MUSEUM OF MODERN JUNK: Morning Routine for Messies

In the middle of immersion and feeling a bit overwhelmed?  Self-Sooth!

  • Sweep every morning
  • Pick a great music station
  • Draw a few pictures of your mess so you can see it and make a plan for the next hour
  • Attack a small area like the top of a table or dresser
  • If you have pets, go for a walk, it is good for everyone
  • Open all of your windows (Many clutter-bugs hide behind closed drapes)
  • If your window-coverings are moldy, torn, or beyond help, pull them down and put them in the recycling bin if cloth.
  • Wash a window or too.  Be a proud  recovering-clutter-bug.  Stop hiding.  Sharing your problem and getting light in your house is wondrous!

Push away the urge to waste time on the path to freedom.  Typical avoidance behaviors or time-wasters (excuses):

  • Go on the evil computer
  • Watch T.V.
  • Talk to friends
  • Eat junk
  • Sleep
  • Cry
  • Stare out the window for hours
  • Read junky novels (now is not the time)
  • Drink, smoke, etc.



MUSEUM OF MODERN JUNK: Training the eye.

So now you have a short check list:

  • Supplies:  Ace Lawn and Leaf Paper Bags, broom, stand up dust bin (also available at ACE and made in USA!.
  • Friends.  We will talk more about this later
  • Get scientific.  Have you observed and documented what is in your space?
  • Read.  Keep reading one book at a time from the library.  While you are reading one book you can order the next to be derived to your local library (don’t buy more books please!)
  • Open eyes.  Can you see the clutter?  After a long time not really seeing what is around us we can become clutter blind.
  • Doctor’s visit to determine if you need further evaluation by a psychiatrist, psychologist or support groups, pulmonologist for sleep apnea evaluation, endocrinologist to see if you have a glandular problem, or primary care for sleep issues.   Please refer to previous entry for more details.
  • Speak with work.  Seems crazy but your Employee Assistance Program can help.   Look around.  If you are disorganized at home it might be due to stress at work, irregular work hours, graveyard shift, alcohol or other substance abuse problems.   This illness can be linked with distracted work patterns, chronic lateness, chronic staying late at work (to compensate).  Chronic disabilities can also lead to exhaustion if you are staying at work longer hours to compensate as well.   EAP can help.  It also documents that you are trying to overcome problems.  It is important for everyone who has clutter beyond their control to try and open up and release the secret and get a clean bill of health before starting.   The health check can help start to improve some of the reasons why and also make sure that it is save to do the mental and physical work that lays ahead.

MUSEUM OF MODERN JUNK: Curate our collections.

If you haven’t figured it out already, this blog reads best from first entry to the most current.   It is important to read the previous entries because there is a process going on here.  Let’s look at why we hoard.  There are lots of books on the subject and I will also be listing some great resources at the end of this article.  Here are a few reasons just off of my head.  There are psychiatric, physiologic, endocrinology, neurologic, genetic and psychologic reasons for being “frozen” and being unable to rid your life of stuff.  The three main issues are:

  1. Inability to make decisions:  The reasons are many (see list below).
  2. Exhaustion:  Many different reasons as well, see below.  If you are ill, in pain, suffering from a disorder, have a chronic disability or short-term injury (broken hip, or other mobility problems), this might set you off in the wrong direction.
  3. Mental Health Problems:  If your brain is not working, you cannot make decisions, see above.  Depression can lead to obtaining too many sentimental objects, planning for things you never carry out (refurbishing furniture, crafts, remodeling), and isolation.  There are many other mental health problems as well
  4. Addictions:  Face it, addictions to shopping, cigarettes, alcohol, drugs (including marijuana), prescription medications,  thrifting /dumpster-diving, or even recycling, leads to HOARDER’S HELL.   Get help or wean yourself off as soon as you can.  Seriously, if you cannot go into a thrift store or drive by an old chair left on the side of the road, you have to find a way to stop the influx of material goods into your home.   If you must have home delivery of groceries to avoid purchasing things you don’t need, so be it.  It is worth the delivery fee to stay out of stores! If you have to ask someone else to do your shopping for you, ask for help.   If your substance of choice is numbing you to your situation, please find a way out before it is too late.  If you watch Hoarders:  Buried Alive! pay attention to the number of beer cans and cigarettes that are lying around.  Addiction leads to apathy.  Apathy leads to indecision.  You know the rest!

The following list gives details:

