When Alice Labatte enters her house she encounters a narrow hallway. The hallway was built by normal standards, but has since become one of the places in her house overcome by stuff. Heaps of clothes, piles of shoes and knick-knacks of all kinds can be found in Labatte's hallway — and throughout her house. Labatte is a self-proclaimed hoarder.
“It’s a comfort for me,” she said. “By holding onto these items it reminds me of the past and how things used to be. It reminds me of a time and place that I will never get back.”
Like many other people, Labatte collected things in her youth, but never expected she would become a hoarder until she faced difficult trials and tribulations during her adult life.
“I’ve lost a lot in my lifetime,” said Labatte. “That’s when the hoarding got worse. I went from collecting a few items to having massive amounts of stuff taking over my house. I knew I needed to get help.”
Labatte has been able to get help for her compulsive hoarding through the Collecting Hoarding and Realizing More support group offered at the Turlock Salvation Army. Every Thursday she shares her experiences with other women through group therapy.
Compulsive order is characterized when a person excessively collects objects and is unable to throw them away even though the objects might be useless or invaluable. The person usually has poor insight, avoids any decisions regarding his or her possessions, and is very attached to belongings.
“This disorder is an epidemic,” said Patti Ranes, director of Senior Services at the Salvation Army. “It can be dangerous and cause many health hazards. Many people have a misconception that people who hoard are lazy, but it’s not true. People with this problem are fully aware that the degree of the clutter in their home is unacceptable and dangerous.”
Through the CHARM support group, members discuss their experiences with hoarding, give each other support, and go through a series of projects where members have to commit to clean up certain items that are cluttering their houses.
“When I was younger I wasn’t able to read as a kid,” said CHARM member Penny Jacobson. “As I got older I was able to correct my vision and began buying hundreds of books. Eventually, these books took over my entire house. Through the CHARM support group I was able to learn more about hoarding. With the help and support of these women I know I can overcome this disorder on my own.”
Jacobsen recently donated 100 books and has seen major improvement in her life.
“We go over the clinical reasons of hoarding,” said Ranes. “Members also learn that there are different types of hoarding. By understanding the problem it’s easier to overcome it.”
The CHARM Support Group meets every Thursday at 4 p.m. at the Senior Adults Learning Together building at the Salvation Army, 893 Lander Ave. There is no cost to join this group.
“There are thousands of hoarders nationwide and many of them feel shame and are afraid to speak out about their problem with hoarding,” said Ranes. “I hope that we can reach out and help people in the community who are going through hard times because of this disorder.”
For more information about CHARM contact Patti Ranes at 667-6091 ext. 151.