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Topic : 07/01 A Secret Inside: Extreme Hoarding

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Created on : Friday, April 25, 2008, 02:58:59 pm
Author : DrPhilBoard1
(Original Air Date: 04/28/08) Imagine being forced to dwell in a space that is so cluttered with junk, food and trash, you can barely walk. Nancy and her boyfriend, Bob, live this nightmare every day. In their two homes, flies and plastic containers fill the kitchen, moldy food is stuffed in four refrigerators, and boxes and plastic bags litter the house. The two youngest children sleep on the same couch in the living room, because one's bedroom is cluttered, and the other child doesn't even have a bedroom! Nancy, a former nurse, admits to being an extreme hoarder, but how did she and Bob, a former corporate attorney, allow their lives to degenerate to this chaotic clutter? Their home is trashed, and they're in debt $100,000. Could other issues be contributing to the chaos in the house as well? Hear from the three children, 16, 11 and 9, who are trapped in this mess. Are Nancy and Bob finally ready to rescue their family from the rubble before the kids' lives are ruined forever? Share your thoughts, join the discussion.

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October 17, 2008, 6:02 pm CDT

07/01 A Secret Inside: Extreme Hoarding

Quote From: desertlilly

""  Our minister gave a sermon once that amounted to:  the less stuff you need to maintain, the more time you have for people and God.  Do not be slaves to the idols called "stuff".""


How true this is. We are a Nation that has too much. The vast majority are not hoarders, but we have a lot of STUFF.

I'm sitting here looking to the left of my computer. I live in just under 1000 sq ft., and I share my space with a husband, a dog, a snake, and much of the time, various grandchildren. Space is very limited, but, this mess I have in this one corner drives me nuts. I have a small media Shelf loaded with CD's and DVD's, all in use every now and again. I have a plastic rolling drawer that has photo albums, and my medical supplies (I am insulin dependent diabetic). The floor has a medical file box on it, two now empty fan files, a Verizon cell phone bag, a box of used sharps and my current read (Kite Runner). It stresses me out.


I would love to have more organization then I have now. I would love to have space for my passion, my families genealogy. Interestingly, my closet is fairly organized. I have been relentless with my clothing. If it's served it's life span, out it goes. I send my used, but clean clothing to Mexico when either we go to visit, or my daughter in law visits her family. It gives me some sense of accomplishment to know that someone else can use my clothing.


I don't think I have a problem with hoarding. I think hoarding has some kind of underlying mental problem. If anything, I am too clean. Not as bad as my Grandmother. I think she had a problem with being too clean, that bordered on OCD. Her routine, if broken, stressed her out, big time. I'm looking forward to watching the show Monday.

The stuff you have in the corner is all important. You just need to visually hide it. Whether that be a cute Mexican blanket or I have found when they go on sale, baskets at our local cheap store work well as long as they are the big ones with the tops. It is not good enough to get a basket. It has to have a top. When I close the top of the basket and can't see my paperwork clutter, I actually feel myself relax. Can the photo albums go into stacks into your closet? And the movies can too in a basket or plastic container. I would say the only thing to keep out is the medical stuff and maybe you can find a cute covered basket for that. If you don't use the other stuff several times a day, a box in the basement or a closet is better.
October 17, 2008, 6:30 pm CDT

07/01 A Secret Inside: Extreme Hoarding

Quote From: searching4me

Dear Dr. Phil,


I'm a sporatic watcher, not a consistent one.  When I heard the topic of todays' show I resolved to watch the full program.  It was hard to watch.  Am I a hoarder?  Yes, to some degree but I couldn't touch the depth of todays lady.  I do admit to considerable clutter though none of it is food.  Mostly books, magazines and unfinished projects.


