Seeking Suggestions from Former Hoarders

Updated on March 06, 2018
B.F. asks from Newark, DE
16 answers

We have a lot of stuff/clutter in our house, especially basement. It's hard for me to part with things because I change things around all over the place, always trying to find a more efficient way to do things. I will get an idea for a room and decide I want a _____. If it's not nearby I check the basement because I remember something that's down there that might do the trick. I may start using it again. Then another time I decide something else would be better, so I take that downstairs and go with something else that's down there. This goes on basically year-round for me. If something from down there isn't working quite the way I like, I'll think to myself that it's a good thing I didn't get rid of it, because here I am putting it to use again. Same thought when I put something down there: I might want to use it again.

Another problem involving all that is that even if I haven't used something for several years and really don't want it anymore I don't want to part with it without some kind of compensation for it. It's like I see dollar signs on it, either for value or else I remember about how much I paid for it, so to give it away I feel like I am getting rid of money, even if I feel like I've gotten my money's worth for it, I still see monetary value. It's like I want some money back for it.

You might suggest I hold a yard sale or post things on an online selling site of some sort, but I don't think that would work for me. I'd want an immediate buyer. I don't want to set up a yard sale, only to watch people just LOOK at something and not actually get it, leaving me stuck with it. Id I post something I think it would take too long to hang on to it, hoping somebody, sometime will want it. So it would remain clutter until that happened.

Many of the things I have, yet haven't used or needed for years have sentimental value to me, so they are pretty much out of the question. I just have to have an answer ready for anybody that asks me why I still have it and lots of stuff like it. The trouble is, there are lots and lots of things that have that kind of value to me.

My grandmother, especially on my mom's side lived very frugally, probably learned from war years when some things were scarce. SHE held onto things. I guess she, too, thought she might need ______ later. I don't remember if she resurrected many of the things she held onto or not, but I know I have done that. I may have learned to keep things from her.

I'm not the greatest at organizing, though I try, and many of these things are what need organizing. If they were organized they might take up less space. I often wish I could get a professional organizer, but I don't think I could afford one. If I were to mention it to my husband he'd say to just get rid of it. Well, I'd LIKE to, but I still want somebody to reimburse me some of the money I put out on it.

Can anybody offer me some suggestions or ideas, especially about wanting some kind of compensation for it? I forgot to mention that I've tried going the charity/tax deduction route, but tax-wise it hasn't worked for us.

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S.T.

answers from Washington DC on

it's hard to answer this question because you've carefully put in place a bunch of disclaimers that make it impossible to give you helpful advice that you haven't already discounted.

my husband is a clearer, i'm a clutterer. i'm happy that it's not at the disorder stage. i'm battling it by continually combing through old treasures, which are almost all family heirlooms and photos, whittling them away more and more. the hardest for me is the photos, because the only way to get rid of them without losing them is to photograph all of them and upload them somewhere, which is incredibly time consuming and will cost more than free cloud storage can handle.

i think you have to start with your dollar addiction before you can address your clutter addiction. wanting money for something but refusing to sell it unless you have an instant buyer right there with cash in hand is a very obvious avoidance technique. we'd all be retailers if we could figure out that conundrum.

khairete
S.

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M.G.

answers from Portland on

I have a similar problem - and can really relate to what you are saying. Maybe not to same degree but I have similar feelings about things.

Passing on to charity - feels REALLY good, if there's one you can feel good about. We have a local one, that helps needy families in our area. I would rather that, then get two dollars for it. So I bagged up a bunch, and it felt so good, I now have a running bag corner. Every time some one outgrows something, or any time I see something that has not been used in say a year (have a time limit and stick to it), in it goes.

My other rule is - does this item cause me stress? If so, in it goes.

Someone told me that trick - hold it in your hand and close your eyes. I don't need to do that part - but I just know. Do I want to see this thing in my house in 5 years or will I feel better if I never see it again? What feeling does it bring up in me? If it is stress - then in the bag it goes.

