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Ask Yourself While Decluttering…

By: Elaine Birchall, MSW RSW, Social Worker, Ottawa Public Health;
Coordinator :Ottawa Community Response to Hoarding Coalition, March 2006

Ask Yourself…

Questions About Acquiring

• Do I have an immediate use for it?

• Do I need it? How many do I already have?

• Can I get by without it?

• Do I feel compelled to have it?

• Can I afford it comfortably?

• Do I have time to deal with it appropriately i.e? maintain it?

Questions About Discarding

• Do I need it?

• Do I have a plan to use this?

• Have I used this in the last year?

• Can I get it elsewhere i.e.. the library?

• Do I have enough space for it already clear and available?

• Do I love it?

Questions About How to Organize & Let Go

• Start with one area; spend as many future work periods as needed to complete your goal for this area.

• If entrances, exits or areas near heat and ignition sources for example, (furnaces, stoves, portable heaters, baseboard heaters, water heaters or uncovered light bulbs, are a cluttered, start with them first for safety reasons and continue working in that area until clear. The 1st fire safety priority is clear routes into and out of the residence. The 2nd priority is entrance and exits from each room.

caution: Extension cords should not be used for permanent wiring purposes i.e.. instead of adequate electrical outlets connected to the electrical panel. Make sure smoke detectors are functioning.

• Begin by creating categories for possessions

• Sort into discard, recycle/giveaway & keep piles

• Use questions provided in “Acquiring & Discarding” Sections to decide.

• Continue until chosen area is clear

• Imagine and plan and a more pleasing use for the cleared area

• Plan for preventing new clutter build up for that area by following the ideas in “Relapse Prevention.”

Relapse Prevention

• Evaluate current reasons for cluttering

• Get yourself support:

1.trusted family & friends

2.knowledgeable counselor

3. Knowledgeable professional organizer

4. Online support as provided above

• Schedule regular times to organize & let go

• Invite visitors home

• Anticipate known stressors and your reactions

• Apply skills developed so far and search out others to build on

• Identify resources for the future

• Be gentle with yourself and keep working at it.

• It’s what you do every day, no matter how much, that will get you where you want to be.


“The person who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.”
(Dane County Elder Abuse Office – “This Full House”), Dane County, USA – 2000


If you needed
this information
later, how could
you access it if
you threw this
away now?

What do you
think other
people do with
similar items?

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