Be Here Now

Be Here Now

Decluttering starts in your mind. The first step when beginning to declutter is to pay attention to your thoughts. 

Your thoughts are not you. You do not need to identify with your thoughts. You just need to become aware of them.  Pay attention to that little voice in your head. Everyone has one and it is time to hear yours. Have you made friends with the voice? Does the little voice in your head help you or criticize you and keep you in fear?  

Once you recognize you are not the voice in your head  you can begin to have a fun and friendly conversation with it.  The more you do this the more fun it can be. Is that voice telling you, It’s too hard to start to declutter, it is too much to handle and it will take too long ? or it might be telling you don’t remove the artwork that Jimmy made or you’ll be sad. Then you can tell that little voice this is not true. You are bigger than that voice and you do not need to believe it.

Remember things do not have a memory attached to them.  You are the one that attaches the meaning and the memory to the things.  If you can understand this then letting things go does become a little easier. 

So then, the memory comes up in the mind as you look into a box. You may think,   I remember when Jimmy painted this picture and it reminds me of when he was a child.  The question is, if I remove the picture Jimmy painted will the memory go away? No. Will it change the current relationship that I have with Jimmy?  No.

If you want to remember Jimmy then all you have to do is ask your brain mind to recall a time when Jimmy was younger.  You may even call him on the phone to say hello. You do not need to keep the items Jimmy made in order to maintain the love you feel for him. The love is within you, it is you.

Sometimes we  hold onto items as a memory of the past and sometimes it is worry about the future. The voice in your head that says, even though I haven't used my camping gear for 5 years, one day I may get back up to the mountains, one day….

Each of these thoughts prevents us from living in the present moment. These thoughts prevent us of being joyful and grateful for who and what you have and need right now.

Decluttering the thoughts in your mind will help you live in the present moment.  Be who you are today. Right now. Not the person you used to be or the person you may become.  

All we have is today. Yesterday is gone and tomorrow is not here. 

Be Here Now.  

One Step at a Time

One Step at a Time

Once we make a decision and really decide we want change, we often get impatient. We want to take action and see results immediately.  Sometimes this expectation can cause overwhelm and even stop us in our tracks. 

This can happen when you decide to lose weight, eat healthy, get out of debt or declutter.  And if you are trying to do all of these at once, then look out!! .

Before setting goals and changing habits, focus on the WHY. The first step is really understanding WHY.  Why do I want change? Write it out, get it on paper and understand why you want to change? 

Your power is in the answer and lasting change comes from getting clear on the answer to WHY?  If your Big Why is big enough, it will get you out of bed , ready to take action and keep you motivated.

Once you are clear on why you want to change, you have to understand that your brain mind doesn’t like change and may try to stop you! That little voice may speak up loud and clear and tell you; . 

This is too hard. 

I can’t do this.  

I am not sure where to begin. 

This will take too long. 

How did I let it get this bad? 

Why do I live like this? 

These thoughts are not the truth.  You do not have to believe them or follow them down the rabbit hole. 

Take a little time out during  the day to sit in stillness and become aware of the thoughts swimming in your head. Are they friendly, encouraging and supportive? 

These defeating thoughts are just thoughts. That’s it. You can learn to  treat them as such. You can talk back to that voice who wants to quit. Nicely say, I CAN do this or thank you for trying to help,  but I don’t want to believe or listen to you, that voice in my head telling me to quit. 

Then take a little action.  Sometimes a little action can create great momentum.  You can start with one area, like a countertop. On a good day that may turn into the whole kitchen!  On another day it may be just the counter top. Celebrate that win and be nice to yourself. 

Then little by little, without worry or stress, you will see lasting change. 

Beating yourself up, telling yourself you are no good will not help. That is just the little gremlin voice who wants to be heard. 

The key here is to recognize the gremlin and become aware of defeating thoughts.  We all have them. It’s time to make friends with them. You don’t have to get angry, you just have to become aware. 

Those thoughts have been circling around in your head for years and years, likely from childhood. And lasting change comes when you start to realize that these thoughts are not helping. 

Starting with a good foundation and a clear understanding of why can set you up for long term change.  Be patient and enjoy the journey and take some before and after photos to celebrate!

