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7 Brilliant Decluttering Tips for Hoarders and Pack Rats

Get rid of the paralyzing clutter in your home with these simple decluttering tips for hoarders and pack rats.

The title of this article could somewhat be misleading since the term hoarding is most often associated with people who suffer from a condition known as compulsive hoarding or hoarding disorder.

A true hoarder needs professional help in order to deal with their disorder. In this article when we refer to hoarders, we are actually speaking of the habit of some people to hold onto useless or excess items or in other words to people who may often be referred to as a pack rat.

If you are a pack rat or know someone that is, then understanding why you need to hold onto so many items will help you or them to stop the behavior and declutter their home.

Cluttered garage and text overlay that says, "7 Decluttering tips for hoarders and pack rats".


Reasons Why People Tend to Be Pack Rats

Here are some typical reasons why people tend to be pack rats.

Fear of Not Having Things They Need When They Need them

Many people who grew up having very little and having to struggle for everything they did have can result in the subconscious need for people to save things that may be used or re-purposed later.

Even if those people later become successful, the worry of doing without may still make them keep things that to other people may seem worthless or unnecessary.

This mindset can then be passed down from generation to generation. Most of us know someone who has a drawer full of rubber bands, or three or four blenders or too many knives in their kitchen drawers.

The Belief that You Will Use Some Things Later

If you know someone who typically hoards one type of thing, such as 20 years worth of magazines, or those clothes in their closet that they have outgrown, then it may be due to their belief that eventually things will slow down and they will have time to catch up on reading those magazines, or will lose weight and be able to wear those outfits again.

Some people keep broken items because they fully plan on using them later, but the later never comes.

Too Many Collections

Some pack rats start out finding something they like (such as a doll collection, spoons, or train sets) and then their interests change and they decide to collect something else, but they can’t bear to part with their old collections they spent so much time to amass.

There are many other reasons as well, but the three reasons above will give you some idea, why some people’s homes become clutter with items that are unnecessary, useless, or broken.

Understanding how things accumulate will help you to rid yourself of the clutter and change your behavior.

7 Simple Decluttering Tips for Hoarders and Pack Rats

Here are some useful tips for hoarders or pack rats.

Decluttering tips for hoarders

#1. Start by Stopping Clutter

Decluttering your home isn’t going to do much good if you are going to continue to save or buy those items you don’t really need and have no place for.

So the first step in decluttering your home is to stop bringing in more items that will clutter up your living space.

#2. Start Small

Once your home has become filled with clutter, the thought of cleaning up the clutter can be overwhelming.

While decluttering your entire home may seem too overwhelming, you can break everything down into smaller tasks.

Decide to declutter just one room and if that still feels too overwhelming, then consider decluttering just one small area like a desk or your kitchen table.

By breaking down your decluttering efforts into small doable steps the job won’t feel so overwhelming. And once you clean one area, you feel much more successful and more able to move on to the next area.

Related: How to Declutter Your Home When You Feel Overwhelmed by the Mess

#3. Visually Track Your Progress

Take a picture before tackling a decluttering task, then take another once the task is completed.

Visually being able to see your progress will help you keep motivated and make you feel good about what you have accomplished.

#4. Start With the Areas You Can See

Even if your closet is bursting at the seams and your drawers can barely shut due to all the clutter, decluttering these hidden places won’t make you feel as though you are making much progress unless you declutter those areas you see all the time first.

Once you have decluttered the tops of your tables, stands and countertops and your floors and furniture and can see and feel the difference whenever you walk into a room, you will feel better about yourself and your living area and can then attack those hidden areas one small area at a time.

#5. Get Rid of the Obvious Trash First

Get a garbage bag and begin by throwing out what is obvious garbage first, such as last month’s grocery list, and those old to-do lists.

Most people have little problem throwing away those types of items that they never meant to collect in the first place.

Once you have thrown away the trash, you will be more willing and able to get rid of those things you’ve been saving, but don’t really need.

#6. Organize as You Go

In some cases, the clutter in your home is due more to poor organization than in actually having too many things.

If you organize as you declutter you will know what you have space for and what you don’t. It will also allow you to see if you have too many of any one thing.

#7. Get Help if You Need it

In most cases, you don’t have to go it alone. Most people have friends or family members that will come in for a couple of hours and help you work on decluttering.

Even if they only pick up trash, dust the shelves or help you organize, the help can make a big difference when the task seems too big for you to tackle alone.

Questions to Ask Yourself to Help You Declutter

Sometimes we simply don’t know what to keep and what to throw away or give away. To help you decide, here are some questions you can ask yourself whenever you are in doubt.

  1. Have I used this item in the last 6 months?
  2. Do I really need this item?
  3. Can the item easily be replaced should I need it later?
  4. Will keeping this item make my life happier, more convenient, or healthier?
  5. Do I have a specific place for this item?

Final Thoughts

Decluttering your home may take you some time and you may have to go slowly at first, but once you make up your mind to start you will be surprised how much difference it can make to your enjoyment of your home.

Related Decluttering Articles:

Tips to help a hoarder declutter

Decluttering ideas for hoarders

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Tuesday 5th of December 2023

When you have collections, mine is various types of ceramics, go through and donate any that are poor quality, damaged or that you are not keen on.If you are not sure if they should go or not, pack them up well, put them in a sturdy box and put them in the loft, or shed or wherever you store your Christmas stuff. When you put away the Xmas decks you'll know whether to donate them, unpack them or procrastinate for another year.


Wednesday 22nd of February 2023

I don’t consider myself a hoarder,but I have a life full of good stuff,most of the stuff been used thru my life time, I hate to just give it to secondhand stores,which I feel I may get some money out ot these I hold on to these things I haven’t used in 30 years, so anyone have idea how to sell some of these

Jose de Leon

Friday 23rd of September 2022

At the end of each month I do a purge. I go through all of my collections of what ever and get rid of multiples, get rid of damaged items ot things I haven't used in 3 months. I also purge the garage or clothes, plants in my greenhouse, in the car, in my office etc.

Dawn Bartholomew

Friday 1st of July 2022

I'm a pack rat. Inherited it from my Father. My parents were born in the 1930's. Not having much at all, my father savored everything he was able to save, he saved it. I try to keep my hoarding to one room only. My bedroom. My husband and I have our own bedrooms. He always makes the comment, what if the paramedics, ever have to get in here, to help you, or possibly even save your life. They would never find me lol. But a very good statement! Hopefully this may help someone else. Ask yourself... Would the paramedics be able to get through your home, to get to you?


Saturday 5th of June 2021

My problem is that if it's useful I feel bad throwing it away. Sturdy boxes, Plastic containers , tin boxes are all useful so it just seems so wasteful to throw it in the trash. I suppose I need to get over that since I don't have anywhere to store these things.


Thursday 26th of January 2023

@Stacey, i feel the same way! There's A group called sign up and list those items on there. People look for all different items you would never think people would want. I am fortunate to have a store called Savers down the street for me as well. Savers is like a goodwill store. They sell items at very discounted prices...clothes furniture and household items. Things that are gently used. I have 4 (now older) kids but 3 still live with us. I have 1 son so it's easy to bag up all his clothes he's outgrown. Same with my youngest daughter.

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