As professional declutterers and organisers, our professional debriefs often focus on the physical nature of the disorder.
One of the most important things we do is to look at WHAT IS THERE. Inuits have many modifiers to describe snow. The accepted language for possessions and their disorder has been limited to one word: CLUTTER.
We needed more. We needed to use the English language differently to conjure up accurate and graphic images, both between ourselves as professionals and to others. We needed a vocabulary...
- Anger trashing
- The Three Cs - clutter, clots and clogs
- Changing the geography
- First pass
- Goat's paths
- Looping and touching
- Pulling apart the clots
Sometimes we see rooms with odd things flung around. People can be angry about lots of things. Sometimes the anger is directed at the problem whatever it may be sometimes people take it out on themselves or their living spaces. It is particularly noticeable with long-term clients. A session is spent sorting a room, vacuuming the floor and making it livable. At the next appointment a layer of debris has re-appeared.
Anger Trashing is not hoarding, it is characterized as a thin layer of mixed trash over floor surfaces. It is very very easy to clear. Asking the client 'Are you angry about something?' 'Yes, (description as to why). How did you know?' Many times just having their anger acknowledged can produce a change of behaviour.
Very common amongst the children of hoarders. It is almost as though you can see them painting in bright letters: 'You have made our home a crowded messy nightmare. I can’t bring my friends here so my room might as well be as messy as the rest of the house.'
Sometimes the problem is exacerbated by a very simple lack: not enough bins. We see this often. This is a basic thing in keeping a house: a bin for every room. A very long big room may be better with two bins. In this era of re-cycling, having a special re-cycle bin near to any place set aside for paperwork or opening post can make a huge difference. Rubbish often ends up on the floor when there is no place to throw it.
Once bins are in place, it is interesting to see whether the behaviour changes. If it doesn’t, it is fair to ask: Is there something upsetting you? Is there something that you are angry about?
Paper, clothes, bags, and make-up are all easy categories to understand. Nowadays, homes are filled with things that have lots of bits and pieces, often unidentifiable bits of plastic. Bits of this, bits of that. Drawers become full of this. Our term is bitza. In the first pass, putting all the bitza into one place can start the process of reuniting.
Sometimes, even before whole floors are covered, doors will be intentionally blocked. These can be both internal doors and exits from the home. Those who manage to maintain pathways on bare floor and keep doorways clear are maintaining circulation which puts them in a qualitatively better position than those who have blocked exits and only have goat paths.
The person with clear doorways and bare floor paths may even have more stuff and the height of their piles may be greater than the person who doesn’t. When the entrance and exit doors are physically blocked, it is impossible to visit the home.
A question. Is the clutter keeping someone else out, or is it keeping the hoarder in?
The Three Cs
Reading the literature and looking at photos, it is easy to imagine that hoarding is all about quantities rather than the qualities of the items. This led us to the Three Cs - clutter, clogs and clots.
We have started using these terms with our clients who like being able to identify the problem. Read more about clutter, clots and clogs.
Changing the geography
Everyone becomes used to the internal geography of a room. For a compulsive hoarder, this geography is an unchanging landscape. When we break down a clot into its component parts and move them around the room, it becomes possible to see them again. That is only one side of what is happening. The landscape and the structure of the room are also being changed.
Sometimes, the first deconstruction of the internal landscape has happened before people call us in. They have had to make a path so that an engineer can fix the boiler or an electrician can check the wiring. What they see and learn from doing their own reformation of the landscape can be the first part of the motivation to call us. Compulsive hoarders living in a completed clog, will exist without heat or hot water rather than moving anything to let engineers into their homes.
We are interested in how the clutter, clots and clogs fit into the home environment. Whether it is clutter, a clot or a clog, the important qualifier is density. How solid is it, if you like, how many individual items are there? Neat tall piles of paper are very solid and very dense. Heaps of unfolded clothes may present a larger volume but the density is lower and they are much easier to shift.