Mar 23 2009

Launch!

The new version of hoardhouse.com is now live.

Thanks for your support. Be sure to visit the blog for future coverage and news on this issue.

Please pass this link an message on to your friends, family, colleagues or anybody who might be interested in hoarding, cluttering, and NYC.

Thanks again,

Karn Dhingra, Jackie Kasuya & Ben Piven


Feb 5 2009

The Cluttered Lives We Live

This project has forced me to think about clutter in my own life. Clutter extends far beyond our residential spaces, and it is relevant to time management, social life, information intake, and cultural choice.

Cluttered space often remains cluttered because clutterers lack the time management skills to accomplish tasks efficiently and effectively. Spatial and temporal clutter are intertwined. Similar psychological mechanisms are at play.

Spatial clutter arises from the failure to discard stuff from one’s personal sphere. Clutterers cannot decide when they have accumulated too much. There is a pathological issue in executing simple decisions about what to discard and what not to discard. Many clutterers are also fundamentally unrealistic about how much can be accomplished in a given time frame – with decluttering activities or otherwise.

Thus, time clutter and space clutter are intimately related. Inability to regulate one’s spatial life is inextricably linked to an inability to cope successfully with time constraints. Though there is not always a correlation between the two, many spatial clutterers also have a cluttered schedules.

But there are also time clutterers who do not suffer from cluttered space. Many meticulously neat people have intensely chaotic schedules. I have begun to contemplate my own time management and whether my schedule is too cluttered. Perhaps I do best with a cluttered schedule. Or perhaps I, too, should schedule less cluttered days.

During a Clutterers Anonymous (CLA) meeting on January 15th, I committed explicitly to thinking more about the relationship between spatial clutter (to which CLA is dedicated) and other sorts of clutter (namely, temporal and social).

A third type of clutter is social clutter, which is often be linked to temporal clutter. My life is often socially cluttered – whether due to technology such as Facebook or an excessively extroverted personality.

Is there a limit to one’s Rolodex, cellphone contact list, or Facebook friends? Is 1000 enough? What’s the line between a social butterfly and a social clutterer?

Next is information clutter. Columbia Journalism Review’s November/December 2008 issue dealt with information overload. Are we bombarded with too much knowledge? How much time do we spend uncluttering our gmail? Do you routinely lose files on your desktop and hard drive?

In this age of infinite information, it is difficult to maintain satisfactory levels of order in these realms. Technology should increase the speed and the order of our lives, but it also contributes to tremendous clutter problems. As with physical space, informational clutter does not become a problem until you simply cannot find what you’re looking for. Or, when you simply run out of space to store stuff.

But, information clutter does not stop there. Idea clutter in the classroom is forever nagging. Especially for journalists, word clutter and other written expressions of disorganization can be disastrous. Informational clutter is seemingly endless…

The fifth and final type of clutter in this entry is cultural clutter. Does this afflict me? I constantly find myself partaking in a rapidly growing number of cultural traditions. Is there a limit to the digestible variety of cuisines, fashions, religions, holidays, and languages?  Is splintered cultural allegiance detrimental to personal growth?

What may be burdensome clutter to some may be positive for others. For example, cultural clutter  might be more accurately labeled “cosmopolitan,” “diverse,” or “eclectic.” Similarly,  a social clutterer might be called popular. Are information clutterers not intellectual and informed? Time clutterers are often high efficient people. After all, when you need something done quickly, give it to a busy person.

Back to spatial clutter. There is often a very fine line between a collector and a clutterer.

In sum, let’s consider five potentially cluttered realms: space, time, friendship, information, and culture.

A little bit of minimalism does the body (and the mind) good.


Jan 30 2009

CLA = Clutterers Anonymous

  • To differentiate it from Cocaine Anonymous (CA), Clutterers Anonymous is abbreviated as CLA.
  • Like every other Anonymous program founded in the spirit of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), CLA also has 12 steps, which are essentially the same 12 steps as AA’s original 12 steps.
  • Read more about how Wikipedia describes CLA.
  • Check out the list of dozens of different 12 step programs, for everything from Debtors Anonymous (DA) and Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA) to Overeaters Anonymous (OA) and Marijuana Anonymous (MA).
  • And here is an online support group for CLA.

Jan 25 2009

Clutter on 28th Street

Here are some photographs of hoarding at Frederick’s residence. We will likely be returning to his place to document how the scene has changed since the clean-up and fumigation of his studio.


Jan 19 2009

Project Update

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and tomorrow is the inauguration of our nation’s first president of African origin. These are momentous times for hoarders and non-hoarders alike.

As we continue to make progress on this Hoardhouse project, it is important to give you, our readers, an update on where this effort is headed. We are finalizing the designs for the eventual Hoardhouse website, which we will launch in mid-March. Thus, in two months time, this blog layout will be replaced by a fully loaded multimedia site organized thematically (the hoarders, the clean-up specialists, the social workers, and the experts).

We are always open to suggestions about our material and our mission. As we continue to cover a topic that can be controversial and sensitive for many people, we realize that empathy and understanding are key to doing the best possible reporting. This has been and will remain a process of learning about the psychological and social facets of a highly complex phenomenon.

While we have certainly logged some solid footage thus far, it seems that much of our most meaningful work lies ahead. Also, at this point, while we conduct the rest of our reporting and production, the ultimate feel of our site is still somewhat nascent.

In terms of our most recent reporting, we have decided to shift how our blog reflects what we learn. Some of our posts thus far have included our opinions and speculations about hoarding. We are now interested in blogging more factual material about our goings-on, even if we have become more restrained with how much detail is revealed about the particular hoarders that we meet.

Our coverage of Catherine in New Jersey will continue, although we are concerned about her medical and legal situations.

Each of the three Hoardhouse group members attended three different Clutterers Anonymous (CLA) meetings in Manhattan this past week. We plan on returning to these CLA chapters in the West Village, Union Square, and Times Square. We are cultivating relationships with a number of folks that we’ve met at these meetings. It has been somewhat of a challenge to present ourselves candidly as journalists, when the conventional expectation at any 12-step Anonymous meeting (even if considered an “open” meeting) is that all attendees are part of the “fellowship.”

There is a relatively small minority of CLA attendees who appear reluctant to share their thoughts if they perceive that their full anonymity and confidentiality are threatened by the presence of a journalist or researcher. However, we have found that the vast majority of attendees were comfortable with our journalistic inquiries, as long as we explained our goals. Yet, some hoarders and clutterers (we are still ascertaining the difference between the two terms) fear that we have voyeuristic intentions. We always reiterate that our aim is to be informative, thorough, and transparent.

In sum, our project has been fulfilling and challenging thus far. We will continue to pose the difficult questions about our subject matter. Some of the bigger picture questions that we seek to resolve include: does hoarding deserve its own DSM classification when it is generally comorbid with other disorders? Why did so many people start hoarding in the 1980’s? Do most New Yorkers know at least one hoarder? Could there really be 5 million hoarders in America?

We look forward to engaging with our readers and viewers over the coming months.

Happy Inauguration Day!