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December 4, 2003

Decluttering
Posted by Teresa at 01:23 PM * 12 comments

True faith, hope, and charity: Dorothy Breininger helps Lloyd Drum clean up his home. It’s a remarkable story. (via Calpundit.)

Comments on Decluttering:
#1 ::: Jeffguy ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2003, 01:40 PM:

It would be great if the assistant documented the entire process on video. On network news (at least the network news I've seen in NYC) a story like this would be served up as a curiosity, a side show piece. A well-made documentary would go a long way towards increasing awareness & support for hoarders and those who want to help them.

#2 ::: Janice in GA ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2003, 01:47 PM:

Site requires registration, alas.

#3 ::: Jeffguy ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2003, 01:54 PM:

For those anti-registration-types out there:

user: jeffyjeffy
pass: oranges

#4 ::: SW ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2003, 02:27 PM:

Janice, most sites that require registration have the cyberpunk:cyberpunk combo in their system.

#5 ::: Stephanie ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2003, 02:32 PM:

Thanks for the login, Jeff. It's an astonishing story.

There is some awareness of hoarding on TV, but it's a cleaner, friendlier version. I've seen a couple of episodes of Clean Sweep on TLC (which is turning into the Tough Love Channel) and Life Laundry on BBC America. The premise is to clean out the hoarder's house, organize what's left, and hold a yard sale for the discarded stuff all in 48 hours. They tend to choose people who have too many kids' toys, overflowing closets and such. I'd like to see them take on a true hoarder's home and try to deal with things like vermin and rotting walls. I imagine the containers and things they provide the families just become part of the clutter when the crew leaves. As the article pointed out, the quick-fix approach does nothing to address the real problem. The guy in the article had six weeks to adjust to the idea, and he still wasn't ready to part with his empty tape cases. That's a level of hoarding I can barely comprehend.

#6 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2003, 02:32 PM:

What a fascinating story. I wish Mr. Drum the best.

Two bits that caught my eye:

Looking for a better solution, Sari Steel, an attorney for the county counsel's office, located Breininger, then president of the local chapter of the National Assn. of Professional Organizers

and

Breininger, who figures she has spent nearly $10,000 of her own money on the project,

Remarkable all-around.

#7 ::: eleanor rowe ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2003, 03:56 PM:

There's a show running on BBC2 in the UK called 'How clean is Your House' which is pure car crash television. It features 'Dirt detective' Aggie, a pleasant enough woman who takes samples of the grime around the place and tells you what bacteria/livestock you are harbouring; and a woman called Kim with very improbable blond hair - I am not being blondist, if you've seen the show you will know it's very very odd in an over-styled way - who just bullies people whilst employing cringe-making sexual innuendo. Both of them are too proper to use either the vernacular or the medical terms for excrement. People over the age of six (as long as they are not talking to the under sixes) who use 'pee-pee' and 'doo-doo' as exceptable euphemisms should be beaten about the head with a dictionary (Collins is an exceptable weight) until they are sorry.

Mostly they get people who are just too busy with other things to stay on top of the house-keeping: a family with six children; this week a mother and daughter running impeccable stables while neglecting their own accomodation.

The week before last they targeted a single forty-something woman living in squalor whilst looking perfectly respectable, and earning a living as -oh the irony- a domestic cleaner.

As soon as I saw the way she was living I thought: Garbage House. She so clearly needed proper help rather than those clowns running roughshod over her feelings; I was dismayed. I don't think that that intervention will have done her any good, and the house will swiftly return to its former state, except now all her friends and relations and clients will remember the programme.

I'm pleased Mr Drum has been treated more sensitively, and that he has been lucky enough to find kind people to help him. These people are not lazy, or slovenly, and deserve better treatment than that accorded by the BBC.

#8 ::: Lara Beaton ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2003, 04:09 PM:

Stephanie, you missed out one of the best bits of the Life Laundry - the fact that all of the stuff that doesn't get sold in the yard sale gets chucked into a wood chipper.

There was another show on in Britain that had two women who would find the most disgusting houses they could and clean them. We're talking things in the fridge that were a year past their sell by date, pizza boxes that had achieved sentience, toilets that had not been cleaned since Thatcher left office, etc. Not something to watch while you're having dinner.

I wish I could remember the name of it.

#9 ::: Stephanie ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2003, 04:21 PM:

Lara - oh dear. I missed the wood chipper. I can only imagine how devastated a true hoarder would be.

#10 ::: Nancy H. ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2003, 08:27 PM:

Empty video cassette boxes seem to be a commonality with perfectionist personalities that tend toward hoarding. I've had to argue to get empty boxes thrown out around here at times. It's amazing what having a house turned inside-out for remodeling will do to throwing out things, however!

#11 ::: Paul ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2003, 10:14 AM:

There is a brilliant weekly television programme in Japan called "Gomi Yashiki" ("Garbage Houses") in which they do a similar sort of thing: finding garbage houses, and then cleaning them up. They also look at the reasons for which people have ended up in such situations. Often, the back story is quite tragic.

Unlike the programmes that Stephanie mentioned, the houses on "Gomi Yashiki" are real garbage houses - one episode featured a room that was several centimetres deep in pigeon droppings; in another, a woman was living in a space about 2m by 1m surrounded by bags full of refuse.

The best aspect of the programme, though, is that the makers of the programme persuade the garbage house owners to let them help clear up the houses - often requiring them to earn the trust of the owners. When they succeed in turning the houses back into places to live, the happiness and gratitude of the subjects, most of whom had long since given up on being able to sort out the chaos, is very touching and heartwarming.

Although the programme could be seen as exploitative, the fact that the faces and voices of the inhabitants are obscured goes a long way in countering this potential problem. And it's really wonderful to see what a positive difference can be made to people's lives.

#12 ::: Mary ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2003, 05:28 PM:

For a kinder, gentler take on this, I'll post my first comment here. My husband, rest his soul, would have been living among piles of clutter had he not been married to me. Although he was a brilliant man, he had Asperger's Syndrome, a mild form of autism (more on my blog entry The Insulated Jar), and one of his quirks was an inability to throw certain things away.

I was fairly vigilant, but allowed certain things to pile up; plastic bags, after all, don't take up much room, do they? Our store room was piled with plastic bags filled with plastic bags, literally to the ceiling. I'd finally had enough and cleared them all out. My husband's saving grace was his sense of humor. After the very next trip to the grocery store, he grabbed the plastic bags, hugged them to his chest, and said "Don't worry, I'll save you from the bad lady" as he carried them downstairs to the storeroom.

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