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Hoarding Help Where to Begin

Posted January 21, 2023 by Mike Lewis under Tips

Hoarding Help Where to Begin

Understanding Hoarding

Hoarding is a complex issue that affects individuals from all walks of life. As someone who has witnessed the challenges of hoarding firsthand, I understand the overwhelming emotions and difficulties that come with it. The journey to overcome hoarding can be daunting, but with the right approach and support, it is possible to reclaim your living space and your life.

The first step in addressing hoarding is to understand the condition itself. Hoarding is a disorder characterized by the persistent difficulty in parting with possessions, regardless of their actual value. Individuals who struggle with hoarding often feel a deep emotional attachment to their belongings, leading them to accumulate items that most people would consider unnecessary or even worthless. This behavior can create a cluttered and unsafe living environment, and can also have a significant impact on an individual’s mental and physical well-being.

One of the key aspects of hoarding is the way it affects an individual’s decision-making and problem-solving abilities. Hoarders may struggle to prioritize, organize, and make decisions about their possessions, leading to a constant state of indecision and anxiety. This can make it incredibly challenging to take the first steps towards decluttering and organizing their living space.

Identifying the Signs of Hoarding

If you suspect that you or a loved one is struggling with hoarding, it’s important to be able to recognize the signs. Some of the most common indicators of hoarding include:

  • Excessive clutter in living spaces, making it difficult to use rooms for their intended purpose.
  • Difficulty parting with possessions, even if they have little or no sentimental or practical value.
  • Feelings of distress or anxiety when faced with the prospect of decluttering or throwing away items.
  • Difficulty maintaining a clean and organized living environment.
  • Social isolation or withdrawal due to the shame or embarrassment associated with the hoarding behavior.

It’s important to note that hoarding is a complex issue and the signs can vary from individual to individual. If you’re unsure whether hoarding is a concern, it’s always best to seek the guidance of a mental health professional who can provide a comprehensive assessment and personalized support.

Preparing for the Decluttering Process

Once you’ve recognized the signs of hoarding, the next step is to begin the decluttering process. This can be an incredibly daunting task, but with the right mindset and approach, it is possible to make progress.

One of the most important things to keep in mind is that the decluttering process is not a one-time event, but rather a journey that requires patience, compassion, and a willingness to take small, manageable steps. It’s important to approach the process with self-compassion and to avoid being too hard on yourself or your loved one.

Another key aspect of preparing for the decluttering process is to gather the necessary support and resources. This may include enlisting the help of a professional organizer, a mental health therapist, or a support group for individuals struggling with hoarding. These resources can provide valuable guidance, encouragement, and practical assistance throughout the decluttering journey.

Developing a Decluttering Strategy

Once you’ve prepared yourself mentally and emotionally for the decluttering process, it’s time to develop a strategy. This will involve breaking down the task into smaller, more manageable steps and creating a plan of action.

One effective approach is to start with a specific area or room in the home and focus on that area first. This can help to build momentum and provide a sense of accomplishment, which can be incredibly motivating. It’s also important to set realistic goals and timelines, and to be willing to adjust the plan as needed.

Another key aspect of a successful decluttering strategy is to establish clear criteria for what to keep, what to donate, and what to discard. This can involve asking questions such as “When was the last time I used this item?”, “Does this item serve a practical purpose in my life?”, and “Does this item bring me joy or have sentimental value?”

By developing a clear and thoughtful decluttering strategy, you can increase the likelihood of sustainable progress and avoid becoming overwhelmed or discouraged by the process.

Overcoming Emotional Barriers

One of the biggest challenges in the decluttering process is overcoming the emotional barriers that can arise. Hoarders often have a deep emotional attachment to their possessions, and the thought of letting go of these items can be incredibly distressing.

To address this, it’s important to approach the process with compassion and understanding. Acknowledge the feelings of anxiety, fear, or loss that may arise, and work to develop coping strategies to manage these emotions. This may involve practicing deep breathing exercises, engaging in mindfulness practices, or seeking support from a therapist or support group.

It’s also important to challenge the irrational beliefs and thought patterns that often underlie hoarding behavior. Hoarders may believe that they “might need” an item in the future, or that throwing something away is wasteful or wrong. By challenging these beliefs and replacing them with more rational and realistic perspectives, individuals can begin to let go of their possessions and make progress in the decluttering process.

Maintaining Progress and Preventing Relapse

Once the initial decluttering process is underway, the next challenge is maintaining progress and preventing relapse. Hoarding is a chronic condition, and it’s important to recognize that the journey to recovery is not a linear one.

To maintain progress, it’s important to develop ongoing strategies for organizing and maintaining a decluttered living space. This may involve implementing systems for sorting and storing items, creating designated “homes” for belongings, and regularly reviewing and updating the decluttering plan.

It’s also important to continue to seek support and engage in ongoing therapy or support group activities. Hoarding is a lifelong condition, and it’s important to have a strong support system in place to help navigate the ups and downs of the recovery process.

Ultimately, the key to maintaining progress and preventing relapse is to approach the process with a long-term, sustainable mindset. By taking small, consistent steps and building a solid foundation of coping strategies and support, individuals struggling with hoarding can reclaim their living spaces and their lives.

