Category - Hoarding
Hoarding, a pattern of behavior that is characterized by the excessive acquisition of and inability or unwillingness to discard large quantities of objects that would seemingly qualify as useless or without value, is a word that has increasingly become more familiar. Some of this may be due to the media, but the act of hoarding is not a new behavior and presents many challenges for those who try and work with those individuals who lead this way of life.
If you have a friend or loved one that is a hoarder, or on their way to becoming one, take caution with what words and actions you chose to use with them. Hoarding is a very emotionally charged lifestyle and you can ostracize yourself from a hoarder quickly.
A few tips when communicating/working with a hoarder:
1. Never refer to their belongings as trash. Though many of their belongings may appear that way to you, at some level they see value in them. Be careful not to offend them about their belongings as many times they will stop listening because they believe you are too extreme the other way.
2. Never throw anything away behind their back. They may never know, but if they do find out they will have lost trust in you and subsequently you may find yourself locked out of their life for good.
One important aspect to remember when working with or trying to understand a hoarder’s motivation is that they are not choosing their belongings over your relationship, even though it may feel like it at times. In actuality, hoarders just view things very differently than others, and it can be quite frustrating to understand. A great online resource I have found to get support is childrenofhoarders.com.
Also, any books written by Judith Kolberg are good resources for better understanding this disorder.
All in all, the best thing you can do when trying to communicate or work with a hoarder is to bring in a professional to help. You could start with a Professional Organizer to help assess the situation and to see where change is possible. If the Organizer determines that there is a mental health consideration, then they will encourage a Psychiatrist or Psychologist to be added to the team.
Earlier in the year I wrote a blog called “Cash for Clutter”. In that I mention that for many people knowing they can get a little money for their stuff sometimes makes it easier for them to let go of the items.
It seems a little odd (but actually quite common) but sometimes we don’t even know that what we have actually has value! The point here is that at times it may be helpful to have an expert look at items before you let them go.
As many of you know, one part of my job is to work with individuals to help them eliminate much of the excess in their lives. This involves helping them decide what they want and need to keep and what they should let go of. Once they have decided the items to let go of, then I also help them come up with a plan for the best way to dispose of those items.
When working with clients that are letting go of items that I or they believe may be of value, I help coordinate working with an expert who can assess specific pieces or items to discern whether or not they have any value. Many times Estate Sale companies and consignment shops can help with this. I have learned that some Estate Sale companies don’t even need you to hold an estate sale. Instead, they will come to your house and buy your items outright and add them to another estate sale.
It’s always interesting to me what has value. I guess that is what makes the TV show Antiques Roadshow so much fun to watch! Above is an example of a picture that a client and I thought would be of no value. After doing some research, it turned out it is actually a collector’s item! The client was very happy we decided to bring in an estate sale buyer to evaluate the items chosen to let go of. That way it was a win, win for everyone!
If you too find that you need help deciding what to keep and what to let go of, and you would like a resource to help you find homes for the departing stuff…give me a ring. Who knows, you may have a pink flamingo painting just waiting to be discovered!
When de-cluttering your home, one thing to consider before donating items is whether or not you can collect some cash for them. The key here though is to be sure the value of the item(s) is high enough to make up for the time and energy you will need to put into selling.
Cash for Clutter Options:
* Garage Sale – If you have a large quantity of items, a garage sale can be a good way to go. Be sure you enjoy the whole event however as it is easy to get worn down by the haggling and long days. Don’t waste too much time pricing each item. Instead, create price points and separate items by table. Keep your work time to a minimum or it certainly won’t pay you back.
* eBay – eBay is a good option for smaller pricier items since they are less expensive to pack and ship.
* Craigs List – Craigs List is easy and local so many times shipping is not required. Be cautious however and don’t let strangers into your home, especially when you are alone. It is safer to meet elsewhere or move the item(s) to the garage so strangers don’t have to walk into your house to see them. The best advice is to ALWAYS have someone with you in every situation.
* Consignment – Consignment is a good idea if your item(s) is truly unique or antique. The thing with consignment stores is they purchase solely based on the current demand. The best approach is to call the store to see if they have an interest in your item(s). If they are interested, they will ask you to come in with the item(s) or bring a picture of it if it is large. Depending on how quickly they think they can turn the item(s) will dictate if they will buy the item(s) out- right or ask for the item(s) to go on consignment.
A few ways to determine the value of an item(s):
1. Do a search on eBay of similar items. Be sure to do it by “items recently sold” so you can see what the buyers actually bought them for.
2. Try valuemystuff.com. The drawback here is it will cost you $5.99 per item, so you will have to decide if the item(s) is worth the initial cost.
