On a farm, you churn butter. In the organizing world, churning refers to attempting to sort one pile and getting it mixed up with another pile. In the end, you keep touching the items over and over again. This is a very common characteristic when you are working in a hoarding situation.
When working with a hoarder, most of the time its very hard for them to make decisions. They will pick up an item look at it and put it down in another pile. This is one of the most comon sources of frustration for hoarders. They don't have a place to put it.
In a perfect scenerio, there will be room to set up a staging area for sorting. This may consist of either boxes or bags. You will need one for donations, trash, save, or sell. When working with clients I also have a pile for relocation. These are items that are in the wrong room and just need to be moved to another place.
In the beginning of your project, if you don't have any extra space, have a bag for donate and a bag for trash sitting beside you. Also, if the person is comfortable, you should spend time just bagging trash, to clear up some space. Remember it is very important to go through every item. You will find treasures mixed with trash!!
Its important to try and help them make a decision when they touch the object. Trytalking them through their decision making process. Discuss the value or lack of value if the item in question.
Churning is inevitable when working in a hoarding situation. Its important to have a game plan so you reduce the effects of it. In my early days as an organizer, I would have clients moving one pile to another, and making a bigger mess. Now, I keep closer tabs on what is going on.
Also don't push the person, in the end they will rebel. Every little piece you are able to accomplish is a positive move! Whether is one bag or twenty, starting a clean up process is a good thing!!
So try not to churn but to "turn"! Make decisions on the items in hand. Its okay to have one pile of "I need to think about this"!