An old stack of magazines with yellowed ends and dusty covers take over the corner of a room. In the kitchen, there are two drawers packed so tightly with odds and ends that it takes a few yanks and some skillful maneuvering to successfully open them. The bedroom closet still harbors clothes from decades past waiting for their turn on the fashion wheel, and under the bed, empty bottles and cartons mingle with dust bunnies. This description can certainly depict a hoarder’s domain, but it could just as easily be the house of a disorganized homeowner overwhelmed by the accumulation of stuff. Keep reading below to determine if your disorganized mess is more than it seems.

What Is a Hoarder?

Anyone can exhibit pack rat tendencies, which Merriam Webster defines as “a person who collects or hoards especially unneeded items,” but there is a point when these tendencies cross over into harmful territory. It’s common for people to build sentimental or emotional attachments to something from a loved one or an object from a special occasion or event in your life. However, hoarders build strong attachments to a variety of objects, feel their items are unique and irreplaceable, or believe that they may be useful or valuable in the future; and they typically exhibit the following behaviors:

  1. They find it extremely difficult to throw things away, and they experience severe anxiety about throwing away any of their possessions. Because they develop a strong attachment to objects, hoarders may feel like they are disposing of part of their identity and not just an unneeded object.

  2. They have furniture or rooms overloaded with their possessions. It could be as simple as a chair or table buried under papers, books, or clothes; but in some extreme cases, hoarders lose functionality of an entire room because of an overaccumulation of possessions.

  3. Their social life often suffers because they are embarrassed about the amount of possessions they’ve collected, and they feel self-conscious about anyone seeing the inside of their home. Also, some hoarders may feel anxiety about other people touching or even throwing away their possessions, so many keep their hoarding a secret from others because of the shame associated with it.

Help for Hoarders

Hiring a cleaning service to reorganize and remove a hoarder’s possessions could lead to a disastrous result. Because hoarders experience extreme anxiety at the thought of throwing away their possessions, a sweeping removal of everything at once is typically not the best solution. Professionals have been more successful at helping hoarders to clear rooms by removing items one at a time. If you expect that you or a loved one is exhibiting hoarding tendencies, contact a doctor that specializes in successfully assisting hoarders with recovery.

Organizing the Disorganized

If you have identified that you’re not a hoarder but you have a sizeable amount of clutter that you need to dispose of, then these steps will help you to regain control of your space and get rid of clutter.

  1. Determine which rooms and/or areas of your home need to be organized.

  2. Gather bags and bins that can be labeled—keep, donate, trash—for sorting items.

  3. Sort items into the labeled bags or bins according to their usefulness—keep if you can use it, donate if you can’t use it but someone else can, and trash if no one can use it.

  4. Enlist the help of a friend if you find it hard to determine what to keep and what to throw out.

  5. Contact a junk removal company for projects that require you to discard large amounts of trash or bigger objects, such as furniture or appliances.

Maintaining Order

  1. Give everything a home, and place items back in that location when they’re no longer in use.

  2. Ask yourself the following questions before buying anything new:

    • Do I have a specific use for this item?
    • Do I have space for this?
    • Do I already own something similar?
  3. Reserve a few minutes every week to quickly clean or organize frequently used rooms in the house, like the kitchen and living room.

Performing a clean sweep of your home and ridding it of excess clutter and unneeded items is the first step to regaining control over your space, but developing a cleaning routine that’s easy to implement and follow is the key to maintaining control over your space for the long term.

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Sources: Anxiety and Depression Association of America; HGTV; Good Housekeeping; Huffington Post; NPR; NY Times; Psychology Today; Scientific American.

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