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San Francisco 18th International Conference on Hoarding and Cluttering

Studying in San Francisco: The 18th International Conference on Hoarding & Cluttering

Cherry Rudge (Rainbow Red), Jo Cooke (Hoarding Disorders UK CIC) and Heather Matuozzo (Clouds End CIC) are knowledgeable declutterers. Between them, they have over 20 years’ experience of working with people with extreme cluttering and hoarding problems. They regularly deliver training, coaching and advice to a variety of organisations including housing associations, mental health teams, charities, fire services and social care teams and recently flew transatlantic to further their own professional development and bring their learning back to the UK.

APDO members attend MHASF’s Institute for Compulsive Hoarding and Cluttering Conference 2018

For the three of us, the idea of being able to talk about clutter, hoarding and “stuff” for an entire week was heaven.  Forget about drugs, sex and rock and roll – clutter was the buzz word and we used every opportunity to tell folks what we do and why we were visiting California.

Clinical studies of hoarding disorders began to be published in the USA about 20 years ago, so it was with great excitement that the three of us set out from Heathrow Airport (in the snow) on Monday 19th March 2018 to attend the 18th annual Mental Health Association of San Francisco (MHASF) conference on Cluttering and Hoarding – Thinking Outside the Boxes: Innovation in Action.

MHASF is comprised of a diverse team of peers, supporters, advocates, family members, and providers dedicated to taking the peer and recovery to the next level.

The conference was held at the University of California, Berkeley, and was attended by over 100 people from across the USA and Canada, including clinicians, peer group members, social workers, people with hoarding behaviours, housing officials and professional organisers – all as passionate and as keen to expand our knowledge of the subject as we are!

Training day

Wednesday’s fascinating training day was by Dr Michael A. Tompkins (author of “Digging Out” and “The Clinician’s Guide to Severe Hoarding – A Harm Reduction Approach”), and covered the basics of two major topics important to anyone working directly with clients dealing with hoarding challenges: cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and motivational enhancement.

Interestingly, Dr Tompkins believes that (a) change is a state, not a trait, and (b) it is depression that underlies hoarding behaviours, with loss triggers being secondary to that.

hoarding conference organise declutter

Heather Matuozzo, Dr Michael A. Tompkins (author of “Digging Out”), Cherry Rudge and Jo Cooke,,

Day One

Day one of the conference opened with a wonderful keynote address – “DisordR, The Play”, a solo show brilliantly written and performed by Hilary Kacser, an actor who had travelled from Washington DC. It was very clever to start the discussions using visual creative art-based interpretation, devised by a person with lived experience, who also works in the theatre.

The play introduced us to self-confessed hoarder Pakrat Patty, and used humour to illuminate mental health, and the interactions with people who she met during her journey to recovery.

There followed several breakout sessions which divided the attendees into four groups:

  1. Public Health
  2. Housing
  3. Stigma
  4. Prevention

Over the two days, the aim of each of these workshops was to find three key areas of concern and then spend two further sessions seeking potential solutions for those concerns.

There were various options for the afternoon sessions on Day One:

  1. Resilience and Overcoming Hoarding, by Satwant Singh (Nurse Consultant in CBT and Mental Health, and a Clinical Lead for a primary care psychological service in London).
  2. Building peer supports on the stages of change continuum – David Bain + peers from MHASF.
  3. Listening and learning from participants in the Help for Hoarding Treatment study – Monka Eckfield (Qualitative PCORI Study, San Francisco). Peer-facilitated support groups used the “Buried in Treasures” work-book over 16 weeks, and therapist-lead CBT groups, which included home visits over the same amount of time.

In the afternoon, we attended the Experience Compassion Focussed Therapy (CFT) for Hoarding session, presented by Chia-Ying Chou (MHA Therapy Group, San Francisco).  She explored what compassion is – i.e. a sensitivity to suffering and a willingness to try and alleviate it or prevent it – and looked at wisdom, strength, commitment and warmth and the need to use self-compassion.

Meanwhile, the selective sessions we sadly missed were:

  1. It takes a village – Nancy Trout, Prairie View, Winston, Kansas. Discussed how she created a multi-agency taskforce, drawing on every aspect of village life.
  2. Journal writing – the techniques, the purpose the benefits – David Bain – how to keep a hoarding action journal
  3. Legal aspects of hoarding – Kellie Morgantini (Legal Services for Seniors, Monterey, CA)

The evening’s social event gave us the perfect opportunity to network and develop strong relationships with delegates from across the US and Canada.  They were most impressed when we explained how the UK’s annual Hoarding Awareness Campaign has helped increase understanding of hoarding behaviours and reduce the stigma associated with them.

