Hoarders Are People Too!

What Are Your Thoughts About The Hoarders On TV?


Have you watched some of the shows on TV about hoarding? Had you known this condition existed before you first saw about it on TV?

What are your thoughts about hoarders? The people who live in those situations, those houses filled with junk? Would you want to be friends with them?

My guess is that there are hoarders that you know…. but you have no idea they are hoarders. They are usually very “normal” people. People you see everyday at work, at school, in the neighborhood but you have no idea that they have a problem.

This is the home of a client I once had. She was a very sweet, nice woman. She has many unfortunate events happen in her life that led up to this. No one knew her home looked like this. She had a full time job, was very involved in her church, but kept this a secret. She was too embarrassed to let anyone know.

She wanted help, she wanted to move past all the stuff and she knew she needed help.

I put out comments on Twitter about hoarding, for instance:

“You might be a hoarder if: You can’t find a place to sit down in your house because all your chairs have stuff on them. #hoarders”

I had a disturbing comment back to one of those tweets.  Someone said,

“I bet that show just makes your skin crawl! Those ppl are soooo gross! All those dead cats, rats, spoiled food….yuck!”

It actually made me cry. Now also realize that I had just come home from seeing the movie “The Help” and it was a disturbing movie portraying the treatment of the black maids had to go through back in the 60’s.  But it just made me SO sad that someone thinks of the people as “sooooo gross.”  I think specifically of the two clients that I had that were true hoarders. Both were very nice people… not gross. They just both had problems that they needed help with.

I commented back with this:

“Hard 2 watch but I feel 4 those ppl. They have real illness, I don’t think of them as gross, just their situation #hoarders

I think the hardest part about hoarding is that people don’t understand it is an illness. They do just look at the people who live in home filled with junk and often filth as “filthy people”.  They view the people simply as “lazy” and “gross”.

For the majority of hoarders, this condition has developed over time and their accumulation of “stuff” has grown over time.  It isn’t like they lived in a pristine home one day and the very next had stacks of stuff piled everywhere.  It happens gradually and gradually their defenses, their coping mechanisms build up so that they rationalize their situation as “normal”.

The illness has trapped them into a life where their “stuff” is their security, their safety net, their sanity. So that the thought of losing that stuff, is intolerable to them. They don’t feel they can cope in their daily lives without it.

What about people who smoke? It isn’t really the same, but you can draw parallels.  The smoking is the coping mechanism to help deal with stress. To go without cigarettes for some people is intolerable… they need them to deal with what live hands them.

I know they are completely different things…. the smoking just popped into my head when I was thinking of vices that people need to cope with everyday life.

Please try to watch those shows (if you do) with compassion, with empathy, and with caring for the people.  You can think their living environment is gross and filthy (usually it is), but don’t relate the grossness & filth to the person.

The woman who owned this home, got some other help (she was also receiving psychological help) from her church members I think. She wasn’t able to afford to have me (or any other Professional organizer) help her for long. I suggested to her to reach out for help from her church – they would be more understanding than she thought. There was no way she could do it physically by herself, even if the mental part of it wasn’t there. But she did receive help, was able to clear the things out and move into a smaller home like she planned. There is hope!


What Would Sandy Suggest – Week 5

I’m in an Office Mood I think

When I think about what I would suggest when I walk into a room…. I have to stop…. and think.

cluttered room You first off have to find out what the client wants out of the room.
1) What do they want to use this space for?
2) What is their vision for this room?
3) What storage is available?

You can’t fit 20 gallons of gas into a 10 gallon tank right? So if you have too much “stuff” and not enough space to store it… then something needs to go.

Organizers aren’t miracle workers, we can’t create more space in a home. We can help to utilize the space that there is to the fullest.

“Life” happened to this person. A spouse died expectantly a year or so before, and things went kind of crazy. But they wanted some help and guidance.

There were several cats in the home, and thank goodness I didn’t have allergies. But getting used to the smell wasn’t easy either.


