‘Buried in Treasures': NJ workshop targets hoarding disorder
Lola finally realized she had a problem when she no longer could have friends over at her house.
There was no place for them to sit.
Lola, who did not want her full name used in this article, suffers from a hoarding disorder, a mental affliction that results in people accumulating possessions and junk, often in every room and hallway of their homes, from floor to ceiling.
"My goal is to be proud of my house again," she told New Jersey 101.5 last week.
She's one of the many people participating in an Atlantic County workshop devoted to hoarding disorder.
According to staff members with the county's Mental Health Association, hoarding issues in New Jersey were highlighted in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.
"We found that many of the families that we were trying to go in and help had the problem of too much stuff," said Vicki Phillips, the county association's executive director.
In the years since, they sent staff to different locations across the country to learn from experts about how to deal with the hoarding population.
And in March, the group launched a 20-week workshop called Buried in Treasures.
The "action-oriented" program involves a meeting every Tuesday at the association's office in Galloway. Participants are also given homework that involves reading, as well as trying to sort through their clutter and decide what's no longer needed.
"The Buried in Treasures workshop is really designated for people... that are ready to do some initial steps and kind of take charge," said Carolyn Quinn, one of the only trained facilitators of the program in New Jersey. "There is a recognition that this is impacting their life."
Since working with the association, both through the workshop and their biweekly support group, Lola said she can "visualize an organized house," but she still has "a lot of stuff" collecting dust.
Because of high demand in the area, Quinn said the association plans to host another workshop in the fall. Those interested in joining can contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 609-652-3900 ext. 303. The association's Union County office is in the process of starting a similar initiative.
"It's a need that has not been recognized, necessarily, on a wide basis," Quinn said. "So we really feel like we're kind of pioneers in shining the light on people in need of support related to too many things."
Quinn noted the term "hoarder" can be hurtful to those dealing with the issue. The association describes their clients as "finder/keepers."