In the end if you decide the payout is not worth your time and efforts, you can still donate your item(s) and get a tax deduction. Either way you’ll get a bit of money back in your pocket!
It seems like we all have a family member or friend that we can’t figure out what to get for them, yet we want to gift them something this holiday season. Many times it is because this person already has way too much stuff or because as soon as they think of something new they want/need, they immediately go out and buy it.
So the question becomes: What should I do because I’d rather not just add to their already large amounts of “stuff”?
My advice to you would be to not just add to their already large amounts of stuff, but to try and give them something they can consume or use. This way it won’t hang around forever and you have not added to the piles!
Here are some “consumable” options to consider:
* Give the gift of your time to those that would REALLY appreciate it. Individuals that first come to mind are seniors that love visitors or moms that would love someone to watch the kids for an hour so they could have a break or do something they would really rather do without kids.
* Candles – Find out their favorite fragrance or if they prefer scent-less.
* Gift cards to favorite places to shop – This isn’t encouraging them to buy more things, but helping to pay for the things you know they already buy and love.
* Entertainment gifts such as tickets to plays, movies, activities, etc.
* Lessons or classes for something they already enjoy doing or something new they want to try.
* Food or drinks such as small containers of candies, fruits, nuts, teas, etc.
* Donations in your family or friend’s name to their favorite charities or organizations. An example would be if they love animals to consider giving a donation to the local zoo or animal shelter.
Consumable gift giving is a great alternative for those that have EVERYTHING. So this year, think outside the box (literally!) and have fun with the idea!
Oregon — Local professional organizer Jan Lehman, owner of Can the Clutter®, will lend her skills in an upcoming episode of “Hoarders” on the A&E Network. Lehman joins up behind the scenes with the professional team of Matt Paxton, to document the struggles of an Oregon family working to overcome this debilitating and often-stigmatized disease.
“Being a part of the show was an outstanding experience. A&E not only cares about making an interesting episode, they truly want to help the family learn new ways to live a more productive and clutter free life” says Lehman. “Along with providing a huge team to help over a two day period
they provide “aftercare” which includes ongoing help by a professional organizer and a mental health professional. My role during the filming of the show was to earn the family’s trust so they would want to continue to work with me after the camera crews had left.” Says Lehman who has employees to assist her with large jobs like this.
In addition to being an expert on ‘Hoarders,’ Matt Paxton is the owner of Clutter Cleaner and author of The Secret Lives of Hoarders. He offers this advice to others looking for organizing help. “Just spent a whole weekend working with Jan Lehman from Can the Clutter®. She is amazing! If you
need help with your clutter give Jan a call,” said Paxton.
As a professional organizer, Lehman provides an invaluable service to time-crunched home and business owners. She assists clients with all different levels of disorganization, not just individuals who find themselves in extreme situations.
Lehman started Can the Clutter® as a way of helping others overcome their organizing issues. Her ultimate goal is to reduce the stress level and improve the productivity of the individual by providing self-sustaining personalized solutions. Lehman works with all demographics to solve their organizational issues – business owners, professionals, men, women, seniors, stay at home parents and even children. She is a Member of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO)®.
Lehman works closely with her clients to truly understand the root cause of their disorganization. “It is interesting how we all struggle with different aspects of being organized. It is not always a cookie cutter answer to solve the problem. The piles may look similar, but understanding why they started and coming up with a personal solution that the client will truly engage with is key to solving the problem in the long run”, says Lehman
Lehman continues “I love my job and get a lot of satisfaction in helping others take action against a sometimes overwhelming and daunting task. My clients are always so thankful for my patient and non-judgemental approach. Although I’m no push over, part of my success is that I keep them focused and on task so the job actually gets done.”
The episode of Hoarders with Lehman will air Monday, November 7th, on A&E. For more information on the benefits of getting organized and how Jan Lehman can help, please visit the Can the Clutter® website at www.cantheclutter.com.
News media availability:
Lehman is available to discuss her work and to demonstrate professional organizing tips. For more information about Lehman and Can the Clutter®, visit www.cantheclutter.com or contact her at (541) 232-9213 or Jan@cantheclutter.com.
1) Someone took the time to print and hand this to me so it must be important enough to keep.
2) A tree died to create this so I should keep it as homage to the tree. (This happens a lot in my neck of the woods where everyone is very environmentally aware!)
3) I or someone else may need this information sometime.
4) This information was important enough for me to bring into my office/home, so I should keep it.
If you want to stop hoarding paper then you need to begin to ask yourself a series of hard questions to let go.
