Property management business owners sometimes have to deal with hoarding problems. They may have tenants who pack the property full of stuff and then have to deal with the costly cleanup afterward.
Today, I am talking to Marnie Matthews, a licensed clinical social worker specializing in hoarding and clutter. She is intrigued by the mental health piece of hoarding, which has many factors tied into it. To Marnie, success is when everybody wanting help has easy access to affordable and professional help.
[04:36] Types of Hoarding: Hoarding disorder, hoarding behavior, and excessive clutter.
[05:10] Hoarding Disorder: Somebody who has extreme difficulty/inability to let things go.
[05:33] Hoarding Behavior: People who can address their hoarding after handling mental health issues, such as depression.
[06:01] Excessive Clutter: Depending of the level of clutter, someone may have hoarding disorder or just be chronically disorganized.
[06:28] Clutter you can clean up quickly and easily; does not impact daily living.
[06:48] Those with hoarding disorder believe they can clean up their home, but they are actually unable to do so.
[07:05] Brains of people with hoarding disorder work differently; making decisions is difficult, and then frustration and anxiety builds – nothing is accomplished.
[07:57] During crisis case management with property managers, Marnie focuses on safety issues.
[08:16] Uniform inspection checklist is a tool used to help people pass inspections.
[09:28] Remember: Hoarding is a mental health issue; be compassionate, but continue to handle liabilities and responsibilities.
[10:04] Harm Reduction Approach: Have a conversation about safety and reducing risk rather than the clutter.
[11:26] Anyone with hoarding issues needs to get mental health treatment and support, but resources are limited.
[11:56] Typical Response: Property managers don’t know what to say because hoarding situations are overwhelming, but don’t threat tenants or tell them to get rid of everything.
[14:30] Tenant may not achieve 100% of what’s required, ask them what happened to identify their habits – don’t try to control them, but inspire them.
[15:38] The Clutter Movement provides consultations and trainings for property managers, as well as services and support for tenants and their family members.
[18:30] Hoarder’s Mindset: What does it feel like when someone goes through your personal belongings to determine what is and isn’t important?
[21:00] Things people are holding onto are about their identity; it may look like trash to the rest of us, but those things mean something to the hoarder.
[23:45] Marnie asks two questions: If you woke up tomorrow and your home was as you wanted it to be, what would your life be like? What is something you want to do that you are not doing or can’t do now because of the clutter?
[26:09] People are reward-motivated; don’t focus on the problem, but something that will move them forward.
[27:58] Addiction aspect of hoarding could be due to a lack of connection; hoarding is not an addiction, but associated thoughts/behaviors need to be treated like an addiction.
[31:00] Difference between hoarding and squalor; hoarding regards possessions, while squalor focuses on unsanitary environmental conditions.
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Jason: All right, and we are live. Welcome DoorGrowHackers to the DoorGrow Show. If you are a property management entrepreneur that wants to add doors, make a difference, increase revenue, help others impact lives, and you’re interested in growing your business and life, and you are open to doing things a bit differently, then you are a DoorGrowHacker. DoorGrowHackers love the opportunities, daily variety, unique challenges and freedom that property management brings.
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I’m your host, property management growth hacker, Jason Hull, the founder of OpenPotion, GatherKudos, Thunder Local, and of course, DoorGrow. Now, let’s get into the show.
Today, I have a really interesting guest with a really interesting topic. I’m hanging out with Marnie Matthews who has alliteration in her name; we were talking about it before the show. Marnie, welcome to the show and I love your celebrity sounding name. Tell us a little bit about you and what you do.
Marnie: Sure. Thank you for having me. It’s an opportunity for me also. I am a licensed clinical social worker. I specialized in working with people with hoarding disorder, hoarding behavior and excessive clutter—we can get into the differences in those later on.
I actually started doing this about eight years ago. I was watching the TV shows, imagine that, and completely intrigued by this disorder. At the same time, I actually went back to school as a mature student to get my Master’s in Social Work and had the opportunity to interim at an elder service agency under the hoarding program. I had no idea that those two paths we’re going to cross. As soon as I found out that I could work with people with hoarding situations, I dove in head first and I’ve been doing it ever since.
Jason: What was so fascinating to you about hoarding? I read your bio, and you saw this on the TV show, and even then you we’re so fascinated by it. What do you think caught your attention about it that was so interesting?
