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Monday, 16 September 2013

Dorothy Breininger: Interview on Hoarding + Organising Australia Conference

Hoarding. You know what it is, and you either think you have a bit of an issue with it, or you absolutely steadfastly believe that you don't.

But how does it manifest in everyday life? Sometimes, it does not have to be the kind of excessive, compulsive hoarding you see on the show 'Hoarders', where every inch of a home is a fire and health hazard.

No, hoarding can show itself in many ways.

Dorothy Breininger, aka 'Dorothy the Organizer' - who appears on that show 'Hoarders' (seen in Australia on the BIO channel, on Foxtel) - sat down to answer some questions just for Josie's Juice.

Dorothy is in Australia now to speak at the Organising Australia Conference. (You can win two tickets - worth $418 - by clicking right here).


Here is my chat with Dorothy, which produced much insight into the world of hoarding.

Josie's Juice: Everyone talks about hoarding, and often people think about ‘things’. But what about modern-age hoarding: digital overload. So, full email inboxes, full DVRs packed with TV shows to watch, iPhones with a full memory? How do you combat that, and what does this indicate in a person (I am asking for a friend… ahem).

Dorothy: Digital overload has most of my clients running scared. We now have so many places where we keep data. How many places are you having to look, sort, and eliminate saved info? Cell (mobile) phone, home phone, DVR (Foxtel IQ, for example), email, texts, iPad, iPod, camera, and more. Most of us can’t keep up with it – especially if you keep info electronically AND physically. If you are facing this situation, it may be time to decide whether you want to straddle both worlds (physical and electronic) or move strictly to electronic storage of such items. To stay organised with your digital clutter, remember:


A. Just like you need to make time to organise a messy garage, you need to make time on your calendar to organise your digital life. Remember if you’ve let your digital info collect over the years, you may need assistance to handle the initial process. From there you need to decide how often you want to organise your digital info in the future. 

B. Get clear on your categories. Do you keep recipes? Photos? Movies, Music, Financial info? Kid’s artwork? The clearer you are about your categories, the easier it is to organize your digital clutter. No categories = chaos. Categories = control.

Josie's Juice: What do you hope people will get from this conference?

Dorothy: Most attendees come to our conferences to learn about the newest organising products and how to deal with their clutter. Invariably they walk away learning “why” they are holding on to clutter and what’s actually underneath that clutter. Once you know these answers – it’s easier to let go of the stuff.

Josie's Juice: How do you come to a happy medium when you are a hoarder and your partner is a ‘chucker’ (throws things out, with no emotional connection to it)?

Dorothy: Ah yes, how to keep a relationship intact when you are clutter opposites. The secret? Each person gets to have two areas: one – a clutter zone; and two, a clutter-free zone. I believe everyone should be allowed to have both areas and everyone deserves to have these areas respected.

Now, if we are talking about one partner being a hoarder – this is a different conversation. Hoarding is a disease like alcoholism and only the alcoholic (hoarder) can solve the problem. As a partner, we neither want to enable our partner around their hoarding, nor do we want to startle them by clearing their belongings out when are away. The best solution? A twelve step program for both. A clutter support group for the hoarder and a group such as Alanon for the non-hoarder is my first suggestion.

Josie's Juice: What have you found is typically Australian when it comes to hoarding styles (or do you see the whole phenomenon as rather ‘universal’?)

Dorothy: I believe the items people hoard are universal (at least in westernized countries). Most men tend to collect tools and electronics and women tend to collect clothing, dolls, jewelry and memorabilia. Both genders tend to keep recycling items: plastic wear, etc. In other countries and cultures; however, individuals hoard items for “survival.” For example in some Asian counties, people hoard rice or other food items.

Josie's Juice: Emotional attachment to things seems a big catalyst for hoarding. What is the biggest tip for people to help combat this, and live with it?

Dorothy: Ask yourself: “What’s the story behind this item?” If you can understand the story you can make an intelligent decision about whether to keep it or give it away. Example: Mom made that blanket for me and I’ve never liked it (translation? Get rid of it. Mom made that blanket for me and I love it (translation? Keep it).

Told you! Dorothy is all kinds of awesome.

She is a three-time recipient of NAPO-LA’s ‘Most Innovative Organizer Award’ and has co-authored five organising books. A high-energy speaker, Dorothy inspires her audiences to take immediate action and produce results.

She's an expert organiser and regular on Emmy-nominated TV show ‘Hoarders’, plus has appeared on the ‘Today Show’, ‘Dr Phil’ and ‘The View’ and features in ‘Wall Street Journal’, ‘Forbes’ and ‘O’ magazine.

Dorothy will be joining Australia’s foremost organising experts Sarah Cottman and Karen Koedding at The Organising Australia Conference, in Sydney and surrounding suburbs this week (Central Coast, Blue Mountains, Sydney Olympic Park).

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