De-Clutter Support Group Meeting

Today I attended a de-clutter support group meeting for elderly people at Dorot, where I met Karen Fuller, Director of Health & Nutrition Services, Linda Libow, a social worker, and Susan Kranberg, a professional organizer. Fuller and Libow manage the program, and Kranberg conducts the monthly meeting. Fuller allowed me to sit on the meeting as an observer and announced to a group of 1o attendees that I was there working on a project on clutter and hoarding.

The meeting was the last one Kranberg held for the year, and she urged attendees to throw away or give hoarded items like clothing, shoes, and books to charities, friends, and family for 2009. Their assignment for the next meeting is to report what items they have gotten rid of for the new year.

Disposal of papers was a major issue for all of the attendees. It seemed like everybody had a problem with throwing away hoarded copies of the The New Yorker and The New York  Times. There were a few things that struck me after the meeting. Two men and an African-American woman were in attendance. From our research, OCD-related clutter and hoarding are problems mostly found among single or widowed Caucasian women. Karen told me that Dorot’s de-clutter support group meeting is one of the few in the city that men actually attend.  I was also amazed at how social and frank some of the attendees were with regards to their condition.

When I arrived, I initially expected that I wouldn’t have the opportunity to speak to anybody besides Karen, Linda, or Susan Kranberg. And they made it clear to me that they didn’t want me to try and speak to attendees because of possible liability issues and my lack of experience dealing with people who have an OCD-related clutter and hoarding problem.

But three ladies approached me after the meeting and talked to me about their issues with hoarding and clutter. One lady named Susan (not Kranberg) had some especially interesting things to say:

  • “Procrastination is a big problem for people with this problem.”
  • “I wish I could find a psychiatrist or psychologist who would not tell me to throw my things away. I want to find one who can tell me how to live with my things.”
  • “I have many books on hoarding but I don’t have time to read them because I’m retired. And I don’t want to get rid of them.”

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