I haven't always agreed with some of your solutions but do feel you care about your guests and a productive, successful outcome.  For nearly 20 years I was a renter in a property owned by my brother.  He stopped by one day without calling and the house was not up to muster.  His first comment was, you need to get this place cleaned up.  I did start working on it with the help of my daughter and one of my sister-in-laws but it wasn't going fast enough for him.  Approximately a week later he stopped by again and announced that the following Saturday I was to find somewhere else to be because he was recruiting my other siblings (I'm one of eight) and having a dumpster delivered and they would be clearing out the apartment.  It's amazing what was missing when I returned to my apartment.  Come to find out he had a deadline because he was putting the house up for sale.  No I was not told there was a deadline or about the sale.  I really went into a slump after that.


I have been a high school business teacher now for over 25 years.  Currently 58.  No excuses here just information, in 1998 I had the my second of two strokes.  I had a very poor doctor at the time and ended up retreating into a depression I was never warned about.  I was admitted to the hospital on a Monday, stayed four days, discharged Friday and returned to work on the following Monday.  I had asked when I could return to work and was told "When you feel up to it." 


Feeling up to working had no part in it; I was brought up with a very strong work ethic.  You have a responsibility to be at work and if not you better be on your death bed.  No other reason to miss work.


Needless to say, I experienced considerable difficulty upon my return to work.  Three weeks later I made an appointment to sit down with the neurologist that attended me while in the hospital.  I conveyed my difficulties:  (1) memory loss (2) physical and emotional exhaustion (3) constant and increasing anxiety and stress levels (4) considerable confusion.  I was too tired when I got home to do housework and was literally sleeping all weekend just so I could make it through the next week.  When I asked him what I could do about it his response was, "Get over it!"  I think back now and wish I still had some of my youth brass.


My parents, God bless them, have both passed and where children of the depression years. . . nothing was ever thrown out if there was a slight chance it would be useful later.  BUT the house was always neat and organized so how did I end up like this?


I believe I can attribute my clutter to my extended levels of anxiety and depresssion and health issues (as noted above plus Type II diabetic, severe sleep apnea (awake 43 times per hour average) now have a CPap to use and am on 90 mg Cymbalta daily.  What do you think?  I have no interest in becoming a show participant but would welcome a brief response if you can find the time.


I'm currently on summer vacation and will check periodically to see if you have any words of wisdom for me.





Would a nightly walk help you out? I would think if you could bring your weight down with walking and just eating a little less at each meal, your medical costs might go down? I have heard of people not needing insulin anymore with type II? Plus the CPAP? Could that be eliminated from your life and the costs associated if you got fit? It feels so good to walk in the evenings - the stress just melts away and I know it is keeping my weight down. It maybe is to simplistic of an answer and I don't want to seem like I am perfect, far from it, but it does feel really good to put in a couple miles every night. I can sleep so much better!
October 19, 2008, 7:05 pm CDT