Marnie: I think I’m just completely intrigued by the mental health piece, by the family dynamics. It’s so multifaceted and I think a piece of it appeals to my ADHD, because with hoarding disorder there’s so many other things that are tied into it. But you’re always having to think on your feet. There’s a different way to get from point A to point B with every client. There’s different people that you work with, if you’re doing crisis management. I think that the disorder just completely intrigues me and the work just keeps me constantly growing, curious, and moving forward.
Jason: How common is hoarding? Because I imagine property management business owners, they run into this. They have tenants that are doing this and they’re dealing with the cleanup afterwards. They’re doing an inspection and then, surprise, they’ve got somebody that’s starting to look like this. How prevalent or common is it? Is there any idea on that?
Marnie: Yes, there is. Research shows that 3%-5% of the population of the United States struggles with hoarding disorder. However, we think that’s actually really low. It’s probably close to double that, because there’s a lot of property managers will be able to attest to most people in these hoarding situations are discovered rather than self reporting. Either they don’t realize that they have a problem with low insight and not seeing that it’s a problem, or they may know but not know how to handle it and not being able to reach out for help due to shame, embarrassment, or fear of judgment. We’re thinking it’s close to 8%-10% of the population.
Jason: Imagine the shame factor is probably almost always coupled with that. There’s this sense that, something I’m doing is bad, sick, and wrong—I need to hide this. I would imagine it’s not as reported as people may think. It’s like, people just don’t know. How do hoarders typically get identified? Maybe you could explain what it really is, what is hoarding?
Marnie: Very good question. We’ll start to back it up. There is a diagnosis that’s called hoarding disorder, but there’s a hoarding disorder, there’s hoarding behavior, and there’s issues like excessive clutter that’s due to chronic disorganization and things like that.
A lot of people due to what they see on the TV shows, that they see clutter that’s excessive in their perspective, they automatically might label it hoarding.
The biggest difference is, if somebody with true hoarding disorder, the primary feature we look for is somebody who has extreme difficulty or the inability to let things go. If you go into a cluttered home and say, “We’re here to help, what can we do?” The person is like, “Oh, I’ve been waiting for help. Just take stuff and help me. I have no problem with you helping me.” They can get rid of things and they don’t have hoarding disorder.
Jason: Right, got it.
Marnie: However, they may have a hoarding behavior and that hoarding behavior can be due to other mental health issues. Let’s say, they’re severely depressed. Once the depression subsides, or those symptoms are alleviated in some way, they’re able to work on the clutter, or they’re better able to address it.
Jason: There’s other things causing it, but they’re not technically a hoarder, or have hoarding disorder.
Jason: And then the excessive clutter?
Marnie: The level of cluster does not indicate whether there’s hoarding disorder, or not. There’s a likelihood—if it’s at a certain level or above, but it doesn’t definitely indicate that. But there’s people that are just chronically disorganized and that can be from symptoms speaking of ADHD, people that have trouble keeping up with things, people may be medically—they’re unable to keep up with the general housekeeping of their home.
The difference between clutter and hoarding—clutter, you clean it up pretty quickly, pretty easily, if somebody is going to come over in 30 minutes, or an hour, people would be able to attend to it and get it cleaned up. It also doesn’t impact the activities of daily living, like being able to prepare food, being able to get to and use the bathroom in the home, or sleep on the bed.
When you have somebody with hoarding disorder and you ask them to clean things up, they honestly believe that they can and they will say, “Oh yes, I can do this.” But given an hours’ time, they’re generally not able to do any of it because of the hoarding disorder itself, also because they struggle with things like depression, anxiety, ADD, and ADHD. They also have shown that people with hoarding disorders, their brains work differently so there’s a lot of processing issues.
Being able to organize, and categorize, and make decisions is very difficult which is why somebody with hoarding disorder if you say, “Can we clean this up?” “Absolutely, I can do it.” Then an hour later, generally nothing has been done.
Jason: They feel they’re stuck. They get in these loops and spirals, they get frustrated. The anxiety builds and then they end up just overwhelmed and probably nothing is accomplished.
