Stop Feeding Your Inner Hoarder


The term “hoarder” has, you may have noticed, become subject to word inflation. And why? Because it’s catchy and current and everyone who shows even the slightest hesitation at parting with any single item or collection of items risks being called one. We may, half jokingly, eye our own piles and worry that maybe there is an inner hoarder quietly collecting inside of us until we lose our minds and one day end up buried alive in newspapers or baby cribs (or rats, god forbid), until someone you know comes to visit you with the local hoarder cleaning service because they haven’t heard from you in days and they are or worried that the worst might have happened.

We know, of course, this is not the case. And while hoarding, to be the best of my knowledge, is not an “official” condition, it is a compulsive disorder that the Mayo Clinic says is often more likely to occur in people who have other compulsive disorders (like anxiety/depression, alcohol dependency, etc). It’s treated, with mixed results, with some combination of psychotherapy and drugs. And no, being the subject of a reality show where someone comes and cleans out your house with a dumptruck won’t do much in the way of curing it, either. Unless when they come over, they are suggesting you do a search for “terminix massachusetts” so any rodent/bug infestation that’s developed can be dealt with.

(Though in case you’re wondering what mental health care providers look for, check out what the Mayo Clinic has to say about that; namely, acquisition of a large number of possessions, having an overly cluttered home, and distress over your hoarding.)

Did you know that hoarding can include objects of various sizes? Some people hoard smaller items like books whereas others hold on to larger possessions like furniture. Nonetheless there are some solutions available for people who can’t bear to throw anything away but still want a tidy home – Mobile Storage providers like Holloway Storage in Sydney, Australia can provide storage units and will even take these to a secure facility until they are needed. More often than not, it’s about striking a balance.

You may not be a hoarder, but…

You may, like me, have more around than you actually need. And so as you try to clean up from last year and create a clean slate for this one, facing off with your stuff is key. For example, do you have a habit of holding on to paperwork? If so, it might be a good idea to invest in a cabinet for your office so that your documents and files are not cluttering up your desk or the floors in your house and are instead stored away safely. Tempted to invest in a new cabinet of your own? You can buy office furniture online nowadays and get your new items delivered directly to your door. Clutter is more than just stuff, though-it’s the physical evidence of indecision.

Look around. Where do things tend to collect in your house, your room, on your desk? And more importantly, why? My friend and colleague, a woman I admire a whole lot Gail Blanke, creator of Throw Out Fifty Things (the book, the site, the movement) calls clutter “life plaque”; it collects in the arteries of your life and clogs up the works. And in order to get things circulating in a healthy way, you have to throw out, as she says, 50 things–not 5, 10, or 25. Though you’ll feel good when you toss/donate/part with any number of things, she says 50 is the sweet spot. I believe her.

I do this every few months myself, and am, as we speak, trying to let go of the guilt of putting unread issues of New York magazine in the recycle bin. I didn’t read it, not for weeks and weeks, and I’m not going to read it now.


Today, pick one area or pile or drawer and look it dead in the eye. Give yourself no more than 15 minutes to make the decisions you need to clear it out. Keep a list of the stuff you toss, and either keep going, or try it again tomorrow. It’s the quickest way to lose a lot–and I mean a lot–of weight.

…And in fact, as Gail will tell you, people who begin to release their white-knuckled grip on the things surrounding them, it’s no surprise when they actually start to lose body weight, too. Another good reason to start letting go–today.