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Challenging Disorganization and Hoarding Expert Ellen Hankes - 5 new articles
Hoarding experts Drs. Randy Frost and Gail Steketee estimate as many as 5% of Americans suffer from hoarding behaviors. Their book Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things, other books and television shows recently brought the topic front and center.
I believe hoarding is more prevalent because of the following reasons:
People are living at home longer. Take a look at U.S. Census records and you will see that the number of households with people over 55 are increasing. People are living longer and they choose to age in place. Without periodic household moves to pare down excess belongings, clutter may continue to mount for some.
Inexpensive consumer goods create clutter. The choice of material that is hoarded varies widely and differs from person to person. The extreme clutter may be the result of widely available, inexpensive items ranging from soda containers to magazines.
Acquisition strategies are sophisticated and successful.When a shopper is confronted with the urgent on-line shopping opportunity ("only 120 of these left and we won't offer them again until next year") or the discount store end-cap with items marked 75% of their usual price, some shoppers are vulnerable and have few defenses against these sophisticated selling strategies.
Hoarding affects family members, neighbors and others. Do you think hoarding is more prevalent now and why or why not? I am interested in your viewpoint.
"My family and I would like to celebrate holidays like we used to enjoy. We can't because our grandma (or mom or dad) is a hoarder. There is not enough room to sit. We couldn't even begin to think about having a meal there. We used to have such good times and I want to bring our family back together again."
As a professional organizer who specializes in working with hoarders, I frequently receive calls from grandchildren and children who desperately want to bring back the family gatherings of their childhood memories. As these young people describe the hoarding behaviors of their relative, I hear anger and frustration in their voices. There is a sincere desire to help their loved one and a willingness to do whatever it takes on their part to bring about change.
Here are some considerations for the younger generation seeking help for older family members with hoarding behaviors:
Does the individual want to change? Frequently, life has gone on in this manner for possibly decades. Change is difficult at any age, and may be impossible if there is not a sincere desire to change behaviors and habits.
How is the mental and physical health of the individual?Health status, both mental and physical, can greatly affect how one makes decisions about their living environment.
Are health and safety of the household occupants compromised because of the hoarding? In addition to physical hazards such as excess clutter, don't overlook blocked heating ducts, loose papers near cooking heat and expired medication.
What attempts to change have been made in the past and what was the outcome? Be aware that however well-intentioned, "clean-outs" are rarely the long-term answer to hoarding. Attention to acquisition behaviors, beliefs and attitudes, difficulty in discarding and decision-making are vital to the change process.
I encourage your family to learn more about the complex behavior of hoarding. Find competent professionals that can be part of a team that includes the loved one who hoards.
If your family has a loved one who hoards, how have you addressed it?
While Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is often noted in individuals with hoarding behaviors, there are other mental health disorders that coexist with compulsive hoarding. In a 2007 presentation to the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization, Dr. David Tolin cited major depressive disorder (MDD), social anxiety disorder (SAD) and general anxiety disorder (GAD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in addition to OCD may coexist with compulsive hoarding.
Randy Frost and Gail Sketetee, in their fascinating 2010 book Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things, say that hoarding may be an impulse control disorder (ICD). Today hoarding is not listed as a mental health disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). There is support to include hoarding in the next revision of the DSM, and additional study is definitely needed to learn more about complex hoarding behaviors.
If you or a loved one is affected by your or someone else's hoarding behaviors, take time to learn more about hoarding. Carefully choose mental health professionals and professional organizers that have training and experience in working with those with hoarding behaviors.
If you have experience with compulsive hoarding and other mental health disorders, we would like to hear from you.
Is it too hot to get a back-to-school study or project area organized? How about tackling a long-neglected closet? Here are some things that you can do to manage your organizing project during these hot, steamy days:
"We would love to have holiday gatherings at Mom's house the way we used to, but there is not room."
These kinds of statements are frequently expressed by adult children of the chronically disorganized. Young adults often share with me their frustration about not being able to visit their parents with their children or significant others because of the clutter.
The chronically disorganized and those who have hoarding behaviors often have a high level of anxiety as others attempt to separate them from their belongings. The persistent anxiety can lead to real and prolonged separation within families and friendships. At a time when an individual most needs the support of family and friends, these loved ones often find the high level of clutter difficult, if not impossible, to tolerate.
While the family I grew up in did not experience separation because of organizational issues, I do receive calls from children of hoarders who are quite concerned about their parents' chronic disorganization. While the solutions are complex and take time, we continue to serve the families that want to make changes. By finding ways to reduce the anxiety of reducing household goods, we hope to help individuals reconnect with their loved ones.
Do you have a story on how separation anxiety has lead to separation reality? I would like to hear from you.
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