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home : columns : dear harriette June 24, 2016

3/29/2014 9:37:00 AM
Hoarder needs some help cleaning up

DEAR HARRIETTE: As much as I try, I cannot seem to get my house clean. I have friends who tell me they think I am a hoarder. I'm not so sure about that. I do know that I have a hard time throwing things away, so I end up having piles of stuff that I can't seem to find a home for. I am tired of being embarrassed by my house. I want to be able to invite people over, but I can never seem to get it together. I don't have a whole lot of money to hire a housekeeper, but even when I have tried that in the past, it didn't really work. There was too much stuff, and each person I hired quit. What can I do? -- Hoarder No More, Boston

DEAR HOARDER NO MORE: You have taken the first step by acknowledging that you have a problem. This is a huge step, by the way. People who hoard have tremendous difficulty letting go of their belongings and differentiating between what is worth keeping and what no longer serves them. So, you do need help, but it's help of a particular kind.

There are professional services that help people who hoard to clear out their spaces. I highly recommend that you reach out to one of them. One national organization that has webinars to support people who hoard as well as services to help you clear out your space before it overtakes you can be found at

DEAR HARRIETTE: I talked to a neighbor the other day, and he had the weirdest logic that he wanted me to co-sign, but I just could not. He is way behind in his rent, so much so that the landlord is threatening to throw him out. I felt so bad for him until he explained that when he does get a little money, he uses it first to pay for his cable bill. Since he is out of work, he stays at home most of the time and says that he cannot bear to be without his TV, so he always pays for cable first. Doesn't that sound crazy? He asked my wife and me if we would lend him some money to pay his rent so that he doesn't get thrown out. We were seriously considering it until we learned how he is spending his money. How can we help him? It seems like he needs more help than a one-time handout. -- Perplexed, Bronx, N.Y.

DEAR PERPLEXED: Your friend has his priorities all wrong. Can you help to open his eyes? That's a great question. You can tell him how you think his situation will play out if he doesn't change his ways, namely that he will have no home and therefore no cable with no ability to watch TV or even have a bed on which to lay his head. Point out that what he must focus on accomplishing is finding a way to be able to pay his back rent and find income to be able to pay moving forward. Tell him that you think his priority should be to secure his home. Then step away. He has to come to terms with his reality. Do not pay his rent. He needs to walk this path and discover what lies at the end.
Lifestylist and author Harriette Cole is president and creative director of Harriette Cole Media. You can send questions to or c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

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