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Hoarding Help: Where To Begin Clearing Clutter

Posted January 21, 2023 by Mike Lewis under Tips

Hoarding Help: Where To Begin Clearing Clutter

Hoarding is a complex disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. As someone who struggles with hoarding, taking the first steps to clear clutter can feel incredibly overwhelming. However, with patience and by taking it one small step at a time, it is possible to make progress. Here is some guidance on where to begin when tackling a hoarding problem:

Assess the Situation

Before diving into cleaning, take time to honestly assess the state of your home.

  • Walk through each room and make notes about the level of clutter, types of items being hoarded, and problem areas like blocked pathways or inability to use furniture.
  • Be compassionate with yourself – the non-judgmental awareness of the current situation is the first step.
  • Consider taking photos to document the before, which can help measure progress later.
  • Prioritize safety hazards like blocked exits, fire risks, or hygiene issues that need immediate attention.

Seek Support

Hoarding rarely improves without help from others. Some options to consider:

  • Ask a non-judgmental loved one to lend emotional support and possibly assist with decluttering.
  • Seek a therapist trained in hoarding disorder for guidance, coping strategies, and motivation.
  • Consult an organizer specializing in hoarding for hands-on assistance sorting, clearing, and maintaining order.
  • Join a hoarding support group to connect with others facing similar challenges.

Having an objective third party provides valuable accountability and expertise during the process.

Start Small

It’s vital to start small to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Consider the ‘one in, one out’ method:

  • Commit to removing one item for every new item brought into the home.
  • Designate a ‘staging area’ like the garage where clutter can be sorted and decided upon.
  • Build momentum by filling one bag or box at a time.
  • Focus on areas visible from the entrance at first for an immediate sense of accomplishment.

Celebrate each small decluttering win! Those will add up to major change over time.

Make Decisions

Hoarding often stems from difficulty making decisions about possessions. It helps to:

  • Handle each item just once to avoid re-assessing.
  • Create just 3 categories: donate/sell, recycle/trash, or keep. Avoid maybe piles!
  • Limit keeps to what can neatly fit the available storage space.
  • Let go of anything not essential, useful, or truly cherished.
  • Set timers to prevent getting stuck on an item. Move on if uncertain after 2-3 minutes.

Having defined parameters can ease anxiety around the decision making process.

Maintain Progress

Keeping clutter from returning is critical. After initially clearing an area:

  • Institute a regular cleaning schedule for maintenance. Set reminders if needed.
  • Create homes for items and return them promptly after use.
  • Stop acquiring – establish a moratorium on bringing in new items.
  • Get rid of newly unneeded items immediately before they pile up.
  • Reward keeping areas clear for motivation.

Ongoing diligence prevents backsliding into old hoarding habits over time.

Seek Further Treatment

If decluttering attempts continue to feel fruitless, more intensive treatment may be required, such as:

  • Medication to address underlying factors like depression, anxiety, or ADHD.
  • Working with therapists to establish healthier coping mechanisms.
  • Exploring potential past traumas related to loss that may fuel hoarding.

Don’t hesitate to get outside help if you’ve plateaued in your progress. Overcoming this is possible with the right support.

Remain Patient and Positive

Ultimately, be kind to yourself above all else. Healing from hoarding requires tremendous courage and resilience. Even small triumphs represent major personal victories. With consistent effort and support, anyone can reclaim their space and find relief from the burdens of hoarding. You’ve got this!

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