Self-Help Tips & Techniques
San Francisco Bay Area Internet Guide for Extreme Hoarding Behavior
Supported by Peninsula Community Services, Inc



Check out some useful TIPS from others who have joined the SFMHA Support Groups.
Click this link for wise TIPS 2008      -      Click this link for wise TIPS 2009

Fire Safety Tips
If you do store large amounts of possession in and around your home, you can help keep yourself safe from fire by
following the advice below. These small, simple steps can easily be included in your regular weekly/daily clearance sessions.

How to Stop Hoarding by Wiki How with pictures

A "how to" stop hoarding before it starts getting out of hand; and a path to begin getting on the right track.

Help for Hoarders Resources, UK

ATM Clutter Challenge (Public)
Ready to get organized, once and for all? You've come to the right place!
Use this group as a resource, a place where you can ask questions and share decluttering strategies with others
who have decided to take control and get rid of all that unnecessary "stuff" that sometimes threatens to overtake our lives.

Clean Your Messy House in Six Months

Files and Financial Records 

How Long to Save Important Papers and Why


USNews, Money Section, September, 2011
By Heather Huhman

3 Reasons to Organize Your Work Station

How to save mementos for your kids

Get tips and ideas for saving and organizing your kids things
Childhood is so fleeting—it's hard not to want to keep every teddy bear
or handmade sweater for nostalgia's sake!
But unless you have a lot of space (and are very organized), it doesn't make
sense to hold on to everything.
Read on for suggestions on how to save the best memories, what to save and
what to toss, and tips for keeping it all organized for generations to come.

Compulsive Hoarding and 6 Tips to Help
By Therese J. Borchard
 ".....Fall 2007 Issue of The Johns Hopkins Depression & Anxiety Bulletin
an interview with Gerald Nestadt, M.D., M.P.H, Director of the Johns Hopkins
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Clinic and Jack Samuels, Ph.D.,
an Assistant Professor Samuels ..........says that hoarding belongs to a
syndrome which also includes:
  • Indecisiveness
  • Perfectionism
  • Procrastination
  •  Avoidance behaviors
  • Difficulty organizing tasks
Dr. Nestadt offers six anti-clutter strategies for compulsive hoarders:
  1. Make immediate decisions about mail and newspapers. Go through mail and newspapers on the day you receive them and throw away unwanted materials immediately. Don’t leave anything to be decided on later.
  2. Think twice about what you allow into your home. Wait a couple of days after seeing a new item before you buy it. And when you do purchase something new, discard another item you own to make room for it.
  3. Set aside 15 minutes a day to declutter. Start small–with a table, perhaps, or a chair–rather than tackling the entire, overwhelming house at once. If you start to feel anxious, take a break and do some deep-breathing or relaxation exercises.
  4. Dispose of anything you have not used in a year. That means old clothes, broken items, and craft projects you’ll never finish. Remind yourself that many items are easily replaceable if you need them later.
  5. Follow the OHIO rule [which apparently doesn't work in Ohio, because I'm from there]: Only Handle It Once. If you pick something up, make a decision then and there about it, and either put it where it belongs or discard it. Don’t fall into the trap of moving things from one pile to another, again and again.
  6. Ask for help if you can’t do it on your own. If you feel these strategies are impossible to carry out and you cannot cope with the problem on your own, seek out a mental health professional.

Dealing with ADD Procrastination in ADHD Adults
Interesting personal Blog web site with some good tips

This article may help when facing a crisis of any kind, even when faced with an overwhelming situation or task
such as dehoarding.
Huffington Post, January2009  
Resilience in the  Recession: Seven Strategies to Free Yourself From Negative Thinking
by Tamar Chansky, Ph.D.
"Adjusting effectively to this new reality means appreciating that just because there is a crisis going on, you can't
think and live in it all the time--because in crisis mode there's nothing for you to do but get immobilized with fear
and dread. In coping mode, however, there is much for you to do. Coping mode allows you to think at your best to
find creative solutions to extraordinary challenges and mobilize in response to new opportunities that may arise
unexpectedly. Here are seven specific strategies to keep you surviving and thriving in that optimal coping range."

