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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minimalist living room couch for simple living

How can I start a more minimalist lifestyle?

8 minimalist ideas to start your minimalist lifestyle today!


How can I be more minimalist with clothing?

Create a Capsule Wardrobe.

What is a Capsule Wardrobe? It is when your clothes are composed of interchangeable items that maximizes the number of outfits you can wear. Learn more about how to create a minimalist wardrobe.


How can I declutter books when I love reading?

Keep books that spark joy┬« when you see them or that you will read now. Be honest with yourself. If you haven’t read a book that’s been sitting on the shelf for years, will you really read it?


How can I become more minimalist with books?

This sounds super old school but I recommend renting books from the library. I find that I actually read the books I get when I know I have to return them in 2-3 weeks. This also allows me to read all kinds of books (old and new) without them taking up space in my home.


How can I downsize paper in my house?

Stop the flow of paper coming in! It’s important to have a routine when it comes to mail:

  1. Immediately toss advertisements/spam/junk (less paper accumulation)
  2. Open envelopes and discard, only keep the important paper/letter (keep only what you need)
  3. Place important papers, bills, letters in a pending box
  4. Set a day to go through the mail once a week (no pile build ups)

If you haven’t done so already, automate all of your bills online and sign up for the paperless setting.

minimalist kitchen ideas on how to have less

Is it possible to have a minimalist kitchen?

Yes. Although this category is probably one of the hardest for me personally. I maintain having less in the kitchen by:

  1. Mindful spending: Less kitchen gadgets and more questions like, “What purpose does this item serve?”
  2. Buy food you intend to eat now not later.

How can I have less cleaning products?

Honestly, the only cleaning product I use is vinegar. Vinegar is a natural antiseptic and a perfect solution if you have pets or kids in the house. I have 2-3 spray bottles each filled with vinegar that I keep in the kitchen to wipe tables/counters and in the bathrooms.

I’ve used vinegar for years and love the simplicity of having one product to clean everything.


How can I feel more minimalist with laundry when I hate folding?

It’s normal for laundry to be left in a basket for a few days. It is not normal when that is literally the place it lives and if it does – it better be in a designated spot in a closet. If you absolutely despise laundry and folding then I recommend –

  1. Hang most/all clothes
  2. Designate separate drawers for small items: socks, underwear, bras
  3. Designate a spot for your hamper to live that does not create visual clutter

The key is to have a home for your clean clothes even if you don’t fold them. Simply toss items into drawers or on hangers. If you’re really lazy just leave them in the hamper but have a designated spot for that hamper to live. Create a system that works for you, is easy to maintain, and doesn’t disrupt the look and feel of your minimalist home.


Do I really have to declutter my sentimental items?

Absolutely not. It’s important to keep and display sentimental items throughout your home! If an item really means a lot to you then why not appreciate and look at it daily? Minimalism is about creating an environment that energizes and supports your lifestyle.

sentimental vase displayed for joy in minimalist home
Ready to work with a professional organizer near me?

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How to Maintain AFTER Tidying!

Free Tips & Tricks about how to maintain a Tidy Lifestyle after Tidying!

Kitchen

Spices & Herbs

  • Always return seasonings back to their designated home
  • Preserve flavor and quality by storing all spices and herbs away from light and heat
  • Replace after six months
  • When you run out of a spice: discard container and write down the item on your shopping list

Pantry

  • Always place items where you found them
  • Keep a writing pad handy in the kitchen so you can write down foods to replace
  • Sort through the pantry every 2-3 months to do inventory, make adjustments, and discard expired foods
  • Place labels on shelves so every member of the household can put things back where they belong

Refrigerator & Freezer

  • Always return food back to its category
    • sauces on the door
    • cheese in the drawer
    • milk on the tallest shelf
    • proteins on the lowest shelf (typically coldest area of the fridge)
  • Try to sort through the fridge & freezer every 1-2 months, before going grocery shopping
    • Check what you have and need to buy
    • Toss spoiled and expired foods
    • Reorganize so you can see everything

Living Room

Photos

  • Go through old photos every year. If you haven’t gone through photos in years, be honest with yourself and ask if they are worth keeping? Perhaps, switch photos in frames out with those in albums or boxes.

Books

  • Joy Check books every year. When did you read each book? If you haven’t most of the books in the past year or more consider other options – Kindle, Ebooks, or go to the library. (Yes, I still go to the library! It’s a wonderful way to read new releases without having to wait or store more books at home.)

Children’s toys

  • Ensure bins are categorized and accessible to encourage the little kiddos to tidy up
  • Categories can be broken down by:
    • Balls
    • Legos/Duplos
    • Trains, Trucks, Small Toys
    • Play food, Cookware
    • Stuffed Animals
    • Arts/Crafts

Dining Room

  • Sort through the dining room sideboard once a year and donate items that haven’t been used in the past 12 months
  • Refrain from using the dining table as a resting place for paper and projects
  • Place fresh flowers in a vase or another centerpiece. This visual appeal reminds family members that this is a space to gather.
  • Dust and clean the table weekly – this can help from clutter building
  • Place frequently used items in the sideboard nearby
    • Coasters, trivets, and napkins in easy to access drawers

Home Bar

  • After a party, put glasses and liquors back where they belong
  • Inventory the liquid cabinet before holiday and event shopping. Add items to your shopping list.

Home Office

Mail

  • Recycle junk mail at the mailbox
  • Have a designated place to temporary hold mail if you can’t get to it immediately
  • Sort through mail daily and as soon as you can
  • Shred sensitive mail
  • Place bills and other important documents in a pending box
  • Replace old magazines with new ones, especially if you have a subscription

Papers

  • As you receive important documents be sure to file them away in their appropriate category within a file cabinet or file folder
  • Place must-do items in a pending box, typically located on top of the desk or in a drawer
  • It’s natural for papers to be left out: don’t stress! You’re human! File papers once a week or on a regular schedule so nothing builds up.
  • When you receive notices such as wedding invitations: add it to the calendar immediately and then toss the paper.
  • Clean out files every year.
    • Tax records have to be saved for 3 years in California
    • Dispose of any unused manuals
    • Shred old bills, receipts, checks, etc.

Digital

  • Every 4 months: Go through file folders and add documents left on the desktop or other places that are not categorized
    • Ensure all documents are in useful categories
      • Projects
      • Personal
      • Travel
      • Medical
      • Financial
      • Tax
      • Important
    • Trash old and irrelevant documents
  • Every 4 months: Sort photos and delete duplicates, screenshots, junk
    • Take this opportunity to increase phone storage, sync photos to the cloud and/or computer
    • Create a photo screensaver slideshow on the computer! Change the background photo on your phone! This is a great way to enjoy your photos and relive your memories each day!

Bedroom

Clothes

  • Always put clothes back where it belongs in a closet, dresser, or drawer
  • Sort through clothing storage spaces periodically, perhaps every 6 months
    • When seasons change, replace and store clothes with the appropriate season
    • Discard or donate unworn clothes.
    • *Every item we keep and discard teaches us a lesson*
  • Designate a lazy drawer: Have a safe space to hold the pajamas currently being used or other clothes you intend to wear again. This is also a great place to hold clothes when feeling too tired to fold.
  • Designate a laundry bag for dry cleaning
  • Utilize drawer organizers and dividers if your clothes feel cluttered and disorganized regularly
  • As soon as you empty the dryer, find a peaceful place to fold clothes and take some time for yourself. This can become a relaxing ritual. Don’t forget to involve family members or to place clothes in labeled baskets within their personal spaces for them to get to.
    • Don’t have time to fold? Set clothing basket aside, near your closet as a “pending” activity.

Nightstand

  • Make it a habit to return all books inside the nightstand
  • Always put medicine in the drawers of the nightstand
  • Have in-bed hobbies? Place contents in a bin stored under the bed
  • Keep a small dish on the nightstand for hairbands, rings, or earrings

Bathroom

  • Reorganize your bathroom every 6-12 months
    • It’s normal for clutter to build up on bathroom counters. Make it a point to clean counters regularly to avoid scum and dust build up. Take this opportunity to tidy up!

