I do hereby confess that I exhibit symptoms of compulsive hoarding, especially when it comes to books, magazines, newspapers, or other tangible, often recyclable sources of information. I never know when I will need that reference book that I haven’t touched in 18 years, and I experience substantial anxiety whenever my husband attempts to throw it out. My compulsive hoarding is not unusual given my OCD tendencies. Hoarding obsessions and compulsions are present in approximately 30 percent of OCD cases.
What are some behavioral tips for overcoming compulsive hoarding? In an issue of “The Johns Hopkins Depression & Anxiety Bulletin,” Gerald Nestadt, M.D., M.P.H., Director of the Johns Hopkins Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Clinic, offers six anti-clutter strategies for compulsive hoarders:
1. Make immediate decisions about mail and newspapers. Go through mail and newspapers on the day you receive them and throw away unwanted materials immediately. Don’t leave anything to be decided on later.
2. Think twice about what you allow into your home. Wait a couple of days after seeing a new item before you buy it. And when you do purchase something new, discard another item you own to make room for it.
3. Set aside 15 minutes a day to declutter. Start small–with a table, perhaps, or a chair–rather than tackling the entire, overwhelming house at once. If you start to feel anxious, take a break and do some deep-breathing or relaxation exercises.
4. Dispose of anything you have not used in a year. That means old clothes, broken items, and craft projects you’ll never finish. Remind yourself that many items are easily replaceable if you need them later.
5. Follow the OHIO rule: Only Handle It Once. If you pick something up, make a decision then and there about it, and either put it where it belongs or discard it. Don’t fall into the trap of moving things from one pile to another, again and again.
6. Ask for help if you can’t do it on your own. If you feel these strategies are impossible to carry out and you cannot cope with the problem on your own, seek out a mental health professional.
Originally published on Sanity Break at EverydayHealth.com