Extreme Reality: Dead Animals, Gasoline Guzzling, & Two Thousand Wigs

On March 19, 2012, in Home Organizing, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
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I’m not completely back yet from my mini-break, but decided to share a few thoughts with you today about extreme reality TV. 

Have you noticed the growing number of programs that showcase some kind of extreme behavior? I’ve watched Hoarders for a while, but now there’s also My Strange Addiction, Hoarding: Buried Alive, Doomsday Preppers, and Extreme Couponing to name a few.

I think these shows are awesome. They really give a you a peek into the lives of people who may just live on your block. If you’re someone who’s in a similar situation, you’ll quickly realize that you’re not alone, and you might be motivated to get some help. Of course, I’m pretty tickled that some of these shows have put the spotlight on pro organizers, like Dorothy Breininger and Geralin Thomas.

I also think these shows are awful. They make me cringe. Watching Clutter Cleaner, Matt Paxton wade through garbage and dead animals is really hard. In fact, I have to decide between taking a bath and frantically cleaning up. Watching Shannon drink gasoline doesn’t make me feel warm and fuzzy. Some of people just make me scratch my head, like Tamis who has over 2000 wigs. Two. Thousand. That’s crazy…but sooo interesting.

I can’t stop watching! Well, that’s not true. I can. I have. I just take a break and then I start watching them again. So, really, I can’t stop watching. I’m not sure what to make of this fence riding that I’m doing.

How about you? Do you watch these shows? Think they’re helpful? Exploitive?

 

Fact Friday Celebrity Quote: “I’m a Hoarder.”

On April 15, 2011, in Fact Friday, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
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“I’m a hoarder. I gave away all my furniture from (when I lived in) Baton Rouge but with books and things, I have storage spaces all over the world. I give away like three things, search through everything and then pack it all back up and put it in the storage space.” ~Robert Pattinson, star of Twilight

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Which “Twilight” Star Should be on “Hoarders?” | Cambio.com | 2.24.11



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A Year Ago on OTR ~ Our Interview With Geralin Thomas of “Hoarders”

On March 28, 2011, in A Year Ago on OTR, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
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What a busy weekend we had at the Food, Libations, and Luxury Home Show at the Gaylord National Hotel! We met lots of new people, a few “old” friends stopped by our booth, and we ate waaay too much. =)  We’re still unpacking and hope you’ll enjoy an oldie but goodie from last year – our interview with Geralin Thomas from the A&E show, Hoarders.

Here’s an excerpt from that interview…

1.  What is your area of expertise and how long have you been a professional organizer?  Doyou work only with hoarders?

My area of expertise is residential organizing. I particularly enjoy helping clients who are chronically disorganized or clients with mental health challenges, including hoarders.

2.  You are one of the organizers featured on the A&E show, Hoarders. What is that experience like?

It’s interesting (in a good way). Before the show, a lot of people weren’t even aware of the term, “hoarding,” let alone recognizing it as a disorder. Bringing this disorder out into the open has ignited a lot of conversations about the impact on families, communities, landlords and, of course, the health of the hoarder.  It has been a very rewarding experience.

3.  Do you continue working with the people profiled on Hoarders after filming ends?

No, so far, I haven’t worked with anyone located in my home state of NC.  I refer my TV clients to a qualified professional organizer who lives near them whenever possible.  I do, however, stay in touch with many of the clients via phone and email.  I even talk to some of their family members too, with their permission, of course.

 

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Interview with Geralin Thomas, Expert Organizer Featured on “Hoarders”

On March 29, 2010, in Wellness, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
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Today’s post features an interview with Certified Professional Organizer®, Geralin Thomas.  Geralin has been featured several times on the A&E program, “Hoarders,”  and, in this interview, she explains what it’s like being a hoarding expert.

 

1.  What is your area of expertise and how long have you been a professional organizer?  Do you work only with hoarders?

My area of expertise is residential organizing. I particularly enjoy helping clients who are chronically disorganized or clients with mental health challenges, including hoarders.

 

2.  You are one of the organizers featured on the A&E show, Hoarders. What is that experience like?

It’s interesting (in a good way). Before the show, a lot of people weren’t even aware of the term, “hoarding,” let alone recognizing it as a disorder. Bringing this disorder out into the open has ignited a lot of conversations about the impact on families, communities, landlords and, of course, the health of the hoarder.  It has been a very rewarding experience.

 

3.  Do you continue working with the people profiled on Hoarders after filming ends?

No, so far, I haven’t worked with anyone located in my home state of NC.  I refer my TV clients to a qualified professional organizer who lives near them whenever possible.  I do, however, stay in touch with many of the clients via phone and email.  I even talk to some of their family members too, with their permission, of course.

