There are some days when I contemplate exactly what it’ll be like to clean up my Mother’s house some day.  The monumental piles of stuff is a given, but what will the walls, carpet, counter tops, and the actual structure of the house be like?  My best guess?  Covered in mold.

Natural Mold Cleaning Tips2And the last thing I want is to compound the toxicity with more chemicals, but luckily there are some natural options.  Things have been pretty busy for me lately, so I invited Heather Roberts to guest post.  Mold might run rampant in a hoarder’s home, but really, it can be found in any house where dampness is left unattended.

Guest Post: Cleaning Mold Naturally

One of the greatest problems in any home, given the right circumstances is the uncontrolled proliferation of mold due to neglect.  Mold and mildew can be a real pain in hot and humid conditions, and that makes them a doubly serious issue when you have large quantities of personal belongings in a home that have not been moved for years.  Such is usually the case with hoarders, so this makes mold something that needs to be dealt with as soon as possible.  Even though you can usually keep it at bay through the use of dehumidifiers, you can still experience it.  There are a good deal of natural materials you can use to spray or remove mildew and mold.  They can be a wonderful substitute for the hazardous fumes bleach produces.  In this article we will cover most of them as possible solutions to your problem:

  • You can use tea tree oil, which is often found in health food stores as a great cleaning material that acts as a natural mold killer.  It may be the most expensive option on this list and it may have a strong scent that disappears within a few days, however it also has one of the most effective qualities in our list, completely eliminating mold from ceilings, rugs, showers and so forth.  You can combine two teaspoons of it with two cups of water, then using that as a spray you can eliminate mold on any given spot.  You don’t need to rinse it and it can be used even months down the line if you need to.
  • Another possible option is using grapefruit seed extract, though it’s also expensive.  Unlike tea tree oil however, it has no scent that lingers. Combine about 20 drops of it into about two cups of water and use it in much the same way as you would with tea tree oil.
  • Next on our list is a natural mold killer so widespread and right under our noses, that we often overlook it without even knowing its qualities.  Distilled white vinegar is said to kill up to 82% of all mold species, acting fairly quickly but leaving its scent behind for a few short hours as a result.  If you have light stains, then you can dilute the vinegar with water in a 50:50 ratio for good results as well. If you’re experiencing mildew forming on the bottom sides of your rugs or carpeting, then you can stop it by spraying it with distilled white vinegar and letting it dry that way.  It should kill most spores with ease, leaving your carpet safe.

Natural Mold Cleaning Tips

  • If you have a plastic shower curtain and it has suffered mildew and mold, then you don’t need to worry about it at all.  You can simply toss it in the washing machine alongside two bath towels on the gentlest setting.  Then you need to pour about half a cup of baking soda inside as well as a half cup of vinegar.  The baking soda should go in during the washing cycle, while the vinegar needs to go in during the rinse cycle.  Let it dry out and you’re almost good as new!
  • You can also use a 3% hydrogen peroxide for mildew and mold as well.  If you use it on its own, you can wipe most mold right off the affected area.
  • When you have mildew-stained garments, you can make a paste of lemon juice and salt.  Rub it against the area affected by the mold or mildew.  Repeat that until you remove the stain completely and let it dry in the sun.

For more cleaning tips you can contact: Deep Cleaning Islington


Moving is considered one of the most stressful things people do in their lifetime.  I believe it.  There are so many details and loose ends.  My husband has moved 13 times in his lifetime…he says it really became so much easier when his family wasn’t attached to their belongings so they could pick up and travel across the country with only the essentials.  My Mom, however, has lived in the same house for 35 years.  That’s a lot of accumulation; never mind that she’s a compulsive hoarder!

Mom is comfortable in her nest of things, but the house is crumbling around her.  There will reach a point where she won’t be able to climb the stairs any more, or the roof will collapse, or the cost of heating the big space will become too much to bear.  Then, maybe, finally, she’ll consent to moving.

My sister, Lynn, no longer has a relationship with Mom.  So when it comes to selling the property and moving Mom somewhere else, the monumental task will fall to me.  Not only is it a tremendous volume of stuff to sort through, but I wonder if I can manage it while remaining sympathetic and understanding towards my mother.  It’s not just about tossing stuff in boxes.  It’s about acknowledging the hoarder has a completely different perception of the value of their belongings…and believe me, it can test your patience.

I was approached by a reader recently who offered the following suggestions and guidelines for how to face a move when a hoarder is involved.  I hope if you are in a similar situation, you’ll find these useful for maintaining your sanity, as well as your family relationships.

Guest Post: How to Face A Move When A Hoarder is Involved

There is much to deal with when you have to move a home, so the situation becomes a bit more complicated when you have to deal with a hoarding family member, roommate and so forth. Despite the negative connotation brought by the spotlight of media attention, hoarding has really been studied only in the past two decades at best. There is much misunderstanding, stereotypes and stigma associated with the condition and what it entails. One thing you should keep in mind is that hoarders can be very different from each other, both in social standing, marital status or age. There is hardly anything that connects the different hoarders than the fact that hoarding is a psychological condition that affects a good percentage of the world.