Jason: Okay, I get it, the difference between just excessive clutter. A property manager may walk in to a property and see excessive clutter, but if it’s not impacting daily activities—they can get in and out of doors safely, they can sleep in their bed, they can cook food, those kinds of things—it’s just mess. It’s not technically that they may have a hoarding disorder, they’re just messy.
Marnie: Right. In instances where I’m working with property management to do what I call Crisis Case Management, I don’t spend a lot of time during that crisis period, whether it’s a week, whether it’s six months that we’re working on the clutter to be able to bring things to least compliance.
What I focus on is just those safety issues. I know that the Uniform Inspection Checklist, I think is attached in the description on here. That is the tool that we use that helps people pass inspections and it talks about just, you we’re saying, “Are there egresses or are there pathways, is there room to prepare food, are there trip and fall hazards?” By doing that, we’re able to take the subjectivity out of it.
If some people’s tolerance for clutter is a lot lower than others and that can impact on how we make a judgment on whether the things are safe, or pass inspection. Uniform Inspection Checklist, keeps this all on the same page and it also helps the resident to know whether there are hoarding issues, or not, they still need egresses, pathways, unobstructed windows, and things like that.
Jason: Okay, that checklist is also available on your website?
Marnie: Correct. Thecluttermovement.com, it’s one of the top tabs.
Jason: What’s the name of your website again?
Marnie: The Clutter Movement.
Jason: Thecluttermovement.com, okay great I got it. The property managers can check out that checklist. How do you help property managers and how can you help? Let’s say a property manager comes across this and they’re like, “Oh my gosh, what do I do about this?” What are the first steps, and then where do you get involved, and what can you help them do?
Marnie: Fist of all, it’s really important to remember that this is a mental health issue and that we do need to approach the person as a person with compassion and remembering that they’re in a situation that this person likely did not choose to live this way. If you show them the picture of their life 20 years ago and say, “This is how it’s going to be in 20 years.” This was not their dream.
Marnie: To remember that—that being said while we have compassion and empathy, we still understand that property management—you have other liabilities. You want to be compassionate, understanding with this but you have other liabilities and responsibilities to other tenants in the surrounding area also. What we suggest is, to use the Harm Reduction Approach. Again, I’ll refer to that, the Uniform Inspection Checklist based on a Harm Reduction Approach.
For example, if I went in to a home and it was highly cluttered and I couldn’t open the door. Typically, people will go in and say, “There’s too much stuff here. You need to get rid of all the books that are behind that door. Get rid of 80% of your belongings,” things like that. What that does is for anybody, if you were to walk in their house and tell them what to do with their stuff, no matter if we have clutter, or not we’re going to say, “Hey, you stop telling me what to do.”
The approach we use, the Harm Reduction Approach, is having a conversation and saying, “I noticed that when we tried to open the door, I couldn’t open it all the way. I’m concerned about your safety. How can I help you make this safe?” By doing that, we’re not talking about the clutter.
The Harm Reduction Approach is, how reduce risk. It’s not a way to solve the hoarding problem necessarily, but with that checklist people could follow. Once they meet all of those targets, people that are in the home with them, if it’s family, or its home care workers, or other people coming in to help them can pay attention to those areas. But that Harm Reduction Approach works even if you have somebody that doesn’t understand that they have a mental health issue. They have no insight to the problem, it’s still effective.
If they do realize there’s a problem, it can be effective. Everybody with hoarding issues really needs to get mental health treatment and support. Unfortunately, resources are slim because there’s so few of us around. In the absence of that Harm Reduction Approach, is absolutely the best way to approach things.
Jason: Initially, you say starting out from a space of compassion and approaching them, how can we help make sure that you’re safe with their well being and mind? Instead of, whatever the typical response is. What’s the typical response you run into? You step in and they’re dealing with a problem and it’s probably gone the wrong way. What do people typically try to do that doesn’t work?
Marnie: The typical response is, things like the statements I said earlier, “Get rid of all your books. Get rid of 80% of your things.”
I even have one property manager, years and years ago told somebody she had too many pillows on her bed. That was coming from a place of—I don’t know what else to say because this is so overwhelming. I always compare the typical responses I get. I compare them to what we do with our children sometimes and we’re really frustrated. We threaten them with things that we can’t, like, “I’m taking your phone away forever.” For my 14 year old, I’m like, “Oh wait, I need her to have a phone.”
