Sorting Your Clutter

Choosing What to Sort #3

Hey Collectors!

If you have been following my blog, we have been doing a series on where to begin. Don’t forget to check out the other blogs on where to begin. You can view the previous step Preparing to Sort here:

simple sorting

Today we are going to talk about deciding WHAT to sort. I get this question a lot. What do I chose to start? What should I sort first? I am going to suggest that you read this blog once before you make some decisions and then read again as you determine what to sort.

If your house is completely chaotic with stuff everywhere, it may be a challenge to figure out where to start.

I personally love filing paperwork, but this is not a good place to start. Don’t begin with paperwork because this involves lots of follow up, work, making decisions such as whether to file or shred, you may need additional information, etc. This requires a lot of effort and I believe it is better to start out with something a little easier.

Don’t start with photos either because there is usually a large amount and not much reward because of the volume. Photos tend to trigger memories, both good and bad, and can take us down the road of the past and future. You could easily become distracted.

I suggest you start with recycling. Many people are concerned that their garbage may contain some recycling materials. If you feel like your garbage has some recyclables this might be a good place to start. You can make a big dent in this area AND it sets you up for success that you can build upon.

Choose a small area you feel ok to declutter, that doesn’t give you anxiety and where you can easily fill your “to go through” box.

The garage or attic is another good place to begin. If you haven’t been in these areas in five, ten, twenty years or more, that will actually help you. It is a good place to start because you tend to have a lot less attachment to things you haven’t seen in a long time then items that are on the dining room table that you see everyday.

Another easy area is the kitchen. You might not have been in the kitchen in a while. It tends to be easy to release expired, moldy and contaminated items. Don’t worry about putting everything perfectly in your containers. Stuff may not fit and that is okay; place those items neatly next to your box to go through.

Start small and make good decisions. Find a space in your home where you are ok with decluttering. Maybe an area where you have old, crusty art supplies that are you know you could release. Or the bathroom with makeup that is past its shelf life. Find things that are easy to let go of. You will gain a great sense of accomplishment going through these items. Don’t make it hard in beginning or you may stop sorting.

Once you have found an area, start placing items in your “go through” box and go to your sorting station. Stay focused and just put stuff in your box. Maybe put a piece of bright colored poster board where you’re decluttering so you know where your station is and can easily find it each time. If you need to, throw a blanket over other stuff so it doesn’t distract you.

Remember, take your time putting your items in your box and not being a perfectionist about the process. This will provide a solid foundation of items to go through.

Have your Keep, Donate, Important, Recycling and Garbage bags by your sorting station.

Next month we are going to talk about Keeping vs. Donating. If you can’t wait check out the podcast!

How do you like to sort when you are decluttering? By color, size, item? What has been the biggest challenge for you when it comes to sorting? Share your comments below.

Sorting is only the beginning of getting organized and reducing your clutter. Collector Care can help! Call Collector Care at 925.548.7750 or email to schedule your free 30-minute consultation to discuss how we can help you with decluttering, hoarding, extreme clutter and getting organized.

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Extreme Clutter VS Hoarding

Hey Collectors!

I was asked the other day about clutter and how much was too much. You can have varying degrees of clutter. One of the ways Collector Care supports clients is by clearing extreme clutter. Extreme clutter is more common than most people realize. Here is what I consider to be extreme clutter:

When areas of the home cannot be accessed, rooms that you aren’t able to get into for years or even decades; rooms that aren’t able be used for the intention such as being able to shower in the bathroom or cook in the kitchen.

picture of hoarders

Hoarding vs. Extreme Clutter

You can have extreme clutter in only one area such as the attic. If you can’t use the room as it is intended, walk through the room, or if an emergency crew can’t access it because it isn’t clear, it is extreme clutter.

You can be a hoarder and have extreme clutter. You can have extreme clutter and NOT be a hoarder. Sometimes with extreme clutter someone has been physically or mentally unable take care of themselves, his or her home, or pets. This happens when you can’t move boxes or take out the trash. For example, seniors with dementia or the onset of Parkinson’s disease and no one is aware of what has happened.

Many times people with extreme clutter don’t ask for help. They don’t know or understand how dangerous the situation has become; they are embarrassed; or they do not want to be seen as a burden. A situation can go downhill fast. For example, a leak in the bathroom turns into a pipe bursting because they were embarrassed to call someone to fix the leak because of all the clutter. Now there is a non-working bathroom due to extreme clutter.

Most of my clients are not technically hoarders. Hoarders have strong attachment to items. Someone might not care and would like to get the stuff out of their homes and have NO attachment, but can’t physically or mentally make it happen. A hoarder can have an attachment towards trash. Hoarding and extreme clutter can intermix, but whether or not the person has an attachment is the main issue to determine if it is hoarding or extreme clutter.

Challenges to overcome

Physical. With extreme clutter you may be on a shaky foundation. An avalanche may happen because many times things are stacked to the ceiling. You might misjudge and might move the wrong item and an entire pile comes crashing down.

There is always lots of dust and this can cause breathing issues. Many of my clients have CPAP machines and they have large amounts of dust in them from the extreme clutter.