From Organizer Colleen McDonnell Web Site: Set Me September 2012

  • About Books
    It’s time to assess your library. Are your bookcases overflowing? Or worse, do you
    have piles of books in the corners of your home? What about those unpacked boxes
    of books from your move 5 years ago? Check out these tips from SetMe Free
  • Household Organizing System

Ways To Avoid Hoarding Disorder January 18, 2011 
by Lee Moore, Yahoo

Delta Star Magazine, Louisiana, February 3, 2010
Green and Clean

Clutter Reducing Tips for 2010: Cut the Paper Trail and Closet Clean-Out
......"According to Ewer, an ABC household filing system includes:
Action File: a tabletop file for daily, short-term filing. Use an action file to organize bills for payment,
papers that require responses, and information that must be filed.
Basic Files: a household's working file system. Kept in a file cart, cabinet or drawer, basic files hold
medical insurance records, credit card statements, rent receipts and bank statements. Use basic files
for routine activities like bill paying, tax files, medical information and home maintenance.
Classic Files: archives for long-term file storage. Copies of tax returns and insurance policies,
homeowners' records, medical records, and copies of legal documents belong in classic files.
Use file cabinets or records boxes to protect these items for long-term storage.
Note: original documents such as insurance policies, legal documents, or tax records should be
stored in secure facilities such as safe deposit boxes. "......

Four Key Actions - Tips and Tricks

How to Declutter by
Taking 15 minutes a day and using FlyLady tips this could help.

How to Stop Accumulating Books from the WikiHow

The Gazette, Montreal, Jan. 10, 2009

Archives:Edit for posterity by Allen McGinnis
...on being selective about family documents
Interview of author Francois David on his  Booklet called Safely Stored but Not Forgotten-a guide to
preserving personal, family and financial documents. It spells out what to save and what to chuck.


Things I Had to Unlearn Before I Could Let go of My Clutter and Conquer Chronic Disorganization
by Ariane Benefit, M.S.Ed, an organizing consultant.

Pschology Today 10/26/2004
Hoarding: The Clean Sweep
Learn to let go and get rid of everyday junk, even if you think you might use it—someday.

Clutter Therapy

Are you overwhelmed by the state of your belongings? Perhaps you’re in need of some clutter therapy!

As springtime commonly brings on the desire to do some top to bottom cleaning, now would be a great time to consider clearing out some of the clutter in your home. Here are a handful of tips to get in the right clutter-free frame of mind:

  • A great way to get the upper hand on clutter is to use the five box method. First, get five large boxes and label them: Garbage; Give Away/Sell; Keep; Repair; and Undecided. Start in one area of your home and as you go through things, either put items away in their proper place or sort them into one of these boxes to be dealt with accordingly. Helpful hint: store the Undecided box away and after six months if you haven’t touched any items in it, get rid of them.
  • Clean up one area at a time. Trying to deal with all your clutter at once will just leave you feeling overwhelmed and discouraged. After all, it has taken you years to accumulate all that stuff – so don’t worry if you can’t get rid of it all in one day! Break the job down into manageable tasks - start with one particular room, the junk drawer, a closet or the surface of your desk. Don’t know where to begin? Start with the place where you spend the most time and go from there.
  • Learn to ignore the ‘I might need it later’ reason to hang on to something. Basements, closets, and other spots in your home are often filled to the brim with things that you ‘may need later’. Face it – most things are not worth hanging on to. Be brave and just let it go.
  • If you’re like me, every surface in your home is covered with candleholders, vases, figures and other various ornamental objects. Now as great as home accessories are, too many of them can result in an overall cluttered appearance. Try taking half of the items and store them away. Not only will this create a more modern minimalist look in your rooms, but you’ll also be able to get your dusting done much quicker! After six months, rotate items you have on display with some of the ones you put away – this is a great way to give your rooms a decorative change without having to buy new accessories!
  • When it comes to dealing with clutter, sometimes it’s a lot easier to alter the environment than it is to change your habits. For example, if you’re prone to throwing your coat on the nearest piece of furniture as opposed to hanging it in the closet, then why fight the system? Instead, get some hooks and hand them up beside the door. You’ll be more likely to hang your coat up on the hook than in the closet, so this method will not only help control clutter, but it will do so in a way that appeals to lifestyle!
  • If you have children, raise them to deal with clutter effectively. Toys that are outgrown or no longer played with are a good place to start. Every six months have them go through their belongings and choose some things that they no longer need. Then, teach them the value of giving by donating the toys to places like hospitals or family shelters.
  • Built up mail is a common cause of clutter. When you pick up your mail, go through it right away. Toss any junk mail immediately and then divide the remaining mail into two folders – Important (e.g. bills) and Misc. (e.g. letters and magazines). Get into a regular schedule of dealing with the items in the folders so that letters don’t go unanswered or bills don’t go unpaid.
  • Spend 10 minutes everyday dealing with clutter. Set a timer and work quickly to deal with as much as you can. The idea behind this is that motivating yourself for 10 minutes is a lot easier than trying to motivate yourself to spend a whole afternoon cleaning up. Plus, doing a little tidying each day allows you to keep on top of clutter and deal with it before it has days to pile up.
  • One of the most effective ways to deal with clutter is to simply stop buying things! Before making a purchase, ask yourself – do I really need this? In most cases (especially with all those impulse buys we are guilty of) the answer will be no. Learn to just walk away – and stop clutter at its very source!

