Tag Archive for: chronic disorganization

Clutter: A Hoarder’s Success Story

I love sharing success stories!  It takes courage, tenacity and a team to make a big change from a home filled to the brim to a home ready to sell.  I am fortunate to share Audrey’s story!

Audrey and I started working together in 2007.  We met in her home to get started organizing.  It was a meeting that stayed on my mind, a professional and proper woman who had a home filled to the brim.  Audrey was recently diagnosed with ADD, had become a member of our local ADD chapter and knew of her challenges all too well.  She was just at a beginning stage of recognizing what was ahead of her.   Audrey was still in denial about the challenges she faced. 

About two years went by, and Audrey contact me again to help her. At this time, she had recently purchased a new home and wanted to sell her hoarded home.  It was troubling to her, but in a compelling way.  It was difficult to part with items in her old home, even though the new home was fully furnished.   She shared that at her new home, she had wished to build a shed that was hold all her belongings.   It would have walls and walls of shelving, just to keep her stuff.  However, with the economy and her husband’s poor health, their new home would not include this shed.  It was beginning to dawn on her that her belongings would not fit in her new home.  She was beginning to part with her stuff, but it was still very difficult.

A year later, in 2010, Audrey was in touch again. This time Audrey knew it was time to make a serious change.  She must sell the old home and dispose of the contents. Together we applied to a number of television shows to get her help.  She was willing to tell her story in exchange for the assistance provided. We were declined by all the shows.  It was in being declined that Audrey realized she must build her own team. She invited church members over to help her declutter and move items.  She hired a mover who also took off items and donated or sold them. Audrey paid college students to help her.  She was making great progress.

This week Audrey invited me to see her success! I am thrilled for this transformation for her.  What did she share that made this success happen?

  • Her husband and daughter Lisa supported her in this  work of decluttering. They would go with her to the home and be there as a sounding board.
  • She had the support of her therapist in working through grief issues that had been reasons behind holding on to some of the items.
  • Her realtor said to her, “What could be of such great value in this home that you are paying monthly for the utilities and more?”  Audrey realized that the $200 she pays monthly for electricity is an unnecessary expense.
  • Me! Audrey would check in for accountability regularly, just to share with me her progress.
  • Audrey realized that this home and its stuff was a barrier in her relationships and had held her back long enough. 
  • What did Audrey uncover that was most valuable to her?  Jewelry and a bible belonging to her brother.  What was the hardest thing to let go of? Her grandson’s papers from elementary school and anything belonging to her mother.  What did she do with the items? Mainly donate, but also throw away a lot of it.

I am attaching a gallery of shots from Audrey’s home.  Each before picture is taken from the hallway.  In the first picture, you can’t get in the room, it is just a view of plastic bags.   Each room has enormous items to tackle.

 Audrey is courageously sharing this success and her story.  Thank you Audrey for partnering with me to make a difference!

Clutter Support Group Forming for Spring 2010

Have you had a life long struggle with being organized?  Need support from a community of people who are equally overwhelmed?  Don’t know where to start? Looking for accountability and resources to help you live the life that truly want in live? Need an affordable organizing solution? 


Professional-Organizer.com’s Clutter Support Group is a six week, 1 ½ hour program where members support each other in their organizing journey.    It begins on March 2 and ends on April 6 and the fee for membership is $120.  In our weekly meetings we will discuss organizing strengths and decluttering techniques. Starting the third session, we will begin reading and discussing Making Peace With Things in Your Life by Cindy Glovinsky.  Each member will have a small project they are working on for the duration of the group.   


·                   Have a confidential place to share goals and challenges with consistent support

·         Learn organizing strategies for your home or workplace.

·         Collaborate with group members to create systems and routines and work for you.  

·         Champion others and be affirmed in their and your quest for organization.


For more information or to join the group contact Ellen at edelap@professional-organizer.com.  Enrollment is limited so contact Ellen today!


A&E Hoarders: Houston Hoarder Show airs on February 1



I had the privilege of working as an organizing assistant on the A&E show Hoarders. If you have not seen it, here is the scoop.   Each 60-minute episode of Hoarders is a fascinating look inside the lives of two different people whose inability to part with their belongings is so out of control that they are on the verge of a personal crisis. 


This week an upcoming episode that was filmed in Houston is being shown.  The air date is February 1.  Working as an assistant to Certified Professional Organizer – Chronic Disorganization Geralin Thomas www.metroplitanorganizing.com and Clinical Psychologist Suzanne Chabaud, Ph.D., the episode was filmed for 2 days on location at the home.    My kudos to both professionals on their approach to a very real life challenge! 

Honoring the client’s needs and respecting the client are underlying aspects of Hoarders.  The client was facing tough decision making.  Dealing with too much stuff can be a shameful experience. From the outset the tone of respect was set.  Recognizing the client’s vulnerability, the focus was to help him make decisions and move forward. Others on the set were aware of this and it was clear that the client was anxious about having his things thrown out.  Everyone on the set learned about the mental health challenges facing the client in parting with his stuff.   And everyone was patient! It took time to make decisions and move forward. 