It usually comes out of frustration and remembering that, this is again a human being. They do have a mental health issue. They are struggling. If you can approach it again, with that Harm Reduction Approach, that is just the best way to do it. Try to take out all the personal feelings you have about that items that they have in their home and just approach it as a matter of fact objective safety first and then beyond that, if we can connect them with somebody to help.
If there’s a hoarding task force in the area, if it’s an elder, if there’s adult protective service you can pull in, or something to that effect. That’s the best way to approach it.
Jason: Initially, they’re going to feel some frustration. They’re going to be freaking out when they see this place probably initially. The goal initially is just to shift from that space of frustration of fear to compassion and focusing on their safety and well being. That’s going to be the first step.
You mentioned that there’s some things that put them towards—but then what would they do next? How do they deal with this?
Marnie: Here’s the tricky piece, is if you’re doing this and you don’t have any other supports, it’s going to be frustrating. Because dealing with hoarding issues anyways is frustrating, the disorder chronic and progressive, recidivism rate us high. Again, that Harm Reduction Approach is the most successful that we had.
If you go in and take everything away, you’ve caused trauma and loss which means you have triggered the hoarding behavior and it’s just going to get worst. Keeping that in mind, being able again to use that checklist and say something like, “Okay, we need to be able to open and close the front door and the back door all the way. What can we do to help you get that done within a week, or within two weeks?” Then check back in often to see if they’ve been able to accomplish that, if they’re able to bring in family members to see or somebody that they can help.
A key piece with that too is that, if you’d go back and find out that there’s not as much done as you hoped, most people will respond by going, “What are you thinking? You’re about to be evicted, do you want to be homeless? We’ve just clean the pathway and now it’s all messed up again?” What I find is the best appropriate is to say, “Last week you worked really hard, you have the pathway clear. Now, I see that it’s cluttered again, what didn’t work?”
Again, you’ll figure, if somebody has lived in a cluttered home for 5, 10, 15, 20 years, there are lot of bad habits they have from living in that home, being able to find out what their habits are. Again, if you’re property management, that’s really not your role because that’s mental health piece. But just remember that walking through it like that; you’re going to get the person to buy in more than doing the threatening, which we all tend to do sometimes because it just gets so frustrating and overwhelming.
Jason: I always say whenever we fail to inspire, we always control.
Marnie: Well said.
Jason: That’s the default. But if we can somehow inspire them to make this changes and chose into it, then great. Explain your organization, and what you do, and how that might help property management entrepreneurs?
Marnie: Sure, thank you. The Clutter Movement, right now it’s mostly online work. What I do is consultations, I do trainings, and person trainings all across the United States. I do consultations, if you have a case where you’re concerned about what to do, we can set up a consultation and talk through what the process is. But the other piece that we add to it—is we also have services and supports for individuals and family members.
I run groups for individuals and family members online to help them understand, not only what’s going on with them with their mental health piece but, if there’s a situation where a property management, or board of health somebody like that has called me and said, “We’re having difficulty managing with situation.” Then we set up a consultation with that resident too and talk them through the process, or supporting the work that the property manager is trying to do.
Jason: You can help to support the property manager, you also can work directly to help support the person with the disorder, or behavioral problem with hoarding, and you can also work with that individual’s family in a support related role as well.
I’m sure then that there’s lot of questions like, “How should I approach this? What should I do?” There’s a lot of guidance there to make sure that you’re following this compassionate process that’s going to work instead of dig them and then trench them deeper into the problem.
Marnie: Correct, that’s the consultation piece. I also want to ensure people that the work that I do often times, when I do work—when I’m actually on site, people find out the social workers is coming to help and everybody rolls their eyes like, “Oh great. Now, the person’s going to be here for five years going through therapy before we get anything done.”
The work that we do with the crisis case management is quite the opposite. We want to have compassion and work in a reasonable timeframe for the individual. But we do understand the liabilities that have to happen with property management. We negotiate through that consultation, we negotiate what’s reasonable but what’s not, and being able to set up times to have them go in and check in on the person to make sure they’re meeting those targets. There’s some accountability and some leverage to be able to do that.
The other thing I wanted to say is that a piece of the work too is also finding local resources. If somebody were to do a consultation, this is typically what we get, is somebody who is 65 years old, she’s been living in this home, and it’s highly cluttered, we have an inspection. What we’ll do is see if there’s an elder service agency in the area, a taskforce in the area, but we work to connect people also. Even though I might not be on site, we’ll work to connect them that can be onsite to help out with the situation.
