Death By Clutter: Sometimes Your Mess Can Kill You

We’re all guilty of amassing clutter in some form. Whether it’s a stack of magazines that you keep meaning to read, a smattering of clothing that you haven’t got around to hanging up, or your collection of tchotchkes that do nothing but sit and look pretty while collecting dust. For the most part, our clutter is manageable.

But what happens when these seemingly innocuous piles of stuff multiply, joining other supposedly benign piles until they form one continuous mountain of trash? If you are sharing your home with a Mount Vesuvius of things and find it impossible to part with them, you are likely a hoarder.

What is a hoarder?

A hoarder is an individual who accumulates and retains objects or animals in excess. These possessions begin to interfere with the hoarder’s ability to function in their family, employment, and social roles.

What does a hoarder’s home look like?

If any of the following statements describe your home, your hoarding problem is out of control and poses a danger to everyone who lives there.

-  Your home does not have a pathway throughout the house that is at least three feet wide.

-  You do not have safe access to all rooms in the house.

-  Your floor joists have been strained by the piles of stuff that they have been bearing.

-  You have windows or doors that are blocked off by possessions.

Why is hoarding dangerous?

Falls. Hoarders run a high risk of tripping over stray clutter or setting off an avalanche of falling items within their home.

Pathogens. Dust, dirt, insects, rodents and rodent feces, are more plentiful in the homes of hoarders–all of which can lead to respiratory illness, skin conditions, and various diseases.

Stress. Hoarders live in a constant state of chaos, which is extremely stressful. They run the risk of withdrawing, becoming anti-social, or suffering from acute depression. Relationships suffer as family members and friends find it more and more difficult to cope. Hoarding parents also run the risk of having their children removed from the home.

Collapse. The weight of stacked magazines and newspapers and other assorted hoarded items can compromise the integrity of the home, itself, leading to sagging or collapsed floors.

Fire. If fire should break out, hoarders often find themselves trapped. Due to the overwhelming amount of combustibles present, flames tend to spread quickly. That coupled with the fact that passageways and doors are often blocked, equates to disaster for anyone within the home.

Sadly, hoarding stories with tragic endings are becoming more common. In November of 2013, a fifty-five-year-old New Hampshire man succumbed to smoke inhalation when neighbors and first responders were unable to make their way into the home. The doors were blocked by clutter.

On December 5, 2013, an elderly London couple were found dead in each other’s arms after a blaze whipped through their home. A tea light candle ignited the fire, and due to the enormous volume of contents within the home, the flames spread very quickly.

In August of 2010, a Las Vegas woman was discovered buried beneath a pile of refuse in her home. The woman had been reported missing by her husband four months earlier. Police and sniffer dogs had searched the home several times prior to the discovery of her body, but due to the extreme odor within the home, they were unable to pick up her scent. Her husband came across her body when he was cleaning out a back room that he referred to as her “rabbit hole.”

Yes, clutter can sneak up on you and take over your life. If you fear that your clutter is getting out of control, you need to take action immediately. Start clearing “things” out of your life and if the job seems too big to tackle, contact a local health professional.

What tips do you have for de-clutting a home?

Kimberley Laws is a freelance writer and avid blogger. She is a social media addict who has written a barrage of stories on social media marketing, blogging tips, and online technology degrees. You can follow her at The Embiggens Project and Searching for Barry Weiss.

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Too Many Things to Do! Your Brain in Overload

Clutter can take the form of too many things to do with too little time. Clear your schedule by removing the things that are not your biggest priority. Focus on the 3 things that will really move you toward your BIG goals. Try it – you will feel a huge sense of satisfaction and much less frustration!

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Top 10 Things Clients Say When Getting Organized!

I love this list. It was sent to me from a fellow professional organizer in the bay area. It seems we all hear the same things! Do any of these sound familiar to you?

1. Oooooo! THAT’S where that is!

2. Is this the worst you’ve ever seen?

3. I thought I’d lost that! Now I have two. Can’t believe I bought another when it was right here the whole time.

4. *Gasp!* Where did you find that? I’ve been looking EVERYWHERE for that!

5. Why didn’t I do this earlier?

6. While going through Memorabilia: “Awwww! I had forgotten all about that [vacation, trip, hike, etc.]”

7. I can’t believe I still have this!

8. That’s not even mine!

9. Why in the world do I own this? No body wants this–not even me.

10. What in the world IS that? I don’t even know what that is!


Reproduced from and courtesy of Kiera Rain    Bay Area Professional Organizer


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Myth #12 About Clutter and Getting Organized

Myth # 12

I am a hoarder

Just because you have too much stuff does not make you a hoarder. Less than 10% of all people are hoarders. Hoarding is a diagnosable mental disease. It is most likely that you probably simply have too much stuff. If you have more than most people that you know and have a few hoarding tendencies, it is probably because the circumstances in your life have invited one or more of clutter’s best friends to visit you: death, disease, divorce or depression, it is likely that you are not an actual hoarder. If you still feel like you truly are a hoarder, get yourself checked out by a medical professional.

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Myth #11 About Clutter and Getting Organized

Myth #11

If there is open space in my closet, desk or drawer, I should fill it up with something.

Some people cannot stand having any surface open. If it is empty, they want to immediately fill it up.

It is a great exercise to have at least one area in your home that has absolutely nothing in or on it. Not only is it good feng shui which creates a vacuum for good things to enter, it helps you realize that most possessions require a lot of time cleaning and maintaining. Dusting off an empty shelf takes about two seconds. Dusting a shelf full of trophies can take over 10 minutes! What is more valuable – your time or your possessions? This is absolutely your choice and whether you realize it or not, you do choose every time you bring something new into your home.

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Myth #10 About Clutter and Getting Organized

Myth #10

I might really need this some day

One of my clients came up with a brilliant idea all on her own. She now stores the things she might need in her own personal store! She practices going in and out of Target and Costco without making one single purchase. Her ‘not buying’ muscle is now as strong as her ‘letting go’ muscle. She knows that if she truly does need something later, it is a short car ride away!

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Myth #9 About Clutter and Getting Organized

Myth #9

I need to keep this in order to remember what fun we had that trip!

Your memory will not disappear when the item leaves your possession. Even if you do develop alzheimer’s, which is an argument I commonly hear, with no disrespect, the item won’t help you remember it any better!

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Myth #8 About Clutter and Getting Organized

Myth #8

I need storage containers before I can get organized.

So many clients rush out to buy containers thinking that this will solve all of their organizing woes. Until you determine what you want to contain and how much of it there is to contain, buying containers is senseless. In fact, boxes, bags and containers are one of the leading contributors to clutter.

So follow this procedure BEFORE you buy any containers. Collect, group, eliminate and then and only then are you ready to think about containerizing!

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Myth #7 About Clutter and Getting Organized

Myth #7

Clutter is a bunch of junk that I should be able to get rid of on my own.

There are actually 2 myths in this statement.

#1 Clutter is a bunch of junk

#2 You should be able to get rid of it on your own!

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Myth #6 About Clutter and Getting Organized

Myth #6

I have to keep this because my friend gave it to me.

It is always the thought that counts when it comes to giving and receiving gifts. Just because the person giving you the gift liked it, does not mean that you have to like it too. Also, even if you do like it, but you have several other similar items, you do not have to keep it. Thank them and quietly give it away to a charity that actually can use that item.

As you do this, the gift becomes more than it was. It is a big sign of disrespect to hoard items that you do not love, use or need. Move the gift forward and magnify it’s reach by helping someone else who actually does love or need it! I give you permission to let go of any gifts lying around that you have been holding onto because of guilt or a sense of obligation.

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