Over the next few months, we will be interviewing professionals who work with the hoarding population. We are asking them to share their insight on people who hoard and people who think they have the hoarding disorder.
We recently interviewed Hilde Verdijk. Hilde has been a professional organizer since 2005. She specializes in working with chronically disorganized clients and clients with hoarding issues. She also offers training about hoarding for related professionals and caregivers. Hilde is a Master Registered Professional Organizer with the Dutch Professional association of Professional organizers (NBPO) a subscriber of The Institute for Challenging Disorganization and one of only two CPO-CD®s in Europe. She is also a member of the Dutch National Hoarding Work Group, which strives to educate the public and serves as a network for professionals. Hilde also contributed a chapter in the first Dutch book on hoarding, Problematische Verzamelaars (Problematic Collectors).
Questions & Responses
What Training have you taken?
Most of my training came through the ICD (The Institute for Challenging Disorganization ). I have read a lot of books and taken a lot of workshops and training. I have the Buried in Treasures training certificate given by Lee Shuer and last year I took Randy Frost’s training in Scotland. There also have been Dutch conferences specifically on hoarding, which I attended, with Dr Satwant Singh as keynote speaker (he was also a speaker at the Portland ICD conference.) Yourganize is also a member of the National Working Group Hoarding, an organization consisting of people with different disciplines. The Working Group includes staff of the GGD (local health organizations), social workers, Mental Health professionals, therapists, mind-care staff, and nurses. We share information and new research all the time and make sure referrals happen more quickly and easily.
What percentage of your clients do you suspect have hoarding tendencies?
Over 60% at the moment. Some have had the proper diagnosis, and some may have hoarding tendencies, but it is not the main part of the problem.
As you start working, are there times when you discover this is something other than hoarding?
A lot of the time. Some people treat the term hoarding like it is a badge of honor. “Oh, I’m a hoarder.” It can be used as an excuse. I also see clients challenged by OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). I live in an area where there is a high percentage of autism, partly because of the type of industry in this area. About 75% of my clients have some form of autism.
What tool do you use to determine the amount of clutter?
I use the Clutter/Hoarding Scale®. I also use my senses, vision and smell tell you a lot. I inform my clients that safety comes first – for you – the client, for me, for your neighbors, for first responders. I look for smoke detectors and fire extinguishers. I look at the structure of the building and notice if there are unobstructed entrances and passageways. And we always start at the entrances to make the building more accessible and therefore safer to work in.
Do you usually work alone or with a team? If you work with a team, who do you want on your team?
I usually work alone on the organizing. Sometimes I bring in my son for heavy lifting, I taught him how to handle the stuff and more importantly how to talk to the client. If I would want more people on the team, I would go for a therapist to handle the mental health issues. It’s still difficult to find suitable team members. If a client refuses to get help from some of these sources, organization alone just can’t work. I had a client who was OCD, OCPD (Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder), on the Autistic Spectrum and an alcoholic. The client refused to talk with anyone, wouldn’t let me talk to anyone and had a delusional idea of what an organizer without this support could do. I had to quit working with them, also because she started stalking me.
Would you be willing to share something you learned – maybe the hard way – from a client?
Be extra careful when clients have addictive issues. I have learned to add a clause to my contract saying I would not work with anyone under the influence of drugs or alcohol and I don’t work anywhere that has weapons in the home. I can’t work where I don’t feel safe.
What advice would you give someone considering going into the field?
Get a good education. Learn, read, and talk to experienced organizers. Watch the TV shows and try to determine if that approach works and does no harm. Get your credentials. Don’t share information about clients with journalists ever! Clients should not be exposed in tv shows that are not sincerely trying to offer help, most of these shows here in Europe just want “juicy stories” and not the background information. If you are offered a job and you don’t feel up to the challenge, then don’t do it! Pass it on to someone better suited to handling it. You might harm your client if you don’t, but also yourself and your business.
Do you have a shareable list of resources for people challenged by hoarding or their families?
My own website has a whole part dedicated to hoarding, and it’s referred to often at conferences here in the Netherlands as being quite thorough, which is nice. But please note that it is all in Dutch. Also, there is an open Facebook page for the public, to ask questions and be educated. There are professionals involved to refer to, but it’s meant for potential clients and their families.
Thank you very much for this fabulous time spent together learning more about the work you do. If you are or if you know a professional who works with people with hoarding tendencies, please feel free to get in touch with us. We’d love the opportunity to talk with you, too! Diane N. Quintana is a Certified Professional Organizer, Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization, ICD Master Trainer and owner of DNQ Solutions, LLC based in Atlanta, Georgia. Diane teaches busy people how to become organized and provides them with strategies and solutions for maintaining order in their lives. She specializes in residential and home-office organizing and in working with people challenged by ADD, Hoarding, and Chronic Disorganization. Jonda S. Beattie is a Professional Organizer and owner of Time Space Organization based in the Metro-Atlanta area. As presenter, author of three books as well as a retired special education teacher, she uses her listening skills, problem solving skills, knowledge of different learning techniques, ADHD specialty, and paper management skills to help clients tackle the toughest organizational issues. Jonda does hands on organizing, virtual organizing, and moderates a Zone Plan Teleclass for those who prefer to work on their own with organizational coaching.