Mold or rodent damage is also a result of extreme clutter. Pets also don’t like clutter and start to relieve themselves in the home. Someone might not be able to physically take out the pets, and pet feces and urine are everywhere. Mold, rodent damage and pet feces and urine are hazardous to your health.

From a mental perspective, many of my clients don’t want to let go of items they spent their hard earned money buying. They have worked their entire lives and it is hard to let go of what they paid for. They tend to hang on to stuff with the intent to cosign or give it away, but that never happens.

No No No

If you have a friend or a loved one who has extreme clutter, do not judge them! This includes facial expressions and muttering. The last thing you want to do is hurt their feelings. They already feel horrible whether or not they show it.

Do not go in and throw stuff out when they are gone for a weekend or in the hospital. If you do this, it will stress them out and make the situation worse. It is okay to make sure there are no safety issues, but do not attempt a massive clear out without them there.

How to Help

Take it slow and earn their trust. Take the person out of their home and spend time with them. Create a bond and begin a conversation about what needs to change. Don’t make it all about the cutter. Talk about other things and learn about them and their interests.

Also, let go of YOUR idea of what a perfect home is, and allow them to let go of stuff at their pace. It is better to slowly make decisions than to try and rush them through the process. Don’t be overly critical. Most of the advice you would like to give they have heard before and just have been unable to execute.

I encourage you to work with a therapist as well as a professional organizer if you can. With a team effort they will feel loved and supported.

It is going to take time to go through and get rid of extreme clutter. I always tell my clients let’s plan to work every Tuesday for the next six months to a year. They do not want to hear this at first as many people have unrealistic time expectations.

I also encourage my clients to make other healthy decisions about themselves while we work together including working with a therapist, diet, exercise, self care, etc.

Do you have extreme clutter? What is your definition of extreme clutter? Share in the comments below.

If you have extreme clutter, it may be a bit overwhelming or challenging to get started. I would encourage you to reach out for help. There are lots of services and people, including Collector Care, that can help you with your extreme clutter.

Are you surrounded by extreme clutter? Don’t be embarrassed! Collector Care can help you get organized and clear clutter so you can be surrounded by what you love and what brings you joy!

Call Collector Care at 925.548.7750 or email to schedule your free 30-minute consultation and learn about how we can help you compassionately clear your extreme clutter.

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Kindness: Pay It Forward

Hey Collectors!

I wanted to talk about kindness and paying it forward. I especially benefited from the kindness of others when I was growing up. While it may not exactly have to do with clutter, hoarding and organizing, I believe, especially now, we need kindness more than ever. Be kind to hoarders!

Because I work with hoarders and those who have extreme clutter, I can see how unkind and cruel people can be. I talked about hoarding and hygiene last month because many hoarders struggle in this area. Too often we are quick to judge and make fun of someone with out knowing the whole picture. If you knew someone became a hoarder because they lost a child, would you have more empathy? Have you ever judged someone and then went through an experience that opened your eyes to having more understanding? I believe what we put out we get back, so I would like to suggest being kind.

Being kind doesn’t have to cost anything. We can make the choice to be kind. I have a friend and colleague who is doing a random act of kindness each day this year. She chose to do this because she wanted to make a difference in some small way each day.

No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.


What is the kindest thing someone did for you? Have you ever done a random act of kindness for someone? Share your comments below.

Ways to be Kind

Here are some ways you can easily practice being kind:

1. Random acts. Have fun with this. Maybe you leave a note on someone’s car windshield to remind him or her they are loved. Or buy coffee for the person behind you in line at Starbuck’s. I have found many times when we spread these random acts of kindness it is exactly what someone needed in that moment.

2. Smiling. Talk about a freebie! How many times do we fail to look someone in the eye and offer a kind smile? When someone smiles at us, it makes us feel good. I try and do this when I see someone who is homeless because I feel acknowledging them is very important because most people ignore them. Many homeless are Veterans who served our country, are mentally ill or may have had a crisis that has forced them onto the street.

Smiling is contagious and I bet you find yourself doing it more once you start.

3. Lending an ear. We all want to be heard and valued. Sometimes people just need to vent or to be reminded that someone cares. Allowing someone to lighten his or her load can go a long way.

4. Taking action. When I was single, I appreciated a neighbor that would sometimes bring my garbage and recycling cans in for me. It was a small act, but it made me feel less alone. I have a friend that always goes out of her way to help seniors. She was very close to her grandmother but lived far away from her in her later years. A woman about her age lived next door and would always spend time taking with her grandmother. She remembered how

happy that made her grandmother and vowed to pay the kindness forward.

5. Volunteering. There are so many wonderful organizations and non-profits that could always use a hand. Check out my blog post about tips to be a good volunteer and some of my favorite charities in the Bay area:

Looking for some kind hearted help with your hoarding, extreme clutter, organizing or decluttering? Our compassionate crew can help! Collector Care helps people clear clutter and get organized, including working with hoarders and hording situations as well as extreme clutter.

Call Collector Care at 925.548.7750 or email to schedule your free 30-minute consultation.

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