The thing is, get the bag out of the house once you're done this exercise. You can't have it sitting there :)

My problem is sentimental items. For me, it's kids' stuff - their first worn things, their first art work, etc. I just keep downsizing. Another exercise is, pick your favorite of the two. Say if I can keep one out of these two, which would it be? (

We once did a yard sale (our community has one) and it didn't generate very much cash. We also have done commission route. I find this stressful - because it's more work and doesn't result in much money. I'd rather bag it up, give to local families in need, be done with it - feel good it's gone, feel good we've helped someone in need. I would go that route personally.

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S.S.

answers from Atlanta on

these things are a noose around your neck. That "value" you perceive? It's NOT a "REAL" value. It's your memory.

Being a military wife? I've learned what is "valuable" and what is "stuff". You realize you have a problem. That's PART of the battle. Now you need to get over the next hurdle. And that is realizing that this "stuff" is killing you. it is keeping your from living your life.

You can't use that space for anything good since you have your "STUFF" there. What do you WANT to use that stuff for?

Like WW, I have gone through rooms and stripped them bare. Washed the walls, painted, scrubbed it like it was "NEW". Then I sat down and figured out HOW this room was going to used and WHAT was NEEDED in it. Tyler and the boys helped too. As they live here too. They realized that the clutter wasn't bringing them any satisfaction, peace or anything...but clutter.

I totally agree with WW! You are making excuses for the stuff. STOP MAKING EXCUSES. I'll mirror that comment. TOTALLY.

I will mirror Margie too! Donating isn't about the money you get or the tax deduction! It's about someone else who NEEDS it and will USE it.

I wish you much luck and peace. This is NOT an easy time. You have recognized ONE hurdle. Now you need to take that next step and purge.

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C.T.

answers from Santa Fe on

My mom is like you. Stop making excuses. Stop putting sentimental value onto ALL of your things. It's ridiculous. Pick a few things that you want to keep for sentimental value but get rid of the rest. It's just STUFF. Stuff is not important. This is a first world problem...think about what really matters in life. I'm sorry...I don't really know how to help you because I have tried and cannot change my mom. She is getting elderly and needs to move into a smaller place some day soon and this is going to be a HUGE fight. Her house is PACKED with tons and tons of things and she places sentimental value onto every one of them. She is a constant shopper. She just loooooves things. When she does eventually downsize she expects me to keep all her stuff that she cannot keep. Her feelings will be hurt. She is going to take everything very personally. I'm annoyed just thinking about it.

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W.W.

answers from Washington DC on

The excuses you make for holding on to an item are what is holding you back and creating your mess/clutter/hoard.

STOP making excuses. If you don't want a yard sale? Then get it all together and have Goodwill come get it and donate it all or call 800-Got Junk and have them remove it all.

You are NOT helping yourself with your excuses. You want SOME money out of it? Have a garage/yard sale. STOP making excuses and using reasons. If you donate it? You get the tax write off - if you sell it - then you get the money immediately. It doesn't matter if didn't get a huge portion of it back from taxes - the fact is you CLEANED OUT YOUR HOME.

Keep in mind - these items MAY be "priceless" to you - but you need to understand there's only so much someone will pay for something. The value is to YOU - not to others. It's like when we cleaned out my mom and dad's house after my mom died. the memories were OURS - but the items weren't going to fetch much at a yardsale - except for the vintage tupperware (which we ended up keeping for ourselves) and sold what we didn't want. My dad had a HARD time letting my mom's decorations go. He wasn't going to use them and they were taking up space and VERY DUSTY. In the end, we sat our dad down and said - here - watch TV and cleaned out the stuff.

You want a professional organizer? Then CALL AROUND and find out how much one is. Go to Groupon and Living social to see if there are any deals. Your "thinking" you can't afford one is another excuse for you to keep stuff. To hold on to it. If you believe and feels it's valuable then you need to take care of it.

