My 2 Cents On Stuff

A column about letting go by Michelle Passoff of - Jul 15, 2012

Dead or Alive: Hoarding is A Mess

I have been a clutter consultant for more than 20 years and if I have had a handful of hoarders as clients it is a lot.  It stands to reason.  People who are hoarders are tough to reform.  They don’t come knocking down doors for help.  However, since we expanded our services to include producing estate sales, the children of hoarders have come crying in droves when mom, dad, or grandma has gone on to greener pastures.  The expense to keep up the home they inherited keeps mounting, but know-how and vacation time available to empty the home and prepare it for sale does not.  This is good reason to consider your state of affairs and the state of affairs of the ones you love. If there are signs of hoarding take action sooner, rather than later.

If you are someone who shops the Christmas, Easter, Halloween, and St. Patrick’s Day decoration sales up and down the Walmart, Target, K Mart, and Walgreens strip year after year, you can pretty much assume you are showing signs of hoarding.  If your collections of any kind outnumber your wall or shelf space, you are symptomatic of hoarding. If you have piles of clothes with the tags still on them, every time you need a hammer you go out and buy a new one, and it has been years since your garage has seen a car, it is not a good sign and it is not funny. It is indicative of an underlying problem, which if left unaddressed, will worsen and begin to overwhelm your physical space.

Hoarding can encroach on your health and well-being, too.  Is it really worth being buried alive by Beanie Babies or Boyd’s Bears?  It would be smart to muster up some courage to cry for help from the one’s who love you and to address the problem with one or more doctors. Wouldn’t you get treatment if you had cancer?  Well, there is no way to say it nicely: too much stuff is a cancer and it can kill you.  I can honestly say that I have seen it happen and if this resembles you, you must take action.

In the event you have a relative or friend who is living as a hoarder, offer help and don’t settle for ‘no’ if you are pushed away.  Don’t wipe your brow after a visit with them and be glad you don’t live in their squalor.  They are in more trouble than you might realize. If they are a hoarder, they are not living life as usual.  Do everything in your power to get them the help they need or to offer it.  It is better to spend a weekend here and a weekend there pitching in to wrestle the beast, then to be crippled for months or even years by their stuff when they pass away.

 I have always been what I could call a ‘conservative’ clutter consultant and not one to pass judgment.  I don’t think that it is bad to have clutter and good if you clean it.  The idea is to do what works.  If what you have in your environment works, then go to the beach. If what you have around you doesn’t work, clutter clean it.  Hoarding, however, is another story.  My two cents is simply put: don’t hoard. It is deadly for you while you are alive and it is abominable for others when you die.


Ask The Clutter Guru

Michelle will respond directly to questions or comments below.