Living with hoarding problems can be difficult, but there are lots of things you can do to help yourself cope. This page has some suggestions for you to consider:
Talk to someone
It can be hard opening up about hoarding, but it might help to share how you're feeling. If you don't feel you can talk to people around you, you could try contacting a helpline.
See useful contacts for more suggestions.
My turning point came after ten years of increasing amounts of stuff. 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.
Try peer support
Making connections with people with similar or shared experiences can be really helpful. To find peer support, you could:
If you're seeking peer support on the internet, it's important to look after your online wellbeing.
See our pages on how to stay safe online for more information.
Keep a diary
You may find it helpful to keep a diary recording your moods and feelings, difficult or stressful events and times when you feel happy or relaxed, as well as keeping a note of your hoarding.
This could help you to spot patterns in what triggers your hoarding behaviours and spot early signs – so you could plan some other activities to do instead.
Some people find it also helps to write down questions to consider before acquiring or saving new things, like asking yourself if you're sure you need them and if you have space for them.
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.
Find new ways to relax
You could explore ways to relax and enjoy yourself that don't involve buying, acquiring or saving things, or to help distract you from wanting to. For example:
- Learn ways to cope with stress. Our pages on relaxation and coping with sleep problems suggest some exercises that might help you find a few moments of calm. See our information on coping with stress for some more ideas.
- Spend time in nature. Being outside in green space can help you relax and improve your wellbeing. See our pages on nature and mental health for more information.
- Do activities you enjoy. For example you could go for a walk, watch a TV programme or film, or visit a library or museum. Try to think of things that involve experiences rather than getting new items.
Discarding is never a simple yes-no process, and most items will be pondered over through several sort-throughs, over a period of months and years.
Look after yourself
Looking after your physical health can make a difference to how you feel emotionally. For example, it can help to:
- Try to get enough sleep. Sleep can help give you the energy to cope with difficult feelings and experiences. See our pages on coping with sleep problems for more information.
- Think about your diet. Eating regularly and keeping your blood sugar stable can make a difference to your mood and energy levels. See our page on food and mood for more information.
- Try to do some physical activity. Exercise can be really helpful for your mental wellbeing. See our pages on physical activity for more information.
See our pages on improving and maintaining your mental wellbeing and how to increase your self-esteem for more suggestions.
Safety in your home
Hoarding can sometimes make your home less safe for you, for example by increasing the risk of fire spreading or making it harder for you to leave quickly in an emergency.
You can ask your local fire service to do a safety check. Many fire services understand about hoarding. They might ask you to describe your situation using the Clutter Image Rating.
The Help for Hoarders website includes tips on hoarding and fire safety.
The Age UK website also has more information on safety at home (aimed particularly at older people).
Take small steps
It’s common to feel anxious about getting help with hoarding or trying to change things. You might feel like you can't start because it's too hard, which can lead to safety behaviours (things that make you feel safe, but don't help in the long-term) like avoiding thinking or talking about it.
It can help to start with small steps. For example:
- Set a timer and try to tidy one area. Or you could limit the time in other ways, for example by listening to a set number of songs.
- Make lists. For example, some people say it helps to list the different types of items you have and what you're going to do with them.
- Set simple goals, like throwing away one thing per day.
- Make things easier for yourself. This might include putting rubbish bins in different areas of your home or using a litter-picking tool to pick things up without touching them.
- Plan when you'll do basic tasks. For example, it might help if you set aside specific times to wash and put away clothes.
- Find ways to track your progress. Some people say it helps to take photos, or write down what you've achieved.
Yesterday I identified two items to dispose of, of which I am proud, though I am acutely aware that I have been pondering about being rid of them for the last two years.
Find support for connected issues
If you're experiencing other issues alongside hoarding, such as money worries or addiction to recreational drugs or alcohol, it could be helpful to explore the help out there for these too.
Our pages on money and mental health, addiction and dependency, and mental health effects of drugs and alcohol list organisations that can help.
This information was published in September 2018. We will revise it in 2021.