What are the Best Tips for Overcoming Hoarding?

Sheri Cyprus

The best tips for overcoming hoarding include creating some strong rules to help change the behavior of acquiring and keeping piles of useless materials or unsanitary garbage. Having the rules written in a journal in which the compulsive hoarder keeps notes on his or her progress is a good idea. Remembering to be strict yet completing the process of overcoming hoarding gradually in small steps is an important tip.

There are various treatment options that may help manage compulsive hoarding.
There are various treatment options that may help manage compulsive hoarding.

By the time most hoarders begin to seek help for the problem, their daily life as well as relationships have become very difficult. Hoarders may feel overwhelmed as well as ashamed by their rooms that typically have the floors, tables and seating surfaces piled high with all kinds of clutter. If small steps and a gradual approach aren't begun in order to work toward overcoming hoarding, hoarders are likely to feel unable to stop their compulsive behavior.

Excessive shopping can be part of obsessive-compulsive hoarding.
Excessive shopping can be part of obsessive-compulsive hoarding.

An overcoming hoarding journal should list about three to five rules to follow; too few probably won't be effective, while too many can be unmanageable. These could include statements from the compulsive hoarder such as "I will not bring home anything I can't immediately use," "I will throw out garbage including food past its expiration date" and "I will do at least one small cleanup every day to better my living environment." A hoarder working toward overcoming his or her problem must realize that it will take time and gradual progress to do so. The mess and the hoarding behavior itself have likely developed, as well as increased, over a period of many years, so only steady progress each day can typically decrease and eventually eliminate the problem.

Allowing for mistakes is an important tip for hoarders trying to overcome their compulsive “pack rat” behavior. It's crucial for recovering hoarders to understand that eliminating the problem is a process. The effort in overcoming hoarding should be resumed after any mistake, such as going against the rules by bringing in an unnecessary item or neglecting to throw out garbage. Having at least one family member or friend who is supportive yet helpful in having the hoarder follow his or her own rules is a good idea.

Starting with the goal of getting one entire room clean is one of the best tips for overcoming hoarding. Accomplishing this task can give hoarders hope that they can do that for the rest of their home. Also, having one room clear of garbage, junk and clutter, but with furniture offers a space for hoarders to hopefully get used to this type of normal living. Appreciating a clean space to function in normally may help in changing long-term hoarding behaviors. Seeking help from a qualified therapist experienced in hoarding therapy may be the best solution for some hoarders.

A rummage sale to get rid of clutter can help a person overcome hoarding.
A rummage sale to get rid of clutter can help a person overcome hoarding.

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Discussion Comments


To me, a lot of the things I see on those hoarding shows are symptoms of a much larger problem. The collecting and pack ratting are all obsessive compulsive symptoms. The disinterest in personal and home hygiene are symptoms of chronic depression. The panic attacks at the thought of clearing out all the clutter are signs the person is decompensating mentally.

What I suggest is making sure the recovering hoarder gets access to the best professional mental health services available. Overcoming hoarding is not just a question of treating one particular behavior, like pack ratting or poor personal hygiene. It may be a question of getting two or three mental health professionals to address ALL of the issues at one time.


I think people need to realize how difficult overcoming compulsive hoarding can be. It's just like trying to kick a 30 year smoking habit or an addiction to food. You can't just tell a hoarder to stop doing the things that help him or her stay "sane" and expect immediate results. If you're truly friends with a recovering hoarder, expect some backsliding and relapsing once in a while. The problem didn't appear overnight, and it won't go away overnight, either.

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