Nothing will change until YOU CHANGE. You HAVE to want to let things go. YOU HAVE to understand that you might not get what YOU put into it. However - you HAVE to parce it out. Start in ONE room. A small room. Take EVERYTHING out of that room. EVERYTHING. Clean the room. If it's carpeted - clean the carpet. Then, when dry, start putting stuff back in the room. ONLY what the room NEEDS nothing more. Use the KISS method (Keep It Simple Silly). Mindset - the room has EVERYTHING IT NEEDS - key word NEEDS.

What doesn't go back? Goes OUT the door. Done. Don't look back. Don't use the "I might need this later" mentality. This is what is causing the hoarding.

YOU CAN DO THIS. Show your kids that hoarding is NOT normal and NOT a good way to live. How many items have you NOT touched in your house? How many items in your basement have you NOT missed??? If you have NOT touched in six months to a year? You DO NOT NEED IT....keep in mind NEED means that you will DIE without it. You will NOT DIE if you give away or sell these items. As it stands now? THEY are killing you.

Change your mindset. No, it's NOT easy.
Start small and just keep going - CLEANING OUT.
DO NOT ask $100 for something you know is only going to get $10. It WILL NOT sell. Dah. IF you REALLY feel it's worth something? then you need to research on ebay and google it - to see what you have. If you can show "value" then give the research too.

YOU HAVE TO WANT TO GET RID OF THE STUFF. If you don't? You're not ready and not helping yourself nor your family. Imagine if you died tomorrow - what mess would your family be left with? IS THAT WHAT YOU WANT??? If the answer is NO? You need to change your attitude and stop making excuses.

Consider a therapist as well. They can help you break through things that are holding you back and holding on to things. Take a picture. Keep the memory in a picture. Stop holding on to things that are only dragging you and your family down.

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J.G.

answers from Chicago on

Donating isn't about the deduction. It's about giving the object a new life with someone who WILL use it.

I have no problem dumping stuff. In fact, I have the opposite problem: I go look for something and remember I gave it away.

For me, it's all about use. If it isn't being used, then it isn't really being loved. Maybe you can focus on how by giving it away you are giving it real life.

As to the dollar signs, I hear you. I just pulled a bunch of clothes out of a kid's closet that were never worn. My mother bought these items, and they were expensive. What a waste of money! I try to be careful about what I buy. My mom likes to just buy. Over the years I've tamed her, and insisted $ for college would be better, but it is frustrating to have expensive items that no one uses. I just quickly put it in a bag and get it out of the house and move on to the next thing. But at the end of the day, I just remember that used objects have no real value, except in use. In fact, the reimbursement is the wonderful feelings giving can bring. GIVING FEELS GOOD, and over time, you will come to see how that is the reimbursement and it will become easier to give.

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B.C.

answers from Norfolk on

If the stuff is starting to cause you grief/worry - you don't own it - it owns you - and it's certainly time to downsize.
If you haven't touched in in a couple years - just donate it, get a receipt and write it off your taxes.
Your 'compensation' comes at tax time - It's Deductible will tell you the valuation of the item.

Things depreciate - you aren't going to get the money you put in out of it (unless it's some sort of rare antique - and people just don't have stuff like that hiding out in your basement no matter what Antiques Roadshow would have you believe).
Your time/effort is also money - so spending your time to sell it is 'costing you'.

It's very freeing to get rid of the stuff.
You'll feel so much better once you do.
Remove any excuse you have for not moving forward and just DO IT!
My mom does because the last thing she wants is to have a ton of things for me and my sister to have to go through after she dies.
It happened that way after my FIL passed away suddenly and I can not tell you how difficult it was to deal with it.

You realize you have a problem - and that's a good first step in dealing with it.
You might want to consider therapy to help you move past your reasons/excuses to getting it all dealt with.

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M.C.

answers from Chicago on

I'm kind of the opposite of you, so I can give my opinions. I am the type to want to get rid of stuff and clear things out. I got to be that way by getting tired of having so much stuff. I had a ton of stuff from when my kids were little. I sold a few things and got rid of the rest. When I actually looked at things, I could see some could be donated, and a lot of it was just junk. It feels good to purge and give things away.