Medicine

  • Check the dates of your medication every 6 months
    • Over the counter medication typically expires every 6-12 months
  • Store medicine in a cabinet or designated bin with a lid, out of reach from kids

Garage & Utility Room

  • Label all bins and shelves to ensure you always put items back. This also helps encourage family members to put things back.
  • Clean and fix equipment, tools, and recreational items every season before storing

Do you need an improved maintenance strategy?

For more detailed guidance I recommend reading The Home Organizing Workbook.

Less is More! A Unique Approach to Moving

Less is More! Especially when it comes to prepare for moving!

Moving is the perfect opportunity to Joy Check each and every item we own. After-all, the less we have, the less we have to move! This not only allows us to have less items but also frees space for new items – perhaps more tasteful furniture, updated appliances, in style clothing, and more.

My partner and I have always dreamed of living abroad. We’ve made so many memories traveling to various countries meeting locals, eating street food, exploring cities and adventuring outdoors. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic we put off traveling and moving all together to stay safe.

Over the past few years we slowly began to prepare for a big move abroad. When we envisioned moving, we identified with the concept of getting rid of most of our things. Instead of going through the headache of packing and shipping items to another country, we decided to take a different approach. Most of our possessions – furniture, appliances, etc. were given to us by family and friends over time. This was VERY ideal for us, as we valued:

  1. Functional things with no emotional attachments
  2. Utilizing furniture passed down while also not purchasing new/expensive items
  3. No hassle to move anything or pay for a moving service and truck
  4. Sparking joy in others lives by donating/selling/discarding possessions.
  5. Having the freedom to move with less responsibilities

This situation may sound a bit extreme to most. You may be asking yourself – but why do you have to get rid of most of the things you own? Honestly, I don’t HAVE to. I WANT to!

Sparking Joy to me personally is less about the things and possessions I own and more about the experiences and memories I create. By letting go of almost all the material items in my life, there is a sense of freedom. Freedom to have only what I love. Freedom to not have many objects to be responsible for. Freedom to Spark Joy in the ways that mean the most to me. Plus having less is ultimately less to organize and maintain! Win, Win!

What is the process to discard possessions?

  1. Photograph & post items for sale online: this can be done through craigslist, facebook marketplace, or other apps/websites. Luckily for me, I love to sell things online! I love giving away things that people could use and that hopefully Spark Joy. I typically begin this process 2-3 months prior to the set move out date. This allows me to take my time and not compromise sales prices. It also gives me time to emotionally prepare myself to let go slowly, rather than feeling rushed.
  2. Joy Check every item that is considered to keep for the move. Yes, even as a professional organizer I go through my own tidying festival by category! I want to be 100% confident with every item I will take with me.
  3. Donate left over items to Salvation Army, local thrift stores, or Good Will. Another option could be to schedule a pick-up day with the local municipal.
  4. Begin the packing process. I intend to have just a few boxes and/or luggages to take with me. It’s always smart to organize boxes by categories and to label, label, label everything! This makes it easier to access things and to have everything organized when I arrive to my new home.
  5. Load the car and thank my home for all its given me – warmth, shelter, and memories. HELLO WORLD!

Less is More Final Thoughts

In our consumer society and high tech world we literally don’t have to leave our home to survive! With amazon, food delivery, grocery delivery, and the many other services and applications we can not only survive but buy anything at the click of a button! As amazing as technology is, it also encourages us to spend. Anywhere you go on the internet markets specifically tailored ads to you – companies learn your interests, habits, desires, and take full advantage to get us to buy buy buy! Some buy for comfort, necessity, or for status symbols of wealth or luxury. Think about your spending habits – What items are worth fixing, moving, and saving? What items are meaningful to you? Why?

It is not things that give us true joy. When we grow old what will we remember? What will we say? “I have no regrets because I’m happy I did…” What will resonate with us most are the memories we have of experiences throughout life. Be sure to create your own, each and every day.

Have nice things and also keep in mind there is so much more out there in the world than possessions. No one is holding you back from picking up and moving or traveling and seeing the world. The world is your oyster.

What sparks joy for you?