It is difficult to recover from hoarding because of the emotional reasons for hanging on to all your stuff. Try these tips for preparing to get organized.
How To Recover From Hoarding – Getting Organized
Jill – Thank you so much for your blog! I have already learned some helpful hints. I am such a messy housekeeper, always procrastinating because it seems so overwhelming. I tell myself, “Oh, it’s too much to start today. I’ll do it when I have more time.” My parents are big hoarders who never part with anything so I never really learned how to keep a clean home. I do keep the dishes and clothes washed and I make sure things are sanitary.
I just have too much stuff. I’m a pack rat. There is stuff everywhere in plastic containers and in drawers. I have enough clothing to dress all of the neighbor women for a couple of weeks each. This stuff is mine and I see a use for all of it. I just can’t bring myself to throw away any of it. I like it all! I really wish every space in my house wasn’t a collect-all. We don’t even get to sit at the table as a family. My husband complains, we hate to have unexpected family, we eat out because there is no space on the counter to cook, important papers get lost and we buy more stuff because so many things get misplaced. Everyone passes the blame on someone else. To top it all off, we live in a small ranch home with little closets. How will I ever overcome all of this hoard? I want to live like the normal tidy person– Stuff is ruining MY LIFE. Can you give me any suggestions about where and how to start?
It’s hard to give a good answer to a question like this when I only have a few sentences of information, but I will try to point you in the right direction. Because I’ll be addressing the whole group, some of the things I say may not apply to you specifically but I’m including it in case it might help someone else.
How to Recover From Hoarding:
- If you struggle with hoarding tendencies, getting organized must be a group effort. Have a family meeting and see if everyone is willing to pitch in and change your lives in a big way.
- Deal with the emotions. When people do anything extreme, including hoarding, there are often emotions involved that they aren’t dealing with. Many people try to use “stuff” to make themselves feel better, more secure or more loved. Sometimes there is a serious emotional trauma involved. When people struggle with negative emotions, they often try to fix emotional things with physical things. This won’t work at all. It simply makes the problem worse because it adds another whole set of problems. In your case, you have to go out to eat, can’t have people over, can’t find your bills and so on.If you came across a man dying of thirst in the desert you wouldn’t hurry over to him, give him a great big hug, tell him he is loved and expect that to fix his problem. His problem is a physical one and he needs water. People often have an empty emotional gap in their hearts and they think “stuff” will help fill that emotional gap. It just won’t work. You need to solve emotional problems with emotional solutions, physical with physical and spiritual with spiritual. We often mix these up so get honest and identify what is the real problem in your life.
Sometimes people are angry or rebelling because their parents were too strict about keeping the house clean. (I know this wasn’t your case.) Recognize it.
Then again, being overwhelmed with clutter may simply be a case of being overwhelmed and not knowing where to start.
- Our site has many articles that go into step by step detail about how to get organized and clean and also how to get rid of that overwhelming feeling and get motivated to start. I will include 2 articles at the end of this post to help you get started. Spend an hour or so and read them and some of the others recommended articles on our site. Don’t spend hours reading about it, though. Spending hours learning about something can give you a false sense that you are doing something to address the problem but it quickly becomes just another excuse to put it off. Be careful not to get caught in that trap.
- Try to get a friend or family member who is organized to help you with it. Don’t be afraid to ask. If you are serious about getting organized, set aside your emotions (fear and embarrassment) and get the job done. You might be surprised to discover that most organized people love helping others get organized. I don’t know why but, if I walk into a messy room, my fingers just itch to get started picking things up. I really don’t judge. I just want to help.
- Put on some comfortable clothes and some pleasant music and get started. After you have finished reading this article and the others you will hopefully be mentally and physically prepared to just get up and do it. You may want to spend a day getting yourself and the “troops” ready or you might clean off just one section today, like your kitchen table. The important thing is to get up and move.
There is more detail about this next point in the articles linked below but I will briefly mention it here. One thing that helps me get rid of things is to know that there are people out there who really really need the things I am just storing.
I have been on the other side. When I had my second baby I only had one dress to wear and it wasn’t even a maternity dress. I had to wear a dress four or five times a week and it was embarrassing to have to wear the same thing over and over. I had a neighbor who decided to get rid of some of her stuff and she gave me a whole wardrobe full of clothes. It meant so much to me that I wanted to sit down and cry. This has happened to me many times over the years. Now I look at my closet full of clothes and, even though I do wear most of them, I ask myself, “Do I really really need that many clothes? Maybe someone else could use them more.” Even though we do wear that pair of black pants once every six months, do we really need to keep it when we have five other pairs of the same type?
You say that as a result of your hoarding you go out to eat, lose important papers and struggle with many other things that probably cost you money. If you were organized, you could use that extra money that you currently waste as a result of keeping the extra stuff to help someone else, too. I don’t want to sound harsh because I think you are really trying but consider this: If you had a child with a mound of toys clutched to her chest and another poorer child was in the same room with nothing, what would you do? What would you think about that child if she said, “I want all of my stuff and I don’t care that the other child has nothing. I’m not going to share or give up my toys because they make me happy and feel good.” We often practice a grown up version of this without thinking about it.
Sometimes, the little girl clinging to her toys will give away one toy but the sad thing is she doesn’t realize that clinging to that many toys is not giving her the true happiness she thinks it is. While she is holding tightly to the armful, she can’t really play with any of them or enjoy them properly. She hasn’t learned that by sharing, giving and sacrificing she will step into a whole new world of joy and happiness that giving and sacrificing brings, not to mention the relief she will feel when she gets rid of the heavy burden that comes from carrying around and managing all of those things. How much easier is the little girl’s burden if she only has one toy to hold instead of juggling an armful.