For all us clutter-prone individuals, getting a handle on it can be a tough job. However, by regularly sorting, trashing, and tidying up, clutter is an enemy that can be beat. Now get cleaning!
Written By: Jen Krebsz

Creating Space: The Great Closet Purge

Whether you live in a small space and need to maximize every square inch or are simply sick of rooting through clothes in lieu of breakfast every morning, a ruthless closet purge can be a liberating and enlightening experience. It’s not easy to say goodbye to the old faithfuls populating your closet, but it’s certainly worth a try. You’ll find yourself a more organized, better dressed and all-around happier woman in the end - and all it takes is an afternoon.

Where to Start:
Everyone has a different cleaning style, but try the ‘go-for-broke’ method. Remove everything from your closet and dump it on the floor. Once you catapult your room into such a chaotic state, there is no going back. Just don’t leave the scene of the crime!

What To Toss:
Have garbage bags on hand in which to quickly deposit unlucky cast-offs. Any item that lands in the bag stays in the bag.

Keep the following five tips in mind:

  1. If you haven’t worn it in a year or more, into the bag it goes. One of the harsher realities of life is that it probably won’t come back in style. Ever.
  2. If it hasn’t fit you in two years or more, bid farewell to the tiny little outcast. Everyone needs something to strive for, but if you ever do manage to squeeze back into those lime green bell-bottoms, keep in mind you’ll be committing a double fashion crime: wearing something too tight and too outdated.
  3. If you intend to mend it, put it aside. If you probably won’t wear it even after it’s fixed, toss it. Please note: Clothing that needs repair should not be donated to charity, unless you intend to do the work first.
  4. If you’re conflicted about items too expensive to give away, consider contacting a consignment shop. Many boutiques will pay well for gently used designer labels.
  5. Clean out your underwear drawer too! Every girl has a few granny panties hidden away for emergencies, but guess what? Tidy lingerie drawers are sexy. Toss a scented sachet into the mix and you might as well be a Victoria’s Secret model.

The Aftermath:
Once you’ve picked and panned your way to wardrobe salvation, do another once over. There is such a thing as overdoing it. Conversely, if all you’ve tossed are one pair of Lycra tights with a hole in the knee and an old ball cap, keep on chucking. You should have at least one full bag of clothes if you haven’t done this in a while.

The hard part is next: putting all the clothes you’ve flung around your room back in the closet again. Be patient, employ a method to your madness – no need to color-code, but do organize by item at the very least – and eventually the smoke will clear.

Then decide what to do with your rejected trappings. Try to take care of this right away – tripping over garbage bags can get annoying, and you may be unable to resist the temptation of inviting some items back into the fold. Some charitable organizations will even pick up the clothes from your home, so reap the benefits of clothing drives if possible.

Another option is to hold a “swap party” with your girlfriends. Enjoy a cocktail or two, and spend a fun-filled afternoon trying on each other’s clothes. If you have a particularly good girlfriend she might even relent when you call in a few months to beg for your angora vest/micro mini skirt/red leather boots back – but don’t bet on it.

Written By: Marissa Stapley


Safety For Seniors and Others
Home Safety Check List
Preventing Falls
Organize Documents

Check List of items for Family
Have this list of items and locations available in case of your demise.
Give a copy to a trusted someone outside of your home.

Senior Services Erie County
When does it become” too much stuff” December 29, 2004


Dysfunctional Thought Record
One of the tools many people have found useful in working on OCD including hoarding problems is a Dysfunctional Thought Record or DTR. Here is one you can try out.  Instructions for the DTR follows.

How to use a DTR

To use the DTR begin by writing a brief description of the events that have upset you or caused concern. This can be an external event such as something
that happens to you, a conversation, or action of another person, coming into contact with a trigger for obsessions or a thought or image coming to mind. It may simply be thinking about something.

Next jump to the emotional reaction column and identify your emotional reaction to the situation. Rate how strong your emotional reaction is. I suggest using a scale of 0%-100%. The emotional response can be described in a few words. For example you might be describe your reaction as "fear" and rate it 90% and "sad" and rate it 50%.

