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“One is one too many, one more is never enough.””

— kenny chesney – you & tequila

For an obsessive compulsive person, the title of Kenny Chesney’s “You & Tequila”  country song comes to mind. For a compulsive person, be it drinking – one drink will always lead to another; eating – open a bag of cookies and soon the bag is empty; or hoarding – start amassing clothing, magazines, plastic bags…one more is never enough.

For someone with compulsive tendencies the desire to escape their current situation or pain, leads them to drink, eat, shop. When actively participating in their chosen obsession, they feel calm, comforted, blissful…even rich. This is only temporary relief. Then reality sets in; the guilt, the shame and the anxiety all come back at an even greater intensity. ‘Why did I do this again? Why can’t I stop? What is wrong with me?’

If you see yourself or a loved one in any part of this…there is hope and there is help.

First scenario, if you have a friend or family member who seems bogged down, too busy to think, tired all the time, offer to come over and sit with them and have a chat. Just sit with them, really listen and take the time to hear what they are NOT saying. To see their home is a little more cluttered than the last time there, ask this they may need help to get things back in order. Start wherever they feel the most stress. Typically, it’s where they spend the most time (kitchen, living room) or where they want some peace (bedroom, bathroom even). Start small, one item at a time. Have a big paper bag for recycling, a trash bag for trash, a bag for donations and a plastic bin or box for items that they want to save but might belong in another part of the house. Within a short time the space will become theirs again and they will feel lighter. I can think of no better gift to give a loved one or yourself.

Second scenario, if you know someone who ‘collects’, ‘acquires’ and/or just seems to have too much stuff, first of all please, do not go in and throw their possessions away. You want to help and be of service but if there are mental health issues, the outcome may be devastating. Talk to them, again listen for what they are not saying to you. See if they would be willing to receive some help from you, to organize their things…not get rid of them. If they agree, let them begin. Take one paper, one book, one article of clothing at a time and see if they can donate it or recycle it. You might get responses like, ‘I am keeping that for someone’, ‘I use that all the time’, ‘that was given to me by’… If you notice them experiencing any type of anxiety or stress, stop and just sit and talk. Ask them about the object and just be with them. Don’t take it personally if they cannot do this with you. Maybe you are too close to them. There were embarrassed. They do not want to disappoint you and the guilt and stress that it is stirring up could possibly upset your relationship.

We work with many people who just cannot declutter with a family member or close friend. Some people get upset, cry and yell. We know how to handle it. And when we can’t handle it, we reach out to one of our many therapist/referral partners to help us help our client.

There are professionals out there, ready and willing to do the tough work. Many lives have come back to life after we’ve cleared just a little space and given them some breathing room again.

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