Monday, April 26, 2010

Digging out


Brenden McDaniel, owner of Action Organizing Services in Cedarburg, does not judge. He knows that for some people, a compulsion to accumulate possessions gets way out of hand.

McDaniel knows this because his mother was a hoarder. She had a lot of physical problems, he explains, and she was not a hoarder as he was growing up. But there was always a room where the family tended to toss things to be sorted out later. "After I grew up, it just aggregated," McDaniel says.

As his mother’s physical and emotional state deteriorated, so did the condition of her house. Dirty dishes and garbage piled up and items purchased during shopping binges clogged the rooms. Rodents moved in.

McDaniel was able to clean up his mother’s house and, today, years after she took her own life, he remembers how difficult it was for his mom to try to change her hoarding behaviors.

McDaniel became a professional organizer certified by the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization, one of only two certified in the state.

Acute hoarders, he says, usually fit into a typical pattern:

• The "I can use it someday" hoarder, who is unwilling to part with anything that might be useful at some point.

• The inherited situation. The hoarder inherits a houseful of belongings and feels it is disrespectful to get rid of any of the items.

• Animal hoarding. McDaniel says anyone who has an animal but can’t take proper care of it falls into this category. "It could be just one, but sometimes it’s 40 to 50 cats," he says. "A lot of times they’re filling in for the love they’re not getting."

• The self-protection hoarder. These are often middle-aged to elderly women who have been widowed or divorced, or have survived a major illness, or abuse. "They think, ‘If I live like this, nobody will get me,’" McDaniel says. "It’s like they’re in a great big tunnel and they can’t get themselves out."

Some hoarders have actually been killed when piles of their things have fallen on them, McDaniel says. Others finally agree to clean up the mess when they’re facing eviction. Whenever possible, McDaniel works slowly, often over a period of weeks or months, to gain the hoarder’s trust and bring them to a point where they can let go of their stuff. "You need to be respectful and patient," he says. "It’s really rewarding when you get people who just want to hug you a lot because you’ve made their life better or prevented them from getting evicted."..." More