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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule your free 30-minute consultation and learn about how we can help you compassionately clear your extreme clutter.
Image credit: http://countylive.ca/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/hoarding.jpg