Hoarding and Cluttering, Think Outside the Boxes: Innovation in Action

The 18th International Conference on Hoarding and Cluttering, sponsored by the Mental Health Association of San Francisco, was held at Cal  Berkeley, March 22-23, 2018.  This two day conference was enlightening, enriching, and educational! I learned about new research and techniques that will help my clients who suffer from the mental disorder of Hoarding.  As a part of my studies with the Institute for Challenging Disorganization (ICD) to earn my credential as a Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization (CPO-CD®), I was honored to meet Dr. Chia-Ying Chou, who has worked with 130 individuals with Hoarding Disorder.  Her emotional and informative presentation on Experience Compassion Focused Therapy for Hoarding, was an uplifting, refreshing new approach for treatment of hoarding disorder.  She has been co-developing this new treatment protocol for this mental illness called, Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT), with other experts in hoarding.  I was fortunate enough to spend 30 minutes with Dr. Chou, a related professional, to talk about ICD and how Professional Organizers like me, who work with clients with hoarding behavior, can work collaboratively.   Together, we can both help support our clients who have Hoarding Disorder.         

I was also lucky enough to learn from Michael Tompkins, PhD – a licensed psychologist, who spoke on Three Essentials Coaching Skills:  Sorting, Making Decisions, and Follow Through as it relates to people who hoard.  He explains, “People who hoard lack several skills that are necessary to declutter their living environments, effectively.”  To start the process of sorting, he suggested the use of three boxes, labeled   1) Impossible to let go; 2) Moderately impossible to let go; 3) Easy to let go.  To demonstrate this process, audience members sorted their purse or wallet, using the three categories above. We examined our “rules” for putting the items into each of the three categories.  Then we were challenged to ask ourself:  Do we really need these things? By letting go, is my “safety at risk?”; Is my “health at risk?”; and, is my “financial welfare at risk?”  When we applied the three questions, our perspective of what was “impossible” to let go changed to “easy”. This was a powerful, yet basic demonstration on the value we place on material things that we think we “need”.