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Hoarding, OCD, and Decluttering

post #1 of 88
Thread Starter 
OK, I could probably have put this in Mental Health or Personal Growth as well, but since the bottom line is decluttering, I am putting it here.

We're looking at having the attic converted into a bedroom so we don't have to move when the twins arrive. The thing is, I am facing up to the fact that I am a bit of a hoarder. Mostly, the "livable space" in my house is OK-- cluttered, but OK. My attic and basement are another story. They look a lot like something you'd see on a Discovery Health special.

I have to get this cleaned out. The contractor can't get started until I get the attic and then the basement finished.

Here are my problems:

1. I am exhausted and pregnant with twins. I am still having bad tummy days and throwing up on a fairly regular basis.

2. My anxiety is at an all-time high. Last night, DH went down and "cleaned up" in the basement. This morning, I went down and pulled stuff out of the trash. I just can't stand this stuff being just thrown away. I don't have a problem with trash being tossed, and it's not even so much that I want to keep the stuff (OK, some of it I do). But I hate the idea of it just being thrown out.

3. I have this idea that I'm going to sell a bunch of it. I know this is really unrealistic seeing how it hasn't happened in 8 years, but I feel like if I can get some money for it, I should.

4. Since I can't do it just right, I feel like I can't do it all. And I don't trust my husband to do it, because he throws out the good stuff and keeps the dumb stuff.

I know I need therapy, but I am just not up to it right now. I don't know how to let go of my control issues and get this done.

Ideas? Please?
post #2 of 88
This is a subject I also struggle in.

But,

One thing I've discovered...

I can't keep the stuff in my house waiting...waiting to find someone to give it to, waiting until I have time to have a garage sale, waiting until whatever.

It has to go. Now.

So it gets bagged up in a black plastic bag, and tied shut (all the better, I don't see whats in it and "reconsider" letting it go). It goes in the back of my van, and as soon as I'm headed into "town" (teeny town 3 miles away) for groceries or the library or whatever, it gets dropped off first. No sorting at the last minute, no peeking in the bag. Just take a deep breath and put it in the donation box.

Most times I don't even miss it.
post #3 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by annettemarie View Post
This morning, I went down and pulled stuff out of the trash. I just can't stand this stuff being just thrown away. I don't have a problem with trash being tossed, and it's not even so much that I want to keep the stuff (OK, some of it I do). But I hate the idea of it just being thrown out.

3. I have this idea that I'm going to sell a bunch of it. I know this is really unrealistic seeing how it hasn't happened in 8 years, but I feel like if I can get some money for it, I should.
This sounds SO much like me. I've been known to pull recycable stuff out of my inlaws' trash....and as for #3, I've had a big bin full of stuff to sell sitting in my living room(as well as random parts of the house, but most of it is in the bin in the living room ) for the better part of this year. I've posted some of it on another board that I'm on(that doesn't get much traffic), and here, have managed to get rid of some of it, only to find more stuff to fill it with. I *think* what I'm going to do is take the Maternity clothes in there(probably makes up about half the bin) and take them to a consignment shop this coming week, along with all the other baby gear that is not getting used.

So...do you know of any consignment shops in your area? I consider that to be kind of a happy medium...you're not throwing stuff out to just end up in a landfill, you're getting rid of it AND making *some* money off of it. Maybe not as much if you would take pictures of it all and then post it on who knows how many forums, Craigslist, etc....but ugh, selling stuff online can be a PITA. I used to really get into it, but now I find the whole process so time-consuming and kinda irritating. I guess that's why I have a big pile of stuff still sitting here....

Good luck, mama! You can do it.
post #4 of 88
Don't bother with selling.. your time is much more valuable then the few dollars you might get after going through the time and hassle of selling. Twins on the way and a home remodel is no time to be dawdling with craigslist and garage sales.. and the stuff will just be lingering in your home even longer.
As you go through things, give yourself 3 options: keep it, trash it or donate it.
In order to keep it, it must be something you are honestly using, and if its a sentimental type thing, proudly display it in the main parts of your home when it can be enjoyed. The donations should all go to ONE place, so you save yourself the trouble of sorting further into piles of different places/people to give items to. Find a Goodwill, Salvation Army, etc, and one that picks up at your door is even better!
When you feel bad about getting rid of things- perfectly good and useful things- remind yourself that they're not perfectly good and useful when collecting dust in your basement and attic. They are actually harmful to you because those items are preventing you from living the life you invision (which I think is to be able to stay in your home with ample living space for your growing family).