One of the comments we most often hear from people who have gotten rid of excess stuff is that they didn’t realize how much of a burden their possessions had become. They feel like a heavy weight has been lifted off of their shoulders. You said it yourself– The stuff is overwhelming you. Not a good feeling. Now it’s time to get up and, with a little discipline and work, get it done. Do it in stages if that helps but get it done. If discipline and work sound too hard, ask yourself if they are really any more difficult than what you’re dealing with now.
You can do this! You sound like you are now at the point where you really want to get it decluttered, organized and cleaned up and that is half the battle! Read these articles and then, before today is over, get up and at least clean off your kitchen table.
A Most Wonderful Treasure – This is more of a motivational article you might want to read first.
For lots of helpful tips to make organizing, cleaning and laundry easier, go get our How To Organize And Clean Your Home e-books now!
I think having “too much” can be many different ways. Our home on the inside and outside looked very organized and neat…ha ha. I would rather die than let anyone look inside a cupboard, drawer, closet or under the bed. I was a master of disguise.
Finally I got serious but the task was overwhelming. For quite a while I sat…just sat. Then I got some boxes and promised myself that everyday I would toss three things. I know those aren’t big steps. For me they were, I soon graduated to 5 things a day. Boxes filled up and boxes left our house, one way or the other. Trash, charity or to someone I knew that could use the items.
Slowly, the cluttered closets, drawers and all the hiding places began to take shape. For me this worked.
JD you are the perfect example of how when I say you just need to get up and start moving even if it is just one small thing. What happens is you get so motivated and excited at how that first little bit looks you want to keep going and often it is more and faster. Way to go. We all need to be like the tortoise in the story of the tortoise and the hare. Slowly but surely you get there.
You brought up a good point too about sometimes our hoarding and clutter can’t always be seen by others but that still doesn’t make it easy on us or our families.
What a profound promise…”I promised myself that everyday I would toss three things. I know those aren’t big steps. For me they were, I soon graduated to 5 things a day.” I am so glad that I came across this comment because it truly helped me begin.
Happy 2022 this is going to be my year to ‘LET GO’!
Teresa that is so great and you know in my even getting up and taking a step is a big deal. People don’t realize that just taking 1 step at a time if you keep taking them will usually get you where you need to go.
I found a lot of excellent ideas and help at flylady.net She is very good at helping me stay on track. You can do anything for 15 minutes at a time.
I am so slow. I have been trying to get our home ready to put on the market for 2 years now. Each week, my goal is to fill the garbage cart completely up, and to pack up at least 2 boxes to store for moving or get rid of. Getting rid of it is better, but some things you just have to keep. I think we are almost ready to list the house, although it would be easier if all the kids would move out with their stuff. We have had free use of a garage to store our packed boxes, or couldn’t have taken this long.
Marilyn, I am slow at this also so really understand what you’re talking about.
I’m preparing for a possible move too and my goal is to get the house as it was in my early years, with nothing extra that I don’t need.
After 72 years you can bet I’ve got a lot of emotional storage there. I think I’ll take a page out of your book and set a weekly goal.
My house is kind of like JD describes and I’d love to have organized closets that I could be proud of. Wow what a weight would be lifted!
If you itemize your taxes you can claim some donations. Just call a tax rep about how to do it. also, donating to a women’s shelter can be helpful to them and boost your sense of “helping others’.
I really do identify with the person that asked the question. It was so hard in the beginning. I finally asked myself how many dishes, glasses, outfits did I truly need in or use in a month.
It also helped me to find a charitable organization to donate some of my most valued belongings to. I happen to be fond of supporting homeless animals and we had a small shop that took in donations, sold them and all the profits went to provide medical care, feed and find homes for all the small creatures. There are so many worthwhile groups doing great things it just takes a moment to find something that you can wish to donate to.
I really like that sentence that you wrote that says “You need to solve emotional problems with emotional solutions, physical with physical and spiritual with spiritual.” There is a lot of depth to that statement that can be reflected upon. SO TRUE. If people would think like that they would know better how to help people.
I never realized how much “stuff” meant to me until I became homeless and really learned what necessaties really meant. Even now, if I am cleaning and organizing my pantry and see that I have things that need to be used up more quickly than I can get to them – I make sure to ask neighbors, friends or even strangers on the street if they could use them. I always say a little prayer and ask to be led to someone who may need or want my extra items – it works every time. :)
That is the whole secret Laurie. Until you have been to the point of not having anything you aren’t near as careful with what you have and not to waste anything.
I’m faced with a similar problem. I have a friend who has never allowed me into her home and now I know why. I was dropping off some things to her and the door was partially open and I thought she had left it so I could put the box inside which I tried to do. I was horrified and the smell was awful. She does volunteer work in animal rescue and has 7 dogs. She now has admitted that they potty where ever. She had the hard wood floors refinished 7 years ago and she says, now that she knows I know, that the floors are ruined. I’ve been telling her very strongly, that it is a health hazzard to her and the dogs so she just told me that she has hired a woman to come in w/a putty knife to scrape the poop off the floors. I called the city to see what laws apply to a situation like this and they told me as long as the outside is not a mess she can do what she wants with the inside. The outside is fine so that door is closed to getting her help. I’m going to wait a week or so and see if she really does get that lady to clean for her but if not I don’t know exactly what I can do. She always has a cough and sinus problems. Duh! I took one breath of that smell and backed right out as fast as I could. She is only in her 50’s and has never married. Her parents are gone on and she won’t let her brother or sister in either. She has a renter in an apartment above her and I can’t imagine the woman doesn’t smell it, too. If anyone has dealt with a situation like this I’d love to know what you did about it. I do care about her but I have to admit that knowing the full extent of this has made me feel very different about her and I am not proud of that. I keep telling myself that it’s a sickness but it really has made me want to back away from her and that’s not good, is it?
Gayla don’t brow beat yourself too much. Your reaction is very normal. To be honest I don’t really have any answers to a situation like this and I don’t know if any one has a good one either. It is like many other things – until the person sees they have a problem and asks for help there isn’t too much we can do to change things.