18th International Conference on Hoarding and Cluttering

Day Two

Day two started with all three of us attending a breakout session by Donald Davioff and Kay Jewels (McLean Hospital/Harvard Medical School, MA) – “A Neurocognitive Approach to Hoarding Disorder”.

After an insightful video about the MHASF, the final key-note speech on the final day was “New Developments in Hoarding Research: a novel approach using virtual reality” by Hanna McCabe-Bennett from Ryerson University, Toronto.

Through a series of room images, two groups (individuals with hoarding behaviours and then another group without hoarding behaviours) were tested for their levels of discomfort, versus the levels of items in the room.   In another experiment people were invited to choose as many items as they liked from a virtual reality thrift store (charity shop).  These were then restricted to how many can be fitted into a trolley and then how many of those items could they fit into a bag.

They then changed the mood of the people by reading a script to induce anthropomorphism which, it was found, increased the difficulty for the hoarders in discarding even virtual items.

After a couple of days sightseeing, we returned from San Francisco more inspired than ever, and fired up for UK Hoarding Awareness Week (14th – 18th May 2018) and the National Hoarding Conference on 14th May.  Later in the year we are also looking forward to the International Hoarding, Health & Housing Conference in Edinburgh on 4th October, organised by Life Pod CIC. Hope to see you there, or maybe at the MHASF conference next year!

If you need advice on hoarding or want to find out more about APDO, please visit the APDO website for further information or to find your nearest professional organiser.

APDO conference 2018 professional organisers

APDO Conference 2018: A review

It’s been an exciting four weeks for APDO Association of Professional Declutterers & Organisers. Not only was there the creation of Spring Clearing Week between 24-30 March (a brand new public awareness week focused on decluttering and streamlining home and life), but that came hot on the heels of the APDO annual conference, held on 15 & 16 March.

The conference was a sell-out and was wholeheartedly enjoyed by the attendees, who included national and international APDO members and professionals from international associations. There was a fantastic line-up of keynote speakers, lively workshops on diverse topics, a Q&A session with experienced professional organisers, networking opportunities and fun socials. In a nutshell, this was two days of learning and sharing with a vibrant community of organising experts, who have endless passion for their jobs.

Kate Galbally (Better Organised) provides this blog based on what she took away from the event and it sums up the ‘feel good factor’ of the event.

Your message needs to be bigger than your fear!

The headline above was the rallying call from visibility strategist Ruby McGuire (Rock Your Fabulous Biz) on day one of the annual conference for the Association of Professional Declutterers & Organisers in London. What followed was motivation and inspiration with keynote speeches, plenary sessions and workshops delivered by industry-leaders from across the globe.

Perhaps you’re wondering what professional organisers found to talk about for two days? Or maybe you’re thinking about starting up your own decluttering business but haven’t yet taken the leap. I’ve rounded up some of the main takeaways from the event.

The culture of positivity

On arrival at the venue, Resource for London, it was immediately apparent that the people that I’d only ever interacted with online were just as friendly, welcoming and supportive in person. The inclusive and collaborative nature of the members shone through and the place was soon buzzing with introductions and conversations. There is definitely a collective drive and enthusiasm to learn more about how we can enhance the offerings to clients, whilst developing professionally and nurturing our businesses. The positivity was infectious!

How the industry is growing

APDO was formed in 2004 and now has 281 accredited members, but the statistic that really stood out was that the membership has grown by a third in the last year alone. It is so exciting to be part of such a rapidly growing industry – it is particularly reassuring to be sharing the journey with a thriving community of such professional and supportive business owners.

APDO Conference 2018 professional organisers

The breadth and depth of professional skills and services available to clients

Life coaching, counselling, interior design, social work, housing, law, PAs – one theme that struck me was that the organisers I spoke to all seem to have spent their working lives in roles that have primarily been about supporting other people. Now they use their expertise to help clients on a practical and emotional level by assisting them to get better organised.

From empathetic and long-term assistance for people with ADHD or hoarding tendencies, to hands-on help for people who are clearing out a loved one’s belongings after a bereavement, the ways in which organisers help their clients are many and varied. It was so fascinating to hear others’ stories of what has led them into this field of work.

How perfectly the content was tailored to the audience

Leslie Josel (Order Out of Chaos) delivered a powerful keynote speech about demystifying executive functions and ADHD. One key point she made was that understanding how your clients think is the only way to instill change. Well, the voluntary board at APDO had clearly understood the way their members think, as they had identified topics that are at the forefront of their members’ minds. We were spoiled for choice when it came to workshops, with topics including how to film and edit compelling footage on smartphones, the development of business workshops and webinars, supercharging social media content, readiness for GDPR and how to declutter your business ideas to avoid burnout.

