Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A Person I Care About Hoards

Over the last few weeks I have received many calls from people looking for help for a relative or friend who hoards. In addition to help cleaning out their loved one’s home, the callers are often looking for some way to process what is happening in their loved ones’ lives.  I thought it would useful to write a bit about these calls to help others who find themselves in this situation.
 From the perspective of the callers, the clutter is worthless and the piles are fire hazards. They wonder how their loved ones can live this way. They think that throwing out the clutter is the answer – but why don’t their loved ones see that?
The loved ones who are hoarding have a different perspective. Their collections are useful, interesting and valuable. The problem is not the stuff. The problem is other people feel they have the right to tell them what to do with their stuff.  
The situations are painful, frustrating, and scary – for both the callers and their loved ones. However, I can only address the needs of the person who calls me; it would be unethical and deleterious for me to work in a home without the homeowner’s prior knowledge and consent.  It is news that rarely surprises the caller, but typically is met with resignation.  There is hope if the caller is willing to do some work on his own.
1)   Acknowledge what you are feeling and get support for you.  Isolation often accompanies hoarding, not only for the person who is hoarding, but also for his relatives and friends. Hoarding is not a “water cooler” topic. But there are other people in similar situations who understand what you are going through, and that can be comforting.  The website Children of Hoarders is a very good resource. If you are in the St. Louis area, the St. Louis Behavioral Medicine Institute provides support for family and friends.
2)   Maintain your cool and be respectful of the person who is hoarding. Each of you has different perspectives. Suspend the temptation to declare a “right” and a “wrong” in this situation because it will lead you to a dead end. The likelihood of progress is far greater if you can act with empathy.  Understandably, this may be hard to do.  What you feel is legitimate and that is why I start with getting support for what you are going through.
3)   Educate yourself.  The International OCD Foundation’ s website contains a wealth of information and it has an excellent infographic that you can download. The Institute for Challenging Disorganization has a variety of informational downloads.  The books Digging Out by Michael A. Tompkins Ph.D and Tamara L. Hartl, Ph.D. and Buried in Treasures by David F. Tolin, Ph.D., Randy O. Frost, Ph.D. and Gail Steketee, Ph.D. are excellent resources.
4)   Prepare for the long-term. Hoarding behaviors do not go away in a week, a month or a year. This may be a life-long struggle.
5)   Turn the conversation from throwing things away to making the environment safer and more comfortable your loved one.  If you focus on throwing things away, then you are discounting your loved one’s perspective that his things are valuable. Can you agree not to block the door or to keep items off of the stove?  Agree upon a goal together. You might consider these small steps. But it can be a big step for your loved one to agree to partner with you to take action.
Your loved one may not be ready to work with you. You cannot rush the process.  There may be some emotional groundwork that needs to be worked on first, which is why it’s important to get support for what you are experiencing.
The temptation may be go into the loved one’s home and clean it out. Not only will your loved one continue to acquire items to fill his home, but in all likelihood you will seriously damage your relationship with him.  Please take a step back, take a deep breath and proceed with care and respect for both of you. You are not alone.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Get Organized St. Louis

The early-bird registration deadline is fast approaching  for St. Louis' inaugural organizing expo event: Get Organized St. Louis. I am excited to be part of the five-speaker lineup. The topics range from managing your home and financial papers, decluttering and organizing your basement and garage, productivity and time management, and productivity with ADD. After the presentations come to the question and answer session where you can ask a professional organizer your burning organizing questions. Additionally, we are very happy to have vendors' row featuring the companies that provide the goods and services that complement your organizing projects. Get Organized St. Louis is sponsored by the St. Louis chapter of the National Association of Professional Organizers and will be at St. Charles Community College from 8 AM to 12:30 on March 23.  You can get more information at Aloha! Be there!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Shred Day

It's tax season.  A lot of people combine file cabinet clean-out with tax preparation. If you are one of those people, or if you need an excuse to clean out your files, I have good news: the days of free shred events are upon us.