Jason: That sounds pretty invaluable. I don’t know if you feel comfortable, but could you explain—I think one thing that helps compassion is helping understand how the hoarder really sees it. You mentioned it’s like the equivalent, if you come in the wrong way, you’re telling them to get rid of the stuff.
Where are they’re at, what’s their mindset, what are their fears? Maybe you could give us an idea of what the experience is like for a hoarder, which I think would help all the listeners understand what they’re dealing with and what they’re going through a little bit more.
Marnie: That’s a good question. One of the things that I do when I do trainings, I always start out with an exercise, and you have to imagine this. Where I have everybody that’s attending the training, bring out whatever they have that they brought all their personal items in, if it’s a purse, if it’s a wallet, it’s a book bag, backpack, and anything like that.
Jason: I got cellphone, got my wallet, a money clip, okay.
Marnie: There you go. What I do is have them take that out and then give it to the person next to them. Once they give it to the person next them, then I say, “That person that has your items now is going to open up your purse. They’re going to go through it. Go through the wallet; pick out two to three things that they feel don’t belong. And I’m going to take them home with me and throw them away.”
Now, I don’t follow through with that. However, working up to that point, the panic, the anxiety that people have that don’t even have hoarding disorder, just imagining somebody else going through their things and deciding what’s important. Because how do you know what’s important to me. I might have something that doesn’t look important to you, but it could be extremely valuable to me. That’s one piece of it.
Another thing is that, I had somebody that I worked with for a couple of years. One of the things that she had in her home, that was very difficult for her to get rid of—she had two large kitchen drawers that we’re full of bread ties. If you can imagine how little those things are, the little plastic. Imagine how small they are, but she had drawers stuffed full of them. She could not get rid of them. She just could not let go of those items.
When we talked about it, when we initially were working together, she said it was because she needs to recycle them, she could reuse them. But after we’re able to get through a couple months of therapy, she had a moment where she realized she was holding on to those items because she had very rough time as a single mother raising her children and finding jobs, sometimes being unemployed, sometimes not being able to provide for her kids. Those bread ties for her were the link proved that she was a good mother and took care for her kids.
Jason: Right, like feeling them.
Marnie: A lot of times, the thing people are holding on to is about their identity. Is it something that, somebody has a ton of cook books because they want to have people over and they want to be able to cook this great meal and that’s who they want to be but they’re not able to do that.
I worked with somebody once who had a couple of rooms and they’re upstairs and that were inaccessible and they were full of clothes. Most of them have tags on them still, from a job that she had retired from 20 years prior. She couldn’t get rid of any of them, because that was her identity. If I get rid of those clothes, who am I now, because that’s who I was.
Being able to understand, it may look like trash to us, it make look like something that clearly, you’re never going to wear again, or you never have worn, it’s been there for 20, or 30 years. But you have to think about, what does this mean to that person? That’s that person identity, what they’re wrapped up in.
If it’s things like recycling, if people keep a lot of recycling, that’s their identity, the person who can recycle things. The person who has something for everybody, they collect everything because that way, if you need anything, they’ve got it, and you know how to approach the person.
Jason: That makes sense. I watched a documentary on Netflix, I believe it’s called Minimalism. I think author wrote a book called Essentialism. After that, I was like, “I started clearing out my closet.” I started getting rid of some stuff because I was like, “This stuff is slowing me down.” But it was a mindset shift. I’m not a hoarder, I don’t even have excessive clutter, I’m probably not the neatest guy my wife would probably say. But, there was still a transition I had to go through to shift my mindset to see, “Hey, I don’t need everything. I don’t need every single shirt. I don’t even wear some of these shirts. I don’t even wear some of these pants.” But they’re there because—maybe I’ll use them eventually.
With hoarding disorder, hoarding behavior, or even excessive clutter—do you ever see radical transformation or is it always like a really long-term thing?
Marnie: That’s another thing that I find so intriguing about this disorder, the answer is yes. I find radical transformation, where people just get it all of a sudden. Then, I find that people have to work on the mental health piece for years before they get it. Then there’s some people that can work on the clutter. Then the mental health piece that gets to it some other point. There’s no way you can’t quantify it at all to say, “How long do you need treatment?” We’ve got a protocol for treatment but you just never know what exactly it is that’s going to trigger them to be able to make these decisions.
