Self Help

Helping Hoarders to help themselves - Top Tips

  1. Acknowledge and identify the problem. According to experts, "chronic hoarding" is identified as when rooms in a home become "unusable for their intended purpose". Use the Clutter Image Rating to assess whether your view of your home is realistic.
  2. Tell people about your problem and ask for help. This could be difficult if you feel ashamed, or afraid that you will be forced to give up treasured possessions. There are people and organisations that can give you the practical, psychological and emotional support you will require, and you might be surprised by how understanding they are. Ask for a home visit or download Dr Mataix Cols' Clinician's Diagnostic Criteria here, to pass on to your Doctor.
  3. Identify an area in your home you to clear. This could be a box, a cupboard, your car, or even a whole room. Small, achievable goals will help you to recognise the progress you are making.
  4. Work on that one area consistently - at least once every day for a minimum of 15 minutes. Gradually increase the frequency and the time. Getting started is the hardest part, but once you start, you might find you can carry on for longer. Follow through each day until that area is finished.
  5. Make a decision about whether or not to keep an item within 10-20 seconds. Looking at, touching and thinking about an item is likely to increase your attachment to it, and result in keeping possessions that you could otherwise have let go of.
  6. Moving things around to different areas within your home is termed "churning" and doesn't help to reduce the number of possessions in your home. It is better to let them go, to a new location.
  7. Remember, there is no need keep things for other people or for "when" the house is clear. By doing this you are just avoiding the anxiety you feel when discarding, and making excuses not to let things go. It is not your responsibility to provide for everyone else, and they may not even want the item that you are keeping for them.
  8. Create a timetable, and commit to it. Schedule your clearing sessions for regular times each week / day and if you have particular goals, for example, to invite friends over once the living room is cleared, set a date for it, and stick to it. Make sure you are not interrupted during your clearing sessions.
  9. Recognise what you have achieved – take "before and after" photographs which will give you a real sense of pride as you progress, and reward yourself with something you enjoy, but that does not contribute to your hoarding, such as a massage or a slice of cake. Just don't use a shopping spree as a reward! Enforce the rule that you get the reward only after you have finished the task.
  10. Take personal responsibility for your progress rather wanting others to do it for you – whilst support will be important, you must be the driving force behind the project.
  11. Set rules in advance for your helpers, such as: the final decision about all objects is yours. Give them guidelines to help them work more effectively, e.g. all newspapers that are over a week old can be recycled, but all letters and photos must be kept. Set rules for yourself too, such as: 'I will keep no more than 500 books', or 'I will let go of 50% of everything in my home'.
  12. Remember that the bad feelings you experience when letting items go only last for a short while. You can test this theory by letting go of something that in the past you would have kept, and recording how upset you are at the time (on a scale of 1-10) then after an hour, a day, a week etc. You will probably find that although it is difficult initially, the feelings subside very quickly.
  13. You can be free from the responsibility for finding homes for every item you possess. Sometimes you just have to let them go, without knowing their fate. By taking responsibility you are finding reasons to keep them. Set these items free, and set yourself free in the process.
  14. Ask for support from friends to take things away immediately which reduces the risk to keep things. Throw things out in the main bin or when the dustmen arrive. Remove items from the home immediately, to avoid changing your mind, or forgetting which items you have already sorted through.
  15. Be conscious and aware of situations when you might be tempted to acquire more items, such as in a particular shop, or if the price is reduced, or someone else has discarded an item, and be prepared to resist temptation. You need to limit what is coming into the home.

Key questions to ask yourself when deciding whether to let items go:

  • When was the last time I needed it?
  • When was the last time I used it?
  • How likely is it that I will use it in the future?
  • What is my track record of using items like this?
  • What is the impact of keeping the things in relation to my problem?

Created with Satwant Singh, a Psychiatric Nurse who specialises in working with hoarders and a cognitive behavioural therapist. He began the UK's first treatment Group for Hoarders. For details, Click here

Introduction to EFT

We have produced these self-help videos for those suffering from Hoarding Disorder and their loved ones, with the help of Emotional Freedom Techniques practitioner Kathryn Deyn. Please watch the introductory video before using any of the other videos.

For people with hoarding issues:

For people who live with someone else's hoarding:

These videos are not intended to replace medical advice or treatment. If you have a serious health condition please check with your GP before using.
All video content is the property of and may not be reproduced or distributed without permission.