What I’ll do next

I’ve already done it! I’ve cleared my diary to make sure that I will be attending next year’s conference.

APDO conference 2019

I love being part of this industry and seeing the growth that my business has achieved already. Working alongside my clients is satisfying and rewarding and as Cassie Tillett (Working Order) the founder of APDO has said, ‘When you know you’ve made a positive difference in someone else’s life, there’s no other feeling like it!’

 

If you’re not an APDO member but are interested in being part of the community, you can find out more here. Also keep an eye on the events page for upcoming campaigns.

I can do it motivation

10 Top Clutter Clearing Tips

Happy National Clear Your Clutter Day 2017! Get ready to declutter your home and dig out your stash of unused items. Visit money saving website Money Magpie for tips on how to sell, swap, upcycle, recycle or donate your unwanted personal belongings for a profit or for a sense of positive change.

CYCD-2017-website-header-image-1

Louise Tregenza runs her business Home….Sorted covering Wirral, Liverpool, Merseyside and North Wales. Looking for some clutter clearing motivation? In this guest blog post, she shares gives some pointers on where clutter may be lurking. It may not seem like an appealing place to start but you should be heading to the garage/shed….

Is your garage or shed a ‘clutter hot spot’?

I know my garage is! I convince myself I have a large space so I can store more but actually I’m just storing clutter…

Here are 10 common clutter items you need to ‘chuck out’ immediately… remember to recycle, reuse and refuse if possible. And, no de-cluttering spiders, they are good for the garden, so I’m told!

1. Old paint tins – half empty, solid and unusable? Bin. If you want to keep a sample of a colour, transfer to a smaller pot and date. Paint tins need to be disposed of at your local recycle centre not in your everyday rubbish bin.
2. Stiff paint brushes – if not cleaned thoroughly before storing, it is hard to loosen the bristles. Time to bin and buy new.
3. Broken tools do you need a broken drill when you have a brand new on? Recycle at your local recycle centre.
4. Unused electronics – 2 digital boxes and a small TV in my garage, ridiculous! I gave to family members but you could sell on ebay or give to charity. British Heart Foundation accept electrical items for their electrical shops.
5. Bags of clothes/shoes – do you need them? do you like them? do they fit? Sort bags for charity and place in your hallway or car boot so you will drop off.
6. DVD’s, LP’s and CD’s – do you stream and download your music already? Why not sell old items on Music Magpie its free and simple to use.
7. Old furniture – will you ever re-upholster grandmas chair? Do it or lose it!
8. Car stuff – half empty de-icer cans and mouldy chamois leathers, bin.
9. Old sports equipment –I found a girls bike helmet size 5 years, my daughter is now 15! I reused by handing down to my neighbours daughter.
10. Christmas decoration boxes – you didn’t use any of these decorations for the last 2 years so will you next year? Maybe pass on to a local charity, school or community centre to use for Christmas events.

If sorting your garage or shed fills you with dread, professional organisers in your locality can help.

Welcome to Simplicity concept on road billboard

From Harvey Nichols to Diggory Lifestyle

Dee Hope runs Diggory Lifestyle covering Warwickshire, Cotswolds, Worcestershire and Oxfordshire. Her aim is to help clients to ‘dee-clutter’ for a simpler life. In this guest blog she shares her story; how she found her true calling by going on her own journey – and how this gave her true insight into to how to help her clients.

Dee Diggory

I am a declutterer. I help people release the things in their life that are not important, and then help them create more space for the things that really matter.

My chosen career path emerged from the experiences I have had in life, and looking back, it is quite clear to me, that helping others is the most rewarding and fulfilling way to spend my days.

I was lucky to learn very early on in life that “things” will not make you happy, it was a very expensive lesson to learn, but I do consider it my most valued learning. I was 23 living in London as a professional nanny, I wasn’t very happy, I was new to the city and I felt quite isolated. I had just sold my flat and had several thousand pounds sitting in my bank account; so, what did I do? I went shopping. I walked up and down High Street,Kensington on my days off for months buying whatever grabbed my attention, skirts, tops, dresses, shoes, boots, sometimes two of the same item, until eventually, the money was all gone….

I remember standing in my room just looking at the stuff I’d bought, piles of it, most of which was still in bags and boxes, with tickets on, I’d never even opened them. I had felt the rush of the purchase, it had made me feel good, happy, but it was only fleeting.

It wasn’t real.