As far as this making you want to back away well like I said it a perfectly normal and in one sense a good reaction. I will probably get flack for this especially because it is hard to explain what I mean but reacting to things like this is good for us in the fact that – how do I say this – God in the Bible gives us certain guidelines for cleanliness not for the purpose to judge others but to protect us, our bodies and our health. I think He too has built in a natural reaction to things like this so we have to desire to take care of ourselves and our bodies in a way that is good for them.Does that make sense at all?
Now I’m not saying we should shun anyone because of this and I feel that we should even do our very best to help (the Bible also says in Rom. 15:1 that we who are strong should help the weak) but at the same time you do what you can but you can’t force anyone to do something against their will. Even God gives us free will and doesn’t force us. If that person still refuses to change with the help given, the person giving the help then must decide if they want to keep giving help with no returns. They must decide if their time, energy would be put to better use helping someone else who might be willing to change. Can they keep giving it without becoming angry or frustrated or discouraged? Which may not be wrong to feel that because God may be wanting you for some reason to back off, maybe you aren’t the right person He wants to use in this persons life, maybe you are to pull away because sometimes we enable people too much with too much help. Now a day we are to be tolerant which I completely agree with but sometimes even a good thing like being tolerant can be misused and done in the wrong way. Sometimes being tolerant turns into enabling which only compounds the original problem.
I usually work very hard helping someone and help for quite awhile but then there comes a point when I can tell not only is my “help” doing nothing to really help the root problem but they don’t want my help or it is starting to hurt me (not make me uncomfortable but to really hurt) and my family. I then know it is time to back away. All these things you have to weight and decide for yourself and your situation.
I am like this woman but I know what has caused my hoarding,being molested as a child and lack of acceptance by others.I now have a friend who accepts me as I am and it has worked miracles in my life.She has been my friend for a year now and I’ve finally let her in my home and together we are starting to clean out the hoard.Turning this woman into the authorities is not the act of a friend in my opinion but the ultimate betrayal.Let her know you love and care about her,buy yourself a facemask(tell her its because of allergies) and go visit with her.Maybe God put you in her life for a reason and your acceptance of her may be just what she needs to start to move forward.
What Mary S said is perfect. People hoard for many reasons. I have never figured out mine. Offering to help is wonderful, but not everyone is willing to let you into their home. Mine is mostly stuff (no garbage, and no pets), but every time my mother has mentioned helping me….she says she wants to help me throw all my stuff away, it upsets me and I don’t want her help. Please do not turn her into the authorities, but she may want some help. Maybe she needs assistance in building an outside kennel where some of the dogs can run around during the day.
I have 5 dogs that live in my house with me. I had 6 up until a month ago when my dear mother’s dog died. The last thing my dear mother asked of me before she died was that I take care of her dog. I am the ‘dog’ person in my family. I always have dog treats in my purse. Believe me there are ways to keep a home clean and orderly and not smelling bad with dogs. My home is also a state licensed home child care. So the state of TX inspects my home at least 1 time a year and 4 times a year I am inspected by the health department because I am on a federally funded food program for feeding the daycare children. That said let me tell you what I do.
First thing is a DOG DOOR built into a door that goes to the fenced in back yard. The dogs can come and go to the bathroom as needed and no one has to jump up and let them out or in.
I have hard wood floors too. A couple of big rugs. I sweep with a dust mop everyday to remove hair and I use a Rubbermaid mop (the refillable kind) on the floors every day. I vacuum the rugs most everyday. I feed the animals 2 times a day. Pick up the bowls and wash them in the dishwasher. Their water bowl sits out all the time beside my trash can.
I give my dogs a bath once a week in summer and 1 time a month in winter.
My dogs are not allowed in my day care area. My daycare area is our enclosed garage. I have a gate set up so the dogs can not get to this area of our home and the children are not exposed to the dogs.
If you really want to help your friend, get a mask, gloves, and some good detergent with bleach and help her clean the floors of the house. Help her find a dog door and get it installed. We got ours at Lowes and they did install it. It is simple to train a dog to use a dog door. All you do is tap the plastic part up for a few days with masking tape. Then lower the plastic flap a little each day. Finally when the flap is all the way down and a dog is unsure of it just push her through it a couple of times. They ‘get it’ in a hurry. I have trained dogs as young as 6 weeks. They follow their mother out the door.
If she is as lonely as I believe she is I bet she will appreciate it if someone would help her make her house more presentable to be able to let people in. Add a couple of the wax candles. (not a candle with flames) and the smell will go away. Especially on days when you can open the windows and let in fresh air.
Having a lot of dogs is not easy, not going to say it is. Our dogs are rescue dogs. Someone threw out on the road with nothing to eat and with no thought as to weather they would live or die. One of our dogs I risked my life to save. I ran her down on a busy highway in Austin TX. It is always my thought to find them another home etc. but after caring for them for a while I can not give them up. Just when they find a human who cares enough to feed them and make sure they are safe I can not bring myself to give them to a shelter where they can be killed if someone does not adopt them. I believe God made all things, even dogs and cats. As a human I feel a duty to care for an animal that is helpless to care for it’s self. My sweet husband knows this about me and he supports me in this. I don’t spend money on myself, I spend money on things like tick and flea medication and vet bills to get shots.
You are right Roxie, your home doesn’t on a normal basis have to smell like animals if you have them. I am shocked at how many people don’t even clean out a cat box on a regular basis. First the cats don’t like it and second – I can’t think of a tactful way to say this but – second you would not let your poop sit in the toilet for days and days so why in the world would a person let their cats. Cats and dogs are like children that if you have one you are the one responsible for it and they are as much work as a baby or toddler and you have to realize it and accept it. I had cats and dogs for most of my life and my home never smelt like them but I did have to work hard and it does take work to keep it that way. That is why a person needs to think very seriously about getting a pet. You need to be willing to sacrifice a few things.
