You collect a variety of items that you think are unique or because you don’t want to eliminate sentimental stuff you’ve collected over the years.
While there’s nothing wrong with that, if you’re ending up with tons of clutter on your hands, you could be a hoarder – especially if the thought of cleaning out the clutter makes you feel anxious.
Is hoarding a mental illness?
Hoarding has been labelled as a mental illness, with only between two to five percent of people in the world getting this diagnosis. Some doctors believe that extreme hoarding can be part of obsessive compulsive disorder.
With that in mind, let’s explore how to declutter your living space and find ways to deal with your hoarding. Let’s start by looking at why people hoard.
What Causes Hoarding?
Hoarding is actually a disorder that can occur when people feel unable to get rid of their possessions, so they accumulate them.
Hoarding can be mild to severe. In extreme cases, people can end up living in really cramped homes because they can’t eliminate any of their possessions.
They might hold onto items that have sentimental value or hold onto worthless items that they just don’t want to get rid of because doing so fills them with stress. It’s clear to see that hoarding can have a very negative impact on your life.
Not only does it make living in your home difficult if you have to climb over various items or if the amount of clutter you have is making you feel claustrophobic, but the thought of cleaning it all away can also be stressful.
There are also other problems linked to hoarding, such as the risk of a fire because of all the clutter, risk of health problems because you can trip and fall over the clutter, and the stress of misplacing important items, such as bills you need to pay.
But why do people hoard?
There are various reasons why people become hoarders. The risk factors for hoarding include:
- Having certain personality traits. If someone is indecisive, this could cause them to hoard lots of clutter in the home. For example, they might feel stuck and unable to decide to clean their homes and get rid of specific items. The result is that they keep the items and hoard more.
- Family history. If someone has a relative who’s been diagnosed with a hoarding disorder, this does increase their chance of getting the condition.
- Stressful experiences. People are more at risk of developing a hoarding problem if they’ve gone through a difficult and stressful experience. Examples include losing a loved one, going through a breakup or divorce, or even losing possessions during a fire. All of these can cause people to hold onto certain items that they’re afraid to eliminate from their homes.
Best Decluttering Tips For Hoarders
Hoarding can be severe, so how are you supposed to start to deal with all the clutter?
Here are some steps to take.
You really shouldn’t try to take on the clutter problem in one day. It will be very difficult, especially if you’ve been holding onto it for a long time. You might also have to reel in some support from your loved ones who aren’t attached to the stuff and can view it objectively.
Even with help, aim to throw away or donate a few items at a time, and focus on clearing away the hallway and doorways into important rooms of the house as this is a good starting point which will make a positive difference in your living space conditions.
A good way to handle clutter is to give yourself five to 10 minutes in which to declutter one part of a room. After that time, stop! You might find that you want to continue, but avoid doing so for too long.
You should never try to declutter a lot in a short span of time because it can feel overwhelming, especially if you’re emotionally attached to your items.
And, if you work too hard and then feel too anxious to continue, you’re going to have even more of an overwhelming mess because the clutter will be even more disorganised.
Go in with a plan
It helps to be organised before you go ahead and start decluttering your home.
You can do this by having three bags or boxes in which you’ll put items. You should label the boxes, “trash,” “donate,” and “keep”.
Whenever you enter a room in the house that you wish to declutter, you must carry these boxes with you. It will help you tremendously because you’ll have a place to put all your items depending on whether you’re throwing them out, donating them to charity, or keeping them.
This can also prevent you from spending too much time thinking about an item and wasting time.
For hoarders, getting rid of items can be difficult at times, especially if the items have sentimental value. There might be some items that don’t feel right to be put into any of the above-labelled boxes, so a fourth box could come in handy.
It could be labelled “uncertain,” for those items you don’t know if you should keep or not. But, here’s the catch: make that box smaller than the others so that not as many items can be put into it.
You don’t want to end up with tons of items in the “uncertain” box as then you’ll get no decluttering done.
Move onto the most important rooms
Where do you spend the most time? In your bedroom, lounge, or kitchen? These are some examples of rooms in the house that can benefit from being decluttered before others, after you’ve tackled the passage and entryways into rooms.