Next go back to the automatic thought column note what is going through your mind that is causing you to be upset about the situation in the first column. This is often very difficult for people at first and you may need to practice this several times before it becomes comfortable.

In the distortion column list what distortion you identify in the automatic thoughts. You can use distortions listed in David Burns’ book Feeling Good or use the simplified list of distortions described in my books and in the section below.

In the next column write alternative thoughts about the event that do not have the distortions imbedded in them. Review evidence that supports the automatic thought and the alternative you have come up with. Develop a plan for how to deal with the emotions and the thoughts about the situation.
In the outcome column note what happens to the emotional reaction when the alternative thoughts are considered.
Other authors have described a number of distortions in automatic thoughts and often suggest that you identify them as a first step in learning to change them. Although I agree that this is helpful I think the list of ten or more distortions is sometimes confusing and the different distortions often can be used to describe the same thought. To simplify things I have described just three distortions that I think represent the most common problems.

The first type of distortion is making predictions with out evidence. This often takes the form of "what if" thinking. People make predictions about things that are going to happen or problems that will arise and also predict the inability to deal with the problem. Developing an alternative for this type of distorted thought can include reviewing what evidence you do have to support the prediction.

The second type of distortion is thinking in absolutes. This may also be called black and white thinking and and "should" statements. This can take forms like if something is not perfect it is no good, or thinking I "should never" make mistakes.

The third type of distortion can be thought of as jumping to conclusions with out evidence. This distortion occurs we do things like say since I feel that way it must be true. One of the most effective things to do when trying to develop alternatives for this type of distorted thought is review what evidence you have for the conclusion. Could you present this evidence to an objective judge and expect them to agree or are you simply insisting it is true because you think it should be true.

You can use these directions and work on your own DTRs or thought records. You may want to look at the samples on this web site or at examples in one of the books by Dr. David Burns.

Disclaimer: This in no way should be used in place of psychological/psychiatric care or evaluation.

Sometimes our problems in life are actually our solutions.

Cognitive Behavioral 

Before you can decide to change the behavior of hoarding you have to understand how "keeping things" is helping you or functioning for you.  The behavior may seem meaningless in the midst of hating oneself for not being able to change. Sometimes the function of one's hoarding is hard to see when you are in the middle of it.  A useful tool to elucidate the hidden payoffs of hoarding is the Cost-Benefit-Analysis.  The following is a series of helpful hints with this tool because it is so vital to determining one's motivation, ability, and desire to change.

Take a piece of paper and draw a vertical line down the middle of the page.  On one side write all the advantages of hoarding and on the other side write all the disadvantages of hoarding.  This may seem overly simple or you may say that you can find no advantages to hoarding.  An example of what a made up client might say with prompting in a  physician's office.


  • Don't have to make any decisions right now
  • Don't have to feel any uncomfortable feelings such as fear of regret or loss
  • I can do something more fun
  • I piss off someone in my family who I am angry with, but still appear innocent (unintentional but desired revenge to someone who has wronged me)
  • I stay dependent and connected to someone I love
  • People know something is wrong with me and take care of me
  • I become the problem in my family and distract from an even bigger problem going on (IE. depressed mother focuses on daughter's hoarding instead of bad marriage that could potentially break the family apart)
  • I hold onto memories, I have instant access to the past
  • It is safe in some way
  • It feels familiar, I wouldn't know how to act or be without it
  • It's my way of resisting a controlling person in my life

Now do the same thing with the disadvantages.  These are usually easier and more straight forward.  Most likely there are disadvantages or you would not even be looking at this website. After exhausting this list of advantages and disadvantages (you might enlist others you feel comfortable with to brainstorm with you to make sure you haven't forgotten any), you are ready to rate the disadvantages compared to advantages.  If you were balancing the two on a scale, given not just the quantity but the severity and quality of the listed points, which would be stronger the disadvantages or the advantages.? 50/50  70/30 or 5/95? Be brutally honest using your intellect and emotions.

 If the disadvantages of hoarding out weight the advantages..... congratulations you are ready to change and most likely will with proper effort, time, and support.  If in being rigorously truthful you find the advantages outweigh the disadvantages don't despair... you have discovered a very helpful insight which will steer you on the proper path to recovery.  You have discovered that the hoarding is your solution to a life problem.   Now your task is not to tackle the problem of hoarding but to first to find a new solution to your true problem.   Good luck.
Disclaimer: This in no way should be used in place of psychological/psychiatric care or evaluation. (