I am a member of the Connecticut Hoarding Working Group and this week I attended the CT Conference on Hoarding: "When a House is not a Home." It was put on in collaboration with the CT Environmental Health Association. It was an amazing venue with a turnout of over 300 participants.
The keynote speaker was Dr. Randy Frost, professor at Smith College, who has published more than 160 scientific articles on hoarding and co-authored several books. His research has appeared on numerous television shows and he has consulted with various hoarding task forces all over the world. There was a legal presentation given by a statewide prosecuting attorney for Housing Matters for the State of Connecticut, Division of Criminal Justice, Office of the Chief State's Attorney. In addition, psychologists from the Anxiety Disorders Center at the Institute of Living in Hartford gave talks and demonstrated role plays.
I learned so many things from this all-day conference, but there are three lessons that I wanted to share in particular.
(1) The affects of hoarding disorder are far reaching
The variety of participants at the conference highlighted how this disorder affects so many aspects of our community. At my table alone there was an animal control officer, social worker, director of human services for a municipality, a family member of a person with hoarding disorder and a mental health professional. Other attendees included building officials, fire marshals, law enforcement, public health officials, mental health professionals, zoning enforcement and other first responders. I also had 6 other professional organizer colleagues that I invited along with me. It's clear that in order to address the issue of hoarding that a multidisciplinary and multiagency approach must be utilized.
(2) We all collect the same things
Dr. Frost talked about a study that he conducted that asked both persons struggling with hoarding and non-hoarders what types of things they collect. Their answers were the same: clothing, books, newspapers, containers. So many people think that hoarders collect worthless and worn items, when in fact that usually isn't the case at all. It's just that the volume of what they collect supersedes that of a non-hoarder.
(3) Persons with a hoarding disorder may be smarter than the rest of us
It was posited that hoarders may have higher brain functioning than the average person. Individuals who have a hoarding disorder often are able to recognize unlimited potential in the items they collect and have a deeper appreciation of the physical world, finding beauty in the most mundane objects. This seems to indicate that they are using more of their brain potential than the rest of us. What a special gift that is!
I am continuing to learn more about hoarding disorder in my work with clients, reading materials, workshops and seminars. I am excited to be a part of this Hoarding Working Group and at the conference it was announced that Senate Bill No. 18 which is an act establishing a task force to study hoarding was unanimously passed in the CT State Senate and is now awaiting House action. What an accomplishment!
I am fortunate to live in a state that is making great strides on the issue of hoarding. I encourage you to call your state legislators to bring attention to this disorder so that we can develop initiatives to better understand and treat it.