Mar 23 2009


The new version of 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 9 2009

Conquering Clutter the Hudson Guild Way

Hoarding and decluttering have recently graced the pages of two major lifestyle magazines: Domino and Real Simple. In the February 2009 issue of Domino, interior designer Ryan Korban offers pack-rats solutions to clearing out clutter. In the March 2009 issue of Real Simple, a reformed hoarder, Erin Rooney Doland, discusses how she was able to purge her excess belongings.

With an estimated 4.5 million Americans suffering from compulsive hoarding, it’s no surprise that discussions on hoarding have become ubiquitous. has over 40 articles devoted to decluttering your home.

Here are a few simple tips on decluttering that I picked up from my experience attending the Hudson Guild decluttering support group meeting:

Don’t discard items – donate them!

Anna-Leah Braudes, the moderator of the Hudson Guild decluttering support group, said that it’s less stressful for hoarders to donate items rather than discard them. Most hoarders have an easier time giving up belongings if they can give it to someone who appreciates them. Braudes recommends donating clothes to the Salvation Army and books to Merchant Marines.

As for items like newspapers, Braudes says that purging papers is very difficult to tackle because of their frequent delivery. She added that hoarders like to randomly clip articles from the paper, but fail to file them in a place where they’ll have easy access to them at a later date. It was suggested at one of the meetings that hoarders should cancel their subscriptions to publications because most information is now available via the web through a publication’s online archive. Articles can easily be bookmarked or forwarded to a personal email account for quick future reference.

Acquiring decision-making skills

During each of her meetings, Braudes emphasizes to her members how important it is to acquire decision-making skills before discarding items. She says that if a hoarder discards an item without understanding why they’re discarding it, they’ll be more likely to repossess that item at a later date.

Braudes says that professional help, such as hoarding expert, Dr. Randy Frost’s, cognitive behavioral therapy for hoarding, can help hoarders tackle obstacles that they cannot handle on their own.

Below is a list of a few programs that offer professional therapy for hoarding:

Bio Behavioral Institute –  (Great Neck, NY)

UCLA – OCD Intensive Treatment Program (Los Angeles, CA)

The Institute of Living – Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (Hartford, CT)

Seeing it for yourself

Not too long ago, Braudes suggested a bold idea, that as a group her members visit each other’s home so that they can visualize what each person is referring to during group discussions. But to date, no one has accepted Braudes’s suggestion. In fact, several members ended up dropping out of the group to prevent this from happening.

Braudes believes if hoarders can view the clutter of others in-person, it will encourage them to look at their own clutter more objectively. Often times, Braudes’ members relate to the items being talked about and, she said this serves as an obvious way of helping each other.

Feb 3 2009


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.

Dec 17 2008

Children of Hoarders

Elizabeth Nelson said that she spent most of her childhood believing that she was one of the reasons why her mother suffered from compulsive hoarding and that her mother would frequently find excuses to blame the family for the clutter in their five-bedroom home. “My mother would tell us that the house is messy because you kicked your shoes underneath the dining room table and because your father doesn’t throw away the envelopes to bills,” Elizabeth said.

Like many children of hoarders, who are part of the baby boomer generation, Elizabeth grew up having no concept of what hoarding was. “We [my family] were all sort of taught that this was my mother’s thing to do, and we couldn’t do anything about it because she had such tight control of the house,” said Elizabeth.

Today Elizabeth is the moderator of the online support group,, which currently has over 2,000 members. Elizabeth believes that it’s important for children to confront their parents about their hoarding problems, unlike many psychologists who believe family intervention is not a viable solution and that it should be left to the professionals to handle.

Elizabeth Nelson

Elizabeth Nelson discusses hoarding during an interview with WXYZ (photo credit:

Several years ago, Elizabeth decided to address her mother’s hoarding problems, after discovering that her father, who is handicapped, was using a portable toilet in the living room because her mother had barricaded the bathroom door with hoarded items.

While Elizabeth’s mother was away visiting her sister, Elizabeth and her brothers spent over a week cleaning several rooms in her mother’s house. When her mother returned, she was shocked and angry by what her children had done – a common reaction amongst many hoarders who have had their belongings tampered with.

“Our intervention was not a complete disaster,” said Elizabeth. “We didn’t solve the problem and we knew that it was going to be a temporary fix, but we made the house safer for my dad.”

According to leading experts on hoarding, the disorder can never officially be overcome. Since the cleanup, Elizabeth’s mother’s home has, once again, fallen into disrepair.

While growing up, Elizabeth's bedroom was cluttered with her mother's hoarded items. (photo credit:

While growing up, Elizabeth's bedroom was cluttered with her mother's hoarded items. (photo credit:

Elizabeth said that many people within her support group have a difficult time organizing their own homes because they were never taught what a normal house should look like or what’s considered messy. She added that the support group has helped members differentiate between learning the behavior and having inherited the disorder.

Recently, the support group received a posting from a hoarder who reprimanded the members for “venting about their parent’s problems.” Elizabeth said that hoarders don’t always know how their children feel. “We’re not going to not talk about our experiences just to preserve their feelings,” said Elizabeth. “That’s not the point of the group.” “The point of the group is to talk amongst people who understand.”

Watch Elizabeth’s interview on her mother’s hoarding problems.