1. Just because you can think of a use for an object, doesn't mean you
need to keep it
Dr. David Tolin suggests, "The question to ask yourself is not whether you can use the object, but whether you really will use the object. A good rule of thumb is that if
you haven't used an object in over a year—say, you didn't even know it was there
until you found it on the bottom of a pile—you probably can live without
2. More is not necessarily better
"There's really no need for most of us to have, say, two microwave ovens,
or three bicycles," Dr. Tolin says. "Try to get rid of the
3. Categorize items into piles
For example, you might make a pile of things to keep, a pile of things to
donate to charity, a pile of things to sell or give away, and a pile of things
to throw away. "Don't make too many piles," says Dr. Tolin. "Having to decide
among 10 piles just slows you down and strains your thought
4. Don't overthink
"If you have to go through a long and complicated decision-making process
for each and every item before you get rid of it, you'll never get free of the
clutter," Dr. Tolin says. "Most decisions are not that complicated. If you find
that the decision takes you more than a couple of minutes for a particular
object, you are probably making it too complicated."
5. Learn to get past some of the imperfections—it's ok to make
"You don't have to do a perfect job, says Dr. Tolin. "Just a good enough job."
5. Follow the "OHIO" rule: Only Handle It
"If you pick something up, make a decision about it and then put it
somewhere it belongs," Dr. Tolin says. "If you find yourself handling things
again and again, moving things from one pile to another, stop yourself. Refocus
and move on."
7. Be brave
"Beating compulsive hoarding requires you to face things that are very
scary," says Dr. Tolin. "I can't tell you not to be scared, because you can't
really control that. But you can be brave. Be willing to face your fears. Be
willing to risk making the wrong decision. The people who gain the most are
usually the people who are willing to risk the most."
8. Understand what you're afraid of, and recognize when your fears
"Ask yourself: What's the worst that can happen if I throw this out? And
how bad would that really be? If you're not sure whether your fear is
irrational, try an experiment. Try making a specific prediction about what will
happen if you discard an object. Then discard it, and really look to see whether
that bad thing happened."
9. Be patient
Dr. Tolin says, "No one is going to overcome compulsive hoarding
overnight. This is a time-consuming process. So people with hoarding problems,
and their friends and family members too, need to focus on small victories. If
you cleaned a room out, congratulate yourself, rather than get down on yourself
for the rooms you haven't cleaned yet."
10. Keep the ball rolling
Clean things as they come along, before they become overwhelming problems.
"Once you've started, don't stop, even for a day," Dr. Tolin says. "If all you
can do is five minutes a day, fine. But do it."
11. Be strict with yourself
"When we were kids, our moms told us that we couldn't have dessert until we ate our veggies," says Dr. Tolin. "The same rule applies here. If you like watching TV, then promise yourself that you can only watch an hour of TV after you've cleaned for an hour."
12. Know when to ask for help
"Compulsive hoarding is a potentially serious mental health issue," says
Dr. Tolin. "Serious mental health issues require serious treatment. If you can
do it on your own, great. But if you can't, get help from someone who is
experienced in the treatment of compulsive hoarding."