Hoarding: What It Is, Categories & Levels

Nearly once a week I get a call from a prospective client that says… “my INSERT BLANK is a hoarder and they need help”. What they are trying to tell me is that that person has a lot of stuff and, in their opinion, more “stuff” than most. That said, although I know what they mean, often, that person is probably not “hoarding”. I hope this information helps clarify some of the misconceptions about hoarding.

The following information is from the Institute for Challenging Disorganization (www.challengingdisorganization.org) and from the American Psychiatric Association:

What Is Hoarding:
People with hoarding disorder excessively save items that others may view as worthless. They have persistent difficulty getting rid of or parting with possessions, leading to clutter that disrupts their ability to use their living or work spaces.

Hoarding is not the same as collecting. Collectors look for specific items, such as model cars or stamps, and may organize or display them. People with hoarding disorder often save random items and store them haphazardly.

The Institute for Challenging Disorganization, aka ICD, has devised The Clutter-Hoarding Scale which is an assessment tool to help determine what hoarding is and how to identify the level. This tool helps professionals determine what kind of help is needed. The Clutter-Hoarding Scale is not used for diagnostic purposes or for any psychological evaluation of a person(s).

There are 5 categories and 5 levels of the Clutter-Hoarding Scale:

The 5 Categories are:
1. Structure and Zoning: Assessment of access to entrances and exits; function of plumbing, electrical and HVAC systems, appliances and structural integrity.
2. Animals and Pests: Assessment of animal care and control; compliance with local animal regulations; assessment for evidence of infestations of pests (rodents, insects or other vermin).
3. Household Functions: Assessment of safety, functionality and accessibility of rooms for intended purposes.
4. Health and Safety: Assessment of sanitation levels in household, household management of medications for prescribed and over-the-counter drugs.
5. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Recommendations for PPE (face masks, gloves, eye shields or clothing that protect the wearer from environment health and safety hazards).

The 5 levels indicate the degree of household clutter with Level I being the lowest and Level V being the highest. Below are the criteria regarding two of the above categories: Structure and Zoning and Household Functions. I chose these two as they are the ones that most people can relate to and/or identify with. The others can be found at https://www.challengingdisorganization.org/clutter-hoarding-scale)

The 5 Levels are:
Level I – This level is considered standard.
• All doors, stairs and windows are accessible, plumbing, electric and HVAC are operational; fire and CO detectors are functional.
• No excessive clutter; all rooms properly used, appliances functional; good housekeeping and maintenance.

Level II – Household environment requires either Professional Organizers or related professionals who have knowledge and understanding of chronic disorganization.
• One Major exit is blocked; 1 major appliance or HVAC device is not working for longer than one season; some plumbing or electrical systems are not fully functional; fire or CO detectors are non-existent or non-functional.
• Clutter beginning to obstruct living areas; slight congestion of exits and entrances, hallways, stairs; some household appliances not functional; inconsistent housekeeping and maintenance.

Level III – This Level is the pivot point between a cluttered household and a potential hoarding environment.
• Outside clutter of items normally stored indoors; HVAC devices not working for longer than one season,;fire or CO detectors non-existent or non-functional; one part of the home has light structural damage which occurred during the past 6 months.
• Clutter obstructing functions of key living spaces; building up around exits, entrances, hallways and stairs; at least one room not being used for intended purposes; several appliances not working; inappropriate usage of electric appliances and extension cords; substandard housekeeping and maintenance; hazardous substances in small quantities.

Level IV – Household environment requires a coordinated and collaborative team of service providers including, but not limited to, Professional Organizers, family, mental health professional, pest and animal control officers, licensed contractors, financial counselors, etc.).
• Excessive outdoor clutter of items normally stored indoors; HVAC devices not working for longer than 1 year; CO detectors non-existent or non-functional; structural damage to home lasting more than 6 months; water damaged floors, damaged walls and foundations, broken windows, doors or plumbing, odor or evidence of sewer backup.
• Diminished use and accessibility to key living areas; several rooms cluttered to extent that they cannot be used for intended purposes; clutter inhibits access to doorways, hallways and stairs; inappropriate storage of hazardous/combustible materials; appliances used inappropriately; improper use of electric space heaters, fans or extension cords.

