Clutter vs. Hoarding

by | Asheville Organizing, Clutter

Are they the same thing? Hoarding from all the research I’ve conducted and the experiences I’ve had with the many people I’ve helped is really people having a lot of possessions that they’ve held on to and a lot of the time they collect and hold on to things like pieces of trash that they just can’t get rid of.  Their living space gets to the place where it could be very unhealthy for the occupant. It usually takes the love and care of a close family member or friend to have these people get the help they need.

According to, in 2013 hoarding disorder was named a distinct mental illness. Only 2% to 5% of people have this diagnosis. Some researchers think that for some people, severe hoarding may be a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Other studies suggest hoarding may sometimes be related to ADHD or dementia.  I personally don’t have the background to help in this area. If a family member needs help with clearing out their loved one’s possessions, I can help them with going through and clearing out what needs to be gone through. It usually is someone other than the occupant who makes the call to me.

Mostly my experience has been with people who just have had a lot of stuff and it “got away” from them.  They get surrounded by the chaos and are either in denial or they just don’t know where to start.  By the time they call me, they know that they really are ready to let go of some of their things and know that they need help. It’s hard to make that jump into the chaos on your own. These people want more order in their lives, but don’t have the information they need or someone to help them go through their things and gently guide them in the right direction of letting go.

My system is a little of KonMarie (The Art of Tidying Up) and a lot of common sense.  Depending on how bad it is, I see it as a game of Pac-Man if anyone is familiar with one of the first video arcade games that was out years ago.  Basically, like the game, I take chunks out of wherever or whatever room I’m working in, discarding as my clients look at and touch each thing. My clients have to have gotten to the place of being done with all of the things that they don’t use or care about and be willing to let me take them away. It’s difficult to work with someone who holds on to things just for the sake of holding on to it. I try to work with compassion and understanding, helping my clients see the truth about each object we are looking at, but sometimes I have to remember that I am working for them and they get to choose.  My idea is if there isn’t any pleasure for whatever reason for owning certain items, then why hold on to it?

The other thing that I see the same way as KonMarie is you really can’t organize an area until you discard everything that is going to go out. After you discard what isn’t wanted anymore, then you can decide where each item needs to be put or where it’s “home” is. Everything really has a place where it goes and where it feels right. You just have to take the time to find it.

Organizing and de-cluttering does bring peace of mind. There is a natural order to find and when you experience it, you can feel the relief.


This is an office before organization.  Couldn’t open the door. 










After a couple of sessions we’ve cleared an aisle in front of door, next to the closet.

The TV will be going there. 









More space opened up:









We’ve gotten to the other side:

OfficeOtherSideWe aren’t done yet. After many weeks and the office is the 4th area being worked on, the client needs to take a break. Understandably, it’s hard work, but oh so gratifying. Stay tuned for finished product.

So, clutter vs. hoarding. In my view, someone who is hoarding would not have the desire or motivation to have their home be pristine again. Cluttering is basically not having the information or the assistance they need to have the order that they want. It is not my intent to insult people with either of these problems, just to point out what I see as the truth.

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