Breathe In Breathe Out

Breathe In Breathe Out

I was working with Andy to help him clean up his home. Andy was a veteran and suffers from  PTSD. He had been working with a person at the local VA. He had been to a hoarding support group with others that live in similar cluttered situations.  He had also researched all about hoarding and had a good intellectual understanding of the challenges he faced. 

Yet he still had issues with letting things go. 

When it came to cleaning his home he could feel the issues as they moved through his body.  When we began to work together, he became very aware of the sensations and his body started to tense up. Emotion began to swell and rise within. 

He had glasses so I could hardly see the tears in his eyes, but I noticed he was slowing down.  I paused while filling a trash bag and asked him what was happening. 

He said “I am not sure why but this is really hard for me. I know that I should let the tupperware go, but it is really hard right now” 

I told him to breath.  Take a moment and breath.  Deep breaths in and out. He went to the bathroom to gather himself.  I told him not to attach any meaning to the tears and the anxiety in his body. I told him to continue to breath and we would slow down and get him through the moment.  

He was so patient with himself and we were able to continue our session.  The importance of our breath is underestimated. Deep breathing can help to regulate your body and free your mind. Deep breathing will allow emotions to come and and move through your body and that is a good. 

Breathe in and breathe out. Inhale and exhale. 

Breathing is the first thing we do when we are born and the last thing we do when we die. We often do not think about it but we should.  Consider focusing on the breath throughout your days. When you catch yourself holding your breath or breathing shallow, become aware take a moment and breath.  

Harmful Comparison

Harmful Comparison


Every week I hear clients say, “I am a hoarder, but not like the ones I see on TV.”  

Comparison can get us into trouble.  Comparison can rob you of feeling worthy.  Comparison can make you feel less than. There will always be someone who is worse off, has more stuff,  has more friends or a thinner body or a cleaner house.  

To the person who has a problem with hoarding, less stuff is a good thing. 

To the person who bases his success on material things, more stuff is a good thing.  

It is all about perception. You have control over how you view the world. 

Comparing yourself to the TV show and calling yourself a hoarder just plays into the stereotype and stigma that the shows want to create. 

The people selected to be on the show are very real and they are also cast because they are extreme. The may be extreme, in their personality or situation or family dynamic. They are selected to get ratings. 

Hoarding is not what most people think. 

People who hoard things can look like a person in poverty who has not showered and has torn clothes and old shoes.Behind closed doors this person has nothing but a mattress on the floor. 

People who hoard things can also look like a professional businessman  in a suit and tie. Behind closed doors he has hundreds of suits and hundreds of  ties and books and a few storage units full of stuff too. 

As a nation we can change our vocabulary and assumptions made about hoarding.  What do you think of when you hear the word Hoarder? The visual that comes to mind is not the reality of what hoarding is. 

The shame and stigma runs deep when someone who calls themselves a hoarder has an inaccurate picture of what hoarding is. The more we all  can get curious about hoarding and materialism, the more we will understand how complex and prevalent it really is.

Food Banks are Bad

Food Banks are Bad

I call Bull Shit on food banks.  You may think that food banks are solving a problem and feeding the hungry. You are wrong and if you donate to a food bank I will likely make you mad.

You may have good intentions about donating your excess canned goods. You go through your cabinets and take out the cream corn and garbanzo beans to give to someone who is really hungry.  Seems like a good and noble act, right? Think again.

Low income seniors do not need the food they are being given. The system is broken and not many people know this.

In my business we spend a lot of time working in low income senior housing developments and housing for the homeless.  We are called in to help them clean up to pass inspection. What we uncover in these homes needs to be shared, so we can stop the madness.   

We see boxes and boxes of food that come from food bank programs.  A sample food box may contain a bag of rice, a bag of pinto beans, powdered milk, fruit cocktail, and green beans.

If you have been living on the streets or you are in survival mode would you cook a bag of pinto beans and rice?  Or mix water in powdered milk as your beverage of choice? No, you would not and neither do they.

Most of the seniors in these housing units are not eating their vegetables either.

