The line between collecting and hoarding is a fine one. Simply stated, hoarding is the inability to throw away or otherwise get rid of items that you have set aside in case you need them later. For example, my husband tends to hold on to small pieces from furniture and electronics he’s found around our home. You never know when you might use them, right? I’m sure everyone has collections of some sort in their home. Does that mean you are a hoarder? In most cases, probably not.
Hoarding is one of many symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and, according to the Mayo Clinic, may be a genetic disorder. Most compulsive hoarders don’t see a problem with their collections or their behavior. If you collect a range of things, such as plastic containers, found objects and magazines, and these collections cause you stress due to clutter, you are probably not a hoarder.
Whether you are a hoarder or not, you probably could benefit from some decluttering in your home. Maybe you’ve made a New Year’s resolution to cut through the clutter once and for all? Ask yourself the following questions to help you sort through your collections and determine what can stay and what should go:
Do I love It?
Sometimes we hang onto something out of habit because we’re so used to it that we don’t even notice it’s taking up space in our home. Go through your house and look at the items that are cluttering your space. Ask yourself how much you really love each item. Would donating it or selling it break your heart? If the answer is “no,” get rid of it.
Does It Have Value?
Value is often in the eyes of the beholder. Just because something isn’t worth money doesn’t mean it’s not valuable. Sentimental value is often the reason we keep things, but we need to know when it’s time to let go. A teddy bear from your childhood can stay. If you don’t really like teddy bears but you have a collection of bears given to you in previous relationships, let them go. Ask yourself if you will miss the item if it’s no longer in your home. Ask yourself if its sentimental value is real, or if you’re just hanging onto it out of habit.
Do I Use It?
If you have a huge magazine collection gathering dust or a multitude of plastic butter and sour cream containers that spill out of your cupboard every time you open it, it’s time to pare down. How often do you look at the magazines? How many plastic containers do you really need for food storage? Ask yourself how often you actually use the items that are taking up space in your cupboards and shelves, and if the answer is “rarely,” send them to the recycle bin or donate to Goodwill. And remember: if you’re saving the magazines because you may want to revisit the articles, you can search the Internet and find almost any information about almost any topic.
Can I Replace It?
Do you hold on to items thinking you’ll need them later? This sentiment accounts for a great deal of clutter in our closets and drawers. Maybe you think all those old keys would make a cool necklace, or maybe the oatmeal containers crowding out the cleaning supplies under your sink would make great storage for your kid’s Hexbug collection. Whatever the reason you’re holding onto these things, ask yourself if you can replace them if the sudden urge to actually use them arises. Chances are, you can let these space-hogging items go.
Once you decide to rid your home of clutter, there are several painless ways to dispose of them. Anything that can be recycled should be. If you’re up for a garage sale, create a corner in your home to store items you want to sell. Once you’ve gone through the house and made your pile, get that sale underway so you don’t start having second thoughts and begin pulling items out of the pile. If you’re not up for a sale, donate the items to Goodwill or the Salvation Army.
Do you need to rid your home of clutter? Are you getting to the point that you may be a hoarder? Share your thoughts in the comments.
This post was first published on 1.17.2012 and updated on 12.29.2015.