* "Hope for Chronic Clutter and Hoarding"
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West Hartford LIFE November 2006 p. 34
There's Help Amid the Mess:
Beth Johnson aids those who hoard or clutter without shame or blame

By Tracey Weiss


Within months, John and Joan Dunn each lost a parent, but gained roomfuls of inherited items that they didn't know where to store or sort out.

          "I had nowhere near as much stuff as he does," Mrs. Dunn said, "But we both inherited stuff from our parents."

Shoving boxes in the garage and the cellar didn't help, and within a short time, they found their pleasant eight-room home in Windsor completely loaded with papers, boxes and antiques and more.

          "The dining room was so cluttered you wouldn't even know that the top of the table was made of wood," Mr. Dunn said.  "It was three to four feet high with clutter.  We never ate in there."

          The master bedroom floor was given overto piles and piles of "stuff." Even a shower was stacked with boxes.

But with help from clutter relief coach Beth Johnson of West Hartford, the Dunns have managed to remove almost all of the clutter in their home, as well as deal with the issues that started their journey into disorganization in the first place.

          "John and Joan were dealing with grief issues as well as clutter," Ms. Johnson said.  "You know you have a problem when you can't find something you need, you know you have, and you have no energy to find it."

"It took us more than three years to get to where we are, but we've kept the house this way," Mr. Dunn said.

It is never easy.  The key for me is to keep working with Beth. I need the support and the motivation. People relate to other people.  Don't stop."

          "There is hope," Ms. Johnson said. "There's no magic wand and it doesn't happen overnight, but the rewards are the intangible. You get your life back."   Read the rest of the article


Before

 


After

Before they consulted with Beth Johnson, John and Joan Dunn's bedroom was one of many rooms in the house piled with items from their lives. John Dunn sits in his organized bedroom, where piles of papers and other items once grew to 4 feet tall.

Clutter Expert

Ms. Johnson's work over the years has been featured in newspapers and magazines.  In 2001, one of her support groups was recorded by camera crews over the course of four months for a television special that aired on Dateline-NBC and MSNBC. [Note:  the MSNBC special just aired again recently; keep your eyes open for an MSNBC Investigates documentary called "The Obsessed" to catch the next showing; usually shown on weekends, early AM hours.]

I started the business in 1996," she said. "My initial focus was on finding good homes for things.  It rapidly expanded in the psychology of hoarding."

          According to Ms. Johnson, there are more than 2 million hoarders in the United States and "there's probably more than that.  Hoarders have ADD (attention deficit disorder) and OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) issues and scientists are looking more closely at the issues surrounding it."

          She offers help via workshops, support groups, forums and consultations, as well as personal coaching via the phone and online.  Her group work is confidential and enormously rewarding, she said, for those who participate.

          "Group meetings help lift the burden of shame away.  People are overwhelmed.  They say, "I thought I was the only one."


Beth and her Clutter Club members celebrate the freedom from clutter in John and Joan's reclaimed dining room. From left to right: Dorothy, Beth, Joan, John. John and Joan now frequently host clutter support group meetings at their house!

Dorothy

          "I have hoarding problems," said Dorothy Daley, a regular support group participant who is still working on relieving her home of clutter.         

          "Everything is in my bedroom.  I have so much stuff.  I collect calendars, cups and saucers, cat-themed items, boats, lighthouses" and more.

          "What is the difference between a collector and a clutterer?"  Ms. Johnson said. "Dorothy is both.  When someone is a collector, you can see the items displayed.  When they're a clutterer, you can't."

          Among her many hoarded items, Ms. Daley explained, were some socks.  "I bought them, two pairs," she said.  "I'm a sucker for sales.  But they were too tight.  I kept them for three years."

One of the ways Ms. Johnson helps Ms. Daley let go is by having her bring an item or two from home to give away. One particular day, Ms. Daley brings a skirt to give away and Ms. Johnson has her explain the reasons why she's letting it go.

"I have reasons to let it go," she tells Ms. Johnson, holding out the skirt. "The color is wrong, the waist is uncomfortable. And I can't wear skirts any more."  She hands it to Ms. Johnson, who will donate it or find a new home for it.

"One of the ways in which you can get support when you give something away is to take it to a thrift shop where you know there's a person who listens and can "witness" you giving something away.  It validates why you should get rid of that item and lets you tell your story."

Clutterers and hoarders "need to set goals," she added.  "Don't do this in a vacuum.  I often pair mentors of the support groups to work side by side.  It's easier to take boxes of stuff to someone else's house and sort through it.  Do it out of the home."

"Clutterers are impulsive buyers," she said. "They make online purchases or even pick through trash and tend to personify items.  The best thing they can do is to think before they act.  Stop and think, "What is my purpose in owning this?"

"Do I need this?"

"Where will I put it?",  she added.

          "When dealing with years of backlog, the way to start is by changing thinking patterns.  Make tapes [of your new positive thoughts about letting go] or write down goals.  The act of writing engraves it." "Set those goals appropriately", she added. [Choose small specific goals that you can accomplish within a short period of time, and that will give you a feeling of success, then go and do more.]

          "Fewer things mean more freedom." [Beth's mantra!]

Beth Johnson is holding her next Clutter Workshop on November 18. 

For more information, contact her at (860) 232-3838 or visit www.Clutterworkshop.com


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