Meet resident Bob.  He picks up his food box regularly. He can’t pick and choose what is in the box. Bob likes and eats the fruit cocktail and the rest gets hoarded in his apartment along with his empty fruit cocktail cans.(more to come on that)

Meet resident Shirley. She has hoarding tendencies and she has a fear that one day the end of the world will come and she will need to survive locked in her apartment for a year. Shirley definitely picks up her box and sometimes even her neighbors box.  She ends up hoarding a lot of food in her apartment too.

In each scenario the food never gets eaten and the food bank just keeps on delivering with smiles, thinking they are saving lives. They are not saving lives. They are filling apartments with rotten, soon to be expired food.

There are many other scenarios that also end with money and food being wasted because the program is broken.

It is time to spend the millions of dollars that are sent to the food banks on something that would  actually make a difference.

Here is an idea.  Start a program to help seniors take out the trash. A program to help resident Bob who is in a wheelchair.

It takes a lot of effort for a senior who is  disabled to take out the trash. You may not realize how hard it is for someone in a walker or a wheelchair to take the trash out.  They have to load up the trash bags, carry or drag the bag down the hall, get in an elevator, go down to the garage, walk through the garage and then try to throw the heavy bag inside a 6 foot dumpster.  

You wonder why these apartments are filled with rotten food and trash!  

Instead of pinto beans, rice and powdered milk, employ one person to help these residents take out the trash. That would make a difference in their lives.

We have to do better for our low income seniors, our community and our tax dollars. The more you know, the more you are aware, the more you can make a difference.  

Won't You Be My Neighbor

Won't You Be My Neighbor

Mister Rogers had a simple message and he had it right.   Somewhere along the way we have lost what it means to be a good neighbor.

In my work helping people with excessive amounts of clutter and hoarding tendencies I have witnessed the judging, complaining, noisy neighbor more times that I would like.  

Last week we were helping a man who had a stroke several years prior. He loved to collect things and he had a strong desire to recycle plastic and cans. This didn’t make him crazy, or unworthy of having friends or labeled as a divisive trouble maker. Recycling and collecting does not make this man the monster his neighbors wanted him to be.

After the stroke his house slowly got out of hand. His collections multiplied and he had trouble making decisions and physically taking out the trash.  He could no longer cut his grass or paint his house or trim his trees. This should not make him the bad, rebellious person the community labeled him as   

The neighborhood was very nice.  The houses were valued up to and over 1 million dollars. One by one the old houses were being torn down to make room for the newer multi-unit ones.  His house didn’t match the rest of the block. The last one standing. This man also didn’t match the others on the block. He was likely the most caring, strong and thoughtful man on the block. Maybe the last one standing.

As I was leaving his house I heard the loud neighbor lady  walking her dog, yelling from across the street. “IT’S ABOUT TIME SOMEONE CLEANED UP THIS MESS.”   I could have run across the street and punched the lady in her face, that is how angry I initially felt.

She didn’t know this man. She didn’t know how gentle,  smart and kind this man was. She was worried about her own property values while her own insecurities were spewing out of her mouth. Sensing her anger, I  began to feel even worse for this woman. Watching how troubled and angry she was, as she had no control over someone else and how they lived. She needed a little a therapy for herself  while waving her finger in his direction.

If she just took a minute to get to know him and find out his story.  Wave to him. Offer to help. Smile. If she did, it might even help to heal her own angry heart.

It happens all the time, noisy neighbors worried about their own shit and taking it out on others.   Money, property values and control become the focus. You can’t take money with you when you die. However, you have a soul and I believe that does continue on when you die.  Your friendliness, your compassion and kindness will make more of a difference than you think!

What About Acceptance

What About Acceptance

What if we could accept that we are a nation of  people who hoard things. Most everyone will tell you they have more than they need. Many people will  keep things because of memories or guilt, perceived value or some other reasonable explanation.

On the far end of the scale there are those that accumulate so much that it impacts their lives and relationships and when that happens judgment and shame sets in. Worry and arguments and tensions arise.   When family members, neighbors, and officials become involved the problem is now turned into a full-on battle. Opposing sides claiming there is a right way and a wrong way to live.

What if we change the tone and end  the fight. The battle to reach a certain outcome of “normal” behavior.

What if  we accept that this is part of the behavior right now. What can we do to make the home safe right now.

