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Hoarder clutter to clarity

By Tricia Toth

Most homes have a certain degree of clutter, such as a junk drawer or counter, that accumulates items. For some people, the clutter spills over into a pile in a hall or spare bedroom, or grows into an enormous heap in the garage. Clutter is generally the over accumulation of items, essentially bringing more into your home than you take out. Over time, clutter can reach havoc on our physical and mental health. In extreme cases, clutter results in “hoarding,” a mental health condition recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5).

Clutter not only paralyzes us mentally from taking action in reducing the pile up, but also can prevent us from making changes in other areas of our life as well. For some, cleaning can become so burdening that it is difficult to determine where to begin.

As our residence is where we spend the majority of our time, our home should be a place of peace and tranquility. When clutter becomes overwhelming, we strive to escape from it, decreasing the satisfaction in our life. Clutter can be both an indication of building stress and anxiety in our lives, as well as the cause of it.

However, there are strategies that we can incorporate into our lives to deal with the items on an ongoing basis before they accumulate and become a problem. Here are some helpful ideas:

  • Keep a box or tote where you can place items in and donate them on a regular basis. When you buy something new, put the old item in the box. Do not keep more than one of each item unless it is necessary.
  • Get rid of all items you have not used within the last year. This includes holding onto “skinny” clothes or items in need of mending. If you haven’t fit them or fixed them within a year, chances are you aren’t going to (and when you do, reward yourself with something new or new to you).
  • When it comes to sentimental items, ask yourself if you are holding onto the item or onto the memory. Consider an alternative way of keeping the memory alive, such as a photo of the item (great for kid’s art projects), or reconstructing the item into something more practical (making old garments into a pillow cover or quilt).
  • If you don’t love it, give it up. Remember, when you keep items in your life that do not satisfy you, you are taking up space for something that could bring you joy.
  • Don’t keep items that are broken. The old saying “one person’s junk is another person’s treasure” is not true if the item is actually junk. Let that trash go.
  • If you feel unable to address your clutter, seek help from friends or a professional. A clinical counsellor can assist you in identifying and exploring the underlying roots of holding onto items, which may be restricting you from living your greatest life. A cleanse of your environment results in mental clarity and overall well being.


Tricia Toth, BSW, MSW, RCC, RSW

operates Great Life Counselling


About the author: Angie

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