Level V – Household environment requires a collaborative team including, but not limited to, Professional Organizers, mental health professional, family, zoning, fire and/or other safety agents, etc.).
• Extreme indoor/outdoor clutter; foliage overgrowth; abandoned machinery, ventilation inadequate or non-existent; HVAC systems not working; water damaged floors, walls and foundation, broken windows, doors or plumbing; unreliable electrical, water and/or septic systems; odor or sewer backup; irreparable damage to exterior and interior structure.
• Key living spaces not usable; all rooms not used for intended purposes; entrances, hallways and stairs blocked; toilets, sinks and tubs not functioning; hazardous conditions obscured by clutter, appliances unusable; hazardous and primitive use of kerosene, lanterns, candles, fireplace/woodstove as primary source of heat and/or light.

Although I have provided information regarding the categories and levels of hoarding, this only skims the surface. If you want more information, please go to challengingdisorganization.org where there is a plethora of information on this subject.

Is There A Right Way to Organize?

The short answer is NO. Everyone does things differently and, therefore, there is no one “right” way to organize.

That said, the purpose of organizing is so that things are functional and easily accessible..

A good example would be…when it comes to paperwork, some people like to file papers away and some people like to pile them. Whatever their preference is, if they can find whatever they want, when they want it, then they are organized in that things are functional and accessible. It may be considered organized chaos to some, but, if that works for some people then so be it.

On the other hand, if it takes too much time (which is completely subjective) to locate a document or you can’t remember where something is, then perhaps you should consider getting “better” organized.

When it comes to closet organization, the same rule applies. Some people like to hang everything, others like to fold things and put them away in drawers. Yet, others like to color code. Again, organizing is whatever works for you (as long as it’s functional and accessible)

Sometimes getting organized is a matter of just making a few changes. Sometimes it’s a matter of making more space. Sometimes things just need an over-haul to accommodate your ever-changing needs.

Here are some GREAT tips to get and stay organized, no matter your style:
1. If you take something out, put it away when you’re finished using it.
• Example: If your kids are playing with toys, have them put them away before they move on to the next activity. (NOTE: show them how and help them the first few times so that they understand).
2. If there’s no room, make space. Here’s a few things you can do:
• Purge things you no longer need or want
• Archive anything that is not needed on a daily basis (ie.,put olld tax returns in a bankers box and put it in the attic for safe-keeping
• Add Shelving for additional storage
3. If something doesn’t have a home, it will always be considered clutter.
• Figure out where things should live when not in use and put it there (ie, tools should be in the tool chest which can be kept in the garage rather than in a junk drawer in the kitchen)
4. If whatever organizational systems you’re using aren’t working well, change them.
• Just because you’ve been doing something one way, doesn’t mean it has to stay that way. Situations change and our systems have to change as well.
5. Keep like items together.
• Examples: towels and sheets not in use should be kept in a linen closet; all Tupperware should be in the kitchen in one location)
6. Less is more!
• The less you have, the less you’ll have to clean, take care of and keep organized.
7. Just start! If there’s an area that needs some organizing love, schedule time on your calendar to get it done.
• If the project is overwhelming (ie, the garage), break it down into reasonable chunks. (ie., consider just getting rid of true trash the first time…true trash meaning anything that is ripped, soiled, stained, missing a piece, broken, expired)
8. Organizing is a Process. Keep going. Organizing isn’t something that you do once.
• It’s something that you do, a little bit, every day.
9. Get others involved.
• Whether you’re organizing at home or at the office, if there are other people involved, show them what you’re doing and ask them to respect your work by helping you maintain the systems you’ve put in place.
10. Ask for help. If you need assistance, CALL US! We will bring our unbiased perspective and humor to help you get “better” organized.
• With the help and guidance of a Professional Organizer, getting organized will be easier and quicker!

