Hoarder needs help
deleneye
November 11, 2013 in Design Dilemma
Hello everyone,

I have a prospect whose mum is a hoarder. She wants to change their kitchen and needs help. How do you suggest we make this work?
I will be glad to get your suggestions.

Thanks.
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mpoulsom
How many people live there? the reason I'm asking, is because it looks like the first thing to do is to go through everything and sell or give away about half of the things in the kitchen. If there is one, or two people living there, they only need so many plates etc. And it doesn't look like they need to go and buy any more small appliances etc.
This is going to be tough I think. People who hoard things need special help when dealing with eliminating things and reprogramming their way of thinking. It will end up looking the same or worse if other issues aren't dealt with first. My grandmother and father are both victims of this behavior.
November 11, 2013 at 12:49pm     
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yoboseiyo
my best advice is to tread carefully when trying to divest the mother of the excess stuff.

the first thing i would do is ask if there is anything that is not used or is broken in that room.
if the answer is "yes", ask what they are, have them bring the items out.
then you have the task of explaining why they do not need said disused/broken items.

and go from there.

good luck.
November 11, 2013 at 12:52pm     
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deleneye
There are 3 females living in the house. Many of those plates are like memorabilia for her. She got them as souvenirs at parties. I know it's gonna be tough but I am assured cause I have you guys
November 11, 2013 at 12:52pm   
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deleneye
We will be changing the tiles too
November 11, 2013 at 12:54pm   
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2dogssashatess
Well good luck, because my mother is a hoarder and when I got her kitchen fixed up, it led to many screaming matches about things being thrown out. My mother had hoarded literally 100s of paper and plastic bag,s empty glass jars, empty plastic containers, multiples of plates, glasses etc. Hoarders get very stressed when you throw stuff out. One feels like waiting till they are out and simply throwing out the lot , however if you do that you could give your mother a total melt down. if your mother is a diagnosed hoarder, I suggest you get her on some antidepressants before embarking on the project as it may make her calmer and less stressed. Professional help in the form of a clinical psychologist experienced with hoarders may help.

Your mum may be prepared to give some things away to friends/neighbours or charities ( I asked friends and neighbours to say they would like x, y, or z whether they needed/wanted anything or not and then they would chuck it out or give it to an op shop LOL).
November 11, 2013 at 12:57pm     
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2dogssashatess
ps. sometimes hoarders don't know exactly what they have because they haven't seen stuff for a long time because its been buried. Maybe you could sneakily throw out at least 10% of her stuff without her even noticing, e.g. if she has seven white plates, one could disappear
November 11, 2013 at 1:00pm     
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PRO
Inside Out Staging and Design
What are they trying to achieve in the change and how big of an overall is it?
November 11, 2013 at 1:00pm     
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Allison Burnfield McAteer
I don't think that open shelving is the way to go. All the cabinets should have doors and go up to the ceiling. This will lessen the visual clutter. Mom needs to be apart of the plan. People hoard for different reason's some it is addiction to buying, some it is an emotional attachment to stuff(same part of the brain is stimulate as a death of a loved one, some it is linked to OCD. ) It is a very slow process. One technique is to remove everything from the premise (not thrown out) the place is repaired. Only items requested by item are returned. After one year (or agreed upon time) Mom doesn't get to look at the items returned after they are removed.
November 11, 2013 at 1:01pm     
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deleneye
@inside out

A new look basically. Floor,walls,maybe new cupboard or new storage space.
November 11, 2013 at 1:07pm   
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2dogssashatess
I would set mum up with several bins, recycling (paper, plastic, aluminium), rubbish, give away and put them in a prominent place in the kitchen to help her throw stuff out. She needs to get some good habits going.
November 11, 2013 at 1:07pm     
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2dogssashatess
I agree with Allison if you have a garage try to get your mum to agree to transfer everything to the garage as a starting point. Unfortunately, getting hoarders to part with stuff is very difficult but if you don'require her to throw anything out now., you can get on with the job of fixing the kitchen up and can tackle getting rid of stuff later
November 11, 2013 at 1:10pm     
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deleneye
Need to take measurements in order to have a full idea how much space I'm gonna be working with.
November 11, 2013 at 1:11pm   
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Elaine P
The kitchen looks clean and organized, its just that they have a lot of "stuff" so the cabinets and counters are full. If the plates are special to her, let her keep them, focus on getting rid of the other stuff.
November 11, 2013 at 1:18pm     
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happyasaclam
You can not just wade in and start sorting and bagging and throwing things away. Your client's mom is hoarding because this is the one area of her life that she feels she can control. Somewhere along the way something has happened to cause her to think she must hold onto things. When did it start? Usually hoarding starts with the loss of a spouse, parent or child or even a job. She needs the help of a professional. If you try to sneak things out or forcefully remove things without her permission your client will ruin the trust her mother has in her and she you may no longer be welcome in her mom's life. Unless she is in immediate danger from unsafe conditions it would be best to seek professional help before going any further. This isn't a bad habit or laziness or conscience selfishness on the mom's part. Hoarders will very often choose their hoarding over their loved ones. It's a painful disease for everyone involved. If I were you I would step back and let your client and her mom work on this problem. As a third party you can easily be blamed by the mom for starting the whole business, even though you didn't. I'm sorry your client and her mom are going through this.
November 11, 2013 at 1:43pm     
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indianpatti
The room doesn not appear to be a full-blown hoarder's home. IMO, they seem to be either lazy, or out of room and things started piling up.

