6 Tips For Overcoming Compulsive Hoarding


it.wikipedia.orgI 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

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Therese Borchard
I am a writer and chaplain trying to live a simple life in Annapolis, Maryland.

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8 Responses
  1. Betsy

    What a well thought blog.

    The picture in your post could be my one of our daughters room. Even the light in the ceiling is the same. The desk is covered with 4 inch high of envelopes and bills. Gifts & trash all piled up 5 foot high against one side of the room. No, we have not said a word. Afraid to tip her temper that would fallow with a down pour of emails & voice mails. All in CAP letters sometime in red letters, sometimes highlight in yellow, sometime in pink & underscore. All creatively crafted full of hate and venom. The maid is not to enter this room. The twins have noticed some thing peculiar about ” mummy special junk room where she sits for hours.” …….. they have told me.

    How does one help a 40 year? Beside keeping our silence on matters that will spark the fire? Having tip toed around hot coal still landed us in the middle of the fire against our wishes.
    We are getting old as parents. Still have enough life and wanting to help.

  2. Melissa

    Hi Therese, I actually haven’t read this particular article, but I have no idea how to leave a general comment. I am a recently diagnosed Bipolar blessed woman. I’m 33 years old. I have 4 children and am pregnant with #5, my last! I am a Registered Nurse. I will be married 12 years this June 28th. In the last few months I’ve had my doubts if I was going to make it to that anniversary due to my husband having full right to leave me. I had been on a manic binge and had no idea what it was or that I was Bipolar. It wasn’t until this past week that I finally accepted the diagnosis. Now, I’m suffering in the depths of depression which led me to my public library. Upon searching the database, I found your book title, Beyond Blue. Last night I finally opened the book as I lay there reading by the closet light next to my husband in bed. I was thoroughly engrossed in your story when I came to page 29 where you referenced the “cool Zoloft commercial”. I began to laugh out loud hysterically at your humor about the “sad egg no longer wants to chase the butterfly”…it shocked my husband. I had been in the depths of hell for a good stretch of a week and this was the first time he had heard me laugh. It’s the first time that I laughed, actually since I could remember. I would catch myself and then hear the words in my head, again, and begin to hysterically laugh, again. At 5 months pregnant, I even had to excuse myself to the bathroom because of the good chuckle. Of course, my husband was intrigued and wanted to know what had me laughing to tears. I couldn’t even make it through the lines, so, I just handed him the book and showed him the paragraph. I knew the commercial you were referencing. I just want you to know how much I appreciate your insight and your sense of humor. Your book has taken my mind into something else besides thoughts of how stupid I am and thoughts of death. Your writings are giving me evidence that this period will pass. I hope that my gratitude makes it to your eyes and you can know that you have made a difference in my life with your book. Thank you.

    ~Melissa Z.

  3. My first girlfriend’s mother is a hoarder (yeah like the ones on the teev). She used to say to me (regarding her seriously rich conservative family) ‘Don’t let them come and take my stuff. It’s MY stuff Sam.’ It’s such an all encompassing compulsion which is seriously misunderstood.

  4. When I initially commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and now each time a
    comment is added I get four e-mails with the same comment. Is there any way you can remove me from that service?

    Bless you!