- Do I REALLY have a plan to use this?
- Can I find it somewhere else on the off chance I may need it (i.e. Internet, colleagues office, library, etc.)?
- Will it most likely be outdated by the time I need to refer to it? Is it already outdated now?!
- Do the advantages of keeping it outweigh the disadvantages? (Is it a rare possibility I’ll be asked for it versus the stress I feel from having too much stuff/paper?)
- What are the retention rules at work? Is it a violation of policy to actually keep it? Should I make similar rules at home?!
My suggestion to those of you who keep way too much paper is don’t just keep it out of a sense of guilt or obligation. Have a plan for when you will be using it, or let it go. Simplify your filing systems so you can be more efficient and find the truly important stuff much faster.
Letting our possessions go can be tough. Many clients surprise me at how ready and willing they are to clean out, but I have also worked with clients whom this is more challenging for, even when they have said they want to.
For those clients that feel most everything they possess is important to keep, I work toward helping them realize the negative impact keeping things has had on their lives. By helping clients to see both the positive and negative sides of accumulating possessions, they are better able to rationalize letting go of items.
Many times clients can only think about the positives on why they shouldn’t let go of their items. Some common reasons are:
• I paid a lot for that.
• It’s still functional.
• I keep thinking I may need it.
Though these are all legitimate reasons to have/keep things, there are also disadvantages to keeping items that they do not use or need. This is where I come in!
To do this, I start every session with my clients by understanding the issues they are having and identifying their ultimate goals for the overall space. Once we have identified their issues and goals, then I work toward keeping the client focused on those goals.
Some examples of goals include:
• Having a home they’re not afraid of others seeing at short notice
• Having a welcoming, calming space
• Having room to do their favorite things (scrapbooking, sewing, etc.)
No matter what age we are, it can be difficult to let go of items. But by identifying and setting up ultimate goals for our spaces, we can better understand and live a clutter free lifestyle.
Canning the Clutter is not an easy job for most people. For many of my clients I find there is usually an incident or event which occurs, or is soon to occur, that causes (or sometimes even feels like it forces) them to make the decision to take action. Some common incidents/events include transitions such as: grown children/families moving back in, divorce, or a sick spouse that use to be the one responsible for bill paying or home maintenance but is no longer able to. Sometimes I even find that clients have just had enough and realize things are not going to change until they have a professional step in to show and teach them different strategies to get and stay organized.
Just this past week I worked with a gal who for the most part had three different, yet all intertwined, motivations to Can the Clutter. One of her motivations was her daughter who had enough concerns with the conditions and safety of the house that she was refusing to bring her daughter (the client’s granddaughter) over to visit unless the conditions improved. Another motivation of my client was that her son and his children were coming from out of town to visit and were planning to stay with her. She didn’t have the necessary spaces clear of items and debris for them to be able to unpack, sleep, have adequate space/countertop area in the bathroom, or room to prepare meals in the kitchen and eat on the kitchen table. The last motivator for my client in deciding to Can the Clutter was through working with her therapist, she felt that the condition of her home was one of the factors contributing to her low self- esteem/motivation and unhealthy psyche.
Within 1 ½ days, myself and two of my employees were able to make enough headway to clean out and organize 3/4 of the house including the garage, the kitchen/dining area, the spare bedroom and bathroom, the computer room, and the back storage room. By cleaning and clearing out these spaces, we created a living space that was no longer enveloped with debris and clutter, but organized and spacious.
Deciding to take the step to de-clutter and organize your home is a personal decision, yet many times brought on by an incident or event. However you come to the conclusion to take action and make a change, I encourage you to contact me. I have seen the truly uplifting and positive affects in my client’s lives. I am so lucky to have such a great job where people are beyond appreciative and thankful for the work I do!
This past Saturday I participated in my first trade show at Valley River Center. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but I must say it was quite fun.
I was contacted by Oasis, a company who provides services for seniors and Baby Boomers, to see if I would be interested in participating in the trade show. Most of the other vendors there were from retirement centers, so I was one of a kind, filling both of the niches between those aging and looking to downsize in the next couple of years, as well as those that just needed a little help becoming more organized in their daily lives. It was really nice because I was able to talk with individuals of all ages, and it became apparent that everyone either knew someone (or that “someone” was themselves!) and had a story to share about their challenges!
Throughout the afternoon there were many stories shared, but a couple of the stories people shared with me really stuck out.