When you're decluttering, keep your ultrasound picture handy, or perhaps a special item for the baby room like a sign for the door- so whenever you get tied up and frustrated, you have something to look at to remind you that those two little babes are what really matter- not rooms full of *stuff*. Suddenly most of the *stuff* will become trivial and easier to shove out the door!
post #5 of 88
Call Amvets, Goodwill, or the Salvation Army and ask for a pick up. Then you don't have to haul it and they are responsible for getting the value out of it. Of course, this won't work for anything that is trash.

I'm this way too and I can't bear the thought of trashing something and finding out later that someone else would have found it helpful. I am noticing now that many times when I want to give something away (because a need has been mentioned), I can't find it.

Decluttering really does feel great!
post #6 of 88
The others have given great advice and encouragement so far. i thought i would just toss in a few other points in case you find them useful.

Quote:
Originally Posted by annettemarie View Post
1. I am exhausted and pregnant with twins. I am still having bad tummy days and throwing up on a fairly regular basis.
Ok. It's great that you are already getting outside help (DH), and continue to do so. Just direct this process--see if friends, family, or the kids even--will help you. they hold up an object and you say "trash. treasure. recycle."

Quote:
2. My anxiety is at an all-time high. Last night, DH went down and "cleaned up" in the basement. This morning, I went down and pulled stuff out of the trash. I just can't stand this stuff being just thrown away. I don't have a problem with trash being tossed, and it's not even so much that I want to keep the stuff (OK, some of it I do). But I hate the idea of it just being thrown out.
I can understand.

find other ways to manage your anxiety if you can. if holding onto things is how you are managing it, see if you can find another method. even if it is as rudimentary as a mantra such as "it is ok that i am letting these objects go. i am calm and have other ways to feel secure."

Quote:
3. I have this idea that I'm going to sell a bunch of it. I know this is really unrealistic seeing how it hasn't happened in 8 years, but I feel like if I can get some money for it, I should.
Use an auction house. Anything that you are not willing to simply donate, put into boxes and label them. When everything that you want to get rid of is boxed, call the auction house and have them pick it up. they'll put it up for auction with a bunch of other people's stuff, and send you a check when the stuff is sold.

they take their fee before they pay you--so it is seriously painless.

to facilitate this process, create a deadline. essentially: "everything must be packed for the auction house by July 15. anything not packed by then is either trash, treasure, or going to the Good Will." once you have a deadline, you'll be able to get through things quickly. To make the deadline real, call the auction house and set up an appointment for them to pick up on that day.

what's nice, too, is that the auction house can take *anything*. furniture, odds and ends, kitchen stuff, old books--you name it. so, no gulit about it. and, anything they don't sell is basically their problem.

Quote:
4. Since I can't do it just right, I feel like I can't do it all. And I don't trust my husband to do it, because he throws out the good stuff and keeps the dumb stuff.
perfectionism is hard core, but there's no right or wrong way to do this. i can understand not wanting to leave it just to DH, or leaving it to anyone else. so, see my response to 1. see if you can direct the process, as much as you can.

as you are doing it, start small and take breaks. the breaks are more for your helpers than for you. lol you don't want them thinking of you as a slave driver. poor husband would say "pharaoh, pharaoh, let my people go!" LOL!

but the idea is to just do it a little bit at a time. one box, or one corner of a space, together with about 3-4 people. one person manages trash, one person holds onto treasures, one person holds up objects for you to sort, and the other packs things to either donate or send to auction.

you might look at it as two separate projects, and then divide it into smaller portions as well. so, one project is the attic, done by this date, and divided into 6 parts, then the basement as another, divided into 8 parts. or whatever works for you.

it does help to abate the perfectionism aspects a bit.
post #7 of 88
Would it be possible to have a yardsale? I watch an American show that I think is called Clean House. They always have a yardsale and what doesn't sell goes right away. Maybe you could do the same thing and what doesn't sell either goes to charity or to the dump.

My dh and my mil both have a hoarding problem. My MIL is really bad. We built a multigeneration home with her. We thought she would get rid of a lot of her "treasures" but instead she moved them to our attic. We would eventually like to make some bedrooms up there but right now it just isn't possible. I plan to wait until she has been here a year and then "confront" her with the fact that she hasn't wanted any of that crap for a year.

Try to just work in 15 minute blocks of time if it is too overwhelming. You can get a lot done in 15 minutes! I find those tv shows about hoarding inspirational. I absolutely hate clutter myself but after watching a hoarding show I still go through my house finding things to remove!

Put a date on whatever boxes of stuff you decide to keep. Try to organize it with putting numbers on the boxes and keeping a notepad that says what box has what in. Whenever you need to access a box in the next year(or two) mark it in some way. You can see then in a year(or two) which boxes were never used.

Good luck!
post #8 of 88
Hi just wanted to wish you good luck, and to remember to think of your new babies when you are feeling anxious- focus on how nice you want your home to be for them, and it will be easier to let things go that get in the way of that vision.

