An image of a sofa and wooden table in a clean, tidy interior.


The shelter of a bedroom, a space of self-definition and comfort. Outside, a slow burning chaos of bags; carpets and beds hidden by clothing and stacks of papers. A house is not a home without bookshelves, they think. And so they keep eight bookshelves, scattered around the sizeable home, filling wall space. The bookshelves littered with trinkets, stacked up in front of paperback spines, impossible to remove the books from their Jenga towers. The bedroom feels like a complex, stifling escape, the one clear space in the house, the one space which is yours.

People hold onto things for many reasons. Most hoarders are afraid- afraid of loss, of not having enough, of not having in general. Some hoarders are looking for a way to escape their mind, for things to hold onto instead of thoughts. Some are compulsive buyers who can’t bear to part with things, or, when they do, they buy more in their place.

Living in a house of hoarders is like wading through concrete. It’s the struggle to get to basic household appliances because of the things stacked in front of them. Things are left, forgotten, under mountains of other possessions. Dust gathers. Inside the cupboards and closets is no better, things pour out as though trying to escape. Textiles all seem worthless, no matter their original price tags.

The morning cup of coffee doesn’t feel so peaceful. The whirr of the kettle, bags stacked on sideboards, no room to make breakfast. The way that crumbs and dirt have a habit of piling up underneath the boxes and jars. It all begins to feel difficult.

We try to help people, we suggest decluttering techniques, offer to help with clear-outs, we tidy up, only for the items to begin building up again. We try to change people, because we recognise the good that change did to us. But we forget about the headspace which we had to be in, before we could change.

To suggest physical change to hoarders before they are mentally ready to change, is to shout through a megaphone without batteries. While it can be tough to live within an shared space which feels overwhelming, it is important to remember that the most important space is your own headspace. Whether living with a hoarding partner, hoarding friends, or family- maintaining your headspace, as a clear and kind space, is the most important thing. Not only will it ensure that you remember your own values and living space concepts, but it will allow you to be patient with those who aren’t ready for change.

Do you live with hoarders? What are your techniques for surviving in the clutter?

Featured image: Kirill via Unsplash.

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