07/01 A Secret Inside: Extreme Hoarding

Quote From: xavierann

I want to comment on this upcoming story about the family trapped in a hoarding mess in their home.  I think that they are truely trapped by depression and hopelessness.  when people are mentally "down" they can not handle problems.  I know that even in a clean home (I don't have a huge dis-organization problem at home) it is very disorienting for me to "clean out" and "clean up".  Some people have a natural talent for organization, and I personally think that some people's brain chemistry is stimulated with some sort of "feel good" hormone when they organize.  I have had friends in the past who thrive on organization and they organize everything - they can not wait to jump out of bed and organize everything in sight, in fact, they get up at 5:30 a.m. to do just that.  Then they come to my house - I have kids rooms somewhat a mess, beds don't always get made, pantry is not got the cans stacked perfectly and so on.  Far, far from a hoarding problem, I believe my home is very normal, and I don't overfocus on organization, because when I tackle organizational problems, whether they are boxed puzzle games to cleaning out the junk drawer, to deciding what to keep and give away in the garage or closets, I do not get that "feel good brain chemistry" that stimulates me to keep going.  I start with a good intention, and then after everything is pulled out, I get lost in the mess I just made and have to walk away from it.  Even small organizational tasks can be overwhelming for me.  Instead I thrive off of the same "feel good brain chemistry" when I do something creative like paint pictures or write - you can not tear me away from those types of projects, so I know what that "feel good" brain chemistry is like, I just can not get that stimulated when it comes to organization and giving away.  Now, my home is clean and up to date - the dining room and office are company show-able, and kept free of clutter.  The kitchen gets cleaned daily, the fridge and pantry get cleaned out weekly.  Clutter piles up and I get the kids to help.  But I'm in a good mood with no money or marriage problems.  I think this family accidentally sprialed downward in many areas of their lives all at the same time and just can not get it together themselves.  For one thing, when you start trying to organize, beside the fact that some folks can not figure out what to give away, or how to organize what they have left, kids get into stuff and start crying over what they don't want to part with, so then you have family conflict.  These people must throw their hands up and "just give up".  I think the children need to be sent to a grand parent's or aunt's home with one suitcase of their most precious stuff, being told in advance that everything else will be gone when they get back.  They need to spend the summer so mom and ddad have the whole summer to work on this.  Mom and dad, here ismy technique - it is backwards from how most do it and much easier on the brain:  Pick a number, say 20.  That is your key number.  in every room you may keep the 20 most important, valuable, unbroken/good condition things total...everything else must be given away, thrown out or sold.  Imagine your home on fire - you have only so much you can rescue.  At the end of WWII, my mom's family had their property confiscated by the communists in eastern europe - they were raided by surprise and told that they had 1 hour to get their most important stuff - they were dumped just inside the German border (they were Sudetenland Deutch).  My grandmother's priority was jewelry, identification documents, medication, work clothing.  She stuffed her gems in my mother's two dolls to keep them from being confiscated.  Everything else was taken!  They re-bilt their lives and are happy.  Our minister gave a sermone once that ammounted to:  the less stuff you need to maintain, the more time you have for people and God.  Do not be slaves to the idols called "stuff". 


Begin by packing a suitcase as for a trip:  10 outfits, personal stuff like toothpaste, makeup, deodorant, and go get a hotel room for the week, or stay with a friend.  After this, go back in to your home and one room at a time, haul it all outside, without evaluating anything.  Slap a sign up that says "Garage Sale" and arrange for charity to pick up the rest.  Vacuum/steam clean carpets, and do a quick paint job of the whole room and wash the windows, getting rid of old window treatments/broken blinds or soak blinds in a hot tub with clorox.  Then bring in ONLY 20 of the most important things that room needs.  Remember each bed only needs one sheet, blanket and pillow - donate all other bedding, because at your situation you can not maintain more than this.  each bedroom needs 1 bed, 1 nightstand (avoid dresser, the drawers collect junk) and 10 outfits in the closet/3 pair shoes.  donate all faux jewelry, keeping only 1 jewelry item for each outfit.  Bathrooms need:  1 towel/person, 1 hair drier, 1 bottle of shampoo/rinse, 1 toothpaste to share, 1 bar of soap, only enough personal stuff to fit in the clear baggie the airports allow.  the kitchen needs 1 set of pots/pans, 1 place setting/person, & 1 set of dish cloths.  Living room:  1 couch, 1 coffe table, 1 tv, no nicknacks, 1 vacuum, 1 bucket cleaning supplies;  office:  1 desk with bills and personal paperwork sorted.


sell everything and use the money towards bills.  good luck!

Thank you for your good advise.  I am faceing the daunting chalenge of downsizing my mother-in-law who is a hoarder.  Your ideas are extreemly helpful.  Although she isnt as bad as Nancy in the story, she has a 2600 square foot house FULL, pig trails through the hall ways and rooms full to the ceiling,  an oversized 2 car garage and 2 storage units that she pays for each month (but has NO idea what is in them)  Maybe there is hope after all!  Thanks
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