I love the auction house idea and am going to try that myself for some pieces that I don't want to just give away, then donate the rest, the real trash should be easiest...it's the things "that someone else could use" that get me and it bothers me to throw good things away- so donate

Focus on the life you wish to lead, keep what will get you there, and let the rest go
post #9 of 88
start reading the Flylady (flylady.net). she has some good ideas and inspiration for you on the subject of perfectionism and letting go of stuff.

also, simply put: you are so blessed to be having twins. clear out of some space for them! let go of this stuff so that you can let the new babies in to your home and lives.

finally, you are getting help from your husband. accept it! you are very lucky to be receiving this help. i have spent the past nine months since my son was born decluttering every evening after everyone else is asleep. i am down to about 5 more laundry baskets filled with clothes to sort, give away and keep. then i will be done. it has been a long haul. but i want excess stuff out of my life so that i can do more fun stuff. holding onto stuff takes too much energy.

seriously, read the flylady. good luck!
post #10 of 88
Just a thought off the top of my head...

Maybe when you're having a good day, take a pack of bright neon stickers (like the "dot" stickers) and put them on anything you really want to keep. That way you don't have to do the moving, and he can declutter around the "keep" items. Alternatively, you could get a few very large bins, and put precious items in there, which he can leave and you can sort through later to see if more needs to go.

For me, the need to keep/control has gradually lessened with practice. The first couple times letting go of something that's begging me to keep it is very, very hard. The key is to have it thought out rationally beforehand (this item is useless to me, I don't need it, I can hold on to memories even if I get rid of it) and use that to get past my emotions (I want it, I can't let it go, what if I need it in 15 years?) Once I successfully resist a compulsion a few times, it has less of a hold on me.
post #11 of 88
I have the piles of "valuable" stuff waiting to be sold as well... I managed to persuade myself to get rid of the things that could be sold, but wouldn't be worth much, but there's still a pile of things that I need to sell, and can't find the motivation...

I've found that short, repeated episodes of decluttering really help. The first time get rid of the obvious junk, and the happiness at seeing clear spaces and gradually getting organised really helps me get rid of more things the next time I declutter - even if I'd previously thought it "had" to be kept!
post #12 of 88
My mom is a hoarder like you described. I second the idea for contacting an auction house or otherwise asking ladies at your church and seeing if you could arrange it all to be donated for some sort of church yardsale/auction for either the church's benefit or for donations to your family.

I am OCD but more of in the controlling, decluttering way. I throw away too much good stuff (well, donate to Salvation Army). I would get some help from a psychologist when you feel more up to it, but taking that first step to getting it cleared our really will help. And you're at least talking about it here, which is a great sign!
post #13 of 88
I feel your pain from personal experience , I also used to live with an OCD hoarder and I was the one who threw away all of the wrong things I was just trrying to help I feel awful now knowing it is a real disorder.

I suspect that I have a problem of this nature, but with books. I occasionally go through spurts though where I have the energy to do what I need to do, and I try to take advantage.

Flylady has helped motivate me, but I have adapted it to suit my needs.

I'm not sure I am being any help
post #14 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by BelovedK View Post
I feel your pain from personal experience , I also used to live with an OCD hoarder and I was the one who threw away all of the wrong things I was just trrying to help I feel awful now knowing it is a real disorder.
I don't think that you should feel that bad.

Yes, it's hard for the hoarder. It's painful for the hoarder. It's upsetting for the hoarder.

It's also hard, painful, and upsetting _for the family_.

It's the hoarder's home. It's also the family's home.

And if it comes down to the point where you have to throw out or move some stuff without the hoarder's permission, in order to have a home that you can live in without being miserable every hour of every day, in order to feel that you even _have_ a home rather than being an unwelcome guest under your own roof, in order to live your life and make any use of your own home?

If it comes down to that? You throw out some stuff. Or you move some stuff, or you rearrange some stuff, or you declare that _these rooms_ are going to be hoard-free, even if the entire rest of the house belongs to the stuff. Or if you have to, you move out.

You declare that, "I also have a right to have a home." And you act on that. Gently, and with as little upset to the hoarder as possible, but you act on it.

The hoarder is important. _And so is everybody else_.

Crayfish
post #15 of 88
I have the same type of issues. In the past, when we've had a house with a garage and an attic, they end up STUFFED with stuff. The one closet we have here is full to the gills. I've finally gotten to the point where I can keep the main parts of the house free of clutter (feels so good) but at one time we had stacks of magazines, newspapers, kids clothes that were too small, toys that were broken, etc. I kept all of it because I always knew I would do "something" with it. Of course, there was great stuff mixed in with the junk, but as I never used it, I had to realize it was worthless to me.