Before we jump to where you can get your papers shredded for free, let's talk about what to shred. There are three guiding principles that I follow for shredding:

  • If the information can be used to steal from me or it can be used to steal my identity, then shredding is a must.
  • If the information is confidential, then shredding is a must.
  • When in doubt, shred.
Examples of information that is covered by the first principle include: anything with your social security number, anything that contains investment, credit card, and bank account numbers, copies of your old passports or driver's license, old credit reports, credit card and loan offers, and anything with passwords.

Examples of information that is covered by the second principle are old medical records, old phone lists, old legal papers, transcripts, resumes, and anything that would embarrass me if someone else found it.

Typically, I don't feel the need to shred anything that can be easily obtained by the public. For instance, I don't shred the address labels on my magazines or non-financial junk mail (I do shred the credit card offers).

I collect items to shred in cardboard boxes. Printer paper and banker's boxes are the right size for easy handling and I can just leave them with the shredder.

Grab your calendar and record the upcoming free shred days. Usually shredding is limited to one box, but sometimes you can shred up to three boxes.

04/06/13  9 AM - noon  Scott Credit Union at 1100 Beltline Road in Collinsville, IL

04/06/13  8:30 AM - 1 PM  Eagle Bank at 1052 Kirkwood Road in Kirkwood, MO

04/13/13  9 AM - noon  First Community Credit Union at 4566 Lemay Ferry in St. Louis, MO

04/13/13  9 AM - noon  First Community Credit Union at 2651 Old Muegge Road in St. Charles, MO

04/13/13  9 AM - noon  First Community Credit Union at 801 Lincoln in Fairview Heights, IL

04/13/13  9 AM - noon  First Community Credit Union at 17151 Chesterfield Airport Road in Chesterfield, MO

04/20/13  9 AM - noon  Ameriprise Financial at 825 Maryville Center Dr in Creve Coeur, MO

04/20/13  9 AM - noon  Coldwell Banker Gundaker at 6235 Mid-Rivers Mall Drive in St. Peters, MO

04/20/13  9 AM - noon  St. Vincent Community Center at 7335 St. Charles Rock Road in St. Louis, MO

04/20/13 8 AM - noon  Galleria parking lot (BBB event) in Richmond Heights, MO

04/27/13  9 AM - noon  Vantage Credit Union at 4020 Fee Fee Road in Bridgeton, MO

04/27/13  10 AM - 1 PM  Neighbors Credit Union at 6300 Lindbergh Blvd. in St. Louis, MO

04/27/13  9 AM - noon  West Community Credit Union at 2345 S. Brentwood Blvd. in Brentwood,  MO

05/04/13  9 AM - noon  American Eagle Credit Union at 1075 N. US Highway 67 in Florissant, MO

05/04/13  9 AM - noon  American Eagle Credit Union at 3805 Union in St. Louis, MO

05/04/13  9 AM - noon  American Eagle Credit Union at 2175 Barrett Station Road in Des Peres, MO

05/04/13  9 AM - noon  American Eagle Credit Union at 1334 Jeffco Blvd. in Arnold, MO

05/04/13  9 AM - noon  Eagle Credit Union at  3944 Vogel Rd in Arnold, MO

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Getting Unstuck

There are points in our lives when we feel stuck - when the obstacle before us seemingly defies traversing. How to get unstuck? Linda Samuels, CPO-CD® posted this question on her blog "The Other Side Of Organized" and received answers from seven colleagues. Their answers are enlightening and inspiring. Although each person answered differently, it was the honesty in their answers that tugged at my heart - especially Linda's. Sometimes time is what is needed.

For myself, I rely on the patience and wisdom of my trusted advisers who provide me the space to talk about the issue. They support me by listening and asking questions but never telling me what to do, which would be disenfranchising. Getting things out of my head provides me with the opportunity to see things from a new perspective. In that new perspective is a new direction which provides a way of traversing the obstacle. Sometimes it takes a bit of  time to develop a new perspective. Occasionally it takes a long time - then my advisers assure that things will work out.

Please take a moment to read Linda's post Stuck? 7 "Now What" Tips. We all get stuck. Thankfully we have each other to help us get unstuck.