A bunch of items that are sitting on a desk

7 Simple Things I Do to Keep My Inner Hoarder in Time-Out

I don’t know why some of us have such a strong propensity to accumulate, collect, and otherwise hold onto stuff beyond a reasonable limit. Maybe we’re born that way. Or more likely, we’ve picked up an understandable yet unfounded fear of not having enough of what we might need someday. Whatever the reason, it starts with clutter that can quickly lead to hoarding—something that is expensive in terms of time, money, and peace-of-mind.


A cluttered desk with various items


It didn’t happen overnight, but one step at a time, by applying these seven simple tips, I can say confidently that my inner hoarder has been put in permanent time-out.

What is it

The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DMS-5), classifies hoarding as an obsessive condition related to OCD. It is characterized by a persistent difficulty discarding things.

While I’ve come to accept that I have OCD tendencies that could have possibly led to something more serious, gratefully, it never came to all-out hoarding.

Only a very small percentage of the world’s population display clinical hoarding characteristics. If you think you might have a hoarding problem, reach out to a therapist for help.

Start slow

Trying to undo years of accumulation in one weekend is just asking for failure. Instead, tackle one drawer or closet. For me, it was a very large closet. I was shocked and embarrassed to count 17 plastic storage bins filled with fabric, yard goods, fat quarters, and quilt kits. My fabric stash was something to behold. And overwhelming.

A dear friend offered to take all of it to her house where over many months (years?) she gifted and distributed all of it. Her act of kindness was a gift I’ll never forget. It was my turning point as I discovered the joy of letting go, of freeing myself from the burden of too much stuff.

Box method

Can’t decide what to keep or what to do with magazines, toiletry items, kitchen cupboard clutter, clothes, and on and on that are in great condition but don’t fit or for some other reason have turned to clutter? Put them in a box, close it up, and write today’s date on the top. If after six months you haven’t opened it, you won’t believe how easy it will be to let it to.

Rethink collections

I collected teacups. I had dozens, all of them very old and [I thought] precious. I only had them because I inherited them. They were never my idea, never my style.

Once I realized this, and that it would not dishonor my mother-in-law in any way, it was easy to give them away. If you struggle with overwhelming collections, consider keeping the one most prized in the collection, take pictures of the rest, and find a way to get rid of them.

Donation joy

The neighborhood website, Nextdoor.com, has given me so much joy. Joining puts me in contact with others in my neighborhood where we share news, information, as well as offer things for free or for sale. I love this because it gives good stuff that we no longer need or enjoy a new home.

I post things on NextDoor for what our group calls “free porch pickup.” I include photos and a full description, then set them out on the porch. Invariably within hours, they’re gone. But here’s the best part: Grateful recipients post their joy and thanks, which turns around and fills me with more joy. No hassles, no negotiating—just pure donation joy.


I do a lot of talking to myself these days and I meanwhile in my “slippery” places like Costco and Amazon. And before dropping a mail-order catalog into the trash.

It’s like dealing with a bratty toddler sometimes. Why do you need that? Where will you put it? How many months will it sit in a box before you surrender and just get rid of it? I still make myself go home or leave those places to think about it for a few days. Invariably, I either forget about it altogether or change my mind.


A stove top oven sitting inside of a kitchen

Embrace the alternative

There’s something wonderful to be said for minimalism. Clear counters, an empty closet, a drawer with only three things in it. Those things slow my pulse, clear my head, and make me feel nimble.

My closet with only items that fit, I love, and wear is so refreshing. My kitchen with only the tools and utensils I use regularly makes me enjoy cooking and baking.

That sense of freedom is my alternative to clutter. It keeps me heading in the right direction and my bratty inner hoarder in time-out!

More from Mary's Everyday Cheapskate

toilet tissue
Black + Decker cordless handheld vacuum
US coins and bills
Lightbulb sketched on a chalkboard
cut cucumber in plastic wrap to extend useful life

We want to hear from you and encourage a lively discussion among our EC users. Keep your comments positive, encouraging, supportive, and on-topic. Please no lectures or personal promotions.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
8 replies
  1. Ann Wiess says:

    I bought a lot of things to fill the empty void after my husband Lin’s death. I’ll probably never have to buy toothpaste or mouthwash again in my life!

  2. Cally says:

    when i find myself “hoarding” i have to ask if it’s greed, or good planning…. if I’m honest with myself, that new pair of shoes, extra spatula, set of dishes, piece of fabric… is usually greed.

  3. CJ Songbird says:

    I just found out about a service called Give Back Box that works with partners like Amazon to utilize used shipping boxes that customers fill with donation items. Shipping is free (covered by the partner company) and the box is routed to a local charity. You can also specify your charity but you must pay the shipping if you do. They kind of hide the free shipping label area so you have to hunt a bit but you can definitely ship for free. Your unwanted items benefit a charity, your box gets a second use before being recycled and you get to declutter your home. Win, Win, Win! I’m working on filling my first box now. Come on closet, we have a date with a box! Check it out at: https://givebackbox.com/amazon

  4. crafty says:

    Great ideas. One more suggestion. If you offer things on next door neighborhood or freecycle, tell the recipient they must pick it up by a specific time or it will go on a truck to charity. That encourages them to pick up the item on time.

  5. pennynibbelin says:

    It’s my husband who can’t relinquish things..dead mother’stuff, dead sister’s…two large boxes of his sister’s vacation pictures that stink of cigarettes. We’ve had these for over ten years. It’s just gross and he will not throw them out.

    • Cally says:

      maybe you could give him the gift of having the photos put on DVD’s so he can actually enjoy them and you can enjoy getting rid of the smell and clutter?

    • Bookworm says:

      If he’s like me, he’s afraid he’ll forget, and these things keep the memories alive. Getting rid of it all feels too final. The older I get, the more I’m afraid my memories will fade. It’s something I have to constantly work on, talking to myself a lot like Mary said she does. Meditation also helps!


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *