Pop Quiz : To what catastrophic event in America’s past was President Calvin Coolidge referring when he said this in 1925? “…This waste results from the conditions which justify a sense of shame and horror; for the greater part of it could and ought to be prevented… It is highly desirable that every effort be made to reform the conditions which have made possible so vast a destruction of the national wealth.”
Answer: The Great Chicago fire of 1871 which killed 300 people, destroyed 3.3 square miles, and left over 100,000 homeless.
National Fire Prevention Week is celebrated this week in the United States and Canada. “Fire Prevention Week commemorates the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. On the 40th anniversary (1911) of the Great Chicago Fire, the Fire Marshals Association of North America sponsored the first National Fire Prevention Day, deciding to observe the anniversary as a way to keep the public informed about the importance of fire prevention.” (nfpa.org)
Now, here is a startling statistic: Only 1% of fires occur in homes labeled “hoarder houses”, but a shocking 24% of deaths from house fires occur in those hoarder homes. This could be due to the fact that there is a ton more fuel in a hoarder house as opposed to a typical home. Add to this the inability of the hoarder to access easy egress from a hoarder home, and you have a recipe for disaster. A staggering 5% of the population, or roughly 16 million people, suffer from hoarding disorders.
Mayo Clinic psychologists who specialize in hoarding disorders define Compulsive Hoarding as a syndrome that refers to people who acquire items to an excessive degree, which may or may not be of use to them, plus the inability to discard said items. Many people may associate hoarding with laziness or being a pack rat, but it’s more serious than that, says Sanjaya Saxena, MD, director of the Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders Program at the University of California in San Diego. “It is, in fact, a neuropsychiatric disorder that will not get better unless the person is treated.”
Besides the visible signs of hoarding like clutter in the home and difficulty discarding items, many hoarders share behavioral symptoms such as shame, embarrassment, self-imposed isolation from friends and family, and excessive emotional attachment to inanimate objects. They have difficulty managing and organizing not only their items, but also their daily activities, which can lead to procrastination and falling behind on important responsibilities. Hoarders typically stockpile items they feel have some sort of future use or sentimental value. (ehow.com)
According to Smith College psychologist Randy Frost, co-author of the book, Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things, and expert on obsessive-compulsive disorder and a pioneer in the field of compulsive hoarding, hoarding among the elderly may be a consequence of the deprivation they experienced during the Great Depression or WW II. They save everything, keep broken appliances, won’t part with worthless items and acquire more things regularly at garage sales.
Sometimes adult children will continue the hoarding, Frost said, especially when they are confronting the eventual loss of a parent. They figure they can sort through the clutter at a later time. But what’s actually occurring is that they are starting to become hoarders themselves, Frost said. There may even be a genetic connection to hoarding, he noted. (Huffington Post)
Now, while most of us don’t struggle with the stigma of being a hoarder, many of us struggle with clutter and other behaviors that steal time and joy from our lives. Examples of these behaviors include lack of time management, procrastination, excessive acquisition or excessive shopping, the inability to make decisions, and the fear of letting things go.
One of the joys of my job as a professional organizer is that I love to come alongside my clients and help them journey through these challenges with clutter, disorganization and other behaviors that rob them of joy and time.
Why not celebrate National Fire Prevention Week by taking that first step. Give me a call, and I will come alongside you and help you with your clutter and disorder. I even offer Virtual Organizing now, so you can benefit from my 30+ years of organizing via the computer for a very reasonable price. Not only will you gain precious time when you organize your life, but you will gain peace of mind, as well.