Some people think it’s cute or funny to refer to someone as a shopaholic. But for a true shopaholic, it’s a very real, painful addiction.

Kelly 48, called me to her house for some organizing help. She greeted me with a big grin. Behind the front door was her 22-year-old niece, also smiling. Then her mother popped out, then a cousin, the best friend, sister and brother, all waiting to see my reaction to Kelly’s mess.

The family was laughing, almost taunting Kelly. I shooed them all away; this wasn’t a freak show. Kelly took me in her smallish bedroom and shut the door. There were piles upon piles of things everywhere. I couldn’t see the floor, bed, dressers or walls. She had shelves attached to every inch of wall space, with baskets filled with anything from huge quantities of makeup to a collection of bobbleheads.


I told her I was there to help, not judge. I asked her, “What is going on? What are you sad about?” Tears started running down her face. She told me she couldn’t pass a makeup counter without buying something. She loves clothes, and tries to go to Buffalo every three weeks for deals. She wanted to get built-in closets for more storage. She wanted to paint her room. Kelly just wanted, constantly! She was trying to fill a void by shopping.

The issues were too painful for her to verbalize, so we toured the house and found we needed to start the organizing downstairs — where all the mother’s stuff was piled to the rafters. (The mother had initially told me she was organized, but her daughter had a problem. Turns out mom’s a shopaholic, too.) In a situation like this I recommend a dual approach, working closely with a therapist and a professional organizer. Kelly now has to commit to change — and to letting people help her.

Brenda Borenstein is your Professional Organizing Guru. For more tips and ideas please visit www.organizedzone.comall 416-665-2165. She has organized hundreds of homes and says, “There is nothing I haven’t seen and nothing that can’t be overcome.”