Explains what hoarding is, possible causes and how you can access treatment and support. Includes tips for helping someone who is hoarding, as well as helping yourself.
Helping yourself with hoarding
Living with hoarding problems can be difficult. But there are things you can do to help yourself cope. This page has some suggestions for you to consider.
Not all of these suggestions might work for you – it's OK if you need to try a few things before you find what works best.
This page covers:
It's not unusual to feel overwhelmed if you're trying to cope with a hoarding problem. You might feel like helping yourself will be too hard or take too long. And if you don't know where to start, taking small steps can help you make good progress. For example:
- Set yourself small goals. Try something like throwing away one thing per day.
- Set a timer and try to tidy one area. Or you could limit the time in other ways, like listening to a set number of songs.
- Make a plan. For example, you might schedule one hour a week for cleaning. Try to plan where your items will go, such as in the bin or as a donation. As soon as possible, try to make sure they go exactly where you planned.
- Cancel things like magazine subscriptions or put up a 'no junk mail' sign. This might help to stop new things coming into your home.
- Come up with some rules. Some people use the rule that if they haven't used an item in the last year, they'll get rid of it. Different rules work for different people, but these can help to make decisions easier.
- Explore new activities that don't involve buying or saving things. This could be going for a walk, watching a film or visiting a museum. You could also talk to people close to you about gift giving. Try to agree on ways of giving gifts that don't involve physical objects, like having a meal out.
I started to try to declutter, and it really wasn't easy. I spent days crying, trying to find something that I could part with to get the ball rolling. Eventually I managed to make a start, and it felt great. The more floor I could see the better I felt.
You might have been trying to manage your hoarding problem for a while, but sometimes feel like you're getting nowhere. Because of this, you may find it difficult to stay motivated.
Some of these tips might help you keep motivated and notice how far you've come:
- Find ways to track your progress. You could try taking before-and-after pictures of the space you've decided to clean. This can help you see how much progress you've made.
- Make things easier for yourself. This might include using a litter-picking tool to pick things up without touching them, or starting with an area you find easier to clear.
- Find support for related issues. If you're experiencing other issues alongside hoarding, it might help if you look into support for these. This could take some pressure off you. You might be able to find help in our pages on money worries, addiction and housing problems.
- Celebrate your wins. Try going out with friends or watching a TV show you like when you have achieved any goals – no matter how small they may seem.
- Ask for help. You may have someone close to you who could help you. Sometimes just having someone to talk to before or after you clear can feel useful.
In the last four years I have kept my snail's pace progress going by getting motivation from YouTube, listening to lectures on hoarding psychology and decluttering, and seeking help on self-help forums.
Trying to manage your hoarding can make you feel emotionally drained. It might bring up lots of difficult feelings, which can make handling practical tasks harder. There are ways you can support yourself and get help for these feelings. For example:
- Talk to someone. You might find it hard to open up about hoarding, but it might help if you share how you're feeling. If you don't feel you can talk to people around you, contact some of the organisations in our useful contacts.
- Try peer support. Connecting with people with similar or shared experiences can be really helpful. For information on where you can find this sort of support, see our pages on useful contacts and peer support.
- Keep a diary. Try noting down your moods and feelings, as well as keeping a note of your hoarding. This could help you spot patterns in what triggers your hoarding behaviours, and the reasons behind difficult feelings.
- Take time to relax. Trying to manage your hoarding can be very hard work – emotionally as well as physically. It can help to find ways to relax that don't involve getting or saving things. For more ideas, see our pages on stress, relaxation and nature.
- Try to take care of yourself. Try to get enough sleep and do enough physical activity to look after your general wellbeing.
It's a big step to recognise that you might have a hoarding problem and need some help. Even if you're finding it hard, knowing you're working towards change is something to be proud of.
Sometimes I'll just write on an online forum to vent how angry I am at myself... Yes anger and depression are closely enmeshed in my clutter, and squalor. I can be furious at myself for being in such an awful mess, and can end up telling myself that I don't even deserve to have a decent home.
Hoarding can sometimes make the place you live less safe. You might have a higher risk of fire spreading, or it may be hard for you to leave in an emergency.
You might not feel ready to start dealing with other parts of your hoarding problem. But it can be beneficial to make sure the place you live in is safe. For example:
- You can ask your local fire service to do a safety check. Many fire services understand hoarding. They might ask you to describe your situation using the Clutter Image Rating.
- The London Fire Brigade has tips on its website about how to reduce the risk of fire from hoarding.
- The Age UK website also has more information on safety at home, which might help older people in particular.
You might disagree with people around you when it comes to hoarding. This could be friends, family, your partner, or official bodies like the council. It might be because they:
- Say you have a hoarding problem, but you don't think you do
- Insist on helping you clean, but you don't want them to
- Cannot see that you have made progress
- Do not believe you can keep up the progress in the long term
It can feel very upsetting to hear these things from people close to you. To help them understand your situation a bit better, try showing them our pages for friends and family and talking about a mental health problem.
This information was published in February 2022. We will revise it in 2025.
References and bibliography available on request.
If you want to reproduce this content, see our permissions and licensing page.