Real-Life Case Studies

To illustrate the challenges and successes of the hoarding recovery process, let’s take a look at a few real-life case studies:

Case Study 1: Sarah
Sarah, a 45-year-old single mother, had been struggling with hoarding for over a decade. Her home had become so cluttered that she could barely move around, and she was constantly worried about the safety and well-being of her young son. After reaching out to a local support group, Sarah began the daunting task of decluttering her home. With the help of a professional organizer and the support of her therapist, Sarah was able to make steady progress over the course of several months. By breaking down the task into smaller, manageable steps and learning to manage her emotional attachment to her possessions, Sarah was able to reclaim her living space and create a safe and nurturing environment for her son.

Case Study 2: John
John, a 65-year-old retiree, had been a lifelong hoarder. His home had become so cluttered that he was no longer able to use many of the rooms, and his physical and mental health had deteriorated significantly. After a particularly concerning incident where emergency responders were called to his home, John finally agreed to seek professional help. With the support of a team of mental health professionals and a dedicated team of volunteers, John embarked on a journey of decluttering and reorganization. While the process was incredibly challenging, John was able to slowly let go of his possessions and reclaim his living space. Today, John is an active member of a local hoarding support group and continues to work on maintaining his progress and preventing relapse.

Case Study 3: Emily
Emily, a 28-year-old graduate student, had always struggled with organization and clutter, but it wasn’t until she moved into her own apartment that the hoarding behavior became truly problematic. Her living space had become so overwhelmed with possessions that she could barely navigate her own home, and she was constantly feeling anxious and stressed. With the help of a professional organizer and the support of her academic advisor, Emily was able to break down the decluttering process into manageable steps. By developing a clear strategy and learning to manage her emotional attachment to her possessions, Emily was able to regain control of her living space and her life. Today, Emily continues to work on maintaining her progress and has even become a volunteer for a local hoarding support organization, helping others who are facing similar challenges.

These case studies illustrate the diverse experiences and challenges that individuals struggling with hoarding may face, as well as the potential for success with the right support and approach. By understanding the complex nature of hoarding and the importance of a comprehensive, compassionate strategy, individuals can take the first steps towards reclaiming their living spaces and their lives.

Seeking Professional Help

For many individuals struggling with hoarding, seeking professional help is a crucial step in the recovery process. Mental health professionals, such as therapists or counselors, can provide invaluable support and guidance throughout the decluttering and organizational process.

One of the primary benefits of working with a mental health professional is the opportunity to address the underlying emotional and psychological factors that contribute to hoarding behavior. Therapists can help individuals develop coping strategies for managing the anxiety, fear, and attachment that often accompany the decluttering process. They can also work with individuals to challenge the irrational beliefs and thought patterns that can perpetuate hoarding behavior.

In addition to mental health support, individuals struggling with hoarding may also benefit from the assistance of professional organizers or organizers who specialize in hoarding-related issues. These professionals can provide practical guidance and support in the decluttering and organizational process, helping individuals to develop systems and strategies for maintaining a decluttered living space.

It’s important to note that seeking professional help is not a one-time event, but rather an ongoing process that may require the support of multiple professionals over an extended period of time. By committing to this process and seeking the guidance and support of trained experts, individuals can increase their chances of achieving long-term success in overcoming hoarding and reclaiming their living spaces and their lives.

The Importance of Support Groups

In addition to seeking professional help, individuals struggling with hoarding may also benefit from the support and camaraderie of a hoarding support group. These groups provide a safe and non-judgmental space for individuals to share their experiences, learn from others, and find the encouragement and accountability they need to make progress in their recovery.

One of the key benefits of hoarding support groups is the opportunity to connect with others who understand the unique challenges and emotional experiences that come with hoarding. Hoarders often feel isolated and ashamed, and a support group can provide a sense of community and belonging that can be incredibly powerful in the recovery process.

Support groups can also provide practical advice and strategies for managing the decluttering process, as well as ongoing support and accountability to help individuals maintain their progress. Participants may share tips for organizing and storing items, discuss the emotional obstacles they’ve faced, and celebrate their successes together.

In addition to in-person support groups, there are also many online resources and communities available for individuals struggling with hoarding. These virtual spaces can provide a supportive environment for those who may not have access to local support groups or who prefer the anonymity of an online setting.

Ultimately, the power of support groups lies in their ability to provide a sense of community, encouragement, and accountability throughout the hoarding recovery process. By connecting with others who understand the unique challenges of hoarding, individuals can find the motivation and support they need to make lasting changes and reclaim their living spaces and their lives.


Overcoming hoarding is a complex and multifaceted challenge, but with the right approach and support, it is possible to make progress and reclaim your living space and your life. By understanding the nature of hoarding, developing a strategic decluttering plan, and seeking professional and community support, individuals can take the first steps towards a more organized, fulfilling, and enjoyable living environment.

Remember, the journey to recovery is not a linear one, and it’s important to approach the process with patience, self-compassion, and a willingness to adapt as needed. With the right mindset and the right resources, you can overcome the obstacles of hoarding and create a living space that brings you joy and peace of mind.

If you or someone you know is struggling with hoarding, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. There are many resources and support systems available, and with the right approach, you can take back control of your life and your living space. Remember, you are not alone, and with the right support, you can overcome the challenges of hoarding and move forward with confidence and hope.

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