1) Sort through the Clutter. Separate into A) keep B) Donate C) Store D) Trash/Recycle

2) Rearrange if needed to make a usable space – Move bill area to the sturdy desk and decrease need for the folding table.

3) Use existing supplies (client didn’t have finances to purchase new)

4) Clean the space (cat droppings, dust, dirt)

5) Support the client in her decisions

It was a very long day but we were able to accomplish making a livable, usable space. Simple but workable.

If you are wondering… this person was not a hoarder. The rest of the house wasn’t not this bad. This was the “catch all” room that got out of control.  They were open to getting rid of stuff and were very excited to have the room back.

What Happened:

1) We cleared out most of the clutter.

2) We kept the arrangement of furniture the same. The client liked having 2 separate desks and was not open to combining the work spaces.

3) We did basic cleaning. (Carpet cleaning and deep cleaning were still needed)

4) We separated paperwork into boxes  to go through later.

5) There was still several boxes to the left of this picture that the client had to go through. The budget did not allow for me to come back to help as we had planned. But I gave the client the basic knowledge so that they were able to ask themselves the same questions that we did when we worked together.

Not every space has to be organized to be “pretty”.  Being able to help people with the basics and to utilize what they already have is important. Often times I go into situations that the client really needs help. They might not have the finances to do anything but get the help – meaning… we work with what they have.

So… keep that in mind if you feel you don’t have the “money to organize”. I have heard that so often. Going through your things and deciding what to keep or give away doesn’t cost a dime. It just takes time.



You can do a lot in one day. It wasn’t perfect, and there was still more work to be done… but together we were able to accomplish a lot.

If you have any spaces that you would like help on and would like to be featured in an upcoming week, please leave me a comment that you would like some help.

If you have any blog posts of an office that you have reorganized and would like to link it to my Organizing Mission- Monday link party – please add it to my Link party by clicking my button

I also would LOVE it if you could vote for my blog.  You can vote once a day!



August 24, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog, Hoarding or Chronically Disorganized

Hoarding….What is it all About?


Did any of you watch the new show on A&E (Mondays at 10pm est).  It is called appropriately enough…”Hoarders”.
It gives the real life picture of what a hoarding house looks like….the thought process that the hoarders go through and their reasoning in why they “need” to keep their “stuff” and how they get rid of it…or do not get rid of it.  This is real life (from what I can tell) and shows the real emotions of these people. They get very anxious when people try to throw their things away if they have not made the decision themselves.

Hoarding. This is an Emotional Problem

This is an emotional problem.  There needs to be a psych. Dr. involved and helping to treat the person for the changes to stay in effect.

The picture above is a garage.  If you will notice that the boxes almost touch the garage door hardware on the ceiling….yes that is the ceiling! This is a woman I worked with last year. She is a hoarder…and knows it. She has books on organizing and is determined to get out of the mess she is in.  She has a very limited budget ….a disabled husband, and no real help.  She wants to move into a 600 sq ft house that her son (deceased) used to live in. Her house is a 4 bedroom home with basement and garage full. It would be cool for her to be on a show like that and get the physical help she needs.

But I love hearing what these people are saying….because I feel like I have heard most of it out of the mouth of my client.  They have a reason for each thing they have and have a hard time giving it up.

Hoarding is a serious emotional issue…it is not just lazy people.  Would love for you to see the Chaotic Kitten of Dehoarding Diary.  She is a hoarder who is decluttering her house and blogging on it. She has before and after photos. Love her and so proud of her.

You also might be interested in these pasts posts of mine:

What if I’m a Hoarder? What do I do?


