If you watched the latest episode of “Hoarders” on A&E, you met my friend Len. He is a tenderhearted man with a kind and gentle spirit. Len’s life has been a series of tramatic losses. He coped by gradually accumulating an unbelievable amount of stuff. Eventually he isolated himself from family and friends.
Imagine how hopeless he must have felt every day surrounded by over 2000 black trash bags–bags on every floor and in every room. He desperately wanted help, but just didn’t know where to start.
A bright ray of hope came into his life the day he met a professional organizer named Lynne. Her kindness, friendliness, and enthusiasm were a welcome change in Len’s life. Lynne helped Len contact the producers of the TV program “Hoarders”. She spent countless hours helping with paperwork and details. She helped assemble a crew of professional organizers, of which I was a part.
We all worked under the guidance of Dorothy the Organizer. She encouraged Len with her genuine compassion and respect. She clearly explained our daily tasks and worked beside us as we emptied his house of black trash bags and sorted similar items into labeled boxes.
It was great to also work with the crew from 1-800-Got-Junk. They were professional, diligent, and respectful as they efficiently moved stuff out to their big blue trucks.
Len trusted all of us to open the bags and sort out his stuff and find the best. Many items he had purchased with the intention of giving them to other people. He was very generous in sharing and donating extra and duplicate things to local charities.
He had many brand new items, especially clothes.Most had never been worn. It was obvious that he wanted to dress nicely, but his default outfit was usually a dark sweatshirt and sweatpants.
I think it was especially perceptive that Dorothy decided that one upstairs bedroom would be set up as a dressing room. All his nice clothes and shoes were out on open shelves and clothing racks. There was even an ironing board! This reflected who Len wanted to be. And he was moved to tears when he saw the finished room.
Whenever I think of Len, I remember his kind nature, friendly smile, and courageous spirit more than all those bags. He invited the whole world into his private living space. He admitted that he needed help. He listened to the people who were qualified to help him. He reached out for the hope that was offered to him. Len’s life was hopelessly out of control for many years, but now he can look forward to a very different future because he is no longer trapped in the past–he is no longer buried in bags of stuff.
The crew of organizers returned about a month later to help Len finish sorting his stuff. The relief he felt was obvious in his wide grin and friendly chattering. The work we did was exhausting, but truly rewarding.
You may not have 2700 bags of stuff in your house…but you may still be trapped in the past by drawers, closets, rooms, attics, and basements that are full of things that really serve no purpose in your current season of life.
Do yourself a favor. Start making decisions now. Donate it. Recycle it. Trash it. Do whatever it takes to get rid of extra stuff around your house. You will be refreshed and renewed. And you will look to the future with hope.
If you would like more information about understanding hoarding behaviors, please refer to the book written by my NAPO colleague Geralin Thomas entitled From Hoarding to Hope.