 

4.  Would you say the show accurately depicts the way you would normally work with a client?  Do you often have a team of people that works with you?

Yes, when working with hoarding clients, I use a team of professional organizers and collaborate with a therapist.  Nothing about what I’m doing, meaning the organizing process, is fabricated for TV.  The producers encourage the “experts” to do what we normally do.  The challenge for me, personally, is to do this with a team I’ve never met before and do it quickly. It’s been GREAT bonding with professional organizers and 1-800-GOT-JUNK teams all over the US.  I’m fortunate to work with really incredible, capable, and caring people.

 

5.  At times, it gets very emotional when a client’s friends or family members are involved in the clean up process.  Do you discourage or encourage their participation?  How do you keep everyone calm…and remain calm yourself?

Education is key! If family members insist on participating (in “real life,” not TV), I have a meeting where boundaries are established and rules are set.  I gently request that family members read books and watch movies about hoarders/hoarding BEFORE coming to help.

Truthfully, it’s usually less tense if friends and family do not participate but it’s not always an option, especially when the client is on a tight budget.  Friends and family always have the best intentions and want to help but they lack understanding and want to work at their pace, not the client’s.

 

6.  In your experience, how likely is it that clients regress or stop responding positively to the help they get from you (and/or other professionals)?

In my experience, hoarding is treatable but not curable.  I tell clients it’s very much like dieting—if you stop paying attention to what you are consuming/buying, you will most likely find yourself outgrowing your wardrobe/home.  Hoarding is a mental disorder and it’s important to monitor what is being acquired and discarded. It’s complicated because many hoarding clients live with depression or another co-existing condition.

 

7.   While keeping certain details confidential, can you describe the most difficult case/job you’ve worked on?

Frankly, every single hoarding case has many challenging moments; each and every job is emotionally and physically draining. The homes are often full of safety hazards so spending long days in that environment isn’t healthy, and once I walk out the door for the day, the day’s events remain in my mind.

 

8.  How does your work impact your life personally?  Does it take a toll on you and your family?

Yes, in addition to what I said earlier, about the environments being toxic, I’m much more mindful of my own spending/shopping/acquiring/saving habits.

For example, years ago, I enjoyed seasonal decorations, while now I think the amount of “holiday stuff’ on store shelves is ridiculous.  The amount of energy used to manufacture those things and the space that all that stuff takes once we own them is terribly wasteful.

 

9.  Are there books or resources that you would recommend if someone wanted to get more information on hoarding or chronic disorganization?

Here is a link (on my website) that has helpful resources:http://metropolitanorganizing.com/resources/hoarding.

Here is a link to buy “Hoarders: DVDs, but note you can watch them on line.

 

About Geralin Thomas

Geralin Thomas, CPO-CD®, and founder of Metropolitan Organizing®, LLC, (established in 2002) has helped professional athletes, politicians, artists, small business owners, and others live more productive and balanced lives.  A chronic disorganization and ADHD specialist, she is also a Past President of the North Carolina chapter of NAPO®.  Residing in Cary, North Carolina with her husband and 2 teenage boys, Geralin is a Tarheel fan and graduate from The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.  She teaches new organizing courses for NAPO and enjoys working with clients and new organizers.

For casual conversation and organizing information, follow her on Twitter or become a fan on Facebook.

 

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Interview With Dr. Marla Deibler, Therapist Featured on “Hoarders”

On March 15, 2010, in Wellness, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
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Today’s post features an interview I did with Dr. Marla Deibler, a licensed Psychologist and the Director of the Center for Emotional Health of Greater Philadelphia.  She discusses her experience on the A&E program, “Hoarders,”  tells how she works with patients,  and shares helpful resources.


1.  What is your area of expertise and how long have you been practicing?

I am a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in the treatment of anxiety disorders including obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorders, such as trichtotillomania (hair pulling) obsessive-compulsive disorder, and compulsive hoarding. My experience with these disorders began in 1999 at the nationally-recognized Behavior Therapy Center of Greater Washington; I then spent three years as a pre-IRTA research fellow studying obsessive compulsive spectrum disorders at the National Institute of Mental Health.  I am now the founder and director of The Center for Emotional Health of Greater Philadelphia, LLC, where I specialize in the treatment of these disorders.

2.  Who is your typical client?

I treat children, adolescents, and adults with a range of anxiety, mood, and adjustment disorders.  My typical client comes to me specifically seeking cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety/panic, OCD, compulsive hoarding, or trichotillomania.

