By Elizabeth Barr
Acquiring and keeping an excessive amount of possessions (a.k.a. “Hoarding Behaviors”) brought me terrible isolation and grief, but my journey of recovery has given me freedom from the tyranny of “my dubious treasures.” Without the help I received at The Mental Health Association of San Francisco (MHASF), I would continue to be nearly buried under the weight of my own belongings. Attendance at the International Conference on Hoarding and Cluttering (ICHC) continues to be a vital part of my recovery process.
I’d lived with a terrible secret - I HAD TOO MANY POSSESSIONS! My home, trailer, and shed had become “stuffed with stuff.” The only access on an entire floor was a narrow “goat path.” Visitors weren’t allowed into the house for a decade and the yard was an eyesore for neighbors. Finally, I hit rock bottom and decluttered to save my marriage.
Mercifully, I heard about MHASF and utilized as many services as I could, including attending my first ICHC Conference. The world-class event drew a crowd of 400 people, including experts and peer-professionals from around the globe who offered insightful workshops and presentations; shedding a healing light on the dark secret I’d kept for so long. I’d already taken a workshop at MHASF on “collecting behaviors” where I’d bonded with my fellow participants. But at the conference I met a HUGE community of peers who understood and identified with my situation. I no longer felt alone. The shame that imprisoned me melted away. Peers in recovery pointed to a brave new world, free of the burden of clutter. Knowledgeable and empathetic professionals shared their research and experience. I felt empowered to make the changes that had seemed insurmountable.
Keeping track of my progress helps me stay motivated. Utilizing the tools from the conference, I released the equivalent of 562 bankers’ boxes worth of STUFF. Hiding behind closed doors is a thing of the past and I regularly entertain, including hosting over-night guests. I now work for MHASF helping others like me. I’ve even been a presenter at the same conference that originally helped me. It’s now my great pleasure to share my success story with other people who struggle with this secretive issue and assure them that change is possible and there is hope.