Mental clutter

The medical community has recently started to accept that hoarding requires its own diagnosis, Clutterers Anonymous organizers said. 

If you’ve never heard of Clark County's Clutterers Anonymous group, perhaps that’s the name speaking for itself. 

Clutterers Anonymous is a global fellowship of hoarders with regional chapters. The program helps attendees break their compulsive cluttering habits.

The local Clutterers Anonymous group meets 6:30 to 8 p.m. each Monday at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Vancouver. One of the program’s two leaders, Gayle (no last name given to illustrate the importance of member anonymity) said meetings consist of welcoming newcomers, prayer and personal sharing. 

Self described as mirroring Alcoholics Anonymous, Clutterers Anonymous uses many of the same methods to break down addiction, such as a 12-step recovery progression almost identical to Alcoholics Anonymous. The steps are written with a spiritual basis and essentially begins by submitting to God and end with God relieving the addiction. Though Gayle said many partakers of her branch program believe in a higher power, the group is not affiliated with any specific religion and is does not deny attendees based on their faith.

Gayle said the medical community has recently started to accept that hoarding requires its own diagnosis. She said prior to this change the condition has always been grouped with obsessive compulsive disorder. 

“It’s a very big issue, there are lots of different dynamics to it,” Gayle said.

Gayle said one common problem attendees seek to overcome is an addiction to shopping.

“It’s how they get their high,” Gayle said. “It’s the thrill of the hunt for something. Sometimes they won’t even take whatever they bought out of the bag.”

Gayle said another common reason hoarding arises is because of an inability to let go of unneeded items, such as a loved one’s former possessions.

“Lots of hoarders suffer because they put meaning into inanimate objects that can’t love you back,” she said, adding hoarding has roots in depression.

Gayle said the Vancouver chapter of Clutterers Anonymous has existed for nearly four years and typically consists of around 10 people. She said the small number is a comfortable size for anyone seeking to cure a hoarding addiction. For more information, call Gayle at 360-430-3347.

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