March 01, 2020

Lose the clutter

Letting go for better health

Books and banana peels, bills and bicycle wheels. Do you control your stuff, or does your stuff control you? If you feel like you fall more into the second category, you're in league with millions of people who struggle to let go of accumulated belongings. For some, it's more than an annoyance. An estimated 2% to 6% of Americans have a psychological condition called hoarding disorder. This condition is about three times more likely to occur in the retirement years than in midlife.

In either case, too much clutter can complicate your life and force uncomfortable interactions with those close to you who also may be affected by the mess and possibly unsanitary conditions. Whether you or a loved one needs just a good spring cleaning or help from a doctor, there are effective ways to manage messes and regain control of your belongings.

Hoarding or collecting?

A key distinction between hoarding and collecting — or being messy or disorganized — is when the haphazard accumulation of stuff begins to interfere with your social life and the ability to do necessary work. Living spaces start to lose their functional value, such as a kitchen that can no longer be used to cook or eat a meal due to clutter. As possessions accumulate over time, the health, safety and well-being of the person may be put at risk. If numerous pets are involved, the health hazard to both humans and animals greatly escalates.

The risks of hoarding to health and well-being include: