Tonight I went to a community class titled “Loved Ones Who Hoard: Guidelines for Family and Friends.” Jan Hulme Shepard, the speaker for the class, is on her own journey to release clutter and stop hoarding. She believes that the term “hoarder” is a discriminatory label and prefers “a person who hoards” or “compulsive acquiring and saving.” There may be some truth to this, but for simplicity reasons, I will continue to mostly use the terms “hoarder” and “hoarding” for this blog.
It was so interesting for me to hear both the perspectives from a recovering hoarder and from the family and friends of hoarders. I knew there were others who share the concern and shame for family members who hoard, but it was a different feeling to be in the room as they voiced their experiences. Some attendees had family members who will not accept any help for their behavior, and Shepard recommended harm reduction for these individuals. Harm reduction means that you try to expand the safety and health of the loved one when they cannot change, such as moving papers away from the fireplace to prevent fire. Another attendee had helped a sister declutter two times already, but the sister had not been able to change her hoarding behavior and her home was cluttered once again. Shepard lobbies for a holistic approach to changing hoarding behavior, addressing not only the physical component of hoarding but also the mental (depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder), spiritual, and emotional.
The class addressed some of my own emotional needs – to identify with others like myself who are hurt by their loved ones hoarding. I realized that I am trying to heal my hurt by dealing with the clutter, but I need to be more holistic in my approach to healing. Who knows? I may even try medical qigong, an alternative Chinese medicine practice that Shepard utilizes with her clients, to help with the negative energy I’m feeling!