Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Hoarding Survey for Anxiety Disorders Center

I got this letter in the e-mail today and figured if you're reading my blog you might be interested.  FWIW, the book, Buried in Treasures, is awesome, should you win it.

September 15, 2009


I am writing to you because you have contacted me in the past regarding compulsive hoarding.  Hopefully you found the information we sent you to be helpful, and that you received a copy of the Hoarding Newsletter from the New England Hoarding Consortium.

My colleagues and I would like to take this opportunity to invite you to participate in an exciting new research study on compulsive hoarding.  We hope this internet-based study will help improve our understanding and treatment of compulsive hoarding.

Who can participate?
We would like to invite everyone whose life has been affected by hoarding.  If you are a person who suffers from compulsive hoarding, or if you have a family member or friend with a hoarding problem, we would like you to participate.  If you are a mental health worker or service worker who regularly comes into contact with people who hoard, we'd also like to invite you to participate.

How long will it take?
The questionnaire will take approximately 60 minutes to complete.  Of course, individual times may vary due to differences in speed of reading and writing.  Because this is on the internet, you can take a break at any time and come back to it.  Just be sure not to close the webpage.

Will my answers be anonymous?
Yes.  We won't ask you for your name or any other personally identifying information.  Our program won't install cookies or other software on your computer.  We won't give out any information about your participation to other parties.  Therefore, you can rest assured that your responses will be completely private.

How will my participation help?  Right now, scientists and therapists know relatively little about compulsive hoarding.  Your participation will go a long way toward helping us understand the scope and impact of this problem.  That, in turn, will help us design better research studies and treatments for hoarding.

What will I get in return for my participation?
At the end of the survey, we will invite you to enter a raffle to receive one of 10 autographed copies of the new book Buried in Treasures: Help for Compulsive Acquiring, Saving, and Hoarding (Oxford University Press, 2007).  You can also feel good about the fact that you are helping us learn more about hoarding, which in turn will help us develop more effective research and treatment.

How do I participate?
Participating is simple.  Just go to www.surveymonkey.com/hoarding and answer the questions on the page.

Can I invite my family or friends to participate too?
Absolutely.  Please feel free to forward this letter to anyone who you think might be interested in helping us learn more about hoarding.  In addition, if anyone is reading this letter and has not received a copy of our email Hoarding Newsletter, please send an email to adcresearch@harthosp.org so that we can add you to our mailing list.

If you have any questions about this research, please feel free to contact Diana Harrington at 860-545-7039 or dharrington@harthosp.org.

Thank you in advance for your help and we look forward to learning more about your experiences.


David F. Tolin, Ph.D.
Director, Anxiety Disorders Center
The Institute of Living

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Toilet Now Works

Somewhere in a post long long ago, I mentioned the toilet.

This is the toiled a child clogged back before they were potty trained. This child is now a teenager.

Those many years ago, the child clogged two toilets. I fixed one, but was adamant that the spouse had to fix the other one.

It had become a symbol of my frustration. How, I asked, could a toilet go unreplaced or unrepaired for weeks, months, years?

Well, as of last night the symbol is gone. It flushes, it doesn't leak, it is clean. And spouse did it himself.


Saturday, April 18, 2009

Found Poem

This is a poem I found while de-cluttering before Easter.  It was written the day my spouse proposed to me:

To my partner in the body,
 Whose gaze fills me with love,
 In whose arms I am blessed with peace;

To my partner in the heart,
 With whom I share the delights of life,
 With whom my voice and feelings sing;

To my partner in the mind,
 Who can understand, share, and
 spur on my ponderings;

To my partner in the spirit,
 In whom my own spirit rejoices,
 To find a soul with whom I may
 Love and serve our God;

I now pledge to be your partner,
Until death and throughout eternity.
I look forward to having you
as a partner through the dance of life,
growing, teaching, learning,
mourning, celebrating, rejoicing,
    mind and body,
    heart and spirit,

Until we meet with our loved ones
at our Father's and our Savior's feet.

All my love...