Hoarders portrays the work of a certified professional organizer in a real setting and in a realistic manner.  It is really about sorting and decision making!  Some of the most difficult parts of working with a client is to understand the depth of the decision making challenge and the need to keep items.  Seeing the process of grouping “like” items together at the beginning, moving on to decision making, then finding a “home” for stuff, people are seeing how the process evolves.   Truly, a client moves forward at their own pace, not the pace set by the organizer or the therapist.  In viewing the challenges of those on the show, people are recognizing their own challenges too! This is an incredible way to make a difference in people’s lives. 

Thank you to both of these professionals for sharing their time with all of us, personally and nationally.  What an incredible experience to learn as they worked with the client.  What was it like behind the scenes? Really no different than what you see on tv!  Everyone was there to help the client live their best life!

Great Resources


Hoarding and Collecting

We are baffled and amazed at hoarding.  Where does collecting cross the line? 

 My colleagues Arianne Benefit and D Allison Lee have so much to share on this topic!  Here is the post to learn more on this topic.


To quote from the blog:  

Your collections ARE likely to be a hoarding or collecting disorder if any of the following are true.

·                      You aren’t able to use some of the spaces or furniture in your home for their intended purposes.  For example: if your floors have become storage, and you can’t easily walk on them or you can’t use your kitchen to cook because all the “collections” are in the way.

·                      You aren’t able to keep your collections clean and in good condition.

·                      You aren’t able to store and/or display your collections in such a way that no harm comes to them.

·                      The “collections” are often in your way and keep you from doing things you really want to do.

·                      You can’t stop collecting, and feel like you “have” to – even if the collecting is putting you in debt, or keeping you from having other things in life that you want – like being able to have friends visit your home.

Your collections are likely NOT a problem if:

·     Your life is functioning well and you are paying your bills and taxes on time.

·     You could get an appraiser to verify that your collections are worth something.

·     You keep your collections well organized and in good condition.

·     You know what you have and how much of it you have

·     Your collections give you real “joy” and don’t distress you.

About the Author

Ariane Benefit, M.S.Ed., is a sought-after life coach, ADHD coach, and chronic disorganization expert who has helped hundreds of clients get unstuck, embrace their imperfections, and harness their creative strengths to conquer their clutter and organizing challenges. She is the author of several highly acclaimed organizing books, as well as the popular Neat & Simple Living blog. Visit Ariane online at: www.lotusbridge.comClick here to contact Ariane via email. 


About D. Allison Lee

Deb shares so much about organizing and more on her blog!  She is a Certified Professional Organizer located in the greater Washington D.C.  Visit her blog at  http://dallisonlee.com/blog/


Want to learn more about this topic?  Visit Geralin Thomas’ blog at Metropolitan Organizing at www.metropolitanorganizing.com . Geralin is seen frequently on A&E’s Hoarders.  http://metropolitanorganizing.com/blogs/geralin/2009/09/knowing-difference-hoarding-vs-chronic-disorganization




Most people know of a home in their neighborhood where the home is obviously overflowing with clutter.  Some homes begin to not function and contents spills out into the yard.  Most people have no idea where to turn to for help.


Hoarders (television show on Monday nights) has created an amazing buzz in my world of professional organizing.  Each 60-minute episode of Hoarders is a fascinating look inside the lives of two different people whose inability to part with their belongings is so out of control that they are on the verge of a personal crisis.  Certified Professional Organizers are featured on the show, especially Geralin Thomas of Metropolitan Organizing http://metropolitanorganizing.com/.  As the clients and CPOs work together, public viewers watching are touched in a unique and powerful way.   Viewers identify with many of the challenges faced on the show.  The attachment and emotional issues make an impact in a way no family member can!  It is a powerful agent for change to have a new outside perspective on people and their stuff.   


Over 10 million people in the US have clinically significant hoarding.  This equates to 2 – 5 % of the population.  The average age at treatment is 50.  They tend to be single and have a high rate of divorce.  They tend to live alone and there is usually a family history of hoarding.  Onset usually occurs in childhood but does not become severe until adulthood.  Hoarding affects people regardless of socio-economic level.  As recently as last year in Houston, a River Oaks couple was unable to be rescued from their home due to hoarding.  http://www.texas-fire.com/2009/01/17/houston-fire-kills-houston-neurosurgeon-wife/.  What defines hoarding?  http://www.newswise.com/articles/view/531200/ Hoarders have a brain disorder resulting in an all-consuming compulsion to collect that often cuts them off from society and damages their relationships. In severe cases, clutter can get so out of control it can cause complicated medical issues, endanger lives and create safety hazards.   


The best help for those with hoarding issues begins with collaborative therapy with a counselor and a certified professional organizer or (CPO or CPO-CD). There is a workbook available to begin the process, Buried In Treasures: Help for Compulsive Acquiring, Saving and Hoarding by By David F. Tolin, Ph.D., Randy O. Frost, Ph.D., and Gail Steketee, Ph.D.  How to help a family member with this illness? Seek professional guidance to begin the process.  There is hope and help for you and your family.  


Some resources



Clutter Hoarding Scale


 Obsessive Compulsive Information Center


 Understanding Obsessive Compulsive Hoarding Disorder