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 24 2009

Less Than a Month to Go

We’re entering the stretch run and our website is due to our professors in less than a month. After much discussion we’ve finally decided on a layout for the site. We ‘re almost done with our reporting and are putting all the multimedia pieces together for the site.

We visited Washington, D.C. and Baltimore this past weekend  to interview Erin Doland of unclutterer.com and John. Erin was great and very open with us. She talked about the creation of unclutterer.com and her childhood battles with clutter and how she deals with clutter today.

doland

We met John earlier in the school year and took some pictures of his apartment but he recently had his apartment cleaned and organized and was kind enough to invite us back to his place for an in-depth interview. John didn’t want to be on camera so we asked him to discuss items and objects that he particularly cherishes. John loves to go on cruises and is enamored with all things related to the ocean and oceanliners.  The interview was eye-opening and gave us more insight into his character. We hope we can present a nuanced portrait of him in a video that emphasizes his relationship with his belongings.

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On a side note,  Eric Adler of the Kansas City Star  recently wrote a story about hoarders in Kansas City. The headline the paper published was: The hoard festival; Packrats celebrate their collections — until they get in the way of living.

The headline was a little misleading because it read – at least to me -that the story was about a festival that celebrates hoarding. This is not the case . The story is about a few Kansas City area residents that have hoarding and clutter problems. The story gives some decent background information on the condition of hoarding and quotes Dr. Randy Frost, an expert we’re still hoping will speak to hoardhouse.


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.


Feb 3 2009

Thoughts

Work has picked up on our website and at school as of late. The team has been surprised by the amount of access we’ve been able to get from people with this illness and experts on this issue. The situation wasn’t  looking so good a few weeks ago. I was banned from a de-clutter support group because of concerns about liabilities and was kicked out of a Clutterers Anonymous meeting but Frederick , an attendee at that meeting was kind enough to give me his phone number and returned my  call the same night. He invited us to his apartment to let us interview him on camera and take pictures the next day. Frederick’s an artist and used to work in fashion design. We are currently working on a video that will feature him talking about his condition.

Last week Ben and I ventured out to Long Island to interview Dr. Fugen Neziroglu of the Bio-Behavioral Institute. Dr. Neziroglu was very gracious and answered all of our questions. She commented on some of the pictures of hoarding sites we’ve been able to document.  And an interview with Dr. Randy Frost of Smith College is in the works. He’s considered one of the foremost experts on this topic.

We’ve also been kicking around a few interesting concepts for the site and welcome any comments and ideas from our readers.

The project has also gotten some attention on the internet. We continue to receive emails from people all over the country and the world. And Unclutterer, one of the more widely read blogs on the topic of clutter has discovered our site.

We’re humbled and honored by our readers’ encouraging words of support and will continue to report on this issue in a thorough and transparent manner.


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!