One was from a young family with their first child. They shared that their house had one extra/spare bedroom in addition to their first child’s room, but no linen closet anywhere to be found. So as you can imagine, their big organizational challenge was to figure out how, when their second child comes along, are they going to be able to transition that spare room from their “now linen closet” to a true bedroom for another child. They mentioned that when they bought the house they didn’t even realize that there wasn’t a linen closet. They joked and said it was not on their top ten list of things to look for. You really just take that for granted, until you don’t have one! This story definitely lent itself to an organizational challenge!
The second story that stood out was from a gal who wasn’t concerned for herself, but for her parents. Her parents, who live approximately three hours away, in her words “border on being hoarders”. She shared that her parents’ parents were hoarders and their parents’ before that were also hoarders. Though her parents were still living, just the thought of all this “stuff” one day falling on her shoulders, was extremely overwhelming for her to think about. She mentioned that when she has gone to visit her parents each month, that she has tried encouraging them to get rid of the belongings that they do not need/use, but that she has not been successful. She shared that she was really at a loss for what to do. This story too has its own set of challenges. It felt good to talk with her and share some of my knowledge and networking contacts in order for her to seek out the appropriate help for both herself and her parents.
All in all, the day felt like a huge success and a relief that I could say I had survived my first trade show, and that I would do it again! Thanks to all of you who stopped by to see me, and thank you in advance to those of you who are thinking of hiring me to help Can The Clutter.
I had a very different and interesting project recently. I was hired to assist a woman that had four weeks to sell her home. This would have been a very stressful time for anyone, but it was especially an issue for her because she had massive amounts of items that had accumulated over time.
The decision had been made to sell many of her possessions in an estate sale for the following reasons:
- She needed money.
- She would need to downsize significantly so she could move into a smaller apartment.
- The house needed to be cleared out so that potential buyers could see the beauty of the home and not just the clutter.
- With excess clutter buyers may question how well a home has been taken care of over the years. A definite deal breaker for many people.
How Estate Sales Work
Typically estate sales are done when someone passes away. But either way the process is pretty straight forward. The estate sale company asks you to remove all the items that you would like to keep. They then organize and sell off everything that is left. And I do mean EVERYTHING! They ask you to leave things that you believe are not valuable and they will make the decision.
It was an exhilarating project for many reasons. For one the process was the reverse of what I normally do. Usually I am working with clients and we identify what will “go” and I take it with me to a local charity or we try and sell it on consignment or through Craig’s List. Or many times things are just recycled or thrown in the trash. In this case, we were doing the reverse and pulling out the valuables (both from a monetary and memory perspective) and leaving behind the rest.
Another aspect that made this project a challenge was that my client was unbelievably stressed (as anyone would be). But because of this she was suffering from temporary or possibly just a more pronounced form of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). She could not stay on track to complete activities without someone guiding her. If left alone she would just leave the home and go for a walk to avoid the situation. So no progress was being made and none of her friends felt they had the right skills to move her along.
So I was hired by her friends to assist her with preparing for the estate sale. On top of all the other challenges we also only had one day to get the job done before the estate sale people would arrive!
How We Did It
One of the wonderful things about the project is that she had around 15 friends who volunteered to help her that day.
My responsibilities therefore included:
- Keeping my client focused and on task making quick decisions regarding her belongings.
- Keeping others from distracting my client since this was easily done.
- Directing the volunteers so we could be sure to leverage their time to the fullest.
I had one crew of people who were responsible for doing a “pre-sort”. This involved going through the piles and logically grouping items so it would be faster and easier for my client to make decisions. Since she was the only one that could make the final decision on the belongings it was important that her time was optimized. All the volunteers did an outstanding job!
As one of the volunteers said each room looked like a retail store with items on display. I’m disappointed I didn’t get pictures of the process because they excelled. It was such a frenzy all day as you can imagine. We barely took time to eat. Here is an example of how items can be logically grouped.
The other volunteers I was responsible for were busy packing up and moving the “keep” items to get them out of the way so they would not be accidentally sold by the estate sale group.
In addition there was another team lead by her decorator friend that was responsible for removing furniture and accessories that would be used for staging the home after the Estate Sale was complete. This crew even included her Real Estate Agent. Now that’s great customer service!
It was an exhausting day for all. But my client did outstanding given her emotional state. She was decisive and focused and so darn sweet. She would apologize any time she started to ramble, because she knew I was going to refocus her back to the task at hand.
We worked for 10 hours that day and were able to “process” a large part of her belongings thanks to all her wonderful friends who volunteered their time and money to get the job done.
I felt rewarded with a job well done, but was even more excited when I received this email from the decorator friend that had hired me:
“It was so wonderful to watch you in action with (the client). You are truly gifted and (the Realtor) and I both agree that you were the PERFECT person to work with her.”