Start with an energy of love, acceptance and understanding, rather than trying to fight it. Start with focusing on the person instead of claiming it is wrong. Start with a lower expectation, rather than making hoarding into the identity: A HOARDER. None of this is helpful and will cause frustration, sadness and a lot more suffering.

What if we no one can  “fix” this? What if it does not go away?  What small things can I do today to stay safe in my home?  What small thing can I do today to prioritize my relationships over material things?  Focus on one small step at a time. Over time you will see results.

Accept that hoarding is a behavior in this moment that it  requires a plan of action. . It can be complex but it is not hopeless.

We can start to make a positive impact if we can change the focus, lighten up and learn to live with it instead of against it.  

Lets Talk SH(&

Lets Talk SH(&

We crazy human beings have thoughts, ideas, stereotypes and judgments that don’t always make sense.  One example is how we deal with poop. The act of pooping and cleaning up poop. Specifically, other people’s poop.  We think it is gross and disgusting, and we have been thinking that since the beginning of time.

Ask yourself why? It is normal and natural to poop.  Our bodies are miracles and pooping is just another miracle.  How can something that is necessary to live be considered so disgusting? It doesn’t smell great and it does carry bacteria, but everyone does it and holding on to your shit is never good.

We can and should practice good hygiene and etiquette, but sometimes things can go wrong. I see it everyday.  As we age, pooping and cleaning up poop can become problematic. Due to illness, sickness, and physical disability,  the bathroom can become a place that is full of shit.

Once the shit gets on the floors, walls, bathtub, clothes, and toilet, the person pooping becomes humiliated in their own homes.  Once judgement, shame, terror and humiliation creeps in, the difficulty to get helps intensifies. It becomes a downward spiral.

Some people could never understand how something can get so out of hand. They could never imagine themselves in this circumstance.  I do understand how it can happen. It happens all the time. It is something that should not be scolded or condemned.

Anxiety, depression and overwhelm can paralyze a person.

In bathrooms everywhere I see what happens when life itself becomes too hard to deal with. The bathroom is just another reflection of someone in need of help.

You do not have to go into hiding and feel less than human because you have shit on the floors. Many, many people need help cleaning up shit. Don’t be afraid to ask and accept help. And many, many people are able to clean up shitty bathrooms with laughter, smiles, gloves, and disinfectant.

State of Affairs

State of Affairs

We all have the opportunity to make the world a better place.  Look around and you will see the current state of affairs can look bleek. Depending on your focus the world can feel like it is coming undone.  Well it isn’t. The world is speaking up and screaming and letting us  know that enough is enough.

Sometimes we have to know  what we don’t like,  in order to find out what we do like. We have to see so much pain and suffering to make us change. Right now that is what is happening. But fighting back is not the answer.  Complaining, negativity, despair and frustration is not the answer.

Kindness,  love and positivity is what  changes things.

How do you know. Try it out. See what happens if you run into situation that is less than desirable. An argument, and attitude.. If you respond in anger and frustration, it amplifies get bigger. If you respond it a different manner it can change completely.   The energy you put out can create a positive change. And that is the ONE thing we can control. Change your attitude and watch what happens in your life.  If you can think you can make a difference and control the culture by complaining you can’t. You can not change what happens to you, you can change how you respond.

And when you respond with positive, love and kindness,  the world will change with you, one heart at a time.

TEDX Boulder!

TEDX Boulder!

For 9 years I have been helping those with Hoarding Disorder by compassionately improving their living conditions.  I have uncovered a need, a problem that  removing the clutter does not address.  I know shame and judgment perpetuate this illness. Those who suffer from this mental illness do not and can not speak up. I have made it a mission of mine to speak up for them.

I have worked locally to spread awareness and education to the public, because whether you know it or not hoarding is a community problem. The more we understand this illness, the more resources, treatment, research, and improvement for those lives will follow.

Last month I was accepted to present at TEDXBoulder! All 12 presenters are challenged to come up with ONE idea and present for 9 minutes. Every word counts. A concise and clear message is the goal.

I have hands on experience in the trenches.  I am not a therapist with licenses or a researcher who studies mental illness. I am a entrepreneur who started a business and uncovered a need that has more to do with human nature than profits and running a business.  My message was the consequences of shame and the power of compassion as it relates to hoarding disorder.

