Decluttering Your Life: How Organisation Can Help Combat Hoarding
Image by Bill Kasman from Pixabay
What one person may consider useless can be valuable to someone else – a ticket from a theatre play or a stack of artwork drawn by our children. But if a collection of items is disorganised, cluttered and potentially dangerous, it becomes a hoard.
Hoarding affects around 1.2 million people in the UK. Mental health issues, such as depression and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) are often associated with hoarding but there is no single cause.
Experts believe the lasting effects of the pandemic have increased the number of hoarding tendencies amongst the UK population. A hoard may start small, but it can increase until it becomes a danger to life. Shockingly, the London fire brigade attended over 1,000 hoarding-related fires in 2022 alone – events that led to over 180 injuries and 10 deaths.
Fitted bedrooms manufacturer The Sliding Door Wardrobe Company
has gathered together some notable signs that you, or someone you know, could be a hoarder and tips on how to organise a space.
Hoarding affects around 1.2 million people in the UK.
Mental health issues are often associated with hoarding – for example, depression and OCD.
In 2022, the London fire brigade attended over 1,000 hoarding-related fires, leading to over 180 injuries and 10 deaths.
There are a number of signs that you could be a hoarder:
Your clutter interferes with your daily life.
Over 90% of Brits have clutter inside their home, with 50% admitting the clutter makes them feel stressed.
You find it hard to organise your items.
Over 60% of Brits admit to having cluttered wardrobes and clothes are one of the top hoarded items in the UK.
You feel an extreme attachment to multiple items.
Over 90% of British households claim they do a huge ‘spring clean’ at least once a year.
You keep items that have no real value, such as junk mail, receipts or letters.
56% of adults living in the UK have rooms within their homes that are unusable because of clutter.
A 2022 survey revealed that over 90% of Brits have clutter inside their home, with almost 50% of those surveyed admitting that the clutter makes them feel stressed and over 20% feeling actively upset or annoyed by the items.
Whilst some clutter is fairly normal, if you’ve got mountains of things in your home it might feel overwhelming to think about minimising them. This is a sign you might be amassing a hoard. Starting small and understanding that decluttering is a process and not a quick fix can help you get into the right mindset.
Try setting yourself small, daily goals, such as working through one pile of items for a set amount of time or throwing out one item per day. If throwing items away makes you feel anxious or upset, try asking a family member to help you categorise your things and normalise letting go of valueless items.
Image by Andreas Lischka from Pixabay
Utilise drawers and shelving within your home. Place the things you wish to keep inside the drawers and display aesthetically pleasing items on open shelves, such as books with brightly coloured spines or precious ornaments. Aim to minimise the remaining clutter over time so you can emphasise the items you’ve chosen to have on display.
Try painting your chest of drawers in your favourite colour and aim to have as much of the colour on display as possible! Visualise how your room will appear without the clutter, or keep an old photograph of the room before your hoard took over. Use this image as a goal to work towards.
If you’re lucky enough to have fitted drawers in your home, the compact nature of this kind of furniture can further assist you. Once the clutter is gone, your fitted drawers will blend into your space and give your room a clean, calm feel.
Photo by Darwin Vegher on Unsplash
Clutter is not always immediately visible upon entering a room. In fact, over 60% of Brits admit to having cluttered wardrobes, with clothes being one of the top hoarded items in the UK.
If you find it difficult to organise and categorise your items and find them spiralling out of control into huge, muddled piles, you may be struggling with a hoarding disorder.
Trying to organise all your items at once can be overwhelming. Instead set a timer or listen to a podcast or set number of songs. Once your chosen length of time is up, stop sorting and do something enjoyable instead to give your mind a break. Over time, you will end up with an organised space.
Try to make sure each item has its own space and that you can find an object if someone asks you where it is. Don’t put undue pressure on yourself and expect your space to feel organised overnight. Decluttering a home or controlling a hoard can be a long process, so set realistic expectations. Start by focusing on one room or aiming to have an organised but not necessarily clutter-free space that, crucially, is safe to live in.
Labels are your friend! Create categories for the items you want to keep, such as ‘clothes’, ‘photographs’ or ‘kids’ toys’ and if an item doesn’t fit into these categories, throw it away or take it to a charity shop.