  • Genetics:  Seems weird, but the impulse to hold on to things can be inherited from your parents and grandparents.   Sure, part is nurture (learning from your environment), but science shows that nature (genetics) plays a great role.  So shake that family tree.
  • Post-traumatic Stress Syndrome:  If you check in at a deeper level with yourself and with just about anyone else, trauma happens.  Some trauma is severe and can have an impact that leads to chronic coping problems.  One strategy for dealing with PTSD is to surround yourself with stuff.  If you can’t bring anyone home you can avoid a lot of surprises and you could feel safe.  You might also feel lonely and isolated.   If you have a history of a great personal trauma, or many smaller ones that have an accumulative effect on your soul, the best thing to do is to join a support group and talk to a trained therapist who can help you work on this and refer you to the best group for you.
  • OCD and OCT:  Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or Trait.  This tenacious tendency makes it hard to let go of collections.
  • ODD:  Oppositional Defiant Disorder  Someone says pick it up so we don’t.  Even after whoever has been bossing you around is out of your life completely (in part because they can’t stand your hoard) you still feel resentment.  This is a very complex issue with some serious brain chemistry and habitual pathways that really need help from a professional.  For partners and parents of defiant people, there are numerous books in the library and on-line.
  • Dementia:  Many families do not realize that
  • Sleep Apnea:  This is more common than you think.   Sleep apnea is usually associated with a certain stereotype and certainly Pickwick suffered from Sleep Apnea.  Slim people can have sleep apnea for many reasons.  If you are too tired to pick up after yourself or too tired to make decisions, check with your doctor.  You may find that C-Pap helps.  Don’t be surprised if it takes a few months to a year to start to feel better.
  • Poor sleep habits or other sleep disorders leading to exhaustion: restless legs, excess caffeine, irregular sleep hours, night shifts, grave language.
  • Endocrine disorders.  Hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, hyperparathyroidism are just a few endocrine problems that can lead to anxiety and exhaustion as well as slow mentation and chronic pain.  All can interfere with
  • Autism spectrum, including Asperger’s (or Aspie) personality
  • Perfectionism (can be related to almost all of the other issues above).
  • Loss.  Losing everything you own in a fire can lead to a feeling of freedom and the opposite of hoarding.  It can also set off a horribly intense pattern of hoarding.  Many hoarders report some situation where they lost their belongings due to immigration, refugee status, family violence, moving, fire, flood, or simply cruelty by another.

Here is a book to check out of the library if you are ready.  Remember reading before taking action is fine.  It is part of moving from Pre-contemplation to Contemplation.  Only one book out of the library at a time!

Stuff, by Randy O. Frost and Gail Steketee



MUSEUM OF MODERN JUNK: The CAGE questionnaire. Assessing your problem.

Precontemplation.  It means you don’t really believe you have a problem.  Perhaps the previous entry helped you get there.  Maybe not.  Here is a tool that might help.  It is called the CAGE alcohol screening test.  It has not been proven to help self-identify other addictions, but I think we can use it to become self-aware.  Here are the questions, modified to apply to a clutter problem (the original had 4 questions but I added more):

CAGE Questions

  1. Have you ever felt you should cut down on the amount of shopping, dumpster diving, bringing home “found objects”, shopping at thrift stores, shopping at all?
  2. Have people annoyed you by criticizing your clutter and lifestyle?  Have they threatened interventions, clean-outs, calling Adult Protective Services, Child Protection, or threatened divorce or moving out?  Have these things already happened?
  3. Have you ever felt bad or guilty about the state of your home, car, and yard?  Do you feel sad, depressed, anxious, overwhelmed or desperate about your cluttering
  4. Have you ever gone in search of treasures first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or toget rid guilt feelings?
  5. Do you crave the slight high or feeling of good-will when you buy a “perfect treasure” for a friend or family (then it “doesn’t count”), or a deal on a piece of furniture that you can fix up and resell (free is best!)?
  6. Do you hang out at thrift stores or discount stores like some people hang out at bars?  Do you secretly feel you are better than alcoholics or drug abusers because all you do is collect things?
  7. Do have a scheduled time or day that you regularly thrifting.   Does everyone at the local thrift store know you by your name?
  8. Are you making yourself into the curator of our times and our paraphernalia?  Do you think that if you don’t save certain treasures no one else will and they will be gone forever?

So, that is your homework.   I do not want your journey to the contemplation stage to stymie you or block that wonderful coasting that happens when you climb the hill of pre-contemplation to contemplation.  Get to work answering these questions and I will see you when you come back!



It is not easy living in clutter.  The mess burns energy and is overwhelming.   So why do we live in such disarray?  No one can figure that out but you!  Go through these exercises.  Do not buy special notebooks or paper for this.  Just copy into a word document or into an email and answer.  No more clutter for you!  This little quiz identifies your cluttering style and level:

Count the rooms in your house.  How many are not usable due to clutter?  How many are usable but are usually avoided due to clutter?

Look the most cluttered room.   Rank by number the clutter in this room (number 1 the most observed or most represented).  You can also rank by what takes up the most space if you would like.  You also might find it more helpful to see what is on top and covering up everything else.  Is there furniture underneath that layer of new clothing.

Some suggestions for observation about your stuff (just make a few check-marks for each item you see):

  • Furniture in good shape, in bad shape, or that you imagine will be great once you get around to painting, refinishing, or excavating!
  • Presents that you bought for someone else (no matter what they are
  • Objects, toys, parts of fans, scrapes of colorful paper, etc., which you think might become useful to you or someone else.  You might be thinking that the school could use these…
  • Books
  • Bins full of ?
  • DVDs
  • Videotapes (personal and movies)
  • Recyclable items
  • Linens (blankets, sheets, pillow cases)
  • Laundry (washed, unwashed, scattered or neat and folded.
  • Animal stuff (crates, litter boxes, leases, beds, food bags, cans)\
  • Food and food trash
  • Trash generalized
  • Craft stuff in general (yard, scrapbook supplies, paper, pens, paint, easels, art books, future collage items,etc.)
  • Unknown objects

Now, without going out shopping, see if  you have the following (come on, you can find these things in your house, do not leave your house to buy these, make do):

  • Trash Bags (I prefer ACE lawn and leaf bags because they are paper, recyclable, and stand up straight!)
  • Cardboard boxes (Fruit boxes from small markets are good for sorting), medium boxes or paper grocery bags are perfect for filling with random things to GIVE AWAY
  • Broom
  • Upright dust pans or any stand up dust pan (you want to sweep as much as possible and put as little strain on the back):  http://www.mclanemower.com/stand_up_dustpan.htm