3.  You were recently on the A&E show, Hoarders. What was that experience like?

I was honored to have been invited to work with the show and very much enjoyed the experience.  I was particularly impressed with the respect, professionalism, and integrity of the show and its contributors.  Working with the show’s participant “Jill” and her family was very rewarding. Overall, the experience was extremely positive and I am looking forward to the opportunity to work with A&E’s Hoarders further.

4.  Do you continue working with the people profiled on Hoarders after filming ends?

Participants are offered aftercare, both psychotherapy and organizational services, following their participation on the show.  Some accept these services, while others do not.  We have found that those who accept aftercare therapy services tend to have better long-term outcomes. Although theoretically we could continue to work with the show’s participants after filming, this is not usually logistically possible.  Participants are chosen from around the country and the psychologists and organizers travel to them for the shoot.  If a participant lived near the psychologist or organizer on their shoot, I imagine follow-up services with those professionals could be arranged; however, our geography as well as our state(s) licensure preclude us from providing services outside of our area.

5.  Would you say the show accurately depicts the way you would normally work with a patient?  Do you tend to utilize a team approach?

The show is accurate in its depiction of a crisis intervention. Psychotherapy for compulsive hoarding would be longer-term and would involve a greater depth and variety of treatment components.  For example, for the show, we introduce ourselves to the participant, briefly discuss their situation and tour the home, provide them with education regarding compulsive hoarding and treatment, and then lead them through the two-day intervention in collaboration with the organizer, where we help the client to practice good decision making skills and work through their emotions.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for compulsive hoarding involves helping individuals to change the way they think about and make decisions about their possessions in order to effectively control the behavior. This process involves a comprehensive behavioral assessment, psychoeducation, cognitive restructuring, exposure/response prevention, and excavation exposure. The individual must also be assessed for co-occurring psychopathology, as other psychological difficulties are common to compulsive hoarding such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and trauma. In these cases, their co-occurring difficulties must also be treated in order to effectively reduce/eliminate the hoarding behavior.

I do not typically have the luxury of working in collaboration with an organizer, although I very much enjoyed the experience of working collaboratively on “Hoarders.”  In fact, I have spent recent weeks getting to know organizers from the show and others who are experienced in chronic disorganization, as I value this team approach and would like to incorporate it into my work. I believe working collaboratively can have added benefit for the client.

6.  Do you involve a client’s family members during therapeutic sessions?

Whether I involve the client’s family members depends on the client and their particular situation.  If a client with compulsive hoarding is single and lives alone, I do not typically involve family members, unless the client requests to have such involvement.  If there are others living in the home, I may involve those family members, but not usually in the de-cluttering process.  I believe it is important to have family therapy sessions to address how the behavior has affected other family members, provide education, and improve communication. The de-cluttering process (excavation exposure) is important for the client to independently process and experience. Family members can complicate this process and pose additional challenges.

7.  How do you know when you’ve achieved success with a client?  Is it realistic for them to expect that their disorder will, at some point, permanently go away?

I like to work collaboratively with my clients. We use rating scales to rate their level of distress across anxiety-provoking situations and we continually assess and re-assess their progress, but ultimately, I view success by the improvement of the client’s mood and daily functioning.  I also hold open communication as my highest value in therapy; therefore, my clients are invited to provide feedback on a regular basis.

There is no “cure” for compulsive hoarding; thus, it is unlikely that an individual’s hoarding behaviors will entirely and permanently abate; however, treatment can help individuals with compulsive hoarding to effective control the behavior and prevent the behavior from impairing their functioning or the use of their home.

8.  Are there books or resources that you would recommend if someone wanted to get more information on specific types of illnesses, such as hoarding or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)?


For information on the web about compulsive hoarding and OCD:

For the treatment of compulsive hoarding and OCD:

Recommended reading about compulsive hoarding and OCD:

About Dr. Marla Deibler

Dr. Marla Deibler is the director of the Center for Emotional Health of Greater Philadelphia, LLC, and holds a doctorate in Clinical Psychology with a concentration in Health Psychology/Neuropsychology. She has gained experience at some of the finest institutions in the nation, including the National Institute of Mental Health at the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Children’s National Medical Center, and the Kennedy Krieger Institute at Johns Hopkins University Medical Center.

Dr. Deibler holds licenses to practice psychology in New Jersey (Lic. No. 35S100438000) and Pennsylvania (Lic. No. PS0157790). She has presented her works at regional, national, and international meetings and has published her work in peer-reviewed scientific journals and books. Dr. Deibler is a member of the International OCD Foundation (formerly the Obsessive Compulsive Foundation), Trichotillomania Learning Center, and the Anxiety Disorders Association of America and has been involved in working with the Obsessive-Compulsive Spectrum Disorders community since 1999. She has also appeared on A&E’s Hoarders.