There is a difference between the hoarding of objects and the hoarding of animals (most often cats), however the basic principles are the same. This is a obsessive-compulsive disorder affecting the behavior of an individual in ways that often clash with those of their loved ones or friends. One of the first things you must keep in mind is that hoarders are very sensitive about their lifestyle and there are many factors that play a role in this. Whether its shame, denial or resistance to changes, they will often be determined to keep their lifestyle and will rebel against any changes brought by external factors. The following tips will give you some preparation and understanding on how you should approach the subject of hoarding in the least damaging way possible before a move: How to face a move when a hoarder is involved

  • Attitude is extremely important

You should begin by adopting an attitude that avoids judging at all costs, as well as a lot of patience. In most cases hoarders fear and dislike the judgment of others and for a good reason. For them this line of behavior is something normal so you should try to understand that when you approach the subject matter. The patience you need to exhibit is a very important aspect of your first steps toward moving. In most cases they will never see their situation the way you do, so you should stick to small, careful steps.

  • Remember hoarding is a disorder

Make sure you read up and educate yourself on the behavior and its background reasons. Psychologists are researching it and if you are interested you should look up books on OCD disorders that focus on hoarding if you want to go into further detail. The underlying reasons for hoarding go beyond what people consider messiness as they have a psychological trigger that modifies what we consider a normal line of behavior. The learned patterns of behavior hoarders develop are nearly impossible to break and their reasons are both biological and psychological in nature. In many cases items represent mementos of the past or more practical items they feel they need to save for a number of reasons. In some cases hoarding can be a result of some painful event in the past that forced them to replace their social connections of old with belongings and mementos. The reasons for hoarding may vary greatly, so remember that before you act.

How to face a move when a hoarder is involved

  • Solutions to moving

Remember to ask questions about the things they want to keep and to offer compromises that cater to their disorder but at the same time allow them to move forward. This can be done by working out a system that catalogs and makes an inventory of their possessions. It may seem like a small step, but it will be a good first one. Always remember that whenever something seems like trash to you it may actually hold significance for your loved one. Remember to be respectful to their wishes and if you can, maybe try to suggest they store their collections at a storage unit as a solution to completely going through them and overhauling them. That way they can have access to the things they care about and you won’t have to deal with things in a more severe way that would damage the trust built between the two of you. You should stick to an inventory system with descriptions and even a floor plan if some of the items are large enough. Remember that self-storage units are a great alternate to having your home buried in belongings and it offers a softer solution to the hoarding impulse by offering an alternate space.

*Editor's Note: Self-Storage units should not be considered a long term solution.  I would consider this an option just to move some things out of the house to give you room to work in while packing, sorting, repairing, etc.

How to face a move when a hoarder is involved
  • Getting Help

You can get help from a therapist if you and your loved one agree on that, and they can help toward slowly finding a solution to the hoarding compulsion. When all is said and done remember to take small steps toward improvement. The therapist could eventually give them small tasks such as slowly going through a small part of their collection and choosing things to let go of, but that is not something you should handle on your own in most cases. You could end up hurting them and yourself in the process by being too direct about it.

This guest post is thanks to Removals Man & Van Woodside Park.  This is not a sponsored post, but rather a glimpse of the experience from those accustomed to moving many, many families of all kinds.


The thought of moving when the house is filled to the rafters is pretty daunting.  Actually, that’s a huge understatement.  Should my Mom ever decide to move, I know I’ll be paralyzed with the enormity of the task.  I DO know that not everything should get thrown away, and lots of what Mom has collected is worth at least some money.  Hopefully, I can talk her into having a sale before moving…I’ll cross my fingers on that one.  Hoarders are loath to give up their stuff, even in exchange for cash.

How to Plan a Moving Sale in Small, Easy Steps

I’ve got some suggestions for managing a moving sale: there’s a LOT to think about!!  And remember, you shouldn’t have to do this alone.  These steps work for anyone planning a move, not just compulsive hoarders.  Stay tuned in the next week or so, and I’ll have even more ideas for how to handle a move when dealing with compulsive hoarding.

Thanks to Northstar Moving for this fantastic infographic.

Managing a Moving Sale Infographic


Guest Post: Attic Storage Tips & Advice

Today I present a guest post from Jeremy, from Packing Boxes in the UK.  While I encourage regular purging of clutter and being ruthless with what you keep, I know there are times when you just can’t give something up.  If you’re lucky enough to have some open attic space, we have some tips for you to use the space well.  Keep it organized and tidy, and it’ll help keep the rest of your house tidy, too.

attic storage via notjustclutter.com

The old saying ‘a place for everything and everything in its place’, is excellent, common sense advice. By sticking to this motto,  in theory we would always put all of our ‘things’ away in their rightful place and always know exactly where they were when we need to put our hands on them. How wonderful would that be!?

The attic is an ideal space for storing belongings that you do not need to use on a regular basis, but only providing you keep it tidy and organized so that when you need to retrieve something you can find it easily! It is essential not to use this space as a dumping ground for junk that you don’t really need, so anything you do not really need to keep hold of should be re-homed, recycled or sold rather than stashed out of sight in the attic and never used.

