C.H.E.S.S. | Clutter and Hoarding Evaluation and Supportive Services Program Hoarding Task Force

C.H.E.S.S.

C.H.E.S.S. is a collaboration between several community agencies including Brookline Health Department, Brookline Council on Aging, Brookline Mental Health, First Responders (including police and fire);  Additional agencies have attended periodically for consultation or feedback regarding this public health issue.  

GOALS OF C.H.E.S.S.

The goals of the C.H.E.S.S. Program include: 

  • Increased community capacity for respectful, empathic, collaborative responses to address issues related to clutter accumulation for Brookline residents.
  • Increased access to resources, education, training, referrals, and training for residents/families.
  • Increased interagency staff support, consultation, access to resources and development of preventive, collaborative intervention/support strategies.   

ABOUT HOARDING

Hoarding disorder is a complex problem that can cause challenges for individuals, families, human service agencies, housing complexes, and general public health. Understanding this syndrome and its features are critical to developing effective, collaborative, respectful interventions and triage responses based on severity and harm reduction approach for sustainable progress across systems (Bratiotis, Steketee, 2011).

Issues of overaccumulation are not always hoarding disorder – careful assessment, destigmatizing language, collaborative interventions, and thoughtful strategies are essential to building working relationships between residents/families experiencing challenges and providers enlisted to support and assist with addressing environmental challenges. The evolution of the Hoarding Task Force to CHESS (Clutter and Hoarding Evaluation and Supportive Services) Program acknowledges this important component and has moved to reflect this in our name.

BENEFITS OF DOWNSIZING AND DECLUTTERING

An organized house...

  • Is easier to clean! Dusting, wiping down counter tops, sweeping, and vacuuming are all easier and quicker to complete when your living space is clear of clutter. 
  • Is easier to navigate! Piles of clutter around your home pose many safety risks, including fire hazards and fall risks. Keeping your walkways and rooms clear of clutter significantly reduces safety risks and slipping hazards. 
  • Helps you focus! When you live in a clutter environment, it can feel as though the walls are closing in around you. When you do have the motivation to start a task, it’s hard to figure out where to start. Reducing clutter around your space can help focus your mind and get things done. 
  • Saves you money! When your home is cluttered and disorganized, you can forget what you already have! When your items are organized, you won’t need to go out and buy another umbrella, backpack, or phone charger because you will already know where your things are. 
  • Can lift your spirits! Going through your items can provide an opportunity to rediscover your treasures and focus on what is truly important. 
  • Can help your community! Passing along unwanted or unneeded items to a charity of your choice can help benefit your community. Charities such as Big Brother, Big Sister, Dress for Success, and the American Red Cross all accept clothing donations. Additionally, More Than Words accepts book donations to help empower struggling young adults with entrepreneurial skills. 

GETTING STARTED

  • It doesn’t matter where you start! You may feel more motivated to start in a room that you use more often, but it is up to you. The best place to start is wherever you want to! 
  • Break projects down into manageable parts. For example, you can sort through one drawer at a time instead of tackling the whole dresser. Clear off the kitchen table instead of starting with the whole kitchen. Finishing a small task can help motivate you to keep working! 
  • Schedule a fixed amount of time to work on your task. Decluttering requires not just work, but decision making, which can be tiring and overwhelming. If you burn yourself out in one day, you will be less likely to stick to the process. 
  • Employ a “one-touch” rule. Only handle an item once to decide whether you should keep it, donate it, or trash it. There is no “I’ll decide later” pile. As challenging as it may be, you must make a commitment to yourself that you will not second guess your decisions. Respect your own judgement!
  •  Ask for help! Depending on the size of the job, it may be too overwhelming for you to handle on your own. Asking for help is a reflection of strength and willingness to seek positive change. 

RESOURCES

TASK FORCE MATERIALS

Materials developed by the C.H.E.S.S. Team:

PUBLIC HEALTH STANDARD CODES

State codes related to hoarding:

ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT TOOLS

Hoarding assessment tools: