Are you living in a house that is so cluttered and messy you think you’re beyond help? Maybe your clutter problem has gotten so bad it’s affecting your job, or your relationships with others? If nothing else is working, here’s what to do if you have so much stuff you can’t even see your floors.
If you’ve gotten yourself into a situation like this, you need to know that the origin of the problem is not physical.
This level of extreme clutter (or hoarding) tends to occur following traumatic life events like divorce and death, but it can also be a cumulative representation of a life that you just aren’t happy with.
Clutter really is a state of mind:
Our surroundings reflect what is going on inside.
If your house is seemingly beyond help, what can you do?
It can be very hard to even know what the root of the problem is when you are living this way. When you exist in an environment like this every day, it becomes normal to you, and it is hard to recognise what might be going on emotionally.
You have a few options when faced with total clutter devastation, but you must first admit to yourself that extreme clutter is more of an emotional issue than a physical one.
Many people successfully work through their own issues, but many others need help. There is no shame in that at all. It is extremely brave to stand up and admit that you can’t do it on your own.
Just as it is extremely brave (and potentially harder work), to do the job yourself.
You know you better than anyone else in the world.
Deep down, if you are really honest, you know what you need to do.
Be ready for the emotional reactions
The actual process of clearing clutter and keeping it clear can be incredibly beneficial. It can release years of negative emotions, help you forgive and move on, and help you find peace with your past.
It can also reveal uncomfortable feelings, prompt a sensation of insecurity and vulnerability, and break down walls of protection that have been in place for a long time.
Be gentle with yourself and know that there IS a better way than the way you are living right now.
Where to begin
Here are my suggestions for getting started when things are really bad:
Got help? Do a head-on, all-out attack
This works best if you can enlist one or more helpers:
- Mark the day in your calendar
- Hire a skip if needed
- Make sure a trusted friend/family member is free to be with you
Spend a weekend getting the worst of the clutter out of the way. Don’t seek perfection (you can’t clear this much in one day unless you really are prepared to throw most of it in a skip). Instead aim to deal with BIG items.
Don’t start unpacking everything. Instead tackle excess and broken furniture, junk, rubbish, magazines, broken stuff, recycling, and all the easy things.
The plan should be to scale back the chaos to something more manageable that you can then tackle piecemeal.
Going it alone? Start with one room
If you’re going it alone, you need to work on getting one area clear.
This will provide the motivation to keep you going and give you a refuge from the rest of the house. At a minimum you need to maintain a reasonably tidy bedroom, a functional kitchen, and an accessible bathroom.
Pick one of these rooms (the bathroom is often easiest) and get started. Put everything that doesn’t belong in there into one of the non-essential areas of your house. This option is good if you have reached a point where you are committed to change. It will give you breathing space to start work, and provide a sense of relief in the areas that you use the most.
It is NOT a good idea if you aren’t really sure if you can get rid of anything. You may just end up filling up the newly created space with more stuff and doubling the problem.
The greatest skill you will learn in your journey to a life with less stuff is self-acceptance. And it is a skill – because it takes a lot of practice to get there.
Can’t deal with any of it? Call in an expert
Finally, as a last resort, you may need professional help.
Only you can know if this is the case. Search deep down and ask yourself if you think you can get out of this on your own. We all have an inner strength and commitment that goes beyond our expectations. Is yours in there? Can you do it? If the answer is no, a professional organiser, or possibly a series of sessions with a counsellor might be the best approach to get you unstuck.
The first steps are the hardest. Once you have started your journey, you can find a wealth of information in books, online, and here on this site to keep you going in the right direction.
Useful (UK) resources:
I wish you peace and happiness on your quest.