If it were me, I would tell her that the scope or your remodelling does not include organization or removal of their personal items. Explain that you are more than happy to help them with the design, but until all items which are piled on top of countertops and furniture are removed you are unable to start the remodel. All furnitures that are not built-in would also need to be removed (i.e. tables, stepstools, shelves, etc.)

You're not a trained therapist and you should make this perfectly clear.

Good luck!
November 11, 2013 at 1:55pm     
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happyasaclam
indianpatti, that is an excellent idea. The mom's reaction to the plans for remodeling and telling her that her things would need to be moved will tell the tale!
November 11, 2013 at 2:04pm     
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deleneye
Thank you guys now, any ideas for how to remodel? I'm thinking of ceiling high cabinets, window height tiles all around the kitchen wall instead of just the sparse ones they have at the moment.
November 11, 2013 at 9:17pm     
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nwduck
I highly recommend a book called "Stuff" by Randy Frost & Gail Stekektee for your prospect, and for you if interested. Easy read, and a great primer on the different motivations for collecting things. This doesn't really look like full boat hoarding....just thing collecting. If you can identify a group in your locale that is specific to something like setting up new households for, say, a little family coming out of an abusive situation, it is easier for the homeowner to imagine items going to a specific place, rather than just Goodwill/Salvation Army/etc. Since you will have to take virtually everything out to re-do, putting things in another room/garage for a sort of duplicates would be a first step. Everyone should realize you will NOT be able to get rid of everything you think should go. A once-over of the cabinetry with a wood cleaner and polisher, and some new hardware would freshen it up. Simple standard white tiles replacing the existing, and a cheery brighter yellow paint (since that looks like what the homeowner chose originally). Paint or wallpaper the back of the glass front cabinets, and locate shelves to replace what appears to be a missing row. (White laminate shelf replacements from someplace like Home Depot could work). Instead of the table (assume that's what the cloth is over) you could look for a large dresser with some deep drawers, repaint it in a bright color. Create a coffee/tea bar on the top, use small drawers for linens, napkins, etc., other deeper ones for small appliances. Find space in the garage to make a "seldom used" kitchen item shelving area. Put things out there like large appliances, pans, specialty things (turkey pan, for example). Clean them, wrap them in simple white kitchen garbage bags and tag with an index card. Store baskets on the top shelf. You could decorate the walls with her special plates by attaching plate hangers. She might really enjoy seeing them again, making her kitchen a happy place. Best wishes!
November 11, 2013 at 10:37pm     
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Curt D'Onofrio
I would check to see to see if the refrigerator can be built into the wall behind it. This will give you more floor space. And after doing this, put in built in shelving above the refrigerator.
November 11, 2013 at 11:00pm     
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Ed
Hi deleneye, the kitchen in the photos seems relatively mild compared to what happens on these shows -- good luck! --

