DD is definitely one of those kids who wants to keep all of her toys, down to little plastic pieces of trash. For years, this has been a struggle. When she was younger, I could have DH take her somewhere and I'd declutter it. But, while that hasn't caused tears (she didn't know what I did) certain toys did get asked about sooner or later. I didn't like this method, it seemed dishonest, and admitting that I threw away something she was asking about also seemed really lousy.
When she was 4 or 5 I started trying to get her cooperation in decluttering, allowing her to choose. That didn't work well either. It didn't upset her but I'd get very little decluttered. She'd give me about 6 toys, 4 of them clearly trash anyway. (Out of hundreds, maybe thousands - we have a BAD toy clutter problem even though DH and I only buy her 2 toys a year. It's the extended family).
So on Sunday, I was going through her books and made a pile of books that she has really outgrown. I showed her the pile and gave her the chance to look through all of them again. As I feared, her first impulse was to say "I want to keep that one!" to the first one in the pile. I knew where that was going, so I said she could pick out 3 and keep them. That made her happy. She actually ended up with 4 but I was satisfied. I got to declutter a good pile and she was happy.
I told DH about how that went and asked him if he thought I could do the same with the toys - I sort them out but give her a chance to choose a few to keep. That places the emphasis not on her choosing toys to get rid of (and giving her a quota once was absolutely painful) but ones to KEEP. So we tried it. I filled a huge bin full of stuff I didn't think was worth keeping, things I didn't see her playing with anymore. Most of it so worthless I don't even plan to freecycle it though I'm one of those tree-huggers who can't bear to throw stuff away. I gave her the bin and told her to pick out 5 things to keep. She did. It went really well. She didn't challenge the premise of the exercise, didn't even challenge the number I gave her. She picked out 5 items. The last one she spent a little time at, choosing among a few possibles. But no tears. I was even prepared to be a little flexible with the numbers. I would have happily kept, say, 8 items as long as we could get rid of the box and keep her happy.
She is now really excited that her toys are organized. And I think this exercise kept our trust strong, too. She didn't have to patrol me while I went through the toys, because not even one broken plastic doll arm went into the trash that she didn't review.
Hmm... I don't think that would work for a hard core hoarder. I know a family that was on the TV show and the hoarder there would select everything to take back.
It might help people more on the "pack rat" part of the continuum - the ones who have clutter but not at the level of mental illness (being unable to stop hoarding despite how negatively it affects family, work, health, etc).
BTW the Great 2011 Toy Declutter Success is still ongoing - DD is still enjoying her toys more than she used to (because all similar toys are together so she can play as a set, and she can FIND them), she is voluntarily putting the toys back away when she is done, and I've noticed she has been keeping her toy house spic and span (it's kind of a tent house and there's a toy kitchen, table and chairs in there - plus dishes, toy wooden food, etc - so it can get to be quite a mess - but she's got all her stuff organized. On her own.) .
Just more on hard core hoarding - part of the problem is that hoarders don't have good decision making capability. So if you give them a piece of trash, they have a hard time deciding it's trash. They have a hard time prioritizing. So if you give them a bin of trash and ask them to pick 3 things to keep, they would shut down just as much. The hoarder I know would probably spend days making this decision. From a box of trash. And after that he'd not really feel peace about it.
Thankfully, this proves DD is a pack rat and not a hoarder! I define pack rats as people who have a harder time than average in letting things go, or who see more value in things that other people consider to be without value. But who don't let it get in the way of their relationships, lives, health, etc.
True, I understand that wouldn't work for all hoarders, but lots of the shows are dealing with people who are under a deadline so they don't get their kids taken away, their spouses don't leave them, etc. The mental illness needs to be dealt with after that initial "get it together to get the kids back" period.
Good distinction between hoarder and packrat! My grandmom is a packrat. Her house is clean, very functional, but very, very cluttered. She loves to go to flea markets and yard sales, buy all kinds of useful things she doesn't need, but regularly goes through her storage shed, bedrooms and closets, and gives things away to her family and friends she thinks they may need. She has no problem getting rid of things, but still has tons and tons of stuff. She does know where everything is that she's looking for, too.