Usually for me, there’s actually two questions that I ask everybody I work with. I’m working with anybody, because I like to work collaborative team. For example, if it’s a property manager, I’m going to let them know the answer to these two questions, so we can help keep the person motivated and help keep them looking to move forward.
The first question that I ask is, if you woke up tomorrow and your home was as you wanted it to be, what would your life be like? Not what the home would be like, but with the life would be like. The number one answer I get is—freedom. The number two answer is—you wouldn’t be here, which is fine with me because I’m like, “Okay, we can work towards that also.”
The second question I ask is, what is something that you want to do, that you’re not doing now, or can’t do because of the condition of your home, or the clutter in your home? People want to have people over. One very tough case that I worked once was, they’ve been working with the couple for about 18 months prior to bringing me in. It’s a highly cluttered home, very narrow pathways, and everything is up to the ceiling. They needed to put a hospital bed in the living room for the wife after the surgery to be able to recover.
In 18 month, they really hadn’t been able to do a lot of work with them. I asked them both the same thing. One of the things that stuck with me is the gentleman says, “I want to play the piano again. That’s what I want to do again.” I asked them, I said, “Well what room is the piano in?” I was actually standing right next to it and unable to see a grand piano, because of the clutter in the home.
What would happen when people would go knock on the door and they wouldn’t let them in, we’re tired, we don’t want to see anybody, which I get. How many people knocking every week to come help them with this tough work? Then, they would talk to me, whether it’s me, property management, or the care workers that would come in, would say, “What song was that you’re going to play on the piano when we’re able to get to it? Tell me about that music that you’re going to do again? Let’s go ahead and start moving forward.” That is the most effective way to move people forward, whether or not we’re having that “aha” moment of the insight, where they’re suddenly able to do things.
Jason: I’ve heard that describes as keeping your eye on the donut, not the hole. It’s this idea, right? “Oh man, that donut is missing something in the middle.” No, there’s a donut there. I think the other thing is like, I’ve realized just having dogs and animals are far more reward motivated, than away from pain motivated.
If I get my dogs treats to get them to implement change their behavior, they do it really well. Same thing with my son, my kids, I’m like, “Hey, you’ll get this reward.” but if I’m like, “If you keep doing this, you’re going to get punished, or this is going to happen.” I keep them focused on the problem. I just get more of the problem and the behavior doesn’t change.
That’s the challenge, I think that’s their temptation, is to try and let’s help them see all the problems that we can see, and the pain that we can see instead of helping them finding them—find some toward or forward motivator that’s going to lead them towards some pleasure, or some positive outcome, or some joy that’s going to help overshadow that. I think those positive emotions are infinitely so much stronger than the dark ones. Little bit of positive is so much stronger than tons of dark.
Marnie: I did a training once for a large conference. The night before, I think it’s for home care workers. The night before, the person that organized the conference called me and said, “I just really want you to stress how to talk to a hoarder. What’s the language we use?” There’s things that you want to mirror their language, you want to touch their items without permission. They say, “Pardon my collection,” go with it and say,”collection.”
But when I really started thinking about I’m like, “You talk to them the exact same way you would talk to anybody else. You motivate them, — I guess there’s a mental health component, but if you’re not trained to do mental health work, then don’t try it.
Jason: Right, don’t try to fix something.
Marnie: You have to set that positive motivation—that unconditional regard for people. You’re going to get a lot more work done and a lot more movement.
Jason: This is might be a little off topic, but one of the things I saw, TED Talk and this guy was talking about the true nature of addiction. He was talking about what causes addiction and addictive behavior. It sounds like there may be an aspect of addiction somewhat connected to the hoarding possibly. He was talking about how they noticed in rats that we’re like, given heroin water, or just water that were left alone. They would just drink the heroin water until they die. But if you gave them a big space with the toys to play with and other rats to have sex with and like, all this fun. They would not go for the heroin water. They would just go for the regular water.
You’re saying that the real cause of addiction is a lack of connection and how that’s really what people are craving. I would imagine, the first thing you have mentioned is that, one of the things they may respond with that what they really would want, is to be able to have people over and to be able to connect. I imagine that, and it seems to be, that hoarding seems to always be associated with old age. Does that seem to be true?