My current home has no garage, so my attic provides me with essential storage space to keep items that I use infrequently, enabling me to keep my home mostly free of any unnecessary clutter. This storage space makes a huge difference, particularly because so many of the items I store up there are so bulky.

Recommended Items To Store In The Attic Include:

  • Camping Gear
  • Holiday Decorations
  • Christmas Tree
  • Boxes of Documents/Files
  • Seasonal Clothing
  • Suitcases
  • Sleds & Toboggans
  • Bike Rack
  • Roof Rack 

 All of these items are used infrequently, some I typically only need from time to time.  Some I only use annually, like my holiday decorations, whilst others I only need once in a blue moon so it makes good sense to store them out of the way in the attic, freeing up my living and storage space below.

ACCESS

Ideally you would have a fixed attic ladder that folds neatly away when not in use, alternatively you will need to use a stepladder to access your belongings. The only problem with this is that you need to store it away somewhere in between uses.

SAFETY

It is vital to be careful when using the ladder and to take care when moving around up there. An open hatch can be particularly dangerous, so it is vital to pay attention to what you are doing and not take unnecessary risks.

A boarded floor makes the attic area far safer to use and will also make storage more practical reducing the risk of accidents or damage to the floor which is of course the ceiling of the room below.  I’d consider address the floor before storing anything in your attic.

LIGHTING

You may be lucky enough to have natural light or a light fixture in your attic; if not you will need a flashlight to help you retrieve items when you need them. A head lamp gives you full use of both hands which is safer and much more convenient all round.

BOX / BAG / LABEL

Group items into categories so that they can be stored together logically and arrange them in boxes or bags with clear, visible labels for easy identification later on.

ARRANGING THE SPACE

Arrange your boxes around the outer edge of the attic, leaving a clear walkway with no tripping hazards. Keep the space organized by putting things away after use and avoid ever surrounding things with a ton of other stuff.  An untidy attic will drive you nuts!

If you are storing heavy belongings, avoid grouping them in one area and instead, spread them out to distribute the weight evenly across the space.

Be sure to keep a clear area around the hatch area and if you are using a fitted loft ladder, keep that space completely free of any clutter too.

BIRDS AND RODENTS

Check your attic regularly for signs of rodents or birds and take precautions to protect your belongings. If possible store items in rodent proof storage containers. Traps may be worth considering, particularly if your attic is prone to unwelcome visitors!  You’d probably want to have your soffits and eaves addressed anyway if critters are getting in.

JUST LOOK UP!

Attics are an excellent, cost effective storage solution for anyone wanting to free up space in their home and remove clutter. So if you need an affordable storage solution, perhaps you should just look up…but not for cramming full of junk. Just practical storage.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

The UK based company Packing Boxes offer a vast range of packing solutions for house and office moves as well as everything you need for storage at home or in the office.


When I was about 12, I really got into making miniatures.  I’d sculpt teeny tiny plates of food, and painstakingly carve expressive characters out of FIMO.  I joined a miniatures enthusiasts club and everything.  No, it didn’t make me more popular.  I even started building a complex Victorian doll house, but I outgrew my interest before finishing the project.  I’m certain it’s still in my old room at Mom’s house, hidden behind 20 years of other hobbies and collectibles.  Imagine seeing compulsive hoarding on a miniature scale!

Barbie trashes her dreamhouse

Working From Home, 2011, Carrie M. Becker

One day, I stumbled across photos by Carrie M. Becker on Flickr.  She has a whole collection of images titled Barbie Trashes her Dreamhouse.  Here’s what she says in her profile:

I have a love of all things miniature. As a young adult, I collected small Japanese toys from a company called Rement. During the summer after completing graduate school I had some down time and decided to use my commercial photography skills to shoot my miniature collection as though it were “real”. Also during that time, I also frequently watched shows like “Hoarders” and “How Clean Is Your House?” With that in mind, this past summer I began creating the images that are presented here, though I reflect their inspiration as a mirror and not a judgement. For me, this series is about creating a small, but perfect world where the viewer cannot distinguish between what is reality and what is fiction.

When I saw her detailed work in a miniature scale, I was really blown away.  I know how long it takes to create a simple scene in miniature.  And I know what a compulsive hoard looks like.  Carrie has created these highly authentic miniature worlds of compulsive hoarding with an accuracy that’s eerie!  But brilliant!  Look at the image above…the post-it notes on the computer monitor, the cardboard boxes as attempts for organizing, and my favourite, the motivational SUCCESS poster on the wall!

Art Imitates Life

The Living Room, 2011, Carrie M. Becker

Hoard in living room

Living Room

Compare Carrie’s image above with one just under it sent from guest poster, Sue. See the barely exposed coffee table in the middle. The endless boxes. The stuffed bookshelves and curios. These are images from 2 totally different sources, but you can see how similar the theme seems to be no matter what hoarders home you’re looking at.

But at least in Carrie’s miniature world, it’s exactly that…miniature. You can see here how her scene fits on a little pedestal.
Working From Home, installation detail, 2011, Carrie M. Becker

This one just astounds me. You can practically feel the grime on the laundry set. My nose wrinkles at the thought of mildewed clothing wrