Lots of us have too much stuff, and most of us could benefit from a closet purge every once in a while. But what happens when you have so much stuff that it starts to interfere with your life? That’s when your clutter problem might actually be a hoarding one. Clutter can become so overwhelming that you don’t even know where to start. These decluttering tips for hoarders are here to help you get started and clear your clutter once and for all.
What is hoarding?
Before we dive into our decluttering tips for hoarders, let's discuss exactly what hoarding is. Hoarding goes beyond accumulating too much stuff.
In fact, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the DSM-5), the guide mental health professionals use to diagnose patients, hoarding is a mental health disorder.
There are three main characteristics of hoarding. First, there is difficulty in letting go of your things. Second, it is an excessive accumulation of new items. Lastly, it is marked by an inability to prevent clutter.
Hoarders feel distressed when just thinking about discarding their possessions, so they never do, and their homes become overrun with stuff.
There are so many reasons why a person might become a hoarder, all of these deeper than just wanting to buy more things.
Hoarding could be due to stress, a related mental health disorder such as obsessive-compulsive disorder or anxiety, hereditary reasons such as growing up in a cluttered home, or a chemical imbalance in the brain, to name just a few.
What’s most important to understand is that hoarding is a diagnosable and treatable mental health disorder. If you or someone you know are struggling with a severe hoarding disorder, there is help out there for you.
For anyone else, or for those looking to take some first steps on their own, read on to learn about the benefits of decluttering and for the best decluttering tips for hoarders.
What are the benefits of decluttering?
Whether you’re a hoarder or just have a few too many possessions, you can benefit from a little decluttering. Here are just a few of the benefits of decluttering:
Health benefits of decluttering
Living in a cluttered house can cause a person to feel anxious and stressed. By cutting back on your clutter, you’ll create a calm living space and help reduce any stress or anxiety related to having too many things.
Clutter can affect your physical health, too. An especially cluttered space is more likely to be dusty or even dirty, negatively impacting your health. Cleaning up your space not only frees your mind but can help create a healthier physical environment, too.
Wealth benefits of decluttering
Clutter is expensive. You might think you’re saving important things for the future, but those things aren’t much use if you can never find them.
There are many financial benefits to decluttering, including saving. Decluttering saves you money because you’re more likely to use what you have when you know what you have. How about that for some motivation to declutter?!
Decluttering is also a great way to increase your cash flow. There are so many marketplaces to sell your unwanted items. Instead of having them sit, unused, in a corner of your home, sell them to someone who will actually use them.
And don’t count out one of the best ways to sell your things – an old-fashioned garage sale. You can put together a sale in a weekend and come away with a decluttered house and a full wallet.
Hoarder cleaning checklist
Before you start our decluttering tips for hoarders, it’s helpful to have a plan. The following hoarder cleaning checklist can help ensure your success in your decluttering journey:
1. Cleaning supplies
Before you do anything, make sure you have the proper cleaning supplies you need to get the job done. Items you’ll want to have on hand include:
- Trash bags (and, possibly a dumpster, if major decluttering will be taking place)
- Bucket and mop
- All-purpose cleaner
- Sponges and cleaning cloths
- Broom and dustpan
- Vacuum cleaner
- Step ladder
- Plastic gloves
- Bins for storing “keep” items
In addition to cleaning supplies, you’ll want to be sure you have the support you need before you get to work. For you, this might mean professional help (there are companies who can help with the clean-up or even do the job themselves).
Or, it could mean a supportive friend or family member who will be there to help you through what can be an emotional process.
3. A plan
The last item in your hoarder cleaning checklist to make sure you have in place is a plan. Do you have a plan for how you will declutter your home? You’ll have the most success if you come up with a plan of attack before you begin.
For example, you might develop a detailed schedule of what day you will conquer what small area of your home. Whatever it is, you’re more likely to accomplish your goal of decluttering your space if you start with a plan.
7 Simple decluttering tips for hoarders
Ready to declutter? Grab your hoarder cleaning checklist and start these seven decluttering tips for hoarders to get well on your way to a clutter-free home: (Be sure to also check out our list of best books on decluttering for extra motivation!)
1. Set aside the time
Decluttering is a big project. So, the first thing you need to do is clear your calendar. When you decide you’re ready to declutter, commit to it by putting it on your calendar.
Treat it as you would any other commitment. It’s important to you, so set aside the time to make sure you get around to it. Then, when the time comes, get down to it and start decluttering!
2. Start small
Don’t be too ambitious in the beginning. Instead, start with something small, like one cabinet or a kitchen drawer. Some hoarders even benefit by starting with clearing out just pure trash.
You might find it easier to discard trash than other items, so start there. Remember, every little bit counts, so consider it a win no matter what or how much you clear out. It will get easier as you go.
3. Choose an area with the least sentimental value to start
What is one of the best decluttering tips for hoarders? Start in an area that has the least sentimental stuff in it. Getting rid of anything with a memory attached to it can be extremely difficult.
If you are a very sentimental person, don’t start your decluttering process by going through photo albums or your children’s old artwork.
Instead, choose an area of your home with the least sentimental value. A small corner of your kitchen or a bathroom shelf – places unlikely to store sentimental items – are great areas to begin with.
4. Organize as you go
As you declutter, it’s important to organize the items that you do plan to keep. As you get rid of some items and keep others, have a dedicated place for whatever you plan to save.
Don’t go out and spend tons of money on organizational tools like plastic bins until you’ve begun the process and actually know what you’ll need.
But, once you have made some progress, take a break and make sure you have whatever you need to keep the things you are saving in order. This will help prevent clutter from coming back.
5. Have a trash and donation plan
No matter your level of clutter, you’ll need a plan for what to do with the items you’re disposing of. For some hoarders, this might mean renting a dumpster for the day.
For others, it might just mean having extra trash and recycling bins on hand. Everyone should have an idea of where they plan to donate anything that is still in good condition, such as a local Goodwill or Salvation Army.
6. Take before and after photos to track your progress
A cluttered home can be extremely overwhelming, and can also take a long time to clean. Even after a whole day of decluttering, you might not feel like you have made much progress, which can be very discouraging.
To help you realize just how far you’ve come, it can be helpful to take some before and after photos. Choose a small area of your home to declutter, take a quick picture of it, and then another once you’ve cleared the area.
While your entire home might not be clutter-free in a day, by tracking your progress with photo proof, you’ll be more likely to keep going another day.
7. Vow to stop bringing new things into your home
Lastly, one of the key markers of a hoarding disorder is the compulsion to bring new things into the home. If you want to clear the clutter, it’s really important to stop buying new things, especially things you don’t need.
As the last part of your decluttering process, vow to stop bringing new things into your home unless absolutely necessary. This will help ensure you don’t slip back into old hoarding ways once your home is clutter-free.
Use these decluttering tips for hoarders to free yourself from clutter!
Clutter can be debilitating, especially for those with a hoarding disorder. There is a way out, though. Hopefully, this hoarder cleaning checklist and decluttering tips for hoarders will help you begin to declutter your life and set you on the path to living in a healthier and happier home.