Hoarding is not just a matter of having too much stuff or a cluttered home. It’s a condition often shrouded in secrecy and shame.
And it’s a problem in Western Montana, according to one organization expert who is starting a new support group to help those who hoard.
It's a fascinating topic, the stuff of reality TV, but hoarding is a serious and complicated problem that affects people in Western Montana, and there’s no easy way to treat it.
"And everybody thinks you can just go in and clean things out and take everything out and that's just not how you deal with it," said Karin Fried. "That just causes a lot of issues, a lot of mental health issues. They tend to shut down and won't talk to you and then you can't help them."
Fried is a professional organizer and certified in helping those with chronic disorganization issues including hoarding. It’s a complex mental health issue that can affect anyone.
Finding help for it is difficult, so she’s formed Montana’s first hoarding support and therapy group called Buried in Treasures.
"This work group has been shown to help people who have hoarding issues meet others with the same problems," Fried says. "One of the issues is, it's very isolating. They don't allow people into their homes, they don't socialize, they're embarrassed even though you don't know what's going on behind closed doors."
I spoke with one woman over the phone who wishes to remain anonymous. She struggles with hoarding and is eager to be part of this group.
"When you see the hoarding shows on TV where they do it all at once, that's not really how it's done to help people, and it takes a while to deal with the trauma," she says. "This is a habit, it's been a habit for a long time."
The program was designed by scientists and practitioners who are leaders in studying and treating hoarding disorders. It involves skill building, learning to think about possessions in a different way and imposing gradual changes to improve their quality of life.
"This group has been shown to reduce the level of hoarding, reduce the level of clutter and improves their lives so they can actually use their homes," Fried says.
You can click here to find more information about the group or how to participate.