We would LOVE to be of service!

Clutter: Hidden in Plain Sight

 

As you can imagine, my job requires me to be in other people’s homes on a daily basis.

Before starting work for the first time, we do a walk through so that my client can show me around, show me what’s bothering them and talk about what they want organized or “better” organized as the case may be.

What I find interesting is that I see things that they don’t even though to me, it’s obvious.

I think we all, myself included, get so used to our surroundings that we no longer see what others see when they walk into our homes or offices for the first time. Clutter is basically hidden in plain sight:

 

  • The books on the shelf can’t be seen or retrieved because there’s too many framed photos in front of them.
  • There are so many papers or mail on part of the kitchen counter that those living in the home no longer use that space for what it’s intended…LIKE a place to eat.
  • The shelves on top of the cabinets or bookshelves have decorative items that are there because it never occurred to anyone to change them (or, please forgive me … clean them).
  • The garage is full but nobody seems to care because it’s been that way for sooooo long and, isn’t that what the garage is for anyway?
  • The files are exploding in the filing cabinet so you just start putting files elsewhere because there’s no more room.

It usually isn’t until the walls are closing in or someone brings those things to our attention that we do something about it.

FYI, I am one of the most organized people I know (if I don’t say so myself) and it happens in my home too. Even though my home is extremely organized, once a year I have one of my assistants come to my house to assess and provide some suggestions as to how things might work or look better. Each and every year something is changed and the change is always for the better. For me, it makes a world of difference.

These are just a few of the many reasons why hiring a Professional Organizer is helpful. They see things with a fresh set of eyes, provide a new perspective and then implement those changes to maximize efficiency and productivity. Better yet, having someone else help you is much more fun and is so much quicker.

If you are feeling cramped in your space (any space), need an update (think filing system) or a do-over (think garage), give me a call and let’s talk about the many ways we can be of service!

We’re ready when you are. 

5 Great Tips for Parents Whose Kids Are Transitioning from Elementary School to Middle School

Good organization skills can help make the transition from elementary school to middle school go smoother.

Help your child/children stay organized using these simple tips to make the transition less stressful and overwhelming for everyone:

1. Make organizing a part of each day. Organization is a skill that will help the middle school student succeed, not only in school but also in every aspect of their life.
• Work with them to set up systems and routines that will work for them so that they are more inclined to use and stick with them.
o For example: Set a designated place and time for homework.

2. Don’t insist that they get organized your way. There are as many different organizational systems. You just have to find one that works for your child.
• Enlist your child’s help. The idea is to help them discover a way that works for them. Too much “guidance” from you can cause conflict. Offer some options and brainstorm some ideas together.
o For example: Figure out a calendaring system with them so that they’ll use it to stay up to date on their assignments.

3. A place for everything and everything in its place. At home, they should have a place for all of their belongings, not just schoolwork.
• Educate them/show them how to pick-up after themselves. It is important that they pick up their things and return them to their proper place when they’re done using them.
o For example: Pick a place that will work for them to leave their backpack so that they don’t forget it when they leave in the morning. Perhaps a hook in the mudroom…

4. Be a role model. Practice what you preach and lead by example.
• Stay organized at home to lead by example.
o For example: Keep a family calendar.

5. Be there for your child.
• Offer support by checking in to see if they need help with homework. Remember that students in middle school need to become independent so don’t supply them with the answers.
o For example: If you see that they’re not able to keep up, hire a tutor before they fall too far behind

Bottom line is that being organized will make their life and yours so much easier!

Recycling Tips- Do’s and Don’ts

Recycling is the process of converting waste materials into new materials and objects. It is an alternative to “conventional” waste disposal that can save material and help lower greenhouse gas emissions. Recycling can prevent the waste of potentially useful materials and reduce the consumption of fresh raw materials, thereby reducing: energy usage, air pollution (from incineration), and water pollution (from landfilling).

