Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Good Book: Digging Out

book cover - Digging Out

Hoarding is a serious psychological problem that, according to various estimates, affects 0.4% to 5% of the population. Treatment options are limited; you can read about them in Buried in Treasures, and in Overcoming Compulsive Hoarding.

Digging Out takes a different tack: It focuses on harm reduction, rather than on overcoming the hoarding behavior. It's aimed at family or friends who want to help a loved one live more safely and comfortably - with an emphasis on safety.

People who hoard often resist any attempts to help them, including any treatment. For those who have become totally frustrated in their attempts to work with a loved one with hoarding issues, this very readable book with its step-by-step approach and its focus on the pragmatic might be just the answer.

Here's just one quote, from the introduction, illuminating some of the issues that come up when family members try to help a person with hoarding problems. A woman named Janice said:
I wanted my mom to get rid of the stuff so that she could live more comfortably in her home. My mom saw it very differently. She wanted to figure out a way to live more comfortably in her home with her stuff. That meant figuring out a way to make more room in her life for more stuff rather than clear out her stuff to make more room for her life.
And here's a quote illuminating the difference between treatment and harm reduction:
If you're a therapist and focused on treating the hoarding problem, you might point to a possession and ask, "Why do you have this?" Someone focused on harm reduction, on the other hand, might point to a possession and ask, "Why do you have this here?"


Deb said...

I just sent a link to this post to a friend of mine whose mother is something of a hoarder. Her sister, who lives with Mom, tends to enable her and may be a hoarder herself. Great find, thank you!

Anonymous said...

I haven't read the book yet, but I'm sure if my daughter saw it she would buy it for me. I may buy it out of curiosity.

I don't consider hoarding to be a psychological problem. I keep a lot of things for other people who never seem to save anything. If they need something they usually come to me and I will have whatever it is, if I can find it.

I suppose one of the reasons I don't throw anything out, is because as a child, I never had anything. I consider the items I have to be treasures that God has allowed me to have so I keep them.

I sometimes will deliberately keep items when someone ask for them until I know for a fact they actually need them. I have found that when others think you have too much stuff, they'll want it just so they can help you clean out some of "your junk" as they call it.

Cynthia Friedlob said...

I've had students in my uncluttering classes ask me how they can change the behavior of a hoarding spouse, parent or friend. They're always disappointed to learn the it's unlikely that they'll be able to change anything.

This book sounds like it offers an alternative approach that might be helpful for some people. I don't have any experience dealing with hoarding or hoarders, so I have to offer suggestions based only on what I've read. I'll definitely read this. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I consulted with an organizer this morning who suggested using this book to determin "harm reduction" if mom goes back home after leaving the hospital (not related to hoarding). Mom's caregivers didn't really get just how bad things are, but I had a list from our conversation with the organizer & looking at the book, and I convinced them of the gravity of the problem: no access to any windows, access to only one door, the only working plumbing fixture is the toilet, sanitation & fire issues, etc. They now "get it" and cleaning up to send her back is a last resort. It's hard to tattle on a parent and even harder to know how to do it effectively.

Anonymous said...

I was raised by a hoarder (and frustrated perfectionist), and found I have married a hoarder (which I didn't know until we had moved a couple times). My mom I don't try to help because I am out of state, and my brother works on the harm issues. I feel confident that if she ever went in the hospital that I would tattle on her to a social worker for a home assessment. I'm lucky that at least my husband lets me box things up and label them and put them in storage--he just feels happy that "he still has them." Also lucky that he doesn't buy much in general.

Jeri Dansky said...

My best wishes to all of you who are dealing with friends or family who having hoarding issues.

In trying to describe the severity of the problem, the clutter hoarding scale from the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization may help. It's available for free.

Janet Barclay said...

This sounds like a fabulous resource that is badly needed by many people.