The fascination with hoarding is a result of a few popular reality tv shows. Prior to the shows no one knew much about the secret and shameful lives of hoarding disorder. Myths and misconceptions are the norm and I know my clients for who they truly are.  I want others to know that too.

Until we create and environment, a community where it is okay to discuss this illness and the problems it creates, a solution, treatment and progress is very unlikely.  Each one of us can help create an environment of non-judgment and compassion. It is a choice.

Everyone deserves the right to live with dignity, regardless of their surroundings.

I stood in front of 2200 people in Boulder and shared my experience, in a hope that people will leave feeling inspired.  That they would understand this illness better and be a part of the solution.

To my surprise, the message was well received. I saw tears, heard applause, received hugs and acknowledgement that this world, this community really does have heart. We do care about others in need. It was another small step in the right direction. As we share the video and the stories,  I hope others in need will be brave and speak up for love and change.




Compassion is taking action alongside someone in an effort to fill them up and make them whole, even if only temporarily.

Life, circumstance and situations may be extremely difficult for some. Not everyone has the same opportunities, childhood or past experiences.  Compassion understand differences.

Our minds are wonderful, and beautiful and powerful. Our minds if left alone for too long can also spiral into unknown,  terrifying places. Compassion embraces uncomfortable scenes. The ugly side of life, the struggle and discomfort is not enough to scare away compassion. It stays. It is strong and can stand up when needed.

An energy of connectedness and deep understanding when someone is hurting and in pain. It is looking into the eyes of the person, seeing the hurt with a gut feeling they need help.

Compassion is nourishment for all souls.

Compassion is a young military man on a Greyhound bus in the middle of the night. He see’s an abused  teenage mom alone with two crying infants. She is scared, upset, and embarrassed. He gently sits next to her and asks if he can rock one of the babies to sleep. He does. Then rocks the other one to sleep.  While the rest of the bus is angry and annoyed.

Is it noble? Maybe, but who receives the benefit, the reward? The giver or the one suffering? The answer is both.

Compassion is a muscle, the more your experience it inside the more it grows.  The more fulfilled you are,  the more everyone who comes in your path is touched.

Imagine what kind of place we would live in if each and every one of us was purposeful in being compassionate. More kindness. More understanding. Less Suffering.

Compassion is shoveling the snow of your neighbor’s house because they are suffering depression and can’t get out of bed.   While others on the block get angry, gossip or call the authorities.

Compassion is soft, sensitive, and patient. It is a gentle whisper and a light touch that says I am here for you in this moment, ready to take action.

Suffering. Everyone suffers at some time. Look through a different lense and understand what you see is not all there is to a story. It may be one page in one chapter of a very intense book of their life.

Compassion is more than feeling sorry for a specific situation. It is reaching deep down, ignoring all of your own preconceived ideas, all of your past experiences and truths. It is looking at a situation from another point of view and trying to adapt, relate, understand and ultimately help.

Humor and Hoarding

Humor and Hoarding

Not every client interaction is full of anxiety, pain, tears and stress. Some of our days are spent laughing, listening to music and making fun, even in the tough situations. 

It was a love-hate thing with Sally, who was one of my favorite clients. She has a love of shoes, clothes, and purses.  In contrast she hates to throw away mail, newspapers and magazines.  This deadly combination of behavior landed her in a tough position.

She was facing eviction from her two bedroom apartment. At 93 she still had her wits about her but needed a lot of help. She was aware of the consequences of her actions and was ready to stay in her home!  

She would have been  great on reality tv! I can only remember a few of her one-liners’.  

Clutter Trucker Crew:  Sallylook at all these shoes, do you really wear all these shoes? 

Sally:  Well NOOOO, not all at one time. 

Clutter Trucker Crew:  Here are some shorts that can probably be donated they look too small for you now.  

Sally:  You mean “booty shorts” like on that show Two and a Half Men where Charlie gets a booty call! 

Clutter Trucker Team:  How about this shirt, do you still wear it or can it go? 

Sally:  No way that one stays.. I saw a picture of it Glamour magazine and I’m keeping it!  

