MONTREAL – Mitsou Lefebvre-Lafrance never realized that the piles of books, papers, clothes, collectibles and craft supplies that covered every surface in her Montreal apartment were a problem until she needed to move to a smaller space.
But as the move approached, she suddenly realized she just couldn’t, or didn’t know how to, let anything go.
“For me, (hoarding), it was a kind of protection, a void, an identity, too,” said Lefebvre-Lafrance, 43.
“Objects that were given to me represented people, and it felt I was rejecting the person when I threw out the object.”
After seeking help in 2006, Lefebvre-Lafrance helped to form a peer support group that is run out of a local health clinic in Montreal’s Verdun borough.
Since then, their initiative has expanded to include a 30-person committee that includes community workers, therapists, fire services, building inspectors and compulsive hoarders.
The goal is to lobby for improved services and support for people with the disorder, as well as encouraging them to reach out for help before things get out of hand.
Natalia Koszegi, a clinical psychologist who studies the disorder, says that too often, interventions only occur at “crisis level,” when a person is facing eviction or extreme pressure from landlords, family or building inspectors.