Marnie: Yes. A lot of good information for question so the interesting thing with that question is people say that, or feel like that. The thing is, is that this is a chronic and progressive disorder. We recognize that the behavior starts in early adolescence.
Jason: Then it gets worst, is what you mean by progressive.
Marnie: Right. However, I mean depending on when somebody has that trauma or loss to trigger the behavior to where it gets out of control. We don’t know when that’s going to happen, but we also would skip question is—Why is it always elders that struggle with this so much. That’s not the case. It’s just that they’re entering into the system.
Remember I talked about most people with this issue are discovered. They don’t reach out for help. If somebody all of a sudden is requiring medical help in the home, maybe they need a lift assist, call the fire department, they’re getting wheels on wheels, they’ve fallen and the family has come in for the first time in seven years.
Jason: And they’re exposed.
Marnie: It’s mostly elders. The other thing you said about addiction is interesting, because Hoarding Disorder on its own is not an addiction. That means that the thoughts and the behaviors that go along with this disorder have to be treated like an addiction because there are always going to be. You’re never going to hear anybody with hoarding.
Marnie: Hoarding disorder is also almost always accompanied with an addiction to shopping or acquiring, whether it’s actively, passively, free stuff, expensive stuff, and sale things. The fact that it’s accompanied with that, we have to take those two things separately to treat them. Like you said, what is this acquiring about, what hole or void are they trying to fill, because it’s like any other addiction with alcohol and drugs.
In addition to that, now, what are their thoughts and behaviors as to why they can’t let things go once they get them? Because there’s lots of people with shopping addictions that don’t have hoarding issues.
Jason: There’s both sides of that. There’s the influx or stuff coming in to the home—the acquisition of things. Then there’s the letting go, which is both sides of that. That’s fascinating. Marnie, this is such an interesting conversation. What else should property management entrepreneurs know about hoarding that maybe we haven’t touched on? Then, how can they get a hold of you, I guess, would be the last thing.
Marnie: Perfect. One thing that I want to point out is, there’s a difference between hoarding and squalor. Hoarding is what we’ve talked about, the hoarding of possessions. Even if we don’t feel that the item has a value, with hoarding behavior, hoarding disorder the items in somebody’s home have a purpose. They have a purpose for that item.
Squalor is that unsanitary environmental condition, where it’s a lot of what everybody agrees with is, trash, or unsanitary conditions. In the situation with squalor, the person has no purpose for those items. They’re going to easily let them go as long as they got help, they will do that.
We have such a situation where there’s only hoarding, we have situation where there’s only squalor, and then we have the combination of both.
When they’re combined, it’s usually because somebody with hoarding issues can’t get to those things to remove the trash. How do you get the trash into the trash can if you can’t even get across the hallway to do tha?
It’s very important to understand that there is a difference. A lot of the stuff you see on the TV shows, this crisis and you’ll notice now watching it, that a lot of t is squalor. The hoarding is there, but the primary shock value is the squalor that’s occurring in the home.
As far as getting a hold of me, you can get a hold of me, you can contact me through the website thecluttermovement.com, or you can email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. If anybody has any question ever, feel free to contact me because I’m more than happy to help out and direct you to in any way that we can and discuss what consultations would look like and things like that.
One more thing too, we also have a Facebook group. I have Facebook groups for people with issues of clutter. There’s one, The Clutter Movement Individual Support, specifically for individual struggling. We have The Clutter Movement Family Support, specifically for family members. If you come across anybody that is even saying, “They’re having problems with these issues. You can refer people to those groups.
Then we also have the Hoarding Task Force Network. The Hoarding Task Force Network has an international communication hub for people of all professions that come across hoarding. We got the top researchers, the top therapists, we’ve got professional organizers, we are property managers, we have boards of health, fire department, code enforcement, and it’s a great place to stay. If you’ve got an issue with the client, that’s hoarding you can go on there and say, “This is what’s going on, can anybody offer me some resources or some support?” Just for that immediate help to be able to get some ideas.
Jason: This brings me to this. I want to ask you this, Marnie, what is your vision for this whole arena of hoarding that you’re involved in? What is your long term vision here? You obviously have one with these communities that you’re doing, with the business that you’ve created. What drives you?
