Clutterers Anonymous: Help for Hoarders | The Fix
facebook twitter RSS
HOT TOPICS: Alcoholism  Addiction  AA  Cocaine  Heroin

Clutterers Anonymous: Help for Hoarders

Hoarding is a televised curiosity for many—but a very real, damaging addiction to members of Clutterers Anonymous.

Image: 

Clutter can rule you. Photo via

By Bryan Le

05/11/12

| Share

You've probably seen them on Hoarders—people who clutter their home with so many things that it gets out of control. The afflicted accumulate more things than they'll ever need and have trouble letting go of the things they have. Like all addictions, the causes are complicated. One longtime member of Clutterers Anonymous (CLA), a librarian now in her 60s, tells The Fix that some of the people in her fellowship suffered a lack of control over their space and belongings as children. “It's also trying to hold on to memories feelings that are not really contained in those inanimate objects," she says. "A lot of people just feel a void in their life and they try to fill it by acquiring more things and collecting huge numbers of things.”

Cluttering can do immense damage; sufferers' relationships are often broken over their mounds of things. They may also create a physically hazardous environment like Courtney Love, whose cat was apparently killed by her piles of Etsy fabrics, boxes of paperwork and trash. A big sign of being a clutterer, says the librarian, is "CHAOS"—Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome. “They haven't let anybody into their home in years, and obviously that has a deleterious effect on their social relationships,” she says. “There are people that are afraid to let even a plumber or a maintenance man in because they don't want anyone to see that secret shame.” Still, it rarely reaches the pathological and unhygienic levels seen on Hoarders; most who come to CLA—which was founded in California in 1989, and now has meetings in 70 US cities and abroad—are cluttered by paper, not necessarily filth.

The boundaries for recovery can be hard to define. Substance abusers have a clear target: abstinence. But cluttering is more akin to food addiction: just as you can't quit food—only overeating—there's no clear line that defines a person as "sober" of clutter. Most also don't know how to approach their problem. “First they usually try it the wrong way by just throwing huge blocks of time at it,” explains the librarian. “They say 'I'm going to get my place in order a week from Monday' or working on it for eight hours a day.” But simply cleaning house—or getting a professional organizer or television show to do it—is merely what she calls a “band-aid” approach. Real recovery comes from slowing down and being mindful of the mental patterns that create a compulsion to keep, she says. Talking it over with clutter buddies at a CLA 12-step program has helped her, and she's been attending meetings for nine years. Many CLA members are afflicted with other addictions—she herself came to the program from AA—and undergo a very similar 12 Steps to recover from cluttering. The librarian wants people to understand that clutter is a real addiction, compulsive and irresistible; it's too-often misunderstood: “People think it's a matter of willpower or a matter of being a natural born slob, and if we just try hard enough... that will solve our problem.”

Rehabilitation Directories

Most Popular
The Rehab Review
Cliffside Malibu
 
 
 
 

The “beach-house-relaxed” Cliffside Malibu claims to provide an oasis for recovering addicts and alcoholics. And that’s just what you'll get—if you’ve got the cash.

Morningside Recovery
 
 
 
 

For a “rehab near the beach” experience that isn’t quite as costly as similar SoCal competitors, head to this Newport Beach treatment facility.

AToN Center
 
 
 
 

Whether you’re interested in the 12 Steps, SMART Recovery, or holistic treatments, this luxurious, appealing and commendable 4.5 star (our system doesn't yet show the 1/2 star) San Diego rehab has a program for you. 

Reflections
 
 
 
 

This exclusive Northern California rehab is all about client choice—as well as golf outings, Buddhist field trips and keeping up with the office.

Capo By The Sea
 
 
 
 

Capo By The Sea offers an executive rehab program complete with medical detox and a focus on dual-diagnosis issues, as well as an outpatient option in an environment that exudes the kind of beach house optimism one would expect from an Orange County recovery outfit.

Journey Malibu
 
 
 
 

Want many of the luxury amenities A-listers have come to expect—including an enormous backyard with a pool and patio, an herb garden, a volleyball net and a spectacular vista of the Santa Monica mountains—with a recovery program to match?

The Ultimate Guide to Rehab
 
 
 
 
 

What you need to know when choosing an addiction treatment center.

the fix tv