Dehoarding Diary Works it Out


Stockpiling is a bad word to a professional organizer. So why am I discussing it? Because that is evidently one of the keys to making the couponing valuable and saving you money down the road. To buy the items when they are at their cheapest and then using them when you need them.
With the economy at its worse in most of our lifetimes, there are some things that we all need to change.
For me it may be that stockpiling can change from a “dirty” word…to a “valuable” word.
Actually, I don’t mind a little stockpiling. I have no problem with having a back up peanut butter or ketchup.
But with the economy it may be something that needs to be done a little to help out the family budget.
I do think that it would be easy to get carried away though.
If you realistically as a family would never finish 24 boxes of cereal before the expiration date or bugs got into them…do not buy them!
**A “good deal” is not a “good deal” if that “good deal” ends up in the trash!
If you are able to get something almost free or very inexpensive and know you can’t use it or won’t use it – please locate a food bank or family in need near you and donate it.

Point #1
Make sure you have the space to put up some shelves that are safe from bugs and moisture.
Point #2
Only buy it if you can use it before the expiration date, or if you can donate it to someone who can use it within the time frame.
Point #3
Make sure that you keep your stockpile organized. First one “in” needs to be the first one “out”. So that you do not have things get expired. Put the newest items you buy of that product, behind the older ones.
Also be sure to know exactly what you have. Put “like” items with “like” items.
Point #4
Only buy items you know that you will use.

Couponing has been coined “addicting”. As with any “addition” it can go to extremes. Be sure to keep your stockpiling and “bargin” buying under control, so that it truly is saving your family money.

*Here is an example I just found at Milk Donor Mama, she talks about all she bought and how she did it and how much she saved. But what I think is great is at the end of the article she explains what her family will use, what her parents will use and then how she will donate the rest! Love it.
(photo found on photobucket – nope…not my stockpile…although those bags of chocolate sure look good!!)


October 13, 2008 by  
Filed under Blog, Hoarding or Chronically Disorganized

Hoarding – Are You A Hoarder?

Hoarding is more than just a messy house. It is a real psychological problem. There are usually a few things that help define hoarding.


Have you seen the shows and wondered if it is a problem you have, or know of someone that is a hoarder?

1) Buying or picking up free items and refusal to part with them or even move them. Many times they are of useless or have limited value and usually aren’t being used for what they are intended.
2)The person’s home is so cluttered that you can use the spaces as they are intended.
3) significant limitations in functioning and distress over their situation they are in because of the hoarding.

I recently saw a show on TV called “How Clean is Your House”. They had a contest looking for the messiest house. Most of the pictures if not all of the pictures they showed for contestants were that of hoarders. Not one time during the show (unless I missed it) did they mention hoarding. The “winners” of the contest were a mother and her two daughters that had a terrible hoarding problem. The entire house was packed full of junk. The mother was the worse and they showed many times her refusal to part with something and her stress over the situation. I am hoping that they also got them all some counseling along with their new house make over so that they will not fall back into their same patterns,but they never mentioned anything like that. It was very disturbing to me that they never mentioned hoarding on the show at all or talked about these people needing some real treatment.


Treatment is key to making a change for these people. Counseling should be for sure and many times medication is also used in therapy. That along with help from a professional organizer can make dramatic changes in a hoarders life.
Hoarders want to change (most of the time)and many times try on their own and fail and then they fall into deeper depressions and give up even more and their situations can become life threatening.
When we work with clients who are hoarders we need to assess to what level their hoarding is. Is there a place to sit in their house? Are there pathways in the rooms to get to things? Are doorways blocked? Are there pets in the house and if there is, is there animal urine and feces? (Many times animals can’t get to a door to be let out)

Hoarding is a very big problem and should not be looked at as just a “messy house”.
If you think you are a hoarder you can go to this web site and look at the “clutter hoarding scale” and evaluate yourself. www.nsgcd.org (National Study Group for Chronic Disorganization)
Just as there is help for other problems, there is help for hoarders and they should be no means ever feel like their situation is hopeless.

Disclosure: I am not an expert on hoarding, nor do I claim to be. Please follow up with the NSGCD if you feel you have a problem or know someone who does.