Once you’ve gotten rid of all the valueless items, invest in a number of boxes that fit into your shelves. Label each box with one of your category names and place all related items inside. This way, you’ll always know where your precious items are.
A fitted or walk-in wardrobe can give you another incentive to keep things organised. While you’re sorting through your items, you can store everything behind closed doors – this will help you separate your clutter from your bedroom or living room, helping you feel more relaxed in your daily life.
Once you have sorted through your items and your hoard is under control, the stunning aesthetic of a beautifully organised walk-in or fitted wardrobe will encourage you to keep the space neat and functional.
Photo by Onur Bahçıvancılar on Unsplash
Over 90% of British households claim they do a huge ‘spring clean’ at least once a year, but it can be difficult to overhaul your home if you have strong attachments to the items cluttering up your space.
Some items can carry strong personal meaning – for instance, an item left to you in a loved one’s will or a toy that reminds you of when your child was small. However, if you find yourself keeping items you have no real connection to, it might be worth examining why.
If an item helps you connect to someone who has passed away, this can be a good reason to hang onto it.
But equally, just because you get rid of an item doesn’t mean that memory will be lost forever. Your memories of your loved ones can be kept alive by talking to others and reminiscing on the past.
If you cannot give yourself a straightforward reason for holding onto something, then consider getting rid of it. This is a good way to identify those valueless items, such as leaflets or empty packets and wrappers, and get them out of your home. Also, consider whether your items could pose a health hazard if kept – food stuffs, for example, can go mouldy if kept for too long.
Photo by Kamil Kalkan on Unsplash
Ask a friend or family member to look through your things with you and see if they attach similar importance to particular items. If you can both have a conversation about something, reminiscing over a great day out at the park using a particular picnic blanket or remembering your childhoods playing with a favourite toy, organise and keep those things.
If your organising partner seems confused as to why you’re attaching importance to something or can’t remember seeing an item that you connect them with, earmark that object as something to get rid of. This way you can make room for more memories! Just make sure to choose a friend or family member who doesn’t struggle with clutter themselves – if they’re displaying similar behaviour, this can make your hoard seem normal.
If you’re lucky enough to have fitted shelving in your home, think about which items you would most like to put on display. If you would feel upset or embarrassed by someone asking you to explain the meaning behind an object on display, consider popping this one on the charity shop pile.
A recent survey revealed that 56% of adults living in the UK have rooms within their homes that are unusable because of clutter. A lot of the things we hold onto don’t actually have a lot of value, whether personally or financially.
Making lists is a great way to categorise items and break down the organising process so it seems a bit more manageable. Start small and tackle one pile of items at a time, breaking the items down into three broad lists: emotional significance, financial significance and limited significance.
Anything that holds personal significance for you can be neatly stored in your bookcase, chest of drawers or fitted wardrobe. If an item is worth a significant amount of money but you have no personal connection to it, consider selling it! This provides the multi-layered benefit of getting rid of clutter, providing you with a small windfall and giving you the knowledge someone else will be getting enjoyment out of your items.
If you feel an object has limited significance, consider getting rid of it. If you can’t think of a significant reason why you’re keeping something, it’s healthier to throw it away freeing up more space for you to enjoy within your home.
You could also try making a list of all the areas in your home you want to declutter – each time you organise a space, cross it off your list. This will help to bring a sense of achievement and encourage you to celebrate
the little wins!
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
If you’re able to sell a number of your items that have financial significance, consider investing the money in a piece of furniture you can use to organise your space.
Look out for compact coffee tables that double as useful storage spaces and foldable boxes that store flat when not in use.
If you’ve made a significant profit, you might want to consider some fitted furniture – fitted wardrobes, shelving and drawers can help a space feel bigger and stop furniture from taking up the floor space you’ve revealed now that your hoard is under control!
Try carrying out these tips within your own home and see if they can help you organise your items. Not every piece of advice will be suitable for everyone, so remember to set yourself realistic expectations, stop if the process becomes too painful and ask your family members and friends for support.
If you or someone you know is struggling with hoarding you can contact your doctor or seek advice from Hoarding UK, the UK charity supporting those affected by hoarding-related behaviours.