Alumni

Brandman alumna helps hoarders regain control

August 02, 2016 by Margo Myers
Brandman University alumna Tammi Moses

Tammi Moses

When Tammi Moses was growing up, she invited friends to her house for a sleepover as would any typical 13-year-old. The family’s home didn’t have running water, but that wasn’t what bothered Moses the most. It was what happened when the mother of one of her friends came to pick her up – a stack of egg cartons fell on her.

“I was appalled,” said Moses. “There was so much stuff in the house! I decided I wouldn’t have anyone over again, and it just creates this sense of isolation. It’s challenging to grow up that way.”

Moses never imagined that she would one day speak out publicly about hoarding, let alone start a business to help others cope with the condition. She said when people collect things to the point where they can’t use the home as it’s intended, that’s hoarding. There may be newspapers kept in the shower or boxes stacked on the dining room table. It may be difficult to navigate through the home because of accumulated items.

“It’s one of the reasons I joined the Navy, in addition to being able to travel and have money for college,” said Moses. “I needed to escape where I grew up, and that decision helped me move in a different direction.”

Moses went through boot camp in 1992 and served four years.  She served on the supply ship, USS Niagara Falls (AFS-3) and on the island of Guam. She eventually landed in Oak Harbor, Washington, on Whidbey Island, where she returned to college with the goal of being a licensed child and family therapist.

“I wanted to understand and learn about myself and why people do the things they do,” explained Moses. “Going through therapy as part of my educational process was instrumental in moving forward in my life.  I decided not to become a therapist, but I learned so much and have a lot of empathy for people who become hoarders and the family members who are trying to figure out what to do.  There is a lot of trauma involved. It is much more than the stuff that we can see on the surface.”

Moses earned her associate’s degree from Skagit Valley College and went on to earn her bachelor’s degree in psychology at the Whidbey Island campus of Brandman University when it was Chapman University College. “I worked a full-time job, so I attended evening and online classes,” said Moses. “They pretty much made it possible for me to complete my degree. Overall, the staff and faculty were very supportive and agile and able to move with you as an adult student.”

In 2013, Moses launched the business Homes Are For Living to help people who have hoarding issues. In recent years, the public has learned more about hoarding, due to television shows such as A&E’s “Hoarders” and TLC’s “Hoarding: Buried Alive.”

The mental health community identified hoarding as a distinct disorder in the May 2013 publication of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, called the DSM-5. The tiny house movement and the popularity of Marie Kondo and her book on decluttering have given rise to a growing awareness about the amount of stuff people accumulate.

“As part of a business mastermind group, I’d been talking about hoarding and realized I know a lot about this,” said Moses. “Now I’m speaking to groups about it, and helping create awareness about decluttering so it doesn’t get to the point of hoarding. I realized I knew too much about it to remain quiet.”

Moses has big plans for her business. The first step for people, or their family members, is acknowledging there may be a hoarding issue, and perhaps, finding mental health resources. Then begins the process of helping clients keep what they love, and let go of the rest. Moses said, “I know how to help people organize what they do have and help people work through the process of letting go.”

Information about the services she offers can be found at www.homesareforliving.com.

 

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