While most of us try to do what we can to recycle, more often than I’d like to admit, I see people putting all the wrong things in the recycling bins. So, here’s a few “Do’s and Don’ts” about recycling if you really want to do your share to protect the environment.

ITEMS THAT CAN GO IN THE BLUE BINS:
Paper: All clean dry paper, including:
• Computer paper
• Ledger paper
• Arts and craft paper
• Unwanted mail
• Flyers
• Telephone books
• Note cards
• Newspaper
• Magazines
• File folders
• Paper bags
• Post-it notes
• Catalogs
• All envelopes, including those with windows

Cardboard: All cardboard boxes and chipboard, including:
• Cereal boxes
• Tissue boxes
• Dry food boxes
• Frozen food boxes
• Shoe boxes
• Detergent boxes
• Paper towel and toilet paper rolls
• Cardboard boxes (broken down and flattened)

Cartons: All refrigerated, shelf-stable, aseptic packaging, including:
• Fruit juice boxes and cartons
• Orange juice cartons
• Milk cartons
• Wine boxes
• Cereal boxes
• Heavy cream cartons
• Egg substitute cartons

Metals: All aluminum, tin, metal, and bi-metal cans, wiped out if possible, including:
• Soda cans
• Juice cans
• Soup cans
• Vegetables cans
• Pet food cans
• Pie tins
• Clean aluminum foil
• Empty paint and aerosol cans
• Wire hangers

Glass: All glass bottles and jars, wiped out if possible, including:
• Soda bottles
• Wine bottles
• Beer bottles
• Spaghetti sauce jars
• Pickle jars
• Broken bottles

Plastics: Empty plastic containers, wiped out if possible, including:
• Soda bottles
• Juice bottles
• Detergent containers
• Bleach containers
• Shampoo bottles
• Lotion bottles
• Mouthwash bottles
• Dishwashing liquid bottles
• Milk jugs
• Tubs for margarine and yogurt
• Plastic planters
• Food and blister packaging
• Rigid clamshell packaging
• All clean plastic bags (grocery bags, dry cleaner bags, and film plastics)
• All clean polystyrene products (plates, cups, containers, egg cartons, block packaging, and packing materials)
• Plastic hangers
• Non-electric plastic toys
• Plastic swimming pools
• Plastic laundry baskets
• Car seats (cloth removed)

ITEMS THAT SHOULD NOT BE PUT IN THE BLUE BIN:
If the following items are put in the recycling container, there’s a likelihood of contaminating the other clean materials. Placing a non-recyclable item in the recycling bin often results in the entire bin getting tossed in the trash. Here are some items that should be left out of the recycle bin.

Contaminated Paper: Heavily soiled papers or bags with oils or food waste.

That old pizza box may be made of cardboard and it might even have a recycling logo on it, but that doesn’t mean it belongs in the bin. This is because old pizza boxes, like so many other used products, get dirty during their lifetime and lose their recycling qualities. Contaminants like grease and glue will actually disrupt the processes needed to extract raw materials and will ruin an entire batch of materials intended to be recycled. When sanitation workers find a single contaminated product, in order not to contaminate the larger batch, they will toss the entire load of recycling into the trash.

• Food covered plastic cups
• Food covered cardboard
• Used paper towels
• Used paper cups/plates
• Shredded paper
• Colored Construction Paper

Glass:
• Window glass
• Mirror glass
• Auto glass
• Standard light bulbs
• Crystal
• Ceramics

Miscellaneous Materials:
• Cloth/fabric
• Mini blinds
• Kitchen utensils
• Lawn furniture
• Garden hoses
• Rubber tires
• Construction materials, including asphalt or concrete, wood and wood products

Electronic Waste:
• All electronic devices
• Electrical cords and wiring
• Electric or battery-operated toys
• Appliances
• Compact fluorescent and LED light bulbs
• All batteries (including car batteries, household batteries, and rechargeable batteries)

E-waste is accepted at the curbside by special appointment or by drop-off at S.A.F.E. Centers and Mobile Collection Events.