You have to stop thinking of your things as money. They are not money. The money was gone the minute you exchanged it for the goods. I had lots of items from deceased grandparents and brother in law, and from when my parents majorly downsized and moved. I went through it all and had to make decisions. My grandma had a partial tea set and I was saving it all. I kept one teacup and saucer as a memento and display and gave the rest away. My grandpa had some old items that I just kept in boxes. I gave a few choice things to my brother and got rid of the rest. My other grandma had loads of old lace and linens that I would never use. I made some pretty christmas stockings for a few family members and donated the rest.

I had pieces of furniture that just sat in the basement. They took up space, I had to clean them, and were basically useless. They were donated or given to grateful recipients on freecycle. I did not need every single memento, so I either used in in a creative way, gave it away, and in a few circumstances sold it. I have more space in my home to use as I want and not as a perpetual storage bin. It is so much better and cleaner.

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M.P.

answers from Portland on

I'm a recovering hoarder. I too have saved things because of sentimental value. This wasn't a problem until stuff took over the house with boxes and stuff everywhere. Stuff limited how I wanted to live. During the first 20 or so years everything was in the basement. Gradually, after my divorce and my parents death I bought more and more until I have stuff all over the house. I'm in the process of donating anything I can't justify in keeping.

If your stuff is mostly in the basement or is not in the way or interfering in your life, I suggest that is not hoarding.

Still It's good to start getting rid of stuff. I'm in my 70's and I want an organized house to enjoy. I also want to make it easier for my daughter when I die.

I use the 3 boxes, piles method. One for things I am fairly certain I don't need. One for things I know I'll keep and one for things I want to donate. I just leave the keepers where they are or organize them instead of actually putting them in a box. I work on one area ar a time. A similar plan I used during my younger years mostly worked. Now, with much more stuff, sorting is very time consuming.

I've been donating several boxes at a time. I have decided to get professional help in moving all of the stuff in a month's time. I suggest this will save me money and increase my happiness in the long run.

I am unhappy with so much stuff limiting me. Not only is the stuff in the way, my disorganization in the house negatively affects my mood and inability to keep the rest of my life organized.

For years I thought I would sell stuff. I worked in an antique and collectable mall and planned to rent a stall. Didn't happen. I've also been told to just get rid of it. I also found that didn't work for me. I think it takes a personality different than mine to just get rid of it. Now, I've become aware that I have to get rid of it to be happy. That's been a great incentive.

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C.C.

answers from New York on

If I remember correctly, you have two older sons, late teens / early 20s.

So you are maybe "on the cusp" of being an empty-nester?

Take time to get a handle on your "stuff". Soon enough your sons will be thinking about helping you "downsize"...you should get rid of your stuff in your own way before they take over and do it for you!

Most things will not sell for much money. Set aside what things your sons might want, give away [for free] a bunch of other stuff, and then spend time trying to sell just a few "special" things that you do not want to keep.

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J.C.

answers from Philadelphia on

Perhaps take a picture of this sentimental stuff and create a album. I honestly never understood this mentality. It doesn’t really seem like a good way to “honor” sentimental pieces to have them stored in a basement (like junk) to perhaps use at a later date or not.

I personally feel so much better when my house is organized and clutter free. It makes straightening/cleaning up so easy when everything has a place. My home is never more than 15 minutes from company ready which is a fabulous feeling.

I think you need to change your mindset. Seriously, if you feel you got your money worth out of the item then let it go to a new good home. Consider it charity and who doesn’t feel good after helping a less fortunate person in need,

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J.B.

answers from Boston on

Think if all the time, space and energy you've wasted holding on to "stuff." If you want to monetize everything...every finished square foot of space in your house has a dollar value. You can go on to Zillow and look yours up or calculate it quickly (home value divided by square footage). Mine is around $125 per square foot. So...is your clutter worth that space?

