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Column: Hoarders and haters
by Lauretta Hannon
August 15, 2013 11:47 AM | 6638 views | 0 0 comments | 110 110 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Lauretta Hannon
Lauretta Hannon
Q: I have a friend who has become a hoarder. This behavior is destroying her family relationships. Is there anything her friends can do to help?

A: Hoarding is a complicated condition, and long-term change is often elusive. Here are some tips from the International OCD Foundation.

o First, educate yourself about this behavior.

It’s so much more than messiness and treatment includes more than just cleaning the house. Hoarding involves both skill deficits that are likely biological in nature, and learning patterns that have been in place for many years, often decades.

o Help your friend find a professional in the area.

Look for a cognitive behavioral therapist familiar with hoarding.

o Be patient. Understand that change is very difficult for most hoarders, and therapy is not a “quick fix.”

o Reward progress.

The change process starts out very slowly in treatment. It may take one hour to go through a half-inch stack of papers. As with any skill, as the hoarder gets more practice in making decisions regarding their items, the process gets easier and things speed up. Remember to give praise for any effort they put into changing the behavior.

o Avoid common traps.

Because the process is slow, most family and friends feel pressured to accelerate the process by helping the hoarder make decisions about possessions, or by just doing it for them. Don’t do this. When the hoarder doesn’t have an active role in the decluttering process, the home almost always become recluttered. Also, be mindful of the comments you are making to the hoarder. Don’t remark on how little they are doing or how long it will take if they keep going at their current rate.

o Show them kindness.

Remember that hoarding is just one aspect of this individual. Know that hoarding is rarely malicious and doesn’t mean that they care more about their stuff than you. They are literally unable to do what you have asked of them, which is often to “just throw it out.” It is good to rebuild your relationship by doing enjoyable activities together, as strong relationships often make it easier for hoarders to part with their possessions.

Q: I’m quite serious about what I’m about to say. I think you’re full of it. You’re always talking about namby-pamby “feel good” stuff instead of helping people to actually be successful. In case you didn’t notice, power and money equal success in this world. It’s time for you to get real with people. When are you going to figure this out?

A: First of all, I don’t give a hoot what you think. I gave that up in my early 30s.

I do agree on the topic of power, but I refer to millionairess Brooke Astor’s definition. “Power is the ability to do good things for others,” she said. And I’d add that success is measured by how well you help others.

As for money, the lack of it is the root of all evil, just as Mark Twain said. Having grown up poor, I understand it’s wise and prudent to have cash on hand. However, I’ve also learned that external worth has nothing to do with inner worth. And that is the value that counts.

Peruse another column for financial advice. Read this column for matters of the heart and spirit. If you want to prosper and have abundant happiness, you’ll invest in the great riches of life: love, forgiveness, gratitude, character, integrity and purpose.

Most of the folks I draw inspiration from have no trust funds, no teeth and no prospects, but they have a heap of soul. And they live. As Henry Miller said, “The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware.”

Let me issue you a challenge. Look with a new eye on the deeper things you’ve dismissed up until this point. Go past outward appearances, and dive in to what you thought was insignificant or not worth your time or resources. Then you’ll begin to feel a power so authentic it will knock your stocks — and bonds — off.

Send your questions to

Lauretta Hannon, a resident of Powder Springs, is the bestselling author of “The Cracker Queen — A Memoir of a Jagged, Joyful Life” and a keynote speaker. Southern Living has named her “the funniest woman in Georgia.” See more at

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