Hazardous Materials:
• Syringes and needles
• Medical waste
• Drugs (pills, liquids, gel caps, vials, and injectables)
• All partially filled aerosol cans and containers for cleaning fluids, automotive fluids, pesticides, oil-based paint, garden chemicals, and pool cleaners

Household hazardous waste (HHW) can be taken to S.A.F.E. Centers and Mobile Collection Events.

NOTE: Danger to Recycling Machines:
Discarded items undergo a lengthy process before they can be reused. There is a tremendous amount of sorting that needs to be done before products can return to a raw material stage. The machines that do this work break down just like any other machine that might be used. This means that workers need to take special precautions with what they place in them to prevent any potential damage.

So, when it comes to recycling, when it doubt, leave it out. For more information about recycling, go to: https://www.glad.com/teachable-trash/what-can-and-cannot-be-recycled/#yE7lc8IKvey2Iual.99

Of course, there are other ways to recycle as well. For example, you can re-use items many times over before discarding (ie. plastic water bottles and plastic bags)

You can also use something for a purpose other than that item’s intended purpose (ie. an egg crate can serve as a great way to store earrings)

Give something to someone else who can use what you don’t want or need so it doesn’t wind up in the trash.

There are countless ways to recycle. I just wanted you to be more aware of the Do’s and Don’ts that we either never knew or perhaps just forgot.

If you find this article interesting, please share it with your friends, family and co-workers.

Thank you!

Top 10 Reasons to Get Rid of Things

top ten reasons to get rid of things

Top 10 list

We all have too much stuff. The fact is, we never use 80% of what we own.

Below is a top ten list of reasons to help you make the decision to “get rid of it”:

1. You don’t need it anymore – You’re over it.
2. Someone else does need it – Cell phones, for example, are frequentlly refurbished and given to victims of domestic violence.
3. There’s just too much stuff – If there’s no place to put it, get rid of it!
4. It doesn’t work anymore – FYI, chances are the parts can probably be recycled.
5. It doesn’t fit you anymore – Whether you’ve lost weight or gained weight, whatever the case may be, get rid of it. You can get a tax deduction for donations.
6. It no longer suits your lifestyle -You’re moving, redecorating or downsizing or, you’re just ready for a new look.
7. You can get value from it – Sell it on e-bay, donate it and get a tax deduction, have a garage sale or set up an estate sale.
8. Less stuff makes your life easier. There’s less to clean. Getting rid of clutter will reduce housework by 40%.
9. It’s expired -Oh, just get rid of it.
10. Because “Less is More” -Ludwig Miles van der Rohe

If you’re still not sure whether you should get rid of it or not, ask yourself the following questions:

Papers
1. Is the information still current?
2. Can the document be duplicated if needed?
3. What is the worst thing that can happen if I get rid of it?
4. Is it a duplicate?
5. How long do I need to keep it?
6. Do I need it for tax, legal, insurance, or warranty issues?
7. Can I find the information some place else?

Clothing
1. Do I love it?
2. Does it fit?
3. Is it too worn?
4. Is it out of style?
5. Do I feel great in it?
6. Does it match anything else?

Other Items
1. Is it broken?
2. Do I use it?
3. Will I really need it?
4. Does it make others happy to see it?
5. If I keep it, will I remember I have it?
6. If I was moving, would I want to pay to have it packed and shipped?
7. Can I borrow or purchase another one if I need it?
8. Does it make me happy?
9. Am I keeping it because someone else gave it to me even though I don’t like it?

Get started today by getting rid of the things that either have no value (sentimental or monetary) or no longer have a place in your life. Ready, Set, Go!