Most of us have too much stuff. It’s easy to accumulate things over time, and before you know it, your home is cluttered and crammed full of things you no longer need or use.
Have you got a bit of a hoard? Maybe it’s not as bad as some people’s, but nevertheless, your house is full of stuff and you’re not quite sure what to do with it all.
If so, then read on for some top decluttering tips for hoarders that should help you get your home back in order – even if you are a bit of a collector!
You might also like:
- What is a hoarder
- Why do people hoard
- What are the consequences of hoarding
- How to tell if you’re a hoarder
- How to stop hoarding
- 6 decluttering tips for hoarders
- Decluttering tips for hoarders & collectors: Final words
What is a hoarder
Before we get into the decluttering tips for hoarders…what is a hoarder?
A hoarder is someone who collects an excessive amount of objects and has difficulty getting rid of them, even if they are of no use or harmful.
While some people might see a hoarder as someone who is simply messy or disorganised, it is actually a serious compulsive mental disorder that can cause problems with family, friends, and work and lead to many mental health (as well as physical health) issues.
Hoarders often have a hard time decision-making, and they may become anxious or depressed when faced with the task of decluttering their home. In extreme cases, hoarders can be at risk for losing their job, their home, and even their family.
For more information on what a hoarding disorder is, I recommend reading this article by the Mayo Clinic.
Disclosure: I am not a medical professional. For the purposes of this article, any reference to hoarding is based solely on my own research and is not meant to be taken as medical advice. This article will likely benefit those who collect a lot of items and have a lot of clutter in their homes, rather than extreme hoarders whose homes are completely taken over by their belongings. If you think you might be a hoarder, the best thing to do is seek help from a professional.
Why do people hoard
Most of us have experienced the urge to hoard at some point in our lives. Whether it’s keeping a few too many items in our closets or stocking up on non-perishable food, there’s something about the idea of excess that can be compelling.
For some people, however, the urge to hang onto things goes far beyond simply wanting to be prepared for a rainy day.
People with hoarding disorder experience an intense and persistent need to acquire and hold onto things, even if those things are of no use or value.
The condition can lead to too much stuff and severe clutter in the home, and it can have a profound impact on the person’s quality of life.
While the exact cause of hoarding disorder is not fully understood, it is believed to be related to anxiety and a fear of losing control.
Those with hoarding tendencies might also have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), depression, or other mental illness.
In some cases, hoarding can be a coping mechanism for dealing with trauma or loss.
What are the consequences of hoarding
Hoarding can have a serious impact on your physical and mental health, as well as your relationships and social life.
The condition can lead to anxiety, depression, and isolation, and it can make it difficult to keep a job or maintain a home.
Hoarding can also be dangerous. Cluttered homes are a fire hazard, and the risk of injury increases as the clutter accumulates. In extreme cases, hoarders have been known to live in squalor, with little or no access to running water, electricity, or even food.
For example, someone who has experienced the death of a loved one might start hoarding as a way to hold onto things that remind them of the person they lost.
How to tell if you’re a hoarder
If you’re not sure whether you’re a hoarder or just a bit messy with clutter, there are a few key signs to look for.
First, take a look at your living space. Is it cluttered and crammed full of unwanted stuff? Do you have trouble moving around freely, or is it impossible to use certain rooms or pieces of furniture because they’re piled high with stuff? If so, you may be a hoarder.
Another key indicator is how much time and energy you spend acquiring and holding onto things. Do you feel upset or anxious when you think about getting rid of things? Are you constantly adding to your collections, even with unwanted items? If so, these may be signs that you’re a hoarder.
Also, consider how your hoarding habits are impacting your life. Are they causing financial strain? Are they making it difficult to maintain your home or care for yourself and your family? If so, these are all strong indicators that you may be a hoarder.
If you’re concerned that you may be a hoarder, it’s important to seek professional help. A therapist can help you understand the root cause of your hoarding behaviors and develop healthy coping mechanisms. With treatment, it’s possible to overcome hoarding disorder and live a healthy, clutter-free life.
How to stop hoarding
If you’re a hoarder, or if you’re struggling with compulsive collecting, do not fear. There is a way out of it and there are some things you can do to get help.
First, it’s important to understand that hoarding is a mental disorder, and it may require professional treatment. If you’re struggling to declutter your home on your own, seek help from a therapist or counsellor who specialises in treating hoarding disorder.