Gayla T, It sounds like your friend may have emotional problems and could be lonely too. She must be lonely if nobody is ever able to visit with her because of her refusal to let anyone in her home. She must at least have some sense to know what she is doing is wrong with all those animals and the uncleanliness, because she seems ashamed and embarrassed. It would be worse if she was clueless. Maybe you can pray that she gets the Graces necessary to conquer the problems. Maybe someone from her Church can help. If she goes. If it was a friend of mine I probably would talk to some ladies from Church, or the Pastor. If there is feces all over the house and she has a tenant she may get into some kind of trouble eventually. Especially if a utility serviceman ever has to come into her home and fix something. They may report her. Good luck in trying to help her. Maybe God can open a door if you pray.
I love the way that you addressed this question! You gave wonderful advice…I have one other idea I have used as I have helped people clear up and clean out clutter…Those items that are not useful and take much space etc…But that a person feels some type of emotional attachment too nonetheless…I take a digital picture of it or them with it etc…And then you can load these pics on their computer and they still get to see their beloved item but it is not causing them “issues” any longer…It has been my experience that many family members are more than willing to pitch in to see their loved one get better…Also, maybe if she visited a woman’s shelter personally or a place like it she would be more willing to part with things to those in need! Good Luck!
This is good advice Melody. I think part of the reason I don’t have a urge to cling to things I really don’t need is years ago I took a car load of things to the women’s shelter and the gals were so excited and grateful for what I brought to them that it almost put me to shame that I hadn’t done even more. Every time I debate on whether I need to keep something or not I remember the looks on their faces and their words of thanks.
Taking pics of loved items does not help many of those who have a strong emotional connection to the items. The pic is just another small thing to get lost.
That is true but it does help for some people to do that. If it doesn’t for you then you will have to try something else. If one thing or tip doesn’t work for you, don’t use it as an excuse not to do anything at all. First if you really really love something then you don’t need to necessarily get rid of it but it you have every baby tooth your child ever lost, every outfit they wore as a baby, a dried flower from every bouquet of flowers your received, every birthday card you have ever received, all your clothes from 20yrs back that you haven’t worn for 17 yrs – if you are saying you have a strong emotional tie to those you you really have deep emotional problems and need to get help.
Let me put it this way. If you are spending more time taking care of, finding places to put things, not being able to function well, working to pay for bigger house or storage unit to store things in, then all of this is taking away time and energy from the people in your life that you should be loving and caring for more than your things. If you have things so under control that they don’t have an impact on your functioning well and your daily life then there is no reason not to keep them but if they are affecting your well being and your relationships (the kids are embarrassed to bring friends home, husband is angry because he can never find anything, etc) then you love things more than people and that is not someone who is stable emotionally. A person really needs help in a case like that. You can tell if that is you if you find yourself always making excuses why you can’t get rid of something and never trying to figure ways to get rid of things or actually doing it.
If you really are looking at things and thinking ‘I can still use that’ then ask yourself if how long it’s been since you did. To make a very, very long story short we have a 1950’s 900sq ft foot-print ranch. When we bought it the basement was “finished” but not livable. We had it completely filled with stuff (there was a path to get from the stairs to the utility room). We now have 1200sq ft of livable space – the total amount of finished square footage in our home.
Slowly over time I learned to say “I’ve had this for 4 years and have never used it” or “It’s nice to save x for y, but am I really ever going to do y?” and donate things to other people or organizations. I don’t actually throw out usable objects – I always donate them. It makes me feel good that someone else might actually get a use out of them and my items still get to be useful – to someone else. I donated 4 large bins of craft items (from things I’d dabbled in over the years) to a church fundraiser auction and there was a FEARCE bidding war – someone actually paid $150 for my “junk”!
Anyway, if you can still see it as useful, work on having it be useful for someone else now rather than you later. That worked wonders for me!.
I loved the idea above about one or two items per day. And the FlyLady. That’s how I started too (with those two things) and it really and truly does work!
jill/tawra .. if it wasnt for the many many words of encouragement, i dont htink i would have ever gotten done de-cluttering in my old house (the one we just moved from) .. and the best advice given.. is to take baby steps .. and also .. get someone to help u .. bc it is very overwhelming ..
when we moved we got rid of over 90%+ of our stuff .. and when we moved into the apt .. we got rid of about 30% more that we took here .. can we get rid of more? u bet we can .. in fact, i think a good 10% is about it .. hubby and i both agree .. about 10% more can be given away ..
this summer, we (hubby and i) will be doing some canning .. and we even got a freezer .. and yes.. now its time to really save some money .. he has gotten a new lease on life (a big burst of energy) and is even cooking, doing dishes and even helping me mop the floors ..
our one friend, she is actually a family friend but she is about my son’s and daughter’s age, has offered to help us out, too .. which is very sweet of her .. adn i must say, if it wasnt for her helping me do alot of the packing and cleaning and de-cluttering, i dont think i would have had the energy to do it all .. it just seemed so much easier with help ..
thank u jill and tawra for the many words of encouragement .. it was and still is greatly appreciated .. ;D
I am so glad you have some help. When you were talking about moving I was worried how you would get it all done because I know how full your plate is with everything so am so glad you have someone to help. Just relax and enjoy it. We all need someone to help us once in awhile. I was even thinking about writing an article on not being afraid to ask for help once in awhile.
thank you! I have been slowly weeding out things from my house. “things” that grandma, auntie, second-cousin, nice-lady-we-used-to-live-by had given us. Things I felt obligated to keep, even though I did not use or love them… this makes me feel better about my decision to start removing these items from my home. It doesn’t mean I love the giver any less, rather I value the person, not the possession :)
I can remember when we had our huge house (5 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, 3 car garage) it was packed in the later years we lived there. I cringe as I remember several rooms were packed with mail, clothes, shopping bags of items I never even unpacked, much less used. I tried to get rid of things, but there was still a lot there when they finally padlocked the house (we had already moved to an apartment). We had 8 hours after that when they opened the padlocks to get our stuff out, and we had to leave so much there, and I suspect they just threw it all away. That was so traumatic that I am much more restrained when I go shopping. Except for when we evacuated our flooded business and files and equipment were stacked all over the house, I haven’t had nearly as much accumilation of stuff. I realize now that I am a closet(!?!) hoarder, and I try to be mindful of that when I’m looking to aquire something else.
I had issues with collecting stuff and found durring a depressing time with my young tolder . Had some intervention and learned with some counseling and having
some one come weekly to assist me . That we can have time where very little gets done or accomplished .
There is a web site called www.flylady.net
it is based in SC. It very good place to keep you on track and offers allot of tips with cleaning and organizing and with meal planning and grocery shopping.
I appreciated the way you responded to the reader. Usually there is more at the root of the problem than just liking things – and that takes a lot of courage and honesty to be able to deal with. Also, things often hold memories – I like the idea of taking a picture of the item or to really ask yourself if you are honoring the item by not taking care of it. If something is really special you will take care of it by framing it or whatever. Also, I have an organization that takes bagged up clothes and they sell them. I get to help and get rid of my clothing!
Remember, relationships are more important than things. We need to love people, not things. I don’t want what I own to control my relationships with friends or family.
Jill, I really needed the encouragement and motivation from this article to help me get started on what has seemed an impossible task — decluttering this house! It is so bad that I truly have been overwhelmed and not sure where to start. I really have a hard time parting with anything — programs from performances I’ve been in or attended, greeting cards, notes/pictures given to me by my students over the years –I attach so much sentimental value to everything that it’s ridiculous! I know getting things organized would be so freeing. It feels good just to get a drawer or a shelf organized — but the whole house seems impossible. I am currently caring for my bedridden mom in this little home in which she and my dad raised six of us children. She has lived here for sixty-five years, and there is accumulated stuff from eight people — well, it will be quite a job. But, I’m going to read the articles on your site that relate to organization, and I’ll try to get started today one small step at a time. Thanks for all you and Tawra share with us. You both have a wonderful ministry through this website. By the way, I love your Dining on a Dime cookbook so much that I also bought a copy for one of my sisters and for her newlywed daughter. Thanks again, and God bless!
I am so excited for you to get started. Do check out more of our articles under Housekeeping on the home page. If you are like me I love reading these things not so much that I don’t know how to do something but more for the motivation. One thing though is just to find one corner, spot or counter that is driving you crazy and focus on it and clean it. What happens is that when you get just a little bit done you get so excited you want to keep going. Something that might help is to picture what you want the spot or area to look like. For example picture your dining room table all shiny with some pretty place mats, candles and maybe a bowl of fruit or fresh flowers in the center. Then go for it clean it off, shine it up and make it look like the picture in your mind.
I know what you mean about all those cards and tickets and programs. I saved them too but when I got ready to move I started going through them. I couldn’t even remember what half of them were for and the very few I did remember I had them packed away so they didn’t help me to remember while being packed in a box and I really didn’t need the ticket to remember that evening or event. I had to face the fact too on things like my dried wedding flowers. Why was I keeping them. They wouldn’t mean anything to my kids and did they really mean anything to me now? I have my wedding pictures, wedding dress and Bible. I learned to be so much more selective in what I really needed to keep.
I finally decided why am I letting these piles of boxes of the past that really weren’t that important (I mean really do I need the program from my 2nd grade school play? I don’t remember it, the teach or even the school) literally mess up my life now. What pleasure can we get out of those memories if they are making our lives miserable and not allow us to function properly in the here and now. I know this sounds gross but I can’t think of another example but it is kind of like having leaches on me sucking the life out of me but can’t bring myself to pull them off of me because I am afraid it might hurt.
When things are making my life and my family’s life miserable then they are no longer “good memories”, of any use and I need to get rid of them. I know it is hard but just making up your mind you need to do it is half the battle. You sound really excited and I think you will do great. If you get hung up or have any questions don’t hesitate to ask.
grizzly bear mom
regarding the person with dogs eliminating on the floor, I would ignore it. If you tell the county they will take away her dogs and she will be very sad which would make her even more unhappy. Also the county should be caring for abused children and dogs, not poopy floors. Many people overeat, over drink, smoke, etc. She is a slob.
Good sound advice, Jill, for dealing with what appears to be a hoarder. We always have to use a large measure of discretion, coupled with love, to be who we ought to be when dealing with others, and as always, we need God’s wisdom and help. I appreciate your word of encouragement to those who find themselves initially repulsed or troubled by what they find. I have had the shared friendship of two women in my life, that I believe were hoarders. You are right. The hoarder must see their problem, and want help, even if they don’t have ability to do it all themselves. If the first criteria isn’t met, then the helper inadvertently becomes an enabler. Cleaned up houses will just fill up again with ferocious speed. What surprises me most about hoarders who think everything they have is a treasure, is that the so called treasure is so carelessly taken care of. “Precious” items are mixed in with true, sometimes biodegradable trash, and family heirlooms are lost in heaps of paper and old bags and boxes. To me, that would be the dead giveaway…if it is so valuable, why do I not take care of it? True hoarding is indeed an illness of sorts, and does usually involve an emotional response to a trauma, tragedy, loss, or feeling of anxiety. For those who want to venture into cleaning up too much clutter, or deal with their hoarding, I give this word of encouragement. Do one area, and then see if you don’t feel a sense of relief for having that one area clean when you go to it. A bank of kitchen drawers, the one closet you dress from or your bathroom cabinet, will do. Doesn’t it feel good to go there and be able to find what you need? If it does feel good, use that as motivation to carry on, a little area every day, and feel that same relief.
Yes Mary Jane and this advice is good for an average person who doesn’t know where to begin at times when things have gotten out of control for a season. Start with one small section of counter, table or area and like you said see how good it feels to get that much done. There is a saying an object in motion stays in motion and you will fine once you get up and get started you will want to keep going at it.
Perhaps another reason that as we stay at the same residence & things pile up or lay around —
is that as we age over the decades, our strength, stamina & enthusiasm, as well as abilities, subtly slow down & wither…
EG, I used to be able to sort piles of papers, bills, etc in 10 minutes or less. Now with my senior citizen eyesight, I have to hold each one 2″ away from my nose to be able to read it. So each bill/reminder note takes at least 5 minutes to process… & I can only do about a couple of hours before I get eyestrain & headaches for the rest of the day…
Lesson #1 — Get simplified systems in place & learn their maintainance routines early in your life!! Reform your lives now, not next month or next year!!
Then you can sit down with a cup & enjoy a well-earned rest, as you sweep your eyes around the now better-looking house!
How do you toss out things your Mother left you when she died a few years ago. They were her “treasures”. How do I just toss them out? I have put some aside for the great grandkids, but there are still a few boxes left. Some things that were her Mother’s… Any helpfull ideas would be appreciated.
It is very hard to get rid of things like this and if you have room for them then there is no reason not to save them for at least awhile. If you don’t have room or are overwhelmed then here are a few things you could do. Pick a some things that really mean a lot to you. Things you remember using when you were young, special items of your mom’s etc. and of course these you will want to keep.
Things that were your mom’s but you have no or not much memory of them being special then those you can consider getting rid of first. I would also give them to children or grandchildren (you did mention great grandkids) but give the things with not as much emotional attachment to them – with no strings attached and let them do with them what they want, not letting you know. That would be easier for you.
You could take some of the more valuable but not as special things and sell them and give the money to one of your mom’s favorite charity’s or donate them. That way they would be helping someone (or charity) who was important to your mom.
Separate the things that will not stand the test of time. For example I have an old fur coat of my mom’s that is shedding and falling to pieces that I need to get rid of. Toss those things. Now it may be hard for you to actually toss those things yourself and it would make it some what easier if you could have a family member or friend come and help you sort the things and let them put the things in their car to haul off and deal with for you if you can.
Give yourself time too if you can. You need to grieve and to allow yourself to grieve but then after a certain point even though it may hurt like crazy you will have to bit the bullet and take care of the things. It sounds like to me that you are on your way though by separating the things out for the great grandkids. Remember they were her treasures just things. The most important thing was her and her love for you. That you will always have not only in your own heart but without realizing it you have pasted that same love on to your children, grandchildren and great grand children. That is the most important treasure of all.
I just re-read this article again, and am struck by the turmoil so many people feel about getting rid of family heirlooms and treasures left to them by their now deceased loved ones. If you are old enough to leave treasures to your children when you pass away, do them a favour and down size your stuff while you are still here. You will save them a lot of heart ache and anguish. Talk with your kids about what, if anything, they would really like to have of yours now, before you go! Some things that your relatives would like to have can even be given to them now, before you pass on. Give the extra stuff away to worthy causes. There are always ads in our local paper for people to acquire household items for free or cheap. Bless someone else with your stuff. The truth is, most of the stuff we have come to think of as treasure, other people will not want or will be burdened with it after we are gone. I have had the experience in the last few years of seeing wealthier people in our community go through down-sizing or their retirement, only to find out that their children do not want their expensive china or crystal ware. They are all shocked. The so-called good stuff that they never used is not worth the priceless amount that they imagined. My sister and I talk about this all the time. She has lived in her little house long enough to experience the passing away of some of the residents that she has come to know and love since she moved in over two decades ago. When the two occupants of one little house were gone, she noticed that the family had put the house up for sale. A few months later, she woke up to the sound of a bulldozer tearing down that little house. The property had sold, and the new owners were tearing down a perfectly sound and well kept home, to build the house of their choosing. She said it made her think that all of her treasures were treasures to her alone, and that all the things she valued, were not going to be as valuable to others. This helps us both to be mindful of what we acquire, and what is truly valuable, that being memories and time spent with loved ones.
Yes I am a firm believer in giving your kids things now. My grandkids come over and I tell them to pick out the things the want and as soon as I don’t need them any more or am not using them they get it. I also give them any heirlooms I have if they mention they like them. I don’t want my kids to have guilt and frustration on top of grieving when I am gone ( I think they will grieve for me anyway I told them all they will get a nice bonus if they do :) :) – just joking before I get a thousands).
I am coming here because I need to organize as my daughter is pregnant! She is 18, but I have been wanting a baby and I am THRILLED! I feel a little bad for being happy as she is not married, and some family members have been very dismayed and judging. I can’t help feeling absolutely thrilled though,although I try to tamp it down. Anyway, I REALLY need to get organized now!
Oh Jackie your first grandbaby. Don’t try to tamp down your joy at all. There is nothing like the excitement and thrill of that first grandbaby – except maybe the second grandbaby and the third one :) :). I still can remember finding out about my first one. It is hard to explain what the feeling is like unless you have had a grandbaby yourself. I am so happy for you. I was talking to Tawra and she said instead of people judging they should be celebrating that you and your daughter are keeping the the baby and loving it. A baby is always a celebration.
You are so right you do need to get organized now. :) We both know you will be way too busy after he or she arrives. For me it was much more fun organizing and cleaning getting ready for my grandbaby then just the normal stuff. My kids laughed at me because I took so much pleasure out of washing and folding each little outfit and getting things ready – even the organizing part.
As with organizing in every area remember 2 things do it in small chunks and be ruthless in getting rid of stuff. Pop back in and let us know how the organizing is going, if you have any questions and especially let us know when your grandbaby arrives and if it is a boy, girl and all the fun stuff.