TLC: Hoarding: Buried Alive --
http://www.tlc.com/tv-shows/hoarding-buried-alive

A&E: Hoarders --
http://www.aetv.com/hoarders/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hoarders
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hoarding:_Buried_Alive
November 11, 2013 at 11:40pm     
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alfredshearing
What's not to like?
November 11, 2013 at 11:51pm   
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kat63
Many people grew up during the depression and hoarding was in effect taught to them. "don't throw it out if it can still be used. Look after your things. Don't be replacing things just because you want new. Waste not, what not. Save every dime. Why did you throw that out, Aunt so and so gave you that?" It was both preached and practiced. Throwing out was wasteful and selfish. When you find a hoarder, look into their past, you may find that there was a time when they had nothing. When you find one of these types of hoarders, you have to convince them that there are other people that need as well, sending the stuff to charities can help offset the guilt they feel in parting with the stuff. The other problem that you can tackle in this is how much better they will feel without the clutter, and how much easier it will be to keep clean.
November 12, 2013 at 12:23am     
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PRO
LB Interiors
I would first ask the owner if she really wants to clean up and get a new kitchen? Then explain how and what she is going to 'have' to do to get it. You will probably have to repeat the question many times, for her to understand the goal and what is needed to get there.
Then you can help her tackle one section at a time. Trying to take everything away will create too much anxiety. I think it needs to be done slowly and with her involved with your guidance to help her analyze the items. One section at a time. Once decisions are made for the items that are being kept, trashed or donated, she will be able to continue with the process.
November 12, 2013 at 12:49am     
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PRO
Sustainable Dwellings
People like this need more than a pro's reno help.... I am sorry, but that looks like a mess I would not want to get involved with....but get labeled boxes to sort things; trash/donate/keep, stay vigilant and get ready for some roller-coaster emotions.
November 12, 2013 at 1:09am     
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happyasaclam
I'm sure you've experienced unexpected reactions from clients due to cost over runs or what the material looked like when actually installed, but this situation will be totally different. Act as a contractor only. Let the family deal with the mom. Be prepared to lose money on this job due to lost work days when mom calls a halt to everything. Sustainable Dwellings has it right on this one - get ready for an emotional roller coaster ride, not just from mom but from the family too. I don't think they realize how hard this will be either. I'm hoping for the best for everybody!
November 12, 2013 at 5:48am     
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chookchook2
This kitchen needs more storage. Take all out, increase cupboards, put stuff in them. Will look much better.
November 12, 2013 at 5:58am     
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PRO
PH Interiors, LLC
Are you sure you want to tackle this? I can only imagine the amount of time and patience this project would take. I had a potential client who had 2 full sets of dining furniture in her dining room, glass front kitchen cabinets stuffed with logo themed plastic cups, piles of newspapers everywhere, lots of not so gently used furniture crammed throughout the house. Rather than even suggest she lose any of it (she had a story for every item), I priced myself out of the running. She was a lovely person but the project was not one I had wanted to take on. I wasn't born with an excess of patience and it would have driven me nuts. I'm sure others could have handled it but I know myself.
November 12, 2013 at 6:18am     
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decoenthusiaste
Perhaps if mum could see an artistic rendition of what the completed space will look like..
Feature a select few of her collected plates in a prominent place to reassure her.
November 12, 2013 at 6:22am   
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apple_pie_order
If the owner is not on board with remodelling or clearing out, it is not going to work. If the owner is the mother, your contract would be with her, not the daughter who wants something different.

If I were a building contractor, I would not get involved until the area is cleared. Dealing with a hoarder's problems is not a job for a builder.
November 12, 2013 at 7:34am     
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armipeg
Well at least she's a tidy hoarder and that's very important. It means she likes things to be organized and clean. Unfortunately, it's a psychological thing. She's attached to the stuff she collects. It can be done, but it's a slow process. She must be prepared to let go. Otherwise, if someone else gets rid of them for her she will probably replace them with more stuff.
November 12, 2013 at 8:04am     
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1807henry1
Paring down is liberating ! I have learned to practice detachment with things. Also I don't want to take inventory all the time because it's tiring. I really watch myself shopping, thrift shops mostly. I really like giving my stuff away!!
November 12, 2013 at 8:30am   
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JO
Delenye: Ed gave you needed resources to learn about hoarders, and although this kitchen seems cluttered, it appears to be sorted in ways the occupants understand, and you don't need to actually crawl over anything to get to the appliances. What I picked up on was the daughter wants to change the kitchen and reduce the clutter, not the mother. and she wants your help. Maybe suggesting the daughter and mother begin by previewing a few of the programs Ed suggested and when their ready sit down with all parties involved and take notes and listen after they sort out what the daughter wants to do for the mom and the daughter is on board as to what the mother expects. As others have suggested taking on a project like this could end a friendship and tie you up for a long time. You sound like an amazing friend/professional that anyone would love to have in their life. Good luck
November 12, 2013 at 8:32am     
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deleneye
Thanks everyone. I'm extremely grateful.
November 12, 2013 at 11:01am     
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nwduck
deleneye: Whether you decide to help or not, can you strongly recommend they at least have an electrician come in and take a look at those outlets by the microwave? And some of the wiring coming out of the boxes and running up the walls? Kind of scarey looking.
November 12, 2013 at 11:19am     
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PRO
JudyG Designs
What if you started with her plates? Start small and slow. The two of you go through them together and have her choose her favorites and set them aside. The rest you both wrap up and pack away in containers. Gone from sight, but maybe it will reassure Mom you are not disposing of them (YET).

Invite her to take a look at kitchens which have incorporated plates in the decor displayed in racks. Maybe seeing what she could do will help her make a decision.
http://www.houzz.com/photos/kitchen/plate-racks-
http://www.houzz.com/photos/kitchen/plate-racks-
November 12, 2013 at 11:24am   
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erinsean
I feel for you...it is hard to work with a hoarder. I think the suggestion (if they will do it) is to move everything out....everything! Then redo the cupboards....bringing them down farther, doors on all of them, and go to the ceiling. After you are done with the remodeling, help them bring back their "stuff" and at that time, if they see how nice it looks uncluttered, you may be able to convince them to give their extras to a needy person. Hoarders are very emotional people when you invade their "stuff". Good luck to you.
November 12, 2013 at 11:36am   
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