Friday, May 30, 2008

The 3 P's

I'm heading out of town this weekend (a romantic getaway), YAY! So don't expect any new posts for a couple of days.

I've been contacted by a woman writing a book on helping hoarders. The author is a certified professional organizer. She wrote:

Hi Jamie,

Thanks so much for getting back to me. I am an organizer and have been working "organizing" hoarders since the mid 90's. At the end of the decade I was ready to abandon the effort as hopeless. Then I stumbled onto a process that actually worked. I would not work with them until they were getting emotional support from a therapist who was familar with attachment issues, OCD and hopefully hoarding. Out of the grew a protocol we call "Collaborative Therapy for Clutter Management" - check out my web site to see more about it.

So now I'm co-authoring a book directed at clueing organizers in on the whole complex tangled web of hoarding. I have been so impressed with COH and the work Donna is doing and asked her for some imput for the book. She suggested I throw the topic out to all of you.

Some questions that spring to mind are: (my answers are in green)

1) What would you like the readers to better understand about your experiences growing up in a hoarding household?

2) Do you struggle with the same clutter issues - or are you a perfectionist/purger?
I struggle in SO many different ways, but I think the main things can be summed up with "perfectionist/purger" and let's not forget "procrastinator"! I just call them the 3 P's, let's talk about them.

First, if things aren't perfect and it looks like I'm not going to get them to be perfect - then I just ignore it completely. It's all or nothing with me. For example, I live in an older home which we are remodeling one room at a time. I have no problem keeping the "newly remodeled" rooms clean and organized. But the older rooms are easy for me to ignore because even when they are "clean" they don't look it (old stains, permanently dirty looking trim, etc...). I know I do this and I drive myself crazy, and yet I can't seem to help myself.

Then comes the procrastinating. I let little things go over time ("I'll get to that later" kind of stuff) until they become big things. I let stuff build up over time and then I look around and see that I've got myself quite a mess! (especially paperwork, it's so easy for me to just stick it in the office with the mentality of taking care of it later).

Than comes the purge! This is where I truly separate myself from a hoarder , I can get rid of stuff with the best of 'em! I only learned one way to "clean" when I was growing up, (it was more like a self taught method when I think about it) but it goes like this...

Push/throw everything into a big HUGE pile in the center of the room. I mean everything, empty out drawers, clear every space! This leaves the outer areas clear and gives you a little space to work with (important if you live with a hoarder because there is usually no real assigned place to put anything so you've got to make some). Then you throw away as much as possible and sort through what is left, finding places around the room to put the stuff.

I never consciously realized the aforementioned method until I found myself explaining to my kids the best way to clean their disaster we like to call our playroom the other day. That is the only room in my house that I would ever allow to reach this point, kids will be kids (right?).

3) How can we help to break the cycle of hoarding? What long term support would be most helpful for you and your family?

4) What are your opinions about "shoveling it all out"/abatements, versus our collaborative therapy approach of supporting the clients emotionally, or another process that has made any real lasting change - if you know anything else, let us know!?

5) Family members can be a strong and important element in our support system. How can we maximize that?

Please don't feel you have to answer every question or if you have some idea or insight I haven't hit upon, talk about that. I will be referring to these responses in the book as coming generically from a COH and can make them as anonymous as you like.

Many thanks,
Heidi Schulz

Heidi Schulz, CPO-CD
Collaborative Therapy for Clutter Management

I'm still working on the rest of my answers. Right now I've got to get packed, as usual I've waited 'till the last minute!