There are also some things you can do on your own to declutter your home and reduce the urge to hoard:
6 decluttering tips for hoarders
1. Start small
This is always the first step in any decluttering process, but why is it even more important in the case of hoarding?
Because the task can seem so daunting, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and give up before you even start. It can also bring up a lot of emotional baggage, which can be difficult to deal with.
Instead of trying to declutter your entire home at once, start with one room. Don’t think about the rest until that one area is clear.
So which rooms should you start with?
There are certain areas in your home you don’t use as much as others – such as spare bedrooms, the attic, or the garage. These areas can wait.
Rooms such as the kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and living area are those you use more than any other rooms in your home, so it makes more sense to declutter these first. These are the functional spaces.
You need your kitchen to cook healthy meals. You need your bedroom to get a peaceful and good night’s sleep. And you need your living area to relax and spend time with your family and be able to entertain friends in.
Choose one of these rooms and conquer it before moving on.
2. Trash has to go first
Before you begin getting rid of clutter, a hoarder must first clear any obvious trash that’s piled up. Unfortunately, this is a common issue for hoarders.
When you start collecting things, it’s easy for rubbish to build up without you even realising it. Old newspapers, food wrappers, empty boxes – they all add up. And before you know it, your home is full of it.
One of the first steps in any decluttering project is to fix this issue.
Take a trash bag and walk around your home, picking up any rubbish you see. Once the bag is full, take it outside and put it in the bin so that you have more space to continue on.
Do this every day until all the rubbish is gone.
3. Set some ground rules
When you’re decluttering, it’s important to have some guidelines in place to make the process easier.
These can be simple rules such as
- Only keep items that are useful or have sentimental value
- If you haven’t used it in 6 months/a year, get rid of it
- If you have something similar that carries out the same use, get rid of the duplicate
- Don’t buy anything new until you’ve decluttered
- Only keep items that fit in the living spaces you have
- Get rid of one thing for every new thing you bring into the house
These guidelines will help to keep your decluttering process on track and make it easier to let go of things.
Only keep items that are useful or have sentimental value
One of the most important things to do when decluttering your home is to only keep items that are useful or have sentimental value. This will help to limit the amount of stuff you have to deal with.
To do this, you must first differentiate between items that are truly useful or have sentimental value and those that are simply taking up space.
Usefulness and sentimentality are subjective, so it’s important to be honest with yourself when making this distinction. If you’re not sure whether something is useful or has sentimental value, ask yourself the following questions
Do I use this item regularly?
Do I love this item?
Does this item hold special meaning for me?
Would I be upset if I got rid of this item?
If you can’t answer yes to any of these questions, then the item in question is probably something you can live without.
If you haven’t used it in 6 months to a year, get rid of it
One of the hardest things about decluttering for hoarders is letting go of items that we think we might need someday. After all, what if we suddenly have a need for that random item that’s been sitting in the back of our closet for years?
The truth is, though, that if we haven’t used something in 6 months to a year, it’s unlikely that we ever will.
There are always going to be exceptions to this rule – such as seasonable items or items that you only use for special occasions – but for the most part, if you haven’t used it in a year, you can live without it.
So, what if you get rid of something and find months or years down the line that you need it?
For many people, this can set them back into having obsessive thoughts again where they want to control their possessions and keep everything just in case.
Instead of worrying about this, though, remind yourself that it’s not worth holding on to something for years that you never use, just in case you might need it someday.
Sure, that’s fine when it’s just one or two items, but the problem with hoarding is that it becomes a focus point for all possessions.
So here are a few things you can do instead of keeping things that you haven’t used in a long time, especially if you’re scared you’ll need them in the future.
- Ask a friend who already has this item. You can borrow from them if you find you need to use it.
- Post on your local community page to see if someone can lend you the item. It’s all the more rewarding when you get to hand back the item rather than keeping the item stuck in a cluttered room.
- Worst case scenario is that you accidentally got rid of something you really do need. But you can buy this again. Nine times out of ten, you’ll find that you don’t need to re-buy items.
If you have something similar that carries out the same use, get rid of the duplicate
We often hold on to duplicates of things because we think they might come in handy someday.