Connect With Dr. Deibler: Web |E-mail | Facebook | Twitter | 856.220.9672


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Hoarders: Backyards, Bedbugs, and Beer Cans

On December 28, 2009, in Home Organizing, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
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“Compulsive Hoarding is a mental disorder marked by an obsessive need to acquire and keep things, even if the items are worthless, hazardous, or unsanitary.  More than 3 million people are compulsive hoarders.  These are two of their stories.”

Every Monday night at 10 pm ET Hoarders on A&E begins with those three sentences.  Now in their second season, the program continues to show the very intimate details of the lives of the people they profile.

It’s still sometimes difficult to for me to watch, yet I find it very intriguing.  It’s a compelling program that sheds some light on the struggles of being a hoarder.  What I love about it, besides seeing some of my organizing colleagues on camera, is the fact that they provide therapists to help the hoarders through the decluttering process.  The therapists appear to be very understanding, kind, and respectful…no matter how unsanitary the situation may be.

Last Monday’s episode focused a bedbug infestation that forced a family with young children to sleep in a tent in their backyard…with temperatures in the 30’s…for 6 weeks. The condition of the home made it next to impossible to get it exterminated. As the temperatures dropped, they only had a few days to clear out their home so that it could be treated.  The other hoarder profiled collected 50,000 cans of beer – and that was only one of his collections.  He also amassed large quantities of matches, mini liquor bottles, bobble heads, vases, etc. His home was so cluttered that he had to hold on to whatever he could find so that he wouldn’t fall down.

Horrible?  Disgusting?  Weird?  Nasty?  While you might think that it’s all those things, it’s important to note that hoarding is a disorder, not a choice.  The things that you and I think of as trash usually are not the viewed in the same way by a hoarder.

Here’s what “Dr. Dickey,” the beer can collector, had to say about himself:


My house is messy.  I don’t think it’s filthy, but it certainly is messy.  I like to consider myself a collector, not a hoarder – but so does every other hoarder.


Even with that realization, it was extremely difficult for him to let of go of his things because they were reminders of his journey through life and all the pit stops he made along the way.  It seemed that getting rid of them, in his mind, would be like erasing his history.

So, are you wondering when collecting becomes hoarding?  Check out this recent OTR article by chronic disorganization expert, Ariane Benefit -Top 10 Signs that You are “Hoarding,” Not Just “Collecting.” In it, she makes clear distinctions between the two.

If you watch Hoarders, I’d love to hear what you think about it.  The next episode airs tonight, and yes, I’ll be watching.



**Note: Hoarding is a disorder, not a choice.  If you struggle with hoarding or know someone who does, visit the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization (NSGCD) to get more information.  Here are some additional resources:  Children of Hoarders and Hartford Hospital Anxiety Disorders Center.


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The Thrill of Thrift Stores

On October 26, 2009, in Shopping, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
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Have you ever been to a thrift store?  Have you ever been to a thrift store and found a new (or like new) item for pennies?  If you’re the sort of person that loves finding a great item at a phenomenal price, you may well enjoy the thrill of going to a thrift store.  This feeling must be a difficult one to ignore, particularly if you’re someone who really enjoys shopping.  If you feel absolute joy while shopping, how do you turn off that “happy switch?”  The thrift store thrill will likely be more magnified because you can easily get a lot of stuff for just a few dollars.  What if you are a hoarder?

…and what  happens when you get home and the full realization hits you that there isn’t enough room to store it all?  This sounds like a roller coaster ride between two emotions: superb glee on one hand and desolation on on the other with no “in between.” Recently, as I watched an episode of Hoarders, this was the struggle one of the women profiled faced.  She was a bargain hunter.  When she found something in good condition on sale, she seemed to be at her happiest…until…

If you have a hoarder in your life who does a lot of shopping, it’s important to realize that he/she may not have as much control over their “happy switch” when they go shopping.   While you might find it helpful to take a list with you when you go shopping – or inventory what you have before you head to the store – these strategies might not work with a hoarder.  The issue (i.e., hoarding) didn’t happen overnight, so the solution will likely take a while and the strategies may be different, too.   

As you can imagine, a good dose of understanding is necessary.  Here’s what hoarding expert, Geralin Thomas, told me on Twitter recently:

Image of Geralin Thomas from Twitter
Image of Geralin Thomas

@dallisonlee about #hoarders+patience –> “If you add a little to a little, and then do it again, soon that little shall be much.” Hesiod 6:38 AM Sep 21st from web in reply to dallisonlee

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