With everyone busier, it’s easy to let your house become a sty. Sink dishes piled up? That’s nothing. We’re talking the whole house piled up.

First, a word for hoarders.

If you’re a serious hoarder, this article probably won’t help enough. Signs:

  • You have a very hard time deciding what to get rid of, perhaps diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder.
  • Usually isolated, you only feel safe within your very cluttered place.
  • You assign excessive sentimental value to many things. 
  • You’ve filled your bathtub with stuff so you can’t shower.
  • You can’t get near your stove or refrigerator so you can’t eat healthily.
  • You have more pets than you can adequately care for.

If that sounds like you, you probably need a psychotherapist or at least a personal organizer familiar with the psychological causes of hoarding, although the Mayo Clinic’s profile of hoarding says it’s difficult to treat because most hoarders don’t realize they have a problem.

This article may help a hoarder somewhat but it offers the most hope for the typical person who has let his or her place go to pot.

Why bother?

  • Your life will feel more in control.
  • You can find what you need.
  • You might uncover treasures you had long forgotten about, like that photo of you in that Halloween costume in 1999.
  • You can invite people over without their thinking you’re out of control or a pig.
  • Cleaning up is actually fun. It’s one of life’s few tasks in which you can quickly see tangible progress.

How to

I.  Invite everyone to a party at your place to celebrate your nicely spruced-up place. Having a deadline will motivate you.

II.  Get rid of stuff.

A.  First, counter irrational thoughts that make you want to hold onto excessive amounts of stuff:

  • “It has sentimental value.” Sure, keep a few albums of pictures that matter, that special gift from someone, a special possession of a loved one who died, but all that takes up little space.
  • “I may need it?”  There’s much stuff you’re unlikely to need, and keeping all of it guarantees your place will be more unpleasant than it needs to be.

B. Do the deed. Most people can get rid of half or more of their stuff and be better for it. Be a ruthless tosser. Perhaps pay in advance for a dumpster. Sometimes, having paid for it motivates you to fill it. If you can’t make yourself dump lots of stuff, get an efficient friend who’ll point to each item and urge you to err on the side of tossing. Or hire a professional organizer who’s sensitive to but won’t fall for weak excuses for keeping too much stuff.

III. Clean up.  Start with one corner of one room. Pick the area you’re most motivated to clean up. Put on pump-it-up music and make that area perfect. It will be fun to see even a small area perfect. Go from square foot to square foot. Keep picturing those benefits listed in the “Why Bother” section above, especially the benefit that most resonates with you.

No need to become a neat-freak with color-coded everything. Just get stuff organized to the extent you need to feel good about it.

Cleaning up your place will almost assuredly take less time than you think and you will feel better afterwards---as long as you keep reminding yourself that a need to hoard really doesn't serve you.

If you can afford it, you may want to hire a housecleaner every couple weeks. Hidden and ironic benefit: To avoid embarrassment, you'll probably clean up before s/he comes.

III. Celebrate

It’s party time. Everyone seeing your new-and-improved abode will help motivate you to keep the place neat...well, at least reasonably neat.

Marty Nemko's bio is in Wikipedia.

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