: Mayoclinic.org) People may hoard items for several reasons- an intense emotional attachment to items that are considered trivial by others, a sense that items have an intrinsic value, or a belief that the items could be useful someday.
If you believe you are a person who hoards, I am willing to work with you to establish equilibrium and control in your home. My background in social work gives me a deep understanding for people's struggles in this area, and you can be reassured that there will never be judgement or harshness in our work together. I am entirely focused on how to best support you through the process.
The following conditions must be met for Pretty Neat to work with people who hoard:
1. The client is voluntarily entering in to process; it is not a mandate from an agency or government.
2. The client is also working regularly with a therapist.
3. The home is free from animal and insect infestations, and exits to the outside are clear of clutter and debris. Pathways within the home are preferred. If there is a mouse or bug issue, an exterminator must be hired prior to Pretty Neat working in the home.
4. There are no more than 3 cats or 3 dogs living in the home (or if there are more, all animal waste is in litter boxes or outside the home). Pretty Neat does not work with people who hoard animals or in homes where animal waste is not contained. Animal waste must be remedied prior to work starting.
I'm so embarrassed. Will my house be the worst one you've ever seen?
Every one of my clients thinks their house is the worst one I've ever worked in. I have worked in many, many houses and situations and have seen it all. Nothing shocks or overwhelms me. I am focused on helping to move the client through the process of decluttering.
How long will it take?
Every client works at their own pace. Some want to get things done quickly while others want to not feel rushed. I believe in the client establishing the pace for our work together as well as the frequency of our sessions. I have a team of organizers who work with me and the more people we have working, the faster it will go. Many hands truly make light(er) work!
I don't know where to donate all of the stuff in my house.
I have a list of charities and agencies who accept donations of clothing, furniture, household items and craft supplies. I will help guide you through the process of establishing what is appropriate to donate and the logistics of getting your items to the right place.
Can I sell items online?
Yes, you are welcome to sell things online. I recommend that people give a two week window for listings and if the item doesn't sell, they should donate the item to an appropriate charity. Progress is often slowed by the hope that something will sell instead of just making the decision to part with it. In the same vein, please be prepared that often items do not sell for as much as people think they are worth.
What are common goals you try to achieve with clients?
I start with very basic safety: can the client move around room to room? Are items in danger of falling over or on top of the client? After that we look at the basics like having a comfortable place to sit, a place to eat, an area to cook food, and a cleared off bed. Then we look at tackling common areas like the kitchen, living room, and dining room. Many people have the goal of having people over to their home. I work with clients to try to quiet the voices in their head that are speaking negatively to them about their spaces.
I'm afraid that I will re-fill up the room once it's cleared. How can I keep that from happening?
Studies have shown that hoarding behavior has a very high rate of reoccurring. Maintenance is key- working a little bit each day on putting things away properly, going through mail and paperwork, and not bringing new items into the home. Sometimes this includes not going shopping for a period of time or avoiding trigger spots- garage sales, thrift stores, craft stores or discount stores.
Can you talk with my therapist?
Yes, I would be delighted to share our progress with your therapist as well as include him or her in strategizing on how to best tackle some hurdles we are facing in the process.
I'm nervous that you'll want to just throw everything out.
This is a client-driven process, and you are in charge. We go at your pace and I honor your wishes about what stays and what goes. Obviously, the more that is cleared out, the closer you will be to a lighter, clearer space. Occasionally I will stop and have a client talk through the decision making process about an item or category of items, clearly examining the usefulness and space requirements of the item as compared to the goals set for the space. I will always be honest about what I think we should keep or discard or donate, but the final decision is always yours.
I am happy to meet potential clients at a neutral location for our first consultation, like a Panera or a coffee shop, so we can get to know each other on equal ground. That way you can see if I am a good fit to work with you before showing me your home.
I want you to feel comfortable with me!