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The Hoarder in You

written by Matthew Rensberry, MD MBA on 2022-03-15

I just finished the book, The Hoarder in You by Robin Zasio. It is a great book for someone like myself who tends to collect clutter. I have been in perpetual clean up mode for years!

Here are some things I took away from this book:

Tendencies common in those who struggle with hoarding

  1. Do you have a hard time parting with items, even if you never use them or they're broken?
  2. Do you have many items around your house that do not have a permanent home?
  3. Do you tend to make piles of things to be dealt with at a future time and these piles tend to linger more than a few days?
  4. Are there areas in your home that must be cleared off before use of their intended purpose (like dining room table)?
  5. Do you save things often because you are concerned about how you will feel if you need them in the future and no longer have them
  6. Do you often save things without a clear idea of how you will use them in the future?
  7. Do you still have items you once bought with the intention of giving them away as gifts?
  8. Do you have boxes of possessions that have moved with you from home to home but you have never gone through?
  9. Do you often buy multiples of the same item because you forgot you have it?
  10. Are you helpless when faced with a good deal even if it is a good deal on something you don't need?
  11. Do you take free things that you never wind up using?

Helpful things to say to a clutterer:

  1. I know this is hard for you
  2. Let me know how I can help
  3. You don't have to fix this problem overnight
  4. Let's find ways to simplify the process
  5. Don't look at the big picture, take baby steps
  6. When you get overwhelmed, take a break and remember the goal is to live a healthier life
  7. We are a team
  8. Help me understand where you have the most difficulty
  9. What things are important to you in your home
  10. Let me know how I can best support you - you are in charge of how this process of decluttering goes

Ways clutter can cause stress:

  1. It's hard to locate the things you need when you need them
  2. Being unable to locate important papers can result in major setbacks and financial penalties
  3. Arguments over mess can strain your relationships with family members
  4. You spend money on things you already own because you forgot you have them or cannot find them
  5. Looking at a pile of bills or any mess is a reminder of chores that need to be done
  6. A cluttered bedroom is difficult to relax in and can affect the quality of your sleep your intimate life
  7. Keeping too many reminders from your past can distract you from living in the present
  8. A cluttered room can overstimulate your senses and can cause you to feel anxious or unable to relax
  9. Having to move things around in order to use your space effectively, like clearing off the table, wastes time and creates extra work
  10. Reluctance to invite people into your home because it isn't neat can lead to social isolation

Remember: It's not a good deal, no matter how inexpensive it is, if you are not going to use it, if you already have something like it at home, or if it takes up space.

Ways to avoid bringing more clutter into your home

  1. Don't fall for freebie's
  2. Shop for your goal - remember your long-term goal to resist impulse shopping
  3. Shop the perimeter - The items you truly need are usually on the outer isles
  4. Stick with your brand - If you like your phone, there is no need to try out a competitor
  5. Give away gifts - You don't need to keep things just because they are a gift
    • Keep
    • Re-gift
    • Return
    • Donate

People do not respond to nagging or adversarial arguments.

Cleaning up clutter:

Steps to clean up clutter:

  1. Start with the [easiest room first]
  2. Determine [how long you will work] on the room - don't work beyond you tolerance level
  3. Pluck and Purge - scan the room for easy decision items to get started
  4. [Break up the room]
  5. Stay on task - Once you pick up an item, you must do something with it
    • Put it away where it belongs or in the keep box
    • If donating - into donation box
    • If recycling - into recycling box
    • Otherwise, it probably needs to be thrown out
    • Avoid leaving the room you are working in - make a pile by the door for things that go outside the room and when time is up, then put away those items by the door
  6. When done, either move on to next task or save to the next purging time
  7. Act on the 3 boxes
    • Seal the boxes
    • Put where they belong - car for donation, trash, etc
  8. Acknowledge the progress made and give yourself credit - This won't happen overnight
  9. Reward yourself - read a book, watch a movie, see a friend, etc
  10. The Ohio Rule: Only handle items once! If you pick up an item, it must go where it belongs, into one of the boxes, or in the trash.