These ideas are fabulous and they look like they will work for me. Please send me your daily/weekly articles. Thank you. Sherrie Katz
Sheryl there is a pop up that happens about every 3-4 times when you look at our website that you can use or you can use this link Newsletter It doesn’t cost anything and we don’t give out your info to anyone at all.
Thanks for this. We are currently in a purge cycle right now, after many years of wallowing in too. much. stuff.
I realize that part of letting go is trusting God. I tend to hold onto things that I have no immediate need for because I might need them someday. But God has always provided, we have always found what we needed when we need them. So why am I worried?
You did a great job on explaining why people hoard and how to address the problem. I think it is because my mother has these tendencies that I stay organized.
I hate to waste things. So I hesitate to throw away things that can be useful to others. I have closets and a shed thats full of stuff to give away that no one wants. How do I get over that hurdle?
Well, when you give it to the thrift store you are giving it to someone else who will be able to use and appreciate much more than you. If they are buying it at the thrift store then that means they actually need it!
Your story about getting that wardrobe from your neighbor was really great. My grandmother has a lot of stuff, but I could probably get her to get rid of some of it by telling her that someone else could use it. That could be a great way to get started of removing a lot of the stuff from her home.
I could relate to practically EVERYTHING about being a packrat (aka “collector”); procrastinating and being overwhelmed on a daily basis; the complaints from the husband; NO counter space (very frustrating for everybody); my problem is that when I leave for work, that’s when my husband starts going through my stuff, thinking he’s helping but he oftentimes throws out the wrong stuff and keeps what HE thinks I should keep. He’s thrown out things our 2 boys have made in school that were really beautiful works of art that were “real keepers” and kept mundane, so-so schoolwork that they did on a weekly basis (the stuff that you’d not put into the “keep” box when going through all your kids school stuff). He doesn’t understand what it’s like, when someone goes through YOUR things, including your personal things and getting rid of part of it, thinking that you’ll never notice what’s gone.
I feel utterly disreguarded, disrespected, and belittled. Any suggestions?
Here are a couple of things. You and your husband need to talk about this together in a caring and loving way. If you can’t it is a marriage problem and not a decluttering problem. Because you ended with saying you feel disreguarded, disrespected and belittled, that tells me there are other things going on. You need to face the reality of what the real problem is here not the symptoms. If you don’t it will be like trying to put a tiny band aid on a cut that is on a leg that is red, swollen and inflamed. That won’t fix anything or the infection.
Also you may not like this part but if you truly don’t want him sorting through the things then bottom line is you need to stay on top of it yourself. Often wives don’t clean things properly or at all and so the husband tries to step in to help or even do it so the family can have a clutter free area, but the wife gets mad when he does. She usually gets mad because she feels guilty for not doing it herself and strikes out at the husband or child who is doing it.
But like I said to be as angry and upset over something as small as going through your sons’s (and they are his sons too) school papers tells me you need to take a serious look at what the real problem is here and it isn’t the fact that your husband doesn’t understand. Be honest or things will not get fixed and will keep getting worse.
Sorry I know you wanted to to tell you something to easily declutter or to agree with you and tell you something for ammunition against your husband but I am not sure he is the problem.
…hello. I just started back in home help business for our older brothers and sisters and have a single woman who is quite a fabric, quilting, sewing and clothes collector.
Among these she’s collecting oodles and oodles of recipes, cute pics and sayings from mags, newspapers etc.
her kitchen is stacked with empty, clean used plastic ware among depression glass, enameled porcelain ware and gorgeous antique kitchen furniture..and more papers…Lordy!
Thank you for the info and great comments! I am working slowly with her and given time to know where she is sensitive. And where and how not to encourage too much;) Today was a breakthrough and I am happy to share she is willing. Next visit she may feel differently. Which I have found when too much time lapses between visits. Any other helpful resources and/or advice is appreciated. Please PM if possible
Angie if she has that much stuff it is really an emotional thing with her so you need to be aware that it may not be too easy until you deal with that part. It is like asking a normal person to throw out their child. So in one sense you need to convince her that her child is better off with out her and visa versa which is no easy task.
That being said you sound like you really are doing everything right. Being sensitive to what she needs and giving her time but you are right in that you can let too much time go in between. Once she is one a roll you need to keep going as much as possible and especially long enough to make a big difference in a certain area so she can see how freeing it is and nice it is to get rid of things.
Start with the things that don’t mean quite as much to her – for example I imagine her fabric she loves -even normal quilters have a hard time giving that up so you might start with things like getting the plastic ware under control and the trash too. Often there is a lot of trash involved and just getting rid of that makes a big difference.
You mentioned the antique furniture so you might find a corner or area you could clean out and set up a pretty table with a chair and lamp on it or something, making an orderly little corner for her to look at and see what her world would look like if she got it under control.
The minute she says she will let something go be sure to take it out of the house right away too because she will change her mind if you don’t.
Here is a saying one of our readings sent me that she uses and I thought this was good “I forgive myself for being imperfect and send this out to bless someone else.” Remind her of how many she will be helping by letting the things go. Remember it is an emotional thing and that is the trickiest but I think you are doing fine so far and just keep working at it.
One last thing it sometimes helps to pick a shelf or cabinet and say “Will this be enough area space for your plastic ware?” Then proceed to just fill that area and then tell not to keep any more than will fit easily on that area. Also keep talking to her and say how may pairs of black pants do you wear a week. If she says one than say since you do your laundry once a week do you really need 25 pairs?
Rachael E Clark
I grew up in a hoarder home and have this problem because I was never taught how to get rid of stuff or how to clean. Sometimes I watch hoarder shows when I am feeling homesick to remember why I never want to go back. Once day when I was watching the show and the therapist asked, “When is the last time you saw the floor in this room?” And I was being very judgemental of the hoarder and smugly self righteous when I realized that I had a closet in my home that I had not seen the floor of in over a year. I took out 53 bags of garbage in one day and things have never been the same. I felt terrible like I was violating some sacred rule of ownership, not being a good steward of what God had given me.
