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EDITORIAL RESPONSES  /I Hoard It On The GrapevineEditorial List

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Clever Caregiver Editorial Responses
These are just some of the many responses we received from our Editorial of 06/06/07 - I Hoard it On the Grapevine

The term I like the best is "disposaphobia--fear of getting rid of stuff".  Also known as clutter addiction. Underlying it is a fear of emptiness, helplessness, loneliness, or being alone.  Google "clutter addiction" and there are many websites that will help you determine how serious the hoarding problem is, and also suggest ways to clean up the mess.  And the person who can help you fix the problem is a materials organization specialist, if you can find one. I have family members who have a clutter addiction problem.  On a scale of 1 to 5, they hover around 3 and 4. If I help them clean up, it's not long before the mess is back again, and it only seems to get worse, not better. Currently I'm helping a woman who lives in public housing clean out her one-bedroom, small apartment.  She was threatened with eviction if she didn't clean it out.  She has thrown out a dumpster full of stuff, I've taken several carloads of stuff to thrift stores, and several more carloads to a consignment shop (she has made about $300 on that so far).  Now she can sleep in her bed and use her shower, but she still has too much stuff, very narrow aisles to walk through her apartment, and more stuff coming in.  She is very ill, on oxygen and does not drive, but that doesn't stop her from accumulating more stuff. 


The Pennsylvania Department of Aging and the PA Association of Area Agencies on Aging sponsored an enrichment symposium in March in Camp Hill, PA.

“Cluttering” was on the agenda  and there was an excellent speaker:  Dr. Norma Thomas, DSW, LSW, PhD, Director Center on Ethics and Minority Aging, Philadelphia.  Her address, phone number is:  Dr. Norma D. Thomas 5398 Wynnefield Ave. Suite 204, Philadelphia PA 19153:  office phone 215-477-5719 or and her e-mail is  She had a power point presentation, a video and lots of examples.  Her workshop was designed to increase understanding of hoarding behavior from a psychosocial perspective, to increase understanding of individuals who exhibit this behavior and to provide assessment, decision-making and interactive strategies.  I attended the session and remember so key points. (1) you must gain the trust of the person to effect change (2) there needs to be an assessment to determine what is the reason for the hoarding – a comprehensive geriatric assessment is preferred – could be physical, psychological, social reason:  could be a chemical imbalance, (3) We see the hoarding but the hoarder does not see it as a problem (4) there is a precipitating event that causes this (physical illness, sensory deprivation, stressful events, or a progression of existing disorders) (5) Intervention could include medication therapy; cognitive behavioral/psychotherapy to determine what caused deep seated issues; decreasing social isolation – get the individual out of the house and away from the clutter; or occupational therapy (6) Behaviors Associated with Hoarding included decreased alertness and increased territoriality, the possessions offer a sense of security, and individual maintains control over the possessions (7) If you take it out of the house you must take it away from the house.  Start with one area of the house to declutter example: off the bed, off the steps, away from the stove, furnace, and consider these things first – consider the person’s disability, enhance supports for the person, use more visual, tactile, and auditory cues with the person, consider the meaning of the objects for the person, and create  a feeling of security. 

Dr. Thomas also gave us these websites:  Disaster Masters  National Study Group on Disorganization; or Moving Solutions 1-610-853-4300: 

Hope this helps some for future reference. 

Carolyn Trayer
Family Caregiver Support Program
Care Manager
Cumberland County Office of Aging


First of all. I want you to know how much your web site has helped me and want to thank you very much and also the letters from all of the wonderful caregivers. 

When I first started taking care of my Mother, I was going to start cleaning out and have a garage sale to help pay for expenses, but when my Mother saw what I was doing, she said, "you are giving all  my things away" and she was very hurt.   I talked to another caregiver about it and she said that getting rid of her things meant to my Mother that it was the end of her life.  So I felt so bad that I just stopped cleaning out and decided to wait.  


Gary....we appreciated your article covering hoarding! Please let us know of any more stories or effective ways of getting some of this stuff give-away or sold. My wife and I are avid hoarders (been hoarding for almost 57 years) We just cannot find a solution or find a starting place to relieve ourselves. I do believe our stress levels and freedom of living will add several more years for us to be BLESSED by
our children, grandchilddren and great-grandchildren.....when we are free from "all this stuff".

We make up our minds to start something and before noon we are so overwhelmed with the enormity of it all we just give up.....any ideas!




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