the hoarding syndrome
Compulsive hoarding is the excessive acquisition of possessions, and failure to use or discard them, even if the items are worthless, hazardous or unsanitary. Compulsive hoarding impairs mobility and interferes with basic activities including cooking, cleaning, showering and sleeping. A chronically disorganized environment is particularly dangerous for older adults and people with mobility issues.
During a typical consultation, we hear “I don't know where to start”, “I'm overwhelmed”, “I don't know how it got this way”. There is heightened anxiety about bringing someone into their home and having their secrets revealed; we often encounter tremendous resistance when encouraging clients to make changes in their environment. A hoarder is fearful about what will happen when we start to sort through their belongings and urge them to let go of their clutter. It usually takes some sort of crisis (eviction, loss of household insurance, health, safety or fire department order) to motivate a hoarder to ask for help. Each situation is unique. Although there are similar traits and behaviours attached to the hoarding syndrome, no two people are alike in their response to having to deal with their excessive clutter.
how we help
Hoarding is not just about the “stuff”. There is clearly an emotional component to the behaviour which needs support and attention beyond getting rid of the clutter. We consistently see depression and lethargy in our clients who struggle with this disorder. They often want to make changes but don't have the ability to do so on their own. During our free consultation, it is essential that we establish a connection of trust with the client who is reaching out for our help. We ask the client to define their goals and together we develop a reasonable plan to achieve those goals. Once the bulk of the clutter has been dealt with, we put basic organizational systems in place to assist with long term maintenance and offer simple strategies to help our clients form new habits. It's never perfect, it doesn't always go according to schedule but with patience and commitment, progress is made.
solutions and strategies
Moving Forward has seen and dealt with a variety of hoarding situations, from mild to severe. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Each project has its own strategy based on the needs and goals of the individual client, the amount of accumulation, whether or not there is an external pressure to meet a specific criteria and the urgency of the clean-up based on an imposed deadline. All of these factors are discussed during our free consultation. Our goal is always to leave our clients in better circumstances than we find them. Reaching out is difficult and we recognize the courage it takes to ask for help.