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Guest Blogger: ANITA SISLER (Professional Organizer & Owner of "The Declutterbug" - USA)

HOARDING - When you hear this word what images does it evoke?

For most it brings up images of a ‘Hoarding show’ they may have seen on TV or a story of the Fire Department having to tear off a roof in order to enter a home because all other entry ways were blocked.

When someone finds out I’m a professional organizer, inevitably 9 times of 10 they ask if I’ve seen the show Hoarders. When they find out that I specialize with working with clients who have Hoarding Tendencies, they proceed to tell me that I would probably think they were a hoarder if I saw their home, or my Mom, Sister, etc., is a hoarder. I know (for the most part) they are speaking from a lack of knowledge and a misunderstanding of what it means to actually have Hoarding Tendencies.

I began my organizing business, The Declutterbug in 2013. It was one of my ‘Brave Endeavors’ for my decade of 50’s. When I began my business, I had no idea of the path it would take. From the beginning I seemed to attract clients who were Chronically Disorganized and some that also had Hoarding Tendencies. I had no real knowledge of Chronic Disorganization or Hoarding at this time, however.

My heart was for these clients and their situations and so I dove right in! I advertised in a magazine called ‘Natural Awakenings’ at the time. On my initial phone call these clients would say, ‘I could tell from your photo that you wouldn’t judge me and that you had a kind heart.” God knew the direction my business needed to take before I was aware of the need.

In 2016 I was made aware of an organization called The Institute for Challenging Disorganization (ICD). I joined October of that year and then attended their conference one month later. I knew I had found my organizing tribe the moment I arrived at this conference. ICD has literally been a game changer in my knowledge and understanding of what Chronic Disorganization is, which also includes a greater knowledge of Hoarding. ICD has been on a mission to benefit people affected by Chronic Disorganization since 2001 (formally known as The National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization (NSGCD).

What in the world is Chronic Disorganization and what does it have to do with Hoarding?

Chronic disorganization (CD) is characterized by:

· Disorganization that has persisted for a long period of time.

· Has a negative impact on daily quality of life.

· Has not responded to repeated self-help efforts.

· Is expected to continue in the future.

It is both the degree of impact on daily living and the longevity of the struggle that separate chronic disorganization from the common disorganization that most people encounter on an occasional basis.

Hoarding Disorder (HD) as described by the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – 5th Edition, 2013) defines HD as follows:

1. Persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions, regardless of their actual value.

2. This difficulty is due to a perceived need to save the items and the distress associated with discarding them.

3. The difficulty discarding possessions results in the accumulation of possessions that congest and clutter active living areas and substantially compromises their intended use.

The most important thing that people with CD and HD share is an undermined quality of life. Although all persons who have Hoarding Tendencies are Chronically Disorganized, the separation occurs in their relationship to their possessions. Those who hoard have sentimental attachments and fears that are so intense that it is less painful to keep stuff than discard it. Over time, excessive saving robs their living spaces of their intended uses. Those with hoarding tendencies tend to become isolated and many of their relationships suffer. Although those with chronic disorganization may have spaces that mimic a hoarding situation, the process of discarding is much different.

Compassion, Understanding and Insight

These are of importance when trying to see things in a different light. They are what we should all strive for in our lives and relationships. When we assume or judge others, we are functioning at our lowest level of compassion, understanding and insight. I’ve given you just a glimpse into what chronic disorganization and hoarding is. If you believe that you, a family member or friend have CD or HD I am including a few resources. Please feel free to reach out to me, as well.

Are you Chronically Disorganized?

Ask yourself these three questions:

· Has getting organized been a challenge for you most of your adult life?

· Does being disorganized negatively affect your quality of life in some way every day?

· Have you been unable to sustain organization?

ICD also has a resource on their website called ICD Cutter Quality of Life Scale (CQLS). The CQLS was designed to help people assess for themselves the personally felt impact that clutter has on their well-being.

If you believe you or someone you love may have hoarding tendencies, a few questions to consider are:

· Do you have a compulsion to save items?

· Do you have severe difficulty discarding items?

· Have areas in your home become so clutter that they can no longer be used for there intended use? Do you have clear pathways and all exits assessable?

ICD also has a resource called the Clutter-Hoarding Scale (C-HS). This is a quick reference guide. The intention for this tool is to serve as an observational guideline tool for the assessment of residentials environments. The ICD has established five levels to indicate the degree of household clutter and/or hoarding. Within these five levels are five specific assessment categories; Structure & zoning, Animals & pests, Household functions, Health & safety, and Personal protective equipment (PPE).

Please keep in mind that Chronic Disorganization and Hoarding affects every income level, and station in life. It is not determined by anyone’s level of intelligence, race, gender, or age.

I am a magnet for adults who have grown up in a hoarding environment. They usually share that they are minimalist or struggle with hoarding tendencies themselves. More often than not, they also have a strained relationship with that parent who hoarded. If this is you or someone you love there is a fantastic support group, Children of Hoarders is a non-profit run by adult children of hoarders for children of hoarders.

I hope this has been helpful. I have a heart and passion for this segment of people who at times, are forgotten or dismissed. I also have a passion to open up people’s hearts and minds.

Other Resources:

Children of Hoarders –

Conquering Chronic Disorganization, By Judith Kolberg

Anita Sisler

Professional Organiser

Owner of "The Declutterbug"


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