My view is that I've always been blessed to have what I truly need. When I am in want of something, I have the means to buy it or, quite often, get one for free from someone else (we have hyper-local gifting communities like Freecycle and Buy Nothing in my area). This gives me the freedom to pass along what is no longer useful to me. Rather than hold on to something basic like a lamp or an end table or pots and pans, why not pass it along - for free - and bless someone else who can actually put that to work right now? Surely there is a thrift store in your area that can make use of what you have just wasting space. I recently moved and in the process, gave away a ton of stuff that I couldn't take with me and didn't need (lawn furniture, area rugs, a lawn mower and snow blower, appliances, furniture, etc.). In return, I was generously given things that others in my community no longer needed - decor, a coffee table, wine rack, market umbrella, new beds, organizers, end tables, window treatments etc.

Release your clutter and enjoy the pleasure of SPACE and the freedom of not being a prisoner of your stuff. If you don't use it or love it, out it goes.

If you can't do this, it's worth getting counseling for so that you get over whatever it is that is holding you back. It's just stuff and if you're not using it and it's not a keepsake, it's just taking up your precious time, energy and space. Spend 15 minutes a day working through your stuff until it's either gone or being stored for a better reason that that you might need it someday.

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S.W.

answers from Amarillo on

I was brought up with depression era parents which meant things were saved beyond their time because "it might be needed again".

Over the years I have collected, obtained, received more than I have space for. Now at my age, it is time for me to purge. Yes, I said purge with a vengeance. I went to an estate garage sale and discovered many items for sale that I had in my own personal collection. It brought me to reality that once I am gone, no one will want what I have and it will be tossed if not sold off by my kids.

You spend too much energy moving the extra stuff around looking for the perfect thing to redecorate. After a while, the item does not look as fresh and the colors have changed and are out of date. So hence, it is time to LETGO. You will feel better and more relaxed.

the other S.

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P.G.

answers from San Antonio on

Google the British version of "the hoarder next door". They focus more on the why than the actual organization. I watched the shows a few times and it shook something loose for me that helped me get ahold of my clutter issues.

I recently discovered a youtube lady - Diane In Denmark. She's lovely. You may find some help in watching her.

I hate to say it, but stuff you consider to have "value", unless it's something that people collect, it's just used stuff. It's junk. You spent money on it, true, but you've used it, you got your money's worth of use out of it. Expecting money for your used stuff - at least money that would make it worthwhile to deal with it - is probably not really rational. You may have to sit with this and see where it's coming from, cause it's holding you back. It's going to take time to deal with this issue, so don't be hard on yourself. But take a deep breath and realize that there's likely baggage connected to the stuff-keeping that might be uncomfortable to unpack.

Take care.

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F.B.

answers from New York on

If efficiency is your motivator, get the ——— that you think will make the room work better. Don’t go digging through the basement for something that might do the trick. At which point, you have solved the problem and won’t need the basement stores any longer.

Good luck to you with this.
F. B.

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N.B.

answers from Oklahoma City on

There's a book, I think it's by Dr. Dobson but I could be very wrong about that.

There's one with the title something like this, "Know your children's gifts/talents?".

The book also has an adult version.

What it's about is how we operate....function....what "style" of person we are.

I'm an executive style, again, it's been years since I read it but it hit me as perfectly describing me.

It said that executives don't throw anything away because they know the deepest value of that item. If they toss it they will eventually need it again and have to spend money to replace it, so we keep everything.

I suggest you figure out a way to have a great organized storage space. So that the things you keep are easy to find and easy to keep put up and out of sight.

A dear friend has 7 kids. In her basement she has homemade shelves. On each shelf are plastic totes with notes taped onto the exposed end. They say things like

Boy clothes, size 4 T/4
Girls clothes, size 10-12
Toddler toys
Blankets for cool weather
Blankets for really cold weather
Tippy cups and baby bottles

And so forth. She never has to think about anything and even though her kids are grown up now she can pop down to the basement and pull together a box of stuff to pass on to one of her kids for their kids.

As she's gotten older the stored items have been given away and shared with others. But overall her system is still working because now it's craft items and decor. Still winter stuff and summer stuff to keep things ready for camping trips and stuff but it's grown up with her and her kids.

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