She was full of personality and fun. It certainly was not easy for her to clean up her place but with the right mix of humor, gentle reminders and patience  we finished the project. Not only did she avoid eviction, she started with a clean place and was ready to keep it up! 


One Step at a Time

One Step at a Time

I approach the door and wondered what was on the other side. I was there to complete an estimate for the cost of service to help clean up the home.  I already prepared myself because the case notes said Child Protective Service was involved. Anytime children are involved it increases my level of curiosity and desire to help. I know I must keep my emotions in check. 

I am a little early and so the father is a startled and can't find the words to say.  He awkwardly opens the door and looks nervous. It helps when I am early. His level of anxiety is heightened and to catch him off guard usually helps.

He lets me in and isn't sure what to say. He is not suffering from hoarding disorder. His house looks like a case of giving up.  Piles and piles of trash, boxes and toys stuck together with cat fur.  Life took a turn for the worse. Things got so difficult  he just gave up.

I told him not to worry. It wasn’t as dirty as most houses I see.   I understand how things can get piled up. I see his 10 year old daughter coming from the kitchen.  She looks a little scared, concerned, embarrassed and slightly happy.  She starts to crack a smile while making small talk.

As I take the home tour I glance at the hole in the wall and he tells me that is 17 year old son suffers from schizophrenia and is now in a treatment center. As we continue on,  he points out some things that his wife left behind, when she decided to runaway.

I take a few big breaths.  This is not a lazy man who just doesn’t like to clean up his home.  He is dealing with BIG challenges and is doing the very best he can. Life is not easy.  Judging this man for the way he lives will not help.

In 20 minutes I gave him a small glimpse of hope. An acknowledgment that he is doing a great job, even if his home doesn’t look like it.

As I leave he says I inspired him to work on his house and start to clean up. That is all it takes. One small action at a time.

Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself

Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself

One of the complexities with hoarding disorder is the effect it can have on your neighbors.  Rodents travel next door. The wind sets sail and odors travel inside another’s home. The thought of a fire is terrifying. 

It is hard to disguise hoarding. It is visible in the car, in the yard and in the house. We often get calls from neighbors asking us what they can do.   

How can I  help someone who is suffering from hoarding and living in less than desirable conditions?

It starts with an understanding and a knowing that the person living inside the dirty, smelly contaminated house does not want to live like they do. However, sometimes they are too embarrassed, ashamed and sick to admit it. This comes across as being combative or stubborn or confrontational, but the underlying emotion is coming from a very different place.

The very best thing you can do if you suspect our neighbor is struggling with hoarding or any other housekeeping issue it to love them. Come from a place of trust, concern and kindness.  The accumulation of stuff or the neglect to the house did not happen overnight and will not get cleaned up overnight.

Patience, love, understanding and trust will go a long way in helping someone. Authority, threats and negative behavior will further hurt someone and stall any progress.  It is not about the “stuff” it is about the person suffering inside. Help them and you can help their surrounding.

Some of the greatest success stories of people overcoming the battle with hoarding are a result of great neighbors who are understanding and compassionate.

We are all here together and we all have to interact with one and another. We are placed on this earth to be separate or run solo.  When you help your neighbor you are helping yourself. You are helping the greater good.

Love and Messiness

Love and Messiness

It is estimated 2%-5% of the population is suffering from hoarding disorder. That is 1 in 20 of us. There are more people suffering from hoarding than alzheimer's disease, but you won’t know it. They are living silently behind closed doors with the blinds pulled down afraid to come out.

We have a whole community of people spread across the nation who are hurting and that is not okay.

Are we all hurting so much on our own that we can’t stop and pause for a minute to understand or help someone else?

People wonder what can they do to help a nation who seems to be hurting more and more everyday.  Shootings, poverty, illness,  murder and evil do exist and what can you do about it?   


Love people.

Love yourself.

Love your neighbor.

Love your family.

Focus on the good and not the bad. Understand that it exists and then turn your energy, your heart and your thoughts to the goodness.

I see people who are hurting everyday. It is time to change. It starts with one person.


Crime and Punishment

Crime and Punishment

Daily we get calls from clients who are in dire need. They are crying and scared and stressed. They are being forced to clean up their apartments from landlords who own the property. 

