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Saturday, September 8, 2007

A son's struggle

He called me last week, "I need help, my father's landlord wants to get into my father's apartment and we've got to pack up his stuff". Okay, I can do that, I said. "Well, it's not that easy, you see, my father has a problem. He's a real packrat. He collects everything he can get his hands on. I've cleaned out his place a dozen times and everytime I go back, it's the same story. And we fight and argue over throwing away paper bags and empty containers and string and rubber bands and newspapers - he collects garbage. He also has more food than your average grocery store. There's so much stuff you can't use the kitchen or even close the bathroom door. I don't know what to do anymore. But I can't face going in there alone."

Hoarding is a serious disorder and much more common than we ever imagined. After years of working as an organizer I now know that I can walk ANY block in ANY neighborhood in ANY city and find at least one, if not more, hoarders living there. In my own condo complex I know of 6 units that are suffering because of hoarding issues. I also know several people who have homes with over 100 cats - they are hoarding animals.

Fortunately, hoarding is being seriously studied by researchers in several hospitals and universities. Just recently several new books have come out on the subject. (Buried in Treasures and Overcoming Complusive Hoarding) You can find out more about hoarding by going to the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization. and take the hoarding scale test to see if your friend or family member has a serious problem.

The sad fact is that yes, we cleaned out his father's apartment, but by this time next week the collecting will have begun again.

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