7 Tips to Keep Your Inner Hoarder in Time-Out

I don’t know why some of us have 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, relationships, health, and peace of mind.

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

Know What It Is

Accepting the fact that I have OCD tendencies that could lead to something more serious was my most important first step. Gratefully, it never came to all-out hoarding.

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 in discarding things.

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

Slow Start

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 completely and utterly overwhelming.

My dear friend Rosalie offered to take all of it to her house where she gifted and distributed it over many months. 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 go.

What I call my box method has become a kind of easy “interim” step. It makes the process so much easier, which for me means doable.


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 along with some self-imposed need to enhance and expand the collection to one day pass it on to the next generation. They were never my idea, never my style.

Once I realized I would not be dishonoring 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, and 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 the item(s) 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 to fill me with more joy. No hassles, no negotiating—just pure donation joy.


I do a lot of talking to myself these days, in my “slippery” places like Costco and Amazon. And before dropping the LLBean or Pottery Barn 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 a box (refer to “Box Method” above) 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.


clean kitchen with island in foreground

Embrace the alternative

There’s something extraordinary 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 that 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!


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4 replies
  1. Barbara says:

    Something that helps me is to realize after a short time that I forgot what I donated! It wasn’t so important or needed after all! Also finding a worthy place to give things helps like homes for veterans. Since you mentioned “Next Door” app, someone posted a link to list what you would like but couldn’t afford. That was a great way to see the need and give someone directly an item or more that they really needed! Thanks for your great ideas!

  2. Kristen says:

    Excellent. Thank you for writing. The only thing I would add, that greatly helps me, is after it goes in the donation box tape the box closed. If I see anything in that box when I pull it out to donate I will often take it back out. Ugh.

  3. Pat Williams says:

    I enjoy browsing through catalogs for ideas. If I see something that I think I might like to order I “dog ear” the page. Then I put the catalog aside taking note of the deadline for any sale or free shipping. In most cases when I go through the catalog again instead of ordering I put the catalog in recycle with the comment “I didn’t find anything I can’t absolutely, positively live without!” That is what I say when I walk out of a store without making a purchase. I can honestly say the idea that “less is more” is very liberating!
    Have a blessed day,

  4. Ginna says:

    Look for a facebook page titled “Buy Nothing [name of your town].” No money is exchanged. It’s a wonderful way to give away things that you no longer need and others can use.

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