People who struggle with excessive clutter and hoarding are often misunderstood. Clutter and hoarding can be a very isolating situation to live in, but the people living in the situation don’t always want to be alone. Very often struggles with clutter and hoarding disorder come with a variety of co-occurring conditions such as anxiety, depression, OCD, PTSD or a history of trauma. It is important to identify an honor these special circumstances with each individual person. No two people have the same presentation and it’s important to support eberyone in the way they need.
In working with people who struggle with clutter and people with hoarding disorder, I have found that it is helpful to approach the situation slowly and carefully. It is always important to assess for safety; in addition, it is imperative to build a trusting relationship between the client and therapist before working on skills to help the client let go of things they no longer considered necessary.
Throwing away “things” is not a goal!
As a therapist who worked at a nonprofit organization devoted to working with hoarding disorder, I have found that it is most important to help the client to be able to live in a safe and comfortable space. This does not mean that the space will be empty or clutter-free. For most people who struggle with clutter and hoarding, a clutter-free space feels very uncomfortable. My goal is to help my clients re-establish social support and to help them create a safe and comfortable living space.
Alison Whiteaker, LAMFT
Center for Healing and Resilience