Aim to do one room a day, whenever you intend on decluttering the home. The benefit of starting with these rooms is that you’ll quickly see how much better you feel when spending your time in them once they’ve been organised. This will motivate you to want to tackle other rooms.
Replace items as they enter the home
This rule is a good one to bear in mind so that you prevent clutter on a regular basis. How it works is that whenever some new possession enters your home, you have to get rid of one that you already own.
So, for example, if you buy a new t-shirt, donate one that you already have. If your friend gives you a pretty ornament, remove something else.
Remove duplicates from the home
Sometimes hoarders will collect duplicates of items in the home but think about it: do you really need five measuring cups or 20 mugs?
No, the duplicates are sitting around collecting dust. You might need one or two of a specific item, but don’t have more than that. Be ruthless about removing all the duplicates of items around the home.
Eliminate things immediately
One of the pitfalls of trying to clear away clutter is that once the items have been packed away in boxes, you might forget to bring them to the local hospice or to the garbage bin before collection day and the result is that the items will find their way back into your home!
You might end up with a pile of boxes of items you want to get rid of in the entryway, for example, which will add a new type of clutter to your home. Get into the habit of eliminating the things you don’t need immediately.
Remove items you don’t use
You might have a ton of magazines or newspapers that belonged to your deceased grandfather, but if they’re just collecting dust they’re not serving any real use in your home – and you don’t require such objects to feel closer to him.
When eliminating items, think about what practical use they offer you. Of course, there will be items that aren’t practical but are just beautiful, such as decor items.
These can stay, but not if you’re holding onto them because you’re hoping to enjoy them some day or simply because you’ve inherited them.
When you handle an item, try not to do so for longer than five minutes. Ask yourself if you really like, need, or use the item. If you can’t really answer the question, then toss it! Spending more time on an item can cause you to keep it just because you’re uncertain, which will worsen your clutter.
When cleaning your clutter, it’s easy to feel strong emotions, especially if you find the process stressful or you’re swarmed with memories from the past because of the items you’re handling. This is why a bit of distraction can be good.
Listen to feel-good music while you clean and sort through your clutter, or speak to a friend on the phone who supports you in your goal to have a cleaner and healthier living space. A bit of distraction will help you to get out of your negative or stressful mindset.
Are You Untidy Or Hoarding?
You might wonder if you’re dealing with a common clutter problem or if you’re actually hoarding.
If any of the following statements ring true for you, you might be dealing with a hoarding problem.
- You purchase the same items over and over again, usually because you can’t seem to find the ones you already have in your home.
- You misplace many items on a regular basis.
- You don’t invite people over to your house because you’re ashamed of the clutter.
- You feel stressed when you enter your home, or feel badly about yourself, because of the mess.
- You can’t help but feel a natural high when you buy or collect items.
- You can’t access certain rooms in the house because of clutter.
- You’re accumulating food, animals, and/or trash.
The last point in the above list is quite telling of a hoarding problem. You might be adopting lots of animals, which can be unsanitary and unfair to the animals that are in a crowded living space.
On the other hand, you might be collecting food. While that might sound strange, some people who have a hoarding problem will collect food, and this can be as a result of neglect or some other trauma during childhood.
A person who hoards food might stockpile on food that they don’t need, such as out of fear that they won’t be able to get food at some point. As for collecting garbage, this could be as a result of a mental illness, such as obsessive-compulsive behaviour.
Is hoarding linked to other mental health problems?
It’s important to remember that sometimes hoarding is connected to other mental conditions. These include anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
How common is hoarding in the UK?
Approximately 1.2 million people in the UK alone are hoarders.
If you’ve got a hoarding problem, you’re probably feeling overwhelmed with the clutter that’s currently in your living space. After reading this article, you now know what you need to do to start tackling the mess and start breathing easier.
Bear in mind that if you find yourself battling to deal with your clutter, you don’t have to go through the stressful experience alone. Reach out to a supportive friend, loved one, or therapist who will be able to help you in your journey to a freer, happier you!