But unless you’re a professional chef who uses 10 different types of knives on a daily basis, chances are you don’t need 3 potato peelers taking up space in your kitchen drawers.
The same goes for clothes – do you really need 10 black shirts?
But if we really think about it, the reason we end up with duplicates is because we forget we have them. They’re lost in a sea of possessions, never to be found. So we go out and buy a new one, just to be sure.
The best way to deal with duplicates is to consolidate them into one place. That way, you know exactly what you have and what can go.
Don’t buy anything new until you’ve decluttered
The key to decluttering for hoarders is learning how to let go of things. Often they have an attachment to material possessions that goes beyond just the usefulness or sentimental value of the item.
It can be difficult to break the habit of purchasing unnecessary items when we see something we want, but it’s important to be mindful of the fact that every new item you bring into your home is one more thing you have to declutter later on.
If you’re serious about decluttering your home, make a rule that you won’t buy anything new until you’ve decluttered an equal amount. This will help to keep the balance in your home and prevent you from accumulating items in the future.
Only keep items that fit in the space you have
One of the main problems with hoarding is that it’s easy to lose track of what you have. When so much stuff is crammed into your home and there’s no room to move, it can be difficult to see what you have and where it all is.
This can lead to duplicate purchases, as well as forgetting about items you already have and never using them.
It’s important to only keep items that fit in the space you have. If you don’t have room for it, then it’s time to let it go.
Get rid of one thing for every new thing you bring into the house
This is sometimes often referred to as the ‘one in, one out’ rule. The idea is that for every new item you bring into your home, you get rid of one thing. This helps to prevent your home from becoming overwhelmed with possessions and keeps the amount of stuff you have in check.
Of course in order to do this, you’ll need to have conquered your initial clutter problem, otherwise you’ll end up with even more clutter.
Read also: Life after decluttering: What happens next?
4. Create a ‘maybe’ pile
One of the most difficult things about decluttering for most hoarders is letting go of items that may have sentimental value. However, it’s important to remember that sentimental value is not the same as actual value.
Just because an item holds memories does not mean that it’s worth hanging on to.
A good way to deal with this issue is to create a maybe pile. This is a designated space where you can put items that you’re not sure about. Wait a few months and see if you miss the item. If you don’t, then you can safely let it go.
If you’re still undecided, then you can put it back in your regular storage space and reassess at a later date. By following this process, you can gradually declutter your home without feeling like you’re losing precious memories.
Having a clear focus is one of the most important decluttering tips for hoarders. Without a focus, it’s easy to get sidetracked and end up with more clutter than you started with.
It’s important to decide what your goals are and what you want to achieve before you start decluttering.
For many who want to stop hoarding, the end goal is to have a clutter free home.
But looking further ahead, what does that mean for your life?
It might mean being able to have people over without feeling embarrassed about the state of your home. Or it might mean being able to find things when you need them, instead of wasting time searching through piles of clutter.
Whatever your goals are, make sure you stay focused and keep them in mind when you’re decluttering. This will help you stay on track and motivated to achieve your goals
6. Ask for help
If you’re finding it difficult to declutter on your own, don’t be afraid to ask for help.
There are many organisations and groups that can offer support and advice. You can also hire a professional declutterer to help you get your home in order.
Alternatively, if you don’t feel you need professional assistance, confide in a friend and ask them to help you clear the clutter.
Having someone to help you can make the process much easier and less daunting. It can also be good to have someone to motivate and encourage you when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
No matter what route you choose, asking for help is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, it’s a very brave thing to do.
Decluttering tips for hoarders & collectors: Final words
Those are some of our best decluttering tips for hoarders.
It’s important to remember that this is a process, and it won’t happen overnight. Be patient with yourself, and take things one step at a time.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help from friends or family members. And most importantly, don’t be too hard on yourself. Everyone has different struggles, and you’re doing the best you can. So cut yourself some slack, and keep up the good work! You got this!
For more of my favorite decluttering tips, read the following articles:
- How To Get Motivated To Clean When Overwhelmed By Mess
- How To Be Ruthless When Decluttering Clothes: An Essential Guide
- Practical Decluttering Tips for Seniors Reaching Retirement
- Overwhelmed by Clutter? Getting to the Root of Your Clutter Problem
- Why Is Decluttering So Hard: 9 Reasons You Can’t Clear The Clutter