The term “hoarder” is the equivalent of a four-letter word to Puyallup personal organizer Terina Bainter.
“There is this horrible, nasty stigma that comes with it,” Bainter said.
Bainter, who owns a small business called Clutter Cutters, wants to change people’s perceptions about hoarding. She is speaking at a series of workshops across the county this month.
She will share the clinical definition of the mental health disorder and hopes to help people recognize the early signs of hoarding before it reaches the extreme.
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“If we can change the perspective, if we can change the stigma, if we can open the communication, then we can actually make a difference sooner,” Bainter said.
Organized by Pierce County’s Community Connections Aging and Disability Resource Center, the remaining workshops are:
▪ Jan. 20, 6:30 p.m., Sumner Library, 1116 Fryar Ave., Sumner.
▪ Jan. 23, 9:30 a.m., Soundview Building, 3602 Pacific Ave. S., Tacoma.
Bainter took time to answer questions about hoarding to better help people understand the disorder that she said affects roughly 345,000 Washingtonians.
Q: How do you draw the line between too much clutter and hoarding?
A: We all can get to the point where we can get too much stuff and you need to discard items. For me, the No. 1 component of hoarding is the mental distress that letting go of an item has on a person.
Q: Is hoarding a disease that affects only older adults?
A: We can see hoarding first happen when children are young. Usually however, we don’t get involved or get called to help someone until they are in their fifth or sixth decade of life.
Reaching out for help is a sign of great strength and not a sign of weakness.
Terina Bainter, personal organizer, owner Clutter Cutters
Q: Why is that?
A: Our society as a whole does a really good job of acquiring items. You start acquiring items for 20 or 30 years, and eventually it’s a big issue.
Q: Are there different levels of hoarding, or is it always like the extreme cases we see on reality television?
A: People can have low-lying tendencies. Usually it starts off with just a little bit of clutter. Another component is people get sick. Maybe someone got cancer and their home was kind of manageable and then it just blew up. There are so many things that can and do transpire that there is no kind of overall way to say “You need to fit in this little square box.” Most of it we can explain how it got to where it did.
Q: Is the answer just cleaning someone’s house out and they’ll be fine?
A: We can’t just go in and take the stuff out, and it’s going to be fixed. They really truly need sometimes between two and six months of therapy before we can really go in and work on their home because the stress and anxiety is so high.
1 in 20 people are affected by hoarding disorders
Q: How do you help people manage their hoarding issues?
A: Negative feelings of discarding are what might keep someone from discarding items. We need to supplement those negative feelings of letting something go with something positive. Reward yourself for the work you’ve done. When people can look at it and not be totally humiliated and embarrassed by it, then we’ve made big progress.
Q: What can people expect to hear at the workshop?
A: This whole workshop is teaching people what hoarding is, how to approach it and what the resources are. We’re trying not to place blame. If we get anybody defensive, they’re not going to be open to receiving help.
Q: What is your advice to someone looking for help?
A: Reaching out for help is a sign of great strength and not a sign of weakness. Make sure that you get qualified help from someone who is trained and who comes in with a nonjudgmental attitude.
Q: Any last thoughts?
A: When we reach out and we help one person that has hoarding challenges, we have not just reached that one person, we have helped potentially heal the fractured relationships in that person’s life. Really it’s not just one person that we have reached, it’s a whole community.