Neighbors complain about what is going on behind the closed doors. They are not allowed inside but sometimes the smells and the rodents expand beyond the boundaries of the walls.  When this happens, it becomes problematic. One the easiest ways to get the homeowner's attention is with force, threats and punishment.

A notice is given: You must clean this up in 30 days or you will be evicted. Or you will go to jail. Or you will be fined $1000 dollars. 

Most landlords will go ahead and continue the process of eviction if the homeowner does not make efforts to clean up. I have heard time and time again, a judge will say clean up your home or you will face jail time.

Where is the compassion?   Where is the mental health assistance?   Why are we treating this mental illness as a crime?

We must come up with a better way to help those who are already suffering.  Threats, fines, and jail time as punishment do not fit the crime of being mentally ill.

Our community leaders, landlords, judges, and officials need to understand that putting someone in jail or in the streets for having Hoarding Disorder in the not the answer.


Shame on You

Shame on You

One of the lowest and most destructive human emotion is shame. Shame is the feeling, I am bad, not I did something bad.   Many of my clients who are suffering from hoarding disorder are distraught with shame.  

Family members, neighbors, authorities and the media all play a part in this without knowing.  It is the subtle comments, the grimaces in their faces, the joking and sarcasm all further drive someone suffering into a hole that is too deep to get out of.

I met a client in need the other day. He was distraught, upset and nearing tears. He asks me “why does the city need to post the big red sign on my door for everyone to see, can’t they just give me the notice with everyone else knowing?”

 The sign says this  


This Building Is Unsafe for Human Occupancy.

It is A Crime to Occupy This Building

This is public shaming. It is not helpful or effective.  The city officials do not recognize the impact of this on the human being living behind these closed doors.

The person living in this property needs mental health, a compassionate approach to dealing with the problem of hoarding. Not a threat, a fine or a notice on the door.

It is not a crime to be mentally ill. It is not a crime to have excessive accumulation. How can we as a society think it is okay to treat people this way?

It is time to become educated and learn about Hoarding Disorder.


Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout

Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout

The very talented Shel Silverstein may have been suffering from Hoarding Disorder. 

I have no real evidence to suggest this is true. I also admired and respected him as one of my favorite poets. However,  in his book Where the Sidewalk ends he a paints a picture of what I see on a regular basis!  I loved the his book as a child and the fact that I grew up to own a junk removal business and clean out hoarder home is a sign that I was born to do this! 

This brings back childhood memories and was one of my favorites! 

Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout 

Would not take the garbage out. 
She'd wash the dishes and scrub the pans 
Cook the yams and spice the hams, 
And though her parents would scream and shout, 
She simply would not take the garbage out. 
And so it piled up to the ceiling: 
Coffee grounds, potato peelings, 
Brown bananas and rotten peas, 
Chunks of sour cottage cheese. 
It filled the can, it covered the floor, 
It cracked the windows and blocked the door, 
With bacon rinds and chicken bones, 
Drippy ends of ice cream cones, 
Prune pits, peach pits, orange peels, 
Gloppy glumps of cold oatmeal, 
Pizza crusts and withered greens, 
Soggy beans, and tangerines, 
Crusts of black-burned buttered toast, 
Grisly bits of beefy roast. 
The garbage rolled on down the halls, 
It raised the roof, it broke the walls, 
I mean, greasy napkins, cookie crumbs, 
Blobs of gooey bubble gum, 
Cellophane from old bologna, 
Rubbery, blubbery macaroni, 
Peanut butter, caked and dry, 
Curdled milk, and crusts of pie, 
Rotting melons, dried-up mustard, 
Eggshells mixed with lemon custard, 
Cold French fries and rancid meat, 
Yellow lumps of Cream of Wheat. 
At last the garbage reached so high 
That finally it touched the sky, 
And none of her friends would come to play, 
And all of her neighbors moved away; 
And finally, Sarah Cynthia Stout 
Said, "Okay, I'll take the garbage out!" 
But then, of course it was too late, 
The garbage reached across the state, 
From New York to the Golden Gate; 
And there in the garbage she did hate 
Poor Sarah met an awful fate 
That I cannot right now relate 
Because the hour is much too late 
But children, remember Sarah Stout, 
And always take the garbage out. 

