When to ask for help with clutter and hoarders?

8 signs of when to ask for help for clutter and hoarders who live in a hoarder home.


What’s the difference between a cluttered house and a hoarder house?

A hoarder house typically has –

  • Clutter on all floors, sometimes pathways from points A to B
  • Junk on all surfaces including tables, counters, chairs, couches, etc.
  • Piles on piles of stuff with an assortment of items

How does hoarding impact daily life and routines?

  • Difficult to do basic tasks such as cooking and cleaning
  • Limits social interaction such as inviting friends and family over
  • Constant loss of time and stuff by having to search and look for items
  • Spending more money on stuff the person already has causing duplicates and more clutter

Can the hoarder meet their basic needs?

A hoarder can have a low threshold for living standards. It’s important to be aware if the hoarder can still meet their basic needs in the home.

  • Can they wash their hands and take a shower?
  • Do they have access to laundry and warm water?
  • Are they able to cook beyond a microwave?
  • Where do they sleep? Is the bed or couch accessible?

How long have they been living this way?

  • Has it been a year or more?
  • Is it getting visibly worse each time you visit?
  • Is it difficult for them to downsize and declutter?

If you answered yes to the above questions, I recommend asking the person(s) if they want help.


Is the house unsafe and unhealthy to live in?

  • How high are the piles?
  • Is there access to exit and entry doors?
  • What contents are in the home? (There is usually a pattern.)
  • Are there signs of mold, infestations, or asbestos?
  • Are there pets, feces, or any hazardous materials?

If health and safety is in question then now is the time to help.

hoarder shed with clutter on all floors and surfaces making it a dysfunctional space

What kind of stuff is being collected and hoarded?

One of the key signs of hoarding is when the person(s) keep items of little to no monetary value:

  • Napkins
  • Pieces of paper
  • Broken items
  • Paper boxes
  • Plastic bags

What are signs and symptoms of hoarding?

  • Unable to get rid of items and declutter
  • Inability to let go
  • Anxiety about the potential future use of items
  • No designated home or organizational structure for things
  • Keeping distance between the home and friends, family, and social events

What causes hoarding?

People with hoarding disorder may or may not recognize that their habits and behaviors are negative. It’s important to acknowledge that the onset of hoarding usually starts from a stressful or traumatic event.

The exact cause of hoarding is unknown but it can be associated with ADHD and OCD.


Do you know someone who is hoarder and needs help?

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Declutter Guide

What is the key to being able to let go and declutter, for good?

joy checking process

Visualize your Ideal lifestyle

“When you imagine your ideal lifestyle, you are actually clarifying why you want to tidy and identifying the kind of life you want to live once you have finished.”

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo
  • Step 1: Visualize in detail the ideal lifestyle you dream of
  • Step 2: Identify why you want to live that lifestyle
  • Step 3: Dive into the specifics of how you want to live day by day.
  • When we skip this step it-
    • delays the whole tidying process
    • puts you at higher risk for rebound

Focus on What Sparks Joy, not what to Discard

What adds value to your life? When you touch something that brings you joy-

  • A feeling of thrill, often a full body experience
  • A pleasing design/look that makes you feel peaceful
  • An item with a high degree of functionality that makes life easier
  • A sense of rightness
  • An items thats useful in daily life

When faced with something that does not spark joy-

  • you feel heavy
  • your hands pause
  • you tilt your head slightly and frown
  • you have to think
  • you feel guilty
  • for essential items that don’t spark joy, think about the purpose

Prepare to Joy Check

Pick an easy category to start with – I recommend clothing.

Pile all items in one spot so you can see everything in that category at once. Example: pile all long, short, and sleeveless shirts that you own.

Creating a physical pile gives us that “wow” moment while also holding us accountable in the present.

Pick out your Favorite item(s)

Find one item in the pile that you love.

You know you love something because the instant you see and hold it, you feel warm and fuzzy inside. Sometimes items are less about happiness and more about practicality, usefulness, and function. Example: the blue shirt that goes with everything and is always washed regularly.

“Does it Spark Joy?”â„¢

  • Step 1: Pick up one item at a time
  • Step 2: Hold it.
    • Ask yourself:
      • If this got stained/torn would I fix it?
      • If I lost this, would I buy it again?
      • Does this item enhance my life?
      • Do I feel like my best self with this item?
    • If you’re unsure if it Sparks Joy hug it close to your heart!
    • Gaze at it.
    • If it is clothing, please try it on!

Be Present

Be aware of how your body reacts to each item. You know you love something because that feeling is immediate. If you pause or have to think about an item – ask yourself, why?

  • Was it a gift?
  • Was it free?
  • Have I used this? Why haven’t I ever used this?
  • What was I really trying to buy in that moment?
  • Does this item contribute to my ideal lifestyle?

What if I’m Struggling?

Pick 2-3 similar items and compare them. Really feel the item in your hand and think deeply about what purpose it plays.

Be Mindful.

Have the courage to let go and stop all thoughts of “What if-?” Remember your goals and think of how each item you keep or discard contributes to your ideal lifestyle.

Try not to focus on-

  • reducing
  • efficient storage methods
  • feeling wasteful
  • giving items away

Instead focus on-

  • choosing belongings that inspire joy
  • enjoying life according to your own standards
  • appreciate how the items you discard supported you in your life
  • what role each item has in your life

Reframe Letting Go & Declutter

Every item you keep is a possession that brings you joy and/or makes life better.

Every item you discard is an opportunity to learn more about yourself and who you are today.

  • If you let go of something you’ve used until it’s broken and worn out: appreciate how its helped to enhance your life
  • If you declutter something you never used: it taught you a lesson in how you shop, that it did not have a purpose in your life
  • Think consciously about each item you discard: how will you choose to live moving forward? how you will acquire new things?

Keep items with Confidence

If you keep it then…

  • Use and appreciate it.
  • Create a forever home for every item: find it and know exactly what you have.
  • It’s natural to not put away everything all the time. No one is perfect. Make it a priority to create positive habits. Maybe you won’t put belongings back all the time, every day, but commit to putting things away.

Declutter and downsize with ease

Please note items discussed on this post were from the Marie Kondo books and KonMari networking group. Find more resources here.