Decluttering can be a challenging task, especially when there’s an abundance of clutter, as is often the case with hoarders. If you’re a hoarder or helping someone who is, it’s essential to approach the decluttering process with empathy and patience, as hoarding is often a mental health issue. Here are some decluttering tips for hoarders that can help make the process of purging and organizing a little easier.
What is a Hoarder?
According to the Mayo Clinic, hoarding disorder is a difficulty in parting with possessions. This disorder eventually leads to the accumulation of a very large and unmanagable number of belongings.
A hoarder is a someone who suffers from hoarding disorder. Hoarding behavior often goes beyond the typical clutter or disorganization that all people experience from time to time. Hoarding significantly interferes with daily life and well-being.
Hoarders often experience intense distress at the thought of discarding items and may display compulsive behaviors, such as acquiring many new items or constantly rearranging their cluttered living spaces. As a result, their homes become cramped and hazardous, with narrow pathways weaving through piles of possessions. These living conditions can present safety risks and unsanitary living conditions.
How to Approach Hoarding
It’s important to know that hoarding should be treated as a mental health issue instead of just a bad habit. The act of hoarding can be driven by various underlying factors, including anxiety, trauma, depression, or perfectionism.
Many hoarders believe that their possessions hold great value and sentiment, attaching emotional significance to mundane objects. They may also fear that discarding items will lead to regret or a sense of loss, further reinforcing their hoarding tendencies. The disorder not only affects the hoarder’s quality of life but can also strain relationships with family, friends, and neighbors who may struggle to understand or cope with the hoarder’s behavior.
Treatment for hoarding often involves a combination of therapy, cognitive-behavioral techniques, and support to help individuals address the underlying emotional issues and develop healthier habits around possessions and decluttering.
10 Decluttering Tips for Hoarders
If you are a hoarder who is looking to change your behavior or if you have been recruited to help a hoarder declutter it’s important to remain patient and move slowly through the decluttering process.
Here are ten decluttering tips for hoarders:
- Set Small, Achievable Goals: Break the decluttering process into manageable tasks. Start with one small area or category of items at a time, like a single bin, bag, drawer, or a shelf. Try to make your goal measurable, such as “today we’re going to remove 10 items from the house.” Take your time, use logic, and be understanding.
- Sort Items Into Categories: While finding space to work may be challenging, attempt to create piles for items you want to keep, donate, sell, discard, or recycle. Sorting items into categories can help you make decisions more easily. Additionally, seeing just how many of an item a hoarder has may make them realize just how much excess there is.
- Three-Questions Rule: When sorting through items, ask yourself these questions: Have I used it in the last year? Does it hold sentimental value? Is it genuinely essential? If the answer is “no” to all three, consider letting it go. Donating a usable item to someone who can actually use and appreciate it is better for everyone.
- Use a Timer: Decluttering can be emotionally draining for hoarders. Set a timer for 15-30 minutes for each session. Taking breaks can help prevent overwhelm. During the break have a snack, go for a walk, or just enjoy some silent time.
- Get Support: Enlist the help of a supportive friend or family member to declutter. Having someone there to provide encouragement and assistance can make a significant difference.
- Practice Mindfulness: When decluttering, stay present and aware of your emotions. Acknowledge any anxiety or distress that may arise. Remind yourself them that it’s okay to let go of unnecessary items.
- Celebrate Progress: Decluttering is harder for hoarders than it is for most people. Acknowledge and celebrate achievements, no matter how small. Positive reinforcement can motivate you to continue decluttering. Do not celebrate by adding more items into a space.
- Professional Help: Hoarding disorder can be complex. It might be beneficial to seek the assistance of a professional organizer or therapist with experience in hoarding issues. This website has some helpful resources for hoarding disorder support.
- One In, One Out Rule: Hopefully, when following these decluttering tips for hoarders, no new items will be coming into a space, but just in case that’s not true, try to follow this rule. For every new item you bring into your living space, commit to removing one item. This rule helps maintain a clutter-free environment over time. This is a decluttering tip everyone can use.
- Storage Limitations: Another universal tip for maintaining a clutter-free environment is to set boundaries. Set boundaries for the number of items you’ll keep based on the available storage space. If an item doesn’t fit within these limits, it’s time to reconsider its importance.
- Example: You may only keep as many vases as will fit on this shelf.
- Example: You may keep as many coats that will fit in this coat closet.
- Example: You may keep as many quilts that will fit in this trunk.
Decluttering Tips for Hoarders
Remember that hoarding disorder is a mental health issue, and it might be necessary to seek professional counseling or therapy to address the root causes and develop coping strategies for lasting change. These decluttering tips for hoarders are helpful, but they may not be enough.
Be compassionate with yourself throughout the process and recognize that it’s a journey requiring time and patience.