Are You a Hoarder? How to Find Out (And Then Fix It)

Looking for a really quick way to tell whether or not you’re a hoarder? Try putting your head on a swivel and take a quick look around your apartment. Do you see piles upon piles of clutter? Yes, you do? Great. Now, do you think those piles are a problem? No, you don’t? Great. Now just keep reading because you’re probably wrong.

Hoarding tends to creep up on you. You never see it coming. Not to mention the fact that, according to the Huffington Post, “Between 2 and 5 percent of the U.S. population exhibits some hoarding behavior.” Are you in that 2 to 5 percent? Here are two easy ways to find out, and some ideas about what you can do about it if you are.

Take a Quiz

The easiest way to find out if you’re on the fast track to becoming a hoarder is to take one of myriad online quizzes. For the record, if you’re reading this article, then you probably already know that you’re a hoarder, and you can just skip this step. But hey, it’s better to be safe than sorry, right? You can take a quiz here.

So how did you do? Oh boy, let’s keep reading then . . .

Ask for a Friend’s Objective Opinion

This might sound like crazy advice—especially if you’re embarrassed

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the interior of your home has become—but invite a couple of trusted friends to come over and give their honest opinions. Sure, you could ask your family; but if you actually listened to your family, chances are you’d have cleaned up that mess a long time ago. This can’t possibly be the first time you’ve been told you need to do so.

Make a Change

If you are in fact a hoarder, fear not! There is hope for you. Dr. Jack Samuels, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at Johns Hopkins University, puts hoarding in the family of disorders that includes perfectionism, indecisiveness, and procrastination. In other words, when you look at it in the grand scheme of things, hoarding isn’t all that crazy.

Still, Gerald Nestadt, M.D., M.P.H, director of the Johns Hopkins Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Clinic, has a few handy suggestions that might help you recover from your stockpiling funk:

1. Immediately throw away or recycle junk mail and newspapers. Rather than let the junk mail and front pages pile up for days, weeks, months, years, or even decades, decide right away what needs to be thrown away. Did you hear me? RIGHT AWAY. You know you aren’t going to use those super-saver coupons. And, no, you really haven’t seen that man who’s been missing since 1974. Look at it and then trash it. Immediately.

2. Declutter for 15 minutes every day. Don’t overwhelm yourself by attempting a complete lifestyle overhaul in a single day. Do it in shifts, just a little bit at a time. Set aside a chunk of time every day to throw away junk, organize shelves, and declutter. After just a couple of weeks, you’ll see a big difference.

3. If you haven’t used it in 12 months, throw it away. This one can be tough. But if you’re getting serious about fixing your hoarding lifestyle, you’re going to have to get honest about the last time you really used something. Why are you hanging onto that 35mm camera you bought for your photography class at the local community college 15 years ago? Have you ever used that novelty boomerang your brother-in-law brought back from his honeymoon to Australia? If it hasn’t see the light of day in 12 months, it’s a pretty safe bet that you can throw it away or donate it and not think twice about it. You’re certainly not going to miss it. And once you start throwing a few things away, you’ll be surprised how much easier it gets.

Clear Away the Clutter

Whether your hoarding is bad enough that you need to hire a professional organizer to help you get started, or it’s just a matter of doing a small bit of New Year’s cleaning, use the impetus gained from your friends’ loving intervention, along with Dr. Nestadt’s sage advice, to retake control of your home—and your life!

And hey, not to toot our own horns here, but we might be able to help you out as well. If you can’t bring yourself to toss or give away all of your clutter, we’d love to stash some of it for you and free up space in your place. But whatever solution you choose, now is the time to take action. Carpe diem, oh Captain, my captain. Now get to it!