To move past my issues, I've had to get over the "I'll sell/fix it" thinking and just give it to a charity or toss it. I usually schedule a time to have ARC come to pick up the stuff that is not trash and then I scramble and get it done right beforehand. I also always enlist friends and family to help. I cannot do it alone. I also cannot do 15 min at a time. I have to sit down and just do it.

If it was me in that situation, I would ask for help from friends/family, set aside a weekend to get it done, schedule ARC or another charity that picks up to come that Monday morning, the contractors to come Tuesday and just do it. That would motivate me enough that I would have to do it.

The anxiety can be overwhelming but if you can move past it, it is freeing. Unfortunately, for me it is an ongoing process.
post #16 of 88
I didn't read others' response except for your post but I thought maybe you could do this. You could contact the "Clean House" from a reality TV show but I don't know their time frame to pick the house to clean.

The first link gives you a general idea of what the show is about. Just in case if have no clue about this show. The 2nd link is to apply for the show. The 3rd link has decluttering and other tips.

http://www.mystyle.com/mystyle/shows...ouse/index.jsp

http://www.mystyle.com/mystyle/shows...ontv/index.jsp

http://www.mystyle.com/mystyle/shows...oads/index.jsp
post #17 of 88
I don't know if this would help or just take more time than it's worth and add to your anxiety (in which case you should just disregard it as advice), but I log charitable contributions on itsdeductible.com. It doesn't cost anything to register for and use the site and it makes me feel better. I hate just throwing things away and hate to ever throw something away that someone could get use out of, and I get that nagging feeling, too, that some stuff is really good and would be worth selling. Doing this helps alleviate those feelings. I feel like I'm being financially responsible (especially now that I can itemize taxes, but even before), ridding my home of unnecessary clutter, and helping a worthy cause. Plus, just the act of listing things helps me feel in control and like I'm making progress toward my goal. And, it's also helped me figure out that line between what IS actually useful for someone else and what is actually broken, etc., and just needs to be trashed.

It has also really helped me to pick a charity to donate to that is close to my home and really easy to use. I don't feel like I have to plan (or make a phone call) or accumulate a certain amount. I can just load up a bag (or have my husband load up 10) and take them there pretty much any time, since it's right down the street. They also have a very easy drop off system and long hours.
post #18 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by kittywitty View Post
My mom is a hoarder like you described. I second the idea for contacting an auction house or otherwise asking ladies at your church and seeing if you could arrange it all to be donated for some sort of church yardsale/auction for either the church's benefit or for donations to your family.

I am OCD but more of in the controlling, decluttering way. I throw away too much good stuff (well, donate to Salvation Army). I would get some help from a psychologist when you feel more up to it, but taking that first step to getting it cleared our really will help. And you're at least talking about it here, which is a great sign!
i so do this too... i get rid of everything

op, my only advice is do you have anyone who you trust who could help you? if you lived in my state id come over and help you sort
post #19 of 88
While I was pregnant, I worked with a professional organizer to help with some parts of the house. Expensive, but worth it. Counseling would be lower cost if your insurance covers it, and could be very effective.

You can watch back episodes of Hoarders (the tv show) here:
http://www.aetv.com/hoarders/video/index.jsp Some of the episodes may be disturbing, especially while pregnant, but it is educational + motivating. Some things to consider:
* what impact does the hoarding have on the children in the family?
* why is the person unwilling to donate or throw away ____? often, a person perceives value ... but if you have 1,000 items each worth 25-cents, is it really worth hundreds of dollars a year in lost space to store them?
* does the person have a hoarding problem or an organization problem or a shopping problem?
* anxiety plays a huge role in hoarding. The person is thinking, what if I need a _______ and I have thrown it away?

Next, consider the impact that donating or recycling or throwing away just one bag of items has. Done every day, you can slowly make visible improvement.

Write down your reasons to declutter:
* set good example for kids
* safe home for kids
* marital harmony
* easier to clean
* less stressful postpartum period with twins!
When things get tough, refer to the list.

Your proposed attic renovation will go best with the attic empty. Not easy to do I know. s

Start with one small area. Even 15 minutes of work will make a difference. Look for "easy" ways to declutter (donate/recycle/trash/free box at the curb) versus internet postings. You don't have time for internet listings! Consider posting a "before" picture and "after" pictures of one area ... if you think it could help motivate you!
post #20 of 88
All great advice here. I have a similar problem and have passed it on to my ds, it seems. We co-conspire to keep dh from throwing out our stuff.
Is there a Freecycle in your area? If you have a category of things (kitchen stuff, kids' stuff, etc.) you can often post a "bag of xx to go to the one who will take it all), and then you can at least get rid of it all, leave it to the one who picks it up to decide what is trash or whatever.
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