Monday, April 13, 2009

Mission #4 - Defragging the house

It's so amazing having the house back again!  It's still messy, but it's messy like a normal, lived-in place.

I've got a dual track going now:

On the first track I'm starting to do normal home maintenance and repair - like patching holes in drywall and painting.  I can take an afternoon once a month and knock out a major room redo of that nature and have the whole house freshly painted by the end of the summer.  So cool.

On the second track I'm about to "defrag" the boxes in the erstwhile family room (aka storage room now).  There are over 200 boxes there now.

Some of you may remember the old days, when we would be asked to defrag our hard drives - a task that took about an hour, during which the tech support on the other end of the line would be collecting some kind of pay.  It was a great deal for them.  And defragging (defragmenting) a disk did usually help performance, even if it wasn't the primary cause of whatever problem caused us to call tech support in the first place.

When you first started to defrag the disk, the screen would show you a map of your hard drive, with the hard drive map colored according to the type of file segment found in the portion of the drive represented by each pixel.  At the beginning it would be a mess of different colors filling the whole screen.

Over time the bits and bytes would get shifted around, until each section of the hard drive contained similar "colors" of files. Best of all, there would appear a large chuck of white, representing hard drive space that was free and "available for tasking."

Along those lines, I now have these 200+ boxes.  Some of them are full of books.  Those boxes I will label as "books" and collect together.  Other boxes are full of my spouses papers or precious items (games).  Those I will label as his papers and set together.  Then there are the boxes filled with random stuff.  Those are like the confetti-colored bits of hard drive.  I will sort those boxes into "keep/fix," "donate/freecycle," and "recycle/trash," and dispose of the contents accordingly.

By the end of the process, I expect to be left with just under 100 boxes that can remain full of books or my spouses papers.  I've set a goal to get through 5 boxes a week, so it will take about 20 weeks to get to that point.

For today, I freecycled three items and located the first five boxes of books in the temporary holding area.  I'm on my way!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Mission #3.5 - I see light at the end of the tunnel

Mission #3 (arrange the family room for accepting boxes from all the
other rooms) has spilled over into getting the last two-three bastions
of random stuff boxed and cleared out.

So, to recap:

Mission #1 was to clear out my basement bathroom and basement
"bedroom" (not legally a bedroom because it lacks a window). So far so

Mission #2 was to organize my utility closet - now that this is
complete, I have a place to store my tools, know when I actually have
too many of any given tool, and have a place to put cleaning supplies
and toilet paper, paper towels, tissues, etc.

Mission #3 was to box the random junk in the basement family room so
that I could transform the total floor covering or random junk into
compartmented, boxed junk that could be stacked, making room to
receive the random junk (to be boxed) from other parts of the house.

Once I had the family room pretty clear, I moved naturally into
shifting the random boxes from the laundry/storage room over. My
vision is to have the laundry/storage room house laundry and "food
storage." There used to be a fridge and a 14" wide metal shelving
unit for food storage, with the 18" wide metal shelving unit that was
supposed to be for food only half assembled and piled with junk boxes.
I used to think of this like cancer - junk displacing the good stuff I
wanted to store there. Now both halves of the 18" wide metal shelving
unit are assembled, and all the food storage we have is neatly stacked
there. I figure I'll have room for 320 #10 cans on those shelves
eventually. The extra boxes have been removed from the room, although
I did leave a couple on the shelves since they aren't displacing any
food (as was previously the case).

For what it's worth, I understand the word "prepper" is now being used
to describe folks who store food or otherwise try to prepare for
emergencies. The "main" prepper website is somewhat hokey and half the
links don't work yet, but here it is: http://prepper.org/ . I'm all
for definition #1 for a prepper: "A person who grows and /or stores
food, water, and other supplies in preparation for disasters of all
types, i.e., economic collapse, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes
etc." It's the following definition about "A patriot who is against...
governments [that] lead to oppression and death of innocent people"
that starts losing me. At least it doesn't actively talk about

With the basement clear (enough) it was then time to tackle the
upstairs. I moved my spouse and myself out of the master bedroom a
while back because there was too much space. Since the spouse tended
to fill every available space with random stuff, I hoped to curb this
behavior by restricting him to a more limited space, arranged so his
tendency to pile wouldn't disrupt my access to clothes and bed. In
order to do this I relegated myself to hanging my clothes on a
temporary rack and it generally was cramped.

