Help for Hoarders

A Book Review of The Secret Lives of Hoarders (2011), by Matt Paxton with Phaedra Hise, published by Penguin.  Matt Paxton is an Organizing Expert on A&E’s show, Hoarders.

2011 Book by Matt Paxton, Organizing Expert on A&E's Hoarders

As a young man, Matt Paxton cleaned houses. After he had cleaned houses for several hoarders, he was surprised at what he learned about them: hoarders don’t love the way they live.  In actuality, hoarders are good people struggling with difficult issues.  They need love and understanding as well as help to recover.

Years later, the author now specializes in working with hoarders. His book, The Secret Lives of Hoarders: True Stories of Tackling Extreme Clutter,  is filled with true stories.

As I read this fascinating book, what struck me is the difference between “collectors” and “hoarders”.   For hoarders, the piles of stuff are in every room, not just in one messy place.  The whole house is full. More than just a nuisance, clutter gets to the point where it actually interferes with the activities of daily living. While it is easy to judge people who live with such a mess, it must be realized that hoarding is not a character flaw, nor does it result from mere laziness or forgetfulness. Hoarding is a mental disorder.

The Secret Lives of Hoarders is much more than stories and photographs of stuffed houses: it’s a look at a hidden epidemic.  Paxton offers insight, compassion and support by revealing what hoarding is,  how to recognize it before it gets out of hand, and how to deal with it. I strongly recommend it.

Book Review by Linda Stevens, Director of Compeer Niagara at the Mental Health Association in Niagara County.