There was nowhere to hide, the money was gone, all I was left with was an empty feeling; and as I stood there silently looking at all the bags, I allowed myself to admit the truth, I was still unhappy and all these “things” had not helped.

So, I resolved to make some changes…

I gave notice to my employer and I sold all the ‘stuff’ that I had bought to friends at a fraction of the cost I paid for them. It was surprisingly easy to ‘let them go’, which was strange because at the time I bought them, I felt ‘I had to have them’. With the money I made, I just had enough to buy a ticket to Australia. I traveled for a year as a backpacker, I did all kinds of jobs, from crewing on a yacht, to picking capsicums on a farm to working on a horse ranch. I had no money, certainly no things, but…I was happy. I met some weird and wonderful people and had some amazing experiences.

As I reflect back now and think about when I have been happiest, it is in fact a series of moments, involving people, my beloved dogs and sharing experiences, “never things”.

These days I try to help people recover some of the freedom that I felt after making such bold changes. Less radical perhaps, but by reducing and organising possessions it is very possible to create space for life rather than “things”.

I have had many jobs, from nanny (expert with small children) to Executive Assistant (expert with big children) and use my skills and experiences to help my clients big and small put the important things back into their lives. Not only organising and prioritising their world, but also sharing techniques and tools, systems and insights, motivation and methods to maintain the process long after I’ve gone.

As I have said, this is the most rewarding work I have ever done.

One of my very first clients was a young mum suffering with post-natal depression. She asked for my help, her self-esteem was so low, she didn’t trust herself to know when to turn the dishwasher on. She told me I was her last chance, if I failed, she believed she may not have a future with her husband and baby. I am delighted to say I did not fail, she sent me a lovely card in which she wrote:

“Dee, thanks so much for the support, help and problem solving. Just having a listening ear was enough to help me move forward, let alone the decluttering and pro-activeness that followed! My confidence has soared and I’m finally being the organised mum I’ve always wanted to be!”

As if I ever needed reminding, this letter always tells me where happiness lies…and it is not in Harvey Nichols or Peter Jones.

Diggory Lifestyle has many services. Each tailored to match different moments in your life and adapted to your unique circumstances and budget.

Perhaps this guest blog has inspired you to consider professional organising as a career change! If so, find out more about training and joining APDO. If you feel you could benefit from the services APDO members like Dee have to offer, find a local organiser here.

clutterfree room

Top Tips To Stay Clutter-free After A Good Clear Out

 

Charlotte Jones is a Professional Organiser based in Woking, Surrey and Founder of Everything in its Place. Here she shares her tips on what must be the most vital decluttering stage of all – maintenance! If you could use some professional help (at any stage) find an accredited organiser near you

So, you’ve done the hard work. You’ve cleared out the vast majority of your clutter and your home is now beautifully organised. However, this is an ongoing process and keeping your home looking and feeling the way that you want it will require effort. 

Clutter builds up inevitably, clothes need putting away, the dishwasher needs emptying and the kids need telling five times every day to hang up their school bags! But keep at it because a tidy environment really does lead to a clear mind and a generally more positive outlook on life.

By spending just a few minutes each day doing these chores and being strict with yourself when it comes to leaving clutter lying around you will free up more time to spend doing the things that you really love and enjoying your new surroundings.

Top Tips: 

1. Reset to zero each night: Put everything back where it is supposed to be. This means that you will wake up refreshed the following morning ready to tackle the days challenges without having to deal with any left over from yesterday. It will also probably mean that you got a much better nights sleep, content with the feeling that everything was done and put back where it should be.

2. Deal with mail as soon as it enters the house: Can it be recycled or filed straight away? If you need to do something with it, file it in your dedicated ‘to do’ file and make sure that this gets emptied at least once a month.

3. Have dedicated areas which must stay clean, clear and clutter free: For example, the kitchen worktops, don’t allow paperwork to pile up here or items which belong elsewhere, ensuring that this area stays clear means that you will notice if any clutter does start to build up and can easily rectify the problem.

4. Have a good clear out of the kids toys, games and clothes before a birthday or christmas: This way, you can get rid of any unused items or things that the children have outgrown ready for the new load to enter the house.

5. Take photos to remind you of sentimental items: Still struggling to let go of those last few items that you know you don’t need but have some sort of emotional attachment to? Try taking a photograph of these objects and then letting the real thing go.

6. Buy Less: No recreational shopping, only go into a shop if you need something. Try it for a month and see if you notice a difference in the amount of things entering your home.

7. Have a donate box at the front door: anyone in the house can add to this box and then it can be taken to the charity shop each time it gets full.