The master bedroom was a mess. My married daughter and son-in-law use
the futon when they visit, but that's merely a testament to the
unflappable nature of my son-in-law. We recently had our front windows
replaced, so there was a temporary clear area in front of the windows.

After much effort, the master bedroom is predominantly clear, and the
walls behind the dresser and headboard have been painted. The spouse
was very happy to be repatriated to his own bedroom.

The room we were using as a bedroom has been converted to a music
room. My youngest child is particularly pleased. Besides creating a
pleasant place for music and study, this has the added benefit of
getting the piano out of my dining room (hooray!). The piano and
computer desks and mail station around the perimeter of the dining
room were reducing the size of the room when used for dining, and each
of these outer areas collected it's own pile of stuff. I do like
having the computer stations in the dining room overall, but now they
and their paraphernalia will occupy a single wall.

So the end state will be a home full of rooms that can be used for
their intended purpose, with one room (the family room) that will
primarily serve as a storage area over the extended period of time
while I go through boxes, one at a time. I went through two of the
boxes yesterday, so the conversion from boxed junk to order has

Friday, April 3, 2009

Mission #3: Progress!

I've found this business of digging out from the pile that was the
basement family room to be awesome.

The only problem is that folks in my family have poor memories, so
they tend not to remember what it used to look like... That's what
the pictures are for.

I didn't do a lot of dejunking, this week was mainly arranging the
contents of the room into standardized boxes which could be stacked.
In the process I labeled each box with a sticky indicating the nature
of the contents.

I remember hearing that Andy Warhol created a collection of boxes
across the course of his life, sweeping the items on top of his desk
into a box on a periodic basis. Warhol, being famous, was able to
effectively fob his hoarding off onto an adoring world. I was
listening to NPR once when they talked about Warhol's boxes and
actually *opened* one. Amongst the various historic items was a piece
of Caroline Kennedy's birthday cake. Cake, yellow, greasy, piled in
with his papers. Saved lovingly for decades.

This weekend I'll be clearing out the upstairs master bedroom, which
has been serving as a stash pile. I see lots of painting and moving
in my future... Yeah!

At the end of this week, I will have a home where almost all the rooms
are usable for their proper purpose, with a downstairs family room
that has 200-300 nicely stacked boxes of stuff, which I'll then be
going through one at a time.

I never would have guessed I could get this far this quickly. Wow.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Mission #3: Consolidating

Phew! It's been a busy weekend!

The utility closet and basement hallway are nicely clear and organized
now, thank you. I have taken pretty pictures and will eventually
figure out how to post them.

The next challenge I've set is to consolidate the clutter in the
family room. On Saturday the room was very cluttered and
disorganized, despite past efforts to build "box shelves," a honeycomb
of spaces where individual boxes could be stored.

Three walls in the family room have these "box shelves," each of which
is 8 feet long and at least 6 feet high. They can hold 49 boxes each,
so that means this room already has almost 150 boxes. Then there is
clutter in the middle of the floor.

I'm not aiming to clean this room, per se, but organize it so that the
clutter is neatly contained and there is room for the boxes and
clutter from the other two rooms that are effectively unusable (the
former master bedroom and the laundry room).

Tonight I bought 36 "economy" storage boxes from Staples. Based on
what I found online I was expecting to pay $2 per box. But the actual
price in the store was 6 boxes for $9.99, and when I went to leave
there was a special (buy 2 sets of boxes, get one set free). I left
the store with 36 boxes, spending just $40 (less than $1.15 a box).
Awesome. These are nicer than moving boxes because they don't require
strapping tape, the ends are double strength, and they have lids.

The link to the Staples boxes is here: http://is.gd/pZHx

Off to pack stuff into the boxes...