From Breakdown  to Breakthrough

From Breakdown to Breakthrough

There are moments in life that force you to listen, to change your ways, to grow and learn.  They can be small events or big ones. The key is to be able to recognize these events for what they truly are and not ignore them.   

I had one of these moments when a 2000 lb hot tub fell on my back. As the owner of a junk removal business I have accumulated a few war stories and this one I’ll never forget. It was July 17th, a 100 degree day and we were called to get rid of a hot tub. I figure we’ve done it before we can do it again, no problem.  

Me, my MOM and her husband and one huge hot tub.  The look on the guys face said it all as he saw 2 women and 1 man come to get rid of his enormous hot tub.   We begin to roll the tub end over end across the yard and I see his eyes change from confusion to shear amazement.  We impressed him I know! 

We got the tub to the street and thankfully he paid us, went inside, shut the door and did not witness what was about to unfold! As we attempted   to heave the sucker up on the truck, we lost it and I was under it.  As it was falling on my back, I rolled out from underneath it, making it just in time. A lady driving in a car saw what happened slammed on the brakes and offered assistance. I jumped up quickly, scraped, bruised and pissed and said, I’m ok!  It hurt my body and my ego,  but didn’t crush me entirely.     

In the hours that past I realized how stupid I was to put myself in that position:  literally and figuratively.  If you can picture the Atlas Shrugged statue of the man holding the earth on his back, that is what I felt and how it looked.  I was a business owner, trying to do everything! Trying to run the business, build the business and be the business. The weight of the world was on my shoulders.   I couldn’t sustain that anymore than I could hold the weight of a hot tub on my back.  So I had a breakdown, cried and cried and thought why the heck did I start this business ?  I began to question everything.   

With the help of a good friend I figured out this breakdown would be my breakthrough.  I needed to take the business to the next level.  I needed to hire employees.  

I used to think that irrational confidence would allow anyone to do anything they wanted.  As a CrossFitter, I always try to push myself further, but even trying to carry hot tubs was a bit extreme even for a CrossFitter!   

While I still think that it is extremely important to have this kind of unexplained confidence and push yourself.  I think that life can break you down if you let it. Be confident  in yourself and allow your break down to become your breakthrough!  






Statisc.. helpful harmful. 

I remember sitting in church listening to Coach Joe McCarthy, head of the promise keepers and coach for CU. As an athlete I was excited about his presentation.  He was talking about fathers and the role they have in their children’s lives. As I sat and listened to him ramble off statistic after statistic about how disadvantaged children who are raised by single parents and how they would be likely to use drugs, go to jail or have babies.  It really bothered me to the point I left.  In all fairness I learned later the end of his presentation was encouraging, but I didn’t wait to hear it. . I was that parent who was not married.  I made choices at the age of 18 that resulted in my having twins at the age of 19.  My kids were good, motivated, caring, responsible, and fun kids.  I couldn’t listen to the depressing statistic any longer.  



Boo Radley

Boo Radley

Last week Harper Lee, the author of To Kill A Mockingbird died.  At some point in time many of us have read the book or watched the movie.  It is a touching story of human nature and the pain and triumph that can occur when we let judgment take over.

Boo Radley always reminds me of my hoarders.  Boo Radley was considered to be a monster. The town had already labeled him. The kids were afraid, yet they didn’t even know him.  They made him out to be a crazy man capable of harming others.

As the story unfolds the kids realize that Boo had been gifting  them toys and trinkets.  He was trying to connect. His father was trying to prevent this all along.  No one had ever looked beyond the surface and actually been curious enough to get to know Boo for who he was.

When trouble came along,  Boo saved  the kid's life. His true character was revealed. And what a wonderful man he turned out to be.

Boo is just like my clients who are living behind closed doors, suffering from an illness, many of us don’t understand. Quick judgements and assumptions take over.

Harper Lee will be known for her contribution to making this culture a better place.  She inspired people to stop judging and get to know the real person.  In a culture that is lacking compassion, we can all be reminded of the lessons she brought up many years ago.

I am reminded of a quote by Abraham Lincoln, who put it in very simple terms.

"I don't like that man. I must get to know him better.”

Abraham Lincoln