For centuries we’ve hoarded to help us through hard times. Holed up for Christmas and Bank Holidays, we stockpile the basics for fear we’ll run out. We buy one to get one free, spending 24/7. There’s no doubt about it; possessions play a pivotal part in our lives.
Our culture of consumption causes us to amass more than we need, compromising our personal finances and space. Acquiring and hoarding can act as a comfort blanket, distracting us from difficult life events. We hold onto sentimental clutter, to remind us of who or what we love and have lost. If we let go, perhaps we’ll forget?
This is how we fall into the clutter trap. When it affects daily life then it’s time to take back control. Here are 5 signs you may be a hoarder and how to begin breaking free.
1. You are chronically disorganised and constantly misplace items
Here, simple rules like ‘Chuck, Cherish, Charity’, ‘One In One Out’ or ‘OHIO – Only Handle it Once’ will spur you to action. Start with a small area of the house with less emotional attachment, like the kitchen, 15 minutes at a time. Celebrate the cleared space when you can use it again.
2. You hide behind your ‘stuff’, unwilling to let anyone into your home
If your house is becoming a storage unit rather than a home, call in an empathetic friend to help or join a local support group in your area
3. You don’t notice the mess.
You have ‘clutter blindness’. Clutter image ratings can help you pictorially assess the level of clutter in your home. Go to https://hoardingdisordersuk.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/clutter-image-ratings.pdf. Drawing a picture of how the cleared space will look and taking before and after photographs can help to motivate.
4. You compulsively buy or acquire new stuff
Talking to a professional such as a therapist can help you understand the root cause of the hoarding.
5. You are anxious about possessions. You cannot let go.
A variety of mental health issues are directly related to clutter. They include depression, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Autistic Spectrum disorder (ASD), Trauma, redundancy, food deprivation, empty nest syndrome as well as others.
Now is the time to seek professional help from a therapist who can prescribe the right treatment.
Where to get help
Don’t be alone, if you are devastated by the prospect of decluttering, Seek professional help. Useful organisations are listed in ‘Understanding Hoarding’ by Jo Cooke, (Sheldon Press, 2017) details available at https://hoardingdisordersuk.org/understanding-hoarding/ or contact Jo at email@example.com and 07950 364 798. Get more information at https://hoardingdisordersuk.org/
Jo Cooke is an accredited member of the Association of Professional Declutterers and Organizers and runs her own decluttering business, Tapioca Tidy. She is a Director of Hoarding Disorders UK and hosts two hoarding support groups, in Berkshire. Her book ‘Understanding Hoarding’ offers guidance on how to help people affected by hoarding, clutter or chronic disorganisation