Help Hoarders by Connecting with Community Resources

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hoarding committee

With increased public awareness of hoarding due to the TV series, Hoarders and Hoarding: Buried Alive, more and more people are contacting professional organizers for assistance for themselves or their loved ones. Although this presents a good business opportunity, working with this challenging population requires a specific skill set and should not be attempted without specialized training.

Furthermore, helping your clients to organize their physical environment is only one piece of the puzzle. Hoarding is usually the result of a serious mental health condition which must be addressed in order for any lasting changes to occur. The health and safety of your client as well as his or her family members and pets must also be taken into consideration. For this reason, professionals from other disciplines will nearly always be involved as well.

In many communities, task forces have been formed to bring together the many different agencies involved in supporting the needs of individuals and families whose lives are affected by hoarding. Geralin Thomas, a Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization (CPO-CD), describes this trend in her book, From Hoarding to Hope: Understanding People Who Hoard and How To Help Them. As she explains, the first such group, the Fairfax County Hoarding Task Force, was formed in 1998. Since then, hoarding task forces and coalitions have been established in other communities around the world, and a list is maintained on the International Exchange on Hoarding website.

If you work with hoarders, or are interested in doing so, find out whether there is such a group in your area, and how you can get involved. Having access to organizations who deal with mental health and addiction, financial support, child protection, animal control, crisis intervention, and other issues, will make you better equipped to connect your clients to the additional supports they may require. In addition, making yourself known to these professionals may open the doors to more opportunities for your business.

In the event that there is no formal group in your community related to hoarding, it is in your best interest and that of your clients for you to assemble your own list of non-profit associations and other businesses with whom you may be able to collaborate. Canadian Professional Organizers Heather Burke and Laurene Livesey Park have played an active role in the formation of the Kingston/Frontenac Region Hoarding Coalition, through which they meet with other service providers and front line workers from a number of disciplines on a monthly basis.

The Coalition is “committed to creating easy access to the integrated services needed to maintain housing stability and a quality of life that optimizes the health and safety for those who find themselves in a hoarding situation.” Their resource list, which is constantly being updated, currently consists of the following:

  • Services, including the Housing Help Centre, Habitat for Humanity Re-Store, and Salvation Army
  • Clothing Programs
  • Children’s Services
  • Animal Control
  • Crisis Intervention, including hospitals, fire, police, and ambulance services
  • Financial Resources, such as social assistance and credit counseling
  • Food Services, including food banks
  • Garbage and Large Item Removal
  • Home Support Services
  • Legal Aid
  • Lifestyle Transition Specialist
  • Mental Health Services and Counseling
  • Addiction Services

This should provide you with an excellent starting point for creating your own list. You may need to conduct in-depth research to discover resources that might not immediately come to mind. For example, I recently learned about an initiative in my own community called the Hamilton Gatekeepers Program, which was created over five years ago to work with health and social service community partners to identify seniors with Diogenes Syndrome. Characteristics of this disorder include domestic squalor and compulsive hoarding of rubbish, yet it’s not a term or a program I’d heard mentioned before.

Even if you do not work with hoarders, you and your clients will benefit from having access to a directory of contractors, painters, cleaning services, shredding companies, suppliers of closet and/or garage organizing systems, and other related services and products.

Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.

Vince Lombardi

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A former professional organizer, I now eliminate stress for my clients by hosting, monitoring, and maintaining their WordPress sites so they don’t have to worry about security, downtime or performance issues. When I’m away from my desk, I enjoy reading, photography, watching movies, and cooking.

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  1. Avatar Jean Greiff on October 11, 2012 at 6:02 pm

    I am a social worker working with a client who is a hoarder. She has no financial means and lives in the same house her parents and grandparents lived, therefore has generations of things. Some things she is willing to part, others that she treasures. It’s impossible for her to simply leave the home since she needs many of the things in the house to live. Sorting on her own is very difficult without support. She needs both physical and emotional help as well as the means (trash bags, boxes, tape, markers, cleaning supplies, etc). She is 61 years old and has health issues. She lives in Foxboro, Massachusetts. Who can help! Please!

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on October 12, 2012 at 6:57 am

      Jean, I’m going to put you in touch with a professional organizer in your area who may be able to offer assistance or information that will help your client.

  2. Avatar daniel steinbeck on August 22, 2019 at 3:41 pm

    Dear Janet:
    My name is Daniel Steinbeck a 100% disabled vet and retired Army. I am 70 yrs old and my wife is 67 and has become a ONLINE order HOARDER. We are in serious debt and have a large amount of stuff we do not need but she keeps buying.
    I have had 2 heart bypasses a Quad and a Triple . I do not have the strength left to do it anymore. My wife health is in jeopardy also. No strength, no will power and does not go outside and stays in house. Does no house cleaning. I make a good living but by the time bills are paid there is nothing left. I feel like I am on a never ending road and lost. I cannot say anything as she takes as threat and not help. We have been married 48 yrs come OCT 2019.
    I ask you if you know an organization that will come and help fix my home and our lives.
    Thank you for reading my post.

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on August 23, 2019 at 12:18 pm

      Daniel, I have reached out to my network and hope to have a contact for you soon.

  3. Avatar daniel steinbeck on August 22, 2019 at 3:42 pm

    I hope you might know of organizations in my area that can help

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