I came up with numbers, and now only buy things within reason. My process is to gather together everything I need which only leaves that which I do not need. Most importantly I developed a filing system for all necessary documents, All family member’s social security cards, birth certificates, marriage licenses, DD-214’s, shot records, passports, diplomas and degrees, and car titles are in a binder. I keep tax forms for the past 10 years only, our wills, power of attorneys, major purchase warranty information, Retirement account info, mortgage information, glasses prescriptions ETC, in a one drawer filing cabinet. Pictures in a drawer, and kids artwork in a filing box. I plan on storing pictures and artwork electronically but haven’t gotten around to that yet. Not hoarding is a daily commitment. I had to stop playing “What if” and “one day I will” and start living in the reality that is my life. And so I got rid of that rabbit cage I bought at a yardsale in case we ever decided to get a bunny, because my cat tried to kill bunnies, I got rid of the yarn because I don’t know how to knit or crochet and don’t have time right now to learn, I got rid of the clothes from the body I used to have if I ever do shrink back I won’t want something outdated. I started living in the right now. I limited my clothing to a three color scheme. I never buy my kids, my husband or myself more than 5 pairs of work/school/ church pants and 10 shirts for any size since a school week is only 5 days and I must do laundry regularly, no one will see my kids wear the same pants more than once in a week, or shirt twice in 1/3 of a month. I don’t own more plastic food containers than will fit in my fridge/ freezer and cupboards and they are all clear, fit inside each other and are not recycled deli containers. I paired down my collections. I now feel relieved, am not overwhelmed by the clutter, but I still have too much stuff. It is a work in progress. I am always inventing new rules to follow but my input is now equal to my output.
This is some really good information about help a hoarder get organized. My grandmother is a hoarder. So, I liked that you pointed out that having family help with the process can be helpful. Personally, I think we should also have a professional service there as well to help us out.
I had a similar problem with my mother and her boyfriend, who served time in the military. He had a bunch of friends who passed away. Being that, he also accumulated a lot of memorabilia from his fallen comrades. I suggested that he clean the place once, but gave me a look that I won’t forget.
Shortly thereafter, during a small stint at a reunion for fallen soldiers, I called for the services of Jux Los Angeles, a garage and attic cleaning / reorganization company, based in southern a California. My mother’s boyfriend wasn’t pleased with what I had done at first. As a week passed by since the renovation, much to his chagrin, he had to tell me that the place looked so different and that now, he has a place where he can honor his brothers and sisters; in his garage ( I made it extra special and hung up some uniforms his comrades wore on the garage walls…)
I appreciate the tips given. Hoarding is really a major OCD issue and not as easy as a few tips, though, especially for large hoards. Most people who do this also have dealt with a severe loss and it is fueling this. It is such a complicated web of emotional attachment, fear to let go, fear of going without or losing more and so many other issues around the OCD that often accompanies it, it really takes many people professional help and some time to heal from it. Love and light to all trying to conquer it and those who love them and support them.
Yes Kate and we did mention that in the post that we do know it is a very emotional thing etc
Thank you for your tip to ask a friend or family member who is organized to help with hoarding cleanup. My mother is a hoarder and we really need to clean out her house and get organized. I might just hire someone to help us with cleaning up my mother’s house.
Thank you so much, I love to visit your site regularly, because you are so motivating. I would like to add one aspect to this – the solving of the problem. I used to focus only on areas. Get this table-top clear. Tidy up the wardrobe. Or a certain shelf. It did not work. I subscribed to a distance learning course that is offered by a distance-learning institute here in Germany, and I am working now just at lesson 6 (out of 24 lessons altogether). But one focus of the first lessons was: Organize the less emotional areas first. For example the fridge. The pantry. The toiletries. The handbag. This is to start with the less emotional areas first. It is easier to let go of the outdated foods or handcreams that you won’t use anyway anymore, than of the dress of your late mother that reminds you of a loving situation of your childhood and that makes you cry from longing for her. Another focus of that course was very new to me, and I found it very helpful. Not to focus on “that table-top / that shelf” etc. as the only way of organizing. The focus on “topics” gave me a total different new additional tool to work along. Like: Search together all the food supplies you have maybe stored in all kind of different places of the house. (like pantry, basement, garage etc.). Put them ALL together in ONE place to get an overview. Because often one has forgotten much of it. Then reflect about a new place. Where would be a very good place to store them in a good new order. (Cool, dark, dry, easy access etc.)? Then make room there in that new place. Throw away all the outdated food and put all the good stuff in the newly prepared or newly cleaned storage place. And then enjoy and “endulge” the new beauty and how it makes the daily life so much easier. – To have this ONE area as a STARTER, that is making the life SO MUCH easier, and can really be joyful, is causing so much positive feelings, that it is motivating to continue. And then continue with the next topic, but also do not forget to set a date with yourself, to revisit and re-tidy the food storage in for example two months, in order to keep the good state it is. I am 58 years now, and I have always struggled so much with overflow of clutter, as well as my mother. Now first time my daughter says “Each time I am coming for a visit I can see clearly, how much you have done to improve the situation since my last visit – in and around the house”. I hope I could explain well enough, English is not my mother language.
Just what I needed to read. Thank you! What’s the name of the course?
I am not sure Elizabeth what you mean by the name of the course.
I joined Freecycle. I never have a problem getting someone to take what I am offering. I have found that I have missed nothing I gave away.
May I just say that out of the many wonderful life tips I have learned over the years from this site, the tip (which is not in this post) about “if you’re having trouble emotionally separating yourself from an object, say a prayer over it” is one of the best of all time. You ladies might consider writing a whole post about it for people like me, who can barely stand to part with a beloved object. It even helped me when I moved from our marital home (which wasn’t my choice). Thank you so much as always.