Lee Shuer and Becca Belofsky-Shuer give presentation on solving clutter issues, maintaining healthy relationships

Couple discusses managing OCD in relationships


Caroline O'Connor

By Will Mallas, Collegian Staff

Lee Shuer and Becca Belofsky-Shuer spoke to a crowd of about 30 people on Tuesday night about hoarding due to OCD and how to manage such a problem in a relationship.

Shuer and Belofsky-Shuer are a married couple and co-founders of Mutual Support Consulting, an organization devoted to helping individuals mitigate problems with hoarding and reach a clutter-free lifestyle. Mutual Support Consulting developed a program titled “The Buried in Treasures Workshop,” which is a support mechanism for those looking to remove clutter from their life.

The presentation began with Shuer discussing his own struggles with clutter and how “The Buried in Treasures Workshop” can work to help others with their clutter issues. Shuer also placed a particular spotlight on the connections the program provides to peers with similar issues.

“The very first time I got peer support for my clutter was when I said, ‘Hi everybody, welcome to Buried in Treasures Workshop’ in 2009, and never before that had I ever talked with anybody else…that I have a cluttering issue,” Shuer said. “It was really a unique experience, and if you never had the experience of peer support, that was one thing that worked for me.”

The workshop consists of a 16-week, self-help group for those suffering from issues with clutter. According to Shuer, the program focuses on developing skills to reduce the acquiring of clutter as well as improving the participants’ abilities to sort and organize their collections of items. The program also works on teaching participants how to maintain their progress and providing a support group even after the program ends.

Following Shuer’s presentation, Belofsky-Shuer spoke on how couples that are negatively impacted by issues with clutter can maintain a healthy relationship.

Belofsky-Shuer emphasized the importance of compromise in order to limit bickering and fighting in relationships hurt by issues of clutter. She defined compromise as “finding middle ground through mutual concessions towards a shared goal” and argued that compromise will relieve much of the toxicity in such relationships.

“You have got to stop that bickering and that fighting or you are not going to get anywhere…One way to address this is to think about compromise,” Belofsky-Shuer said.

She went on to discuss the comfort agreement, a list of wants and needs one member of the relationship requires of the other member in order to feel comfortable in the relationship, and how she and Shuer used such an agreement to maintain a healthy relationship.

Belofsky-Shuer also made sure to point out the emotional hardship that comes through the healing process when trying to solve clutter issues.

“It is hard emotionally because there are all these nuanced dynamics to get around—it’s all about the stuff, but there are people involved…Bring it back and reflect on the relationship,” she explained. “Start talking about ‘us.’”

At the end of the presentation, Eddy Jacques, a clinician at Outpatient Behavioral Health Center in Northampton, discussed the support programs held at the center for those with issues with clutter, which he hopes to start in early March. Jacques also emphasized how the programs, which are two hours in length, can be beneficial to its participants.

“I can tell you with a fact, that two hours flies by…People are so excited to share…It is such a really positive environment,” Jacques said.

The presentation was held as part of a series of lectures titled “Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Related Disorders,” which focus on the effects of OCD presented by experts in the study of the disorder.

The lectures are held the third Tuesday of every month at Smith College.

Shuer also made sure to emphasize the idea that working toward a clutter-free lifestyle is always possible, saying, “It is never too late. It is never too late to start.”

Will Mallas can be reached at [email protected]