Speaking for the Mental Health Association of San Francisco's Hoarding and Cluttering Convention is always exciting. "How To Organize Your Space with a Feng Shui Template" was welcomed by the audience. They seemed to enjoy it, as much as I did, since it focused off the clutter and more on a fun and easy solution to clearing the path.
There were so many helpers at this convention working on all kinds of solutions to help people with over-collecting and accumulating. The researchers attending indicate it is biopsychosocial (genetic, emotional and environmental).
Hoarding disorder and OCD may factor in to the more serious cases. Once the objects, stuff and items build up into a barricade, and the people living in the space can barely move, creating psychosis, depression, anxiety, fire hazards, and possibly even death it becomes dangerous. You can read more about these challenges in a previous article at
Professional Organizers are the "Friendly Visitors". We are there to help you get back on your feet with creativity, clarity and vision.
Social workers, marriage and family therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists and educators don't go to people's home or lift a finger to do much of the work to help someone with hoarding mental health challenges. My friends, family, colleagues, who are mental health practitioners do help people tremendously, but the kindness and compassion and physical aspect of going into someone's home to transform it is helping from the inside out.
The boundary issues prohibit so much of what mental health practitioners provide and offer. Anyone who wants to help a hoarding situation will want to roll up their sleeves and pitch in. When that is not comfortable for a practitioner / family member / or friend then the helping is better left to a professional organizer with some mental health background.
I realized once a "friendly visitor" always a "friendly visitor". You either have the knack to help others get organized to have resolve in their lives or you don't. There is no in-between in being a Professional Organizer.
Getting organized is hard work, taking tenacity, thoughtfulness and strategy for both the Organizer and the person with hoarding and cluttering challenges.
Most educators at the convention concurred that many people with clutter/hoarding disorders do not go to therapy. Probably something to do with attachment issues, which means the stuff they collect is friendly and fuzzier then people may be. The client may not want to discuss anything to do with moving, getting rid of, or organizing their stuff. The stuff issue is just to personal and painful.
For people with clutter and hoarding challenges other people, who get close to them, may pose unsafe possibilities (people wanting to get rid of their charged items, judgment, abuse, removal from their home). The objects start to take life, meaning and then a relationship is formed. Also things that are collected may hold memories, ideas, thoughts and images of a time, person, place.
The mind has now made a simple ice cream wrapper a time spent on the beach with a person's absent son, brother, husband or friend.
It is a seriously isolating. It is seriously challenging. It is seriously difficult to stop.
I have four very close friends and family members who suffer with their barricades and the one common link I found is a broken and damaged relationship with their fathers. I started to talk to clients I work with and it may be a greater possibility that the paternal modeling is essential in future organizing skills.
Marla Stone is a retired Social Worker and Therapist who is now a Professional Organizer helping people from the inside out.
Mental Health Consulting at www.southocwellness.com
Feng Shui and Decor Specialist
Marla earned her BA in Psychology and a Master's in Social Work and is the founder of I-Deal-Lifestyle, a Self and Space Organization Service.