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Middleton Public Library Hand Out March 6, 2024

Hoarding Disorder and Other Issues of Clutter

Margo Nelson

Courage Counseling

Hoarding disorder is a greatly misunderstood condition. Many people wonder why the person with hoarding disorder can’t just throw stuff out. It is complicated. The objects, even seemingly unimportant objects that have lost their function, may be cherished by their owner. The hoarding behaviors serve a purpose for the person with hoarding disorder.

Hoarding disorder meets very specific diagnostic criteria. I work with people who are downsizing, people who need more decluttering strategies, people with hoarding disorder, and people who are impacted by the hoarding behaviors of a loved one.

Like most mental health conditions, hoarding disorder usually gets worse over time if left untreated. I recommend addressing hoarding disorder as soon as possible. I believe that people are never too old for positive change, and it is never too late to start working to be better.

I can help family and friends of people with hoarding disorder gain insight into the problem (and it’s not what you think.) One of the greatest assets to recovery can be supportive, non-judging, loving friends and family.   

Sometimes friends and family have so many feelings about the history with excess stuff that they are unable to successfully work with their loved one. A professional may need assist to create more positive outcomes. 

While there are common themes, behaviors, and thoughts with too much clutter, each client is unique and different.

One may have had a significant loss such as a death, change in mental or physical functioning, job loss, or divorce exacerbate their symptoms. Another person might have had scarcity trigger their onset.

Sometimes people who have too much stuff also experience depression, anxiety disorders, ADHD, OCD, or other conditions. 

Unfortunately I cannot work with people who do not want to work with me. I can only take clients who are interested in working towards positive change.

In the beginning I work with all clients to create a therapeutic relationship, and we work together to create goals. 

We will talk about the history of the development of excess objects. We will work on what from the past created keeping stuff as a coping mechanism, and how the stuff is impacting life now. 

If a client would like and is ready, I will help sort, declutter, and organize during virtual sessions.

I also work with people who are living with a person or people who have clutter issues. I can help people establish both physical and emotional boundaries.

How to help a loved one:

You do not have to understand a behavior to practice kindness and compassion.

Let your loved one know that there are resources available and they are not alone.

Learn more:

Remember that the public library has a curated book collection. 

“Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things,” by Randy O. Frost and Gail Steketee

“The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing,” by Marie Kondo

Why are we so attached to our things? - Christian Jarrett

Angela Brown on Grief Hoarding:


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