Marnie: What drove me is, being able to get a standardized way to approach this issue that everybody can use. A lot of times what’s been happening up to date with hoarding issues is that, the person needs mental health help, which is true, but people only focus on that. Then people, everybody, different agencies had different checklist to follow and nobody was familiar with a standardized and objective way to handle hoarding cases. Given that there’s a severe lack of mental help support, I’m looking at how can we best help the people that are already out there on the front lines of this. How can we help everybody have a way—a compassionate, and effective way to manage this?
There’s two things like that, there’s the Uniform Inspection Checklist, but it’s also in doing training and education the individual’s, the family members, and the professionals in the exact same way as to how a process for resolution goes, because up until now, we talked to individuals about, mental health issues. We’re training everybody in different ways and I think that’s not the best way to do it.
Then with The Clutter Movement, the two biggest issues we come across with hoarding is the lack of resources, especially mental health resources, and crisis management resources like what I do. Then at the cost, because remediation of hoarding cases is extremely expensive, but especially if you’re trying to somebody to a therapist, or get crisis case management, if you don’t have a staff member that knows how to do this, so you’re paying them $50,000 or $60,000 a year to do that, or somebody who can’t pay a $100 or $200 of pot to see a therapist. What are you going to do?
With The Clutter Movement, what we have is a subscription of memberships. So that, we run weekly groups, the individuals attend that group every week; we have forums and live chats on all different aspects of hoarding issues. We have the same for the family members, and then we’re launching the professional one next month which will include live office hours, virtual office hours. People who need a consultation just for that monthly fee can call in and get consultation, get guidance, and get some support.
Jason: Marnie, I love it. Here’s another question, you obviously have this vision, you’ve got a plan, you know the people that you want to serve and have an impact on, that’s apparent. If you’re looking down, you had a crucible and you’re seeing the future, and you achieve ultimate success with it your efforts, what would that world look like? What is your ultimate end goal here in regards to your mission in what you’re doing. How would you know that you have achieved success at the end of your time doing this, or end of your life, or whatever it might be. What would that success look like? What’s that vision?
Marnie: I think that success looks like, everybody that’s wanting help has easy access to affordable and professional specialized help. Additionally, with that, to give you a little window is to help big—I’m thinking with my plan, The Clutter Movement website is one thing. Like I said, there’s also funding issues for programs for agencies, we’re able to run support groups on site. For people to be able to say, “You know what? This place needs cleaned up, we need to help, and we need $5000-$10,000 to help.” The goal is, the first step is of course, getting The Clutter Movement that subscription site.
Like I said, we have the individual to family, now we’re launching the professional. Once we’re able to get those launched, we’re going to start taking a portion of all the membership fees and putting it into, whether a grant fund so that agencies who want to run a group but don’t have the staffing to do it can apply for grant funds to do that. But through that subscription model, we’ve always – we hoarding we’re like, “Oh we need a grant, we need a grant.” The people are fighting for grants, who can’t ever get grant—one year then you can’t get it for next year. But with that subscription model, that grant fund putting a percentage of the membership fees into that is going to be renewing. Just like, Angie’s List, renewing every month. It’s a fund that can be used, that’s going to be refilled every month that can start helping to finance and support more and more programs, and more and more help for these people.
Jason: Awesome. That some of your long-term and more immediate short-term vision, I love it. I imagined, you’re also open to other people that might hear this or resonate with your vision and say, “Hey, I want to get involved in this somehow.”
Jason: Okay, great. Marnie, fantastic to have you come out on the show and give us a little insight into this whole world that maybe many people aren’t familiar with, with this challenge that people might be dealing with and giving them some insights in how do you facilitate and help this people. I appreciate you coming and sharing all of this with us. Thank you so much.
Marnie: Thank you for giving me the opportunity. I appreciate it.
Jason: All right. Thanks, Marnie.
Cool, anybody that was turning into the show, listened to the show, appreciate Marnie coming out, make sure that you check her out at thecluttermovement.com and take a look at her program. She’s got that worksheet that you can download from her sites that you can make sure know what steps to take initially. If you need support, or have questions, or you just do know how to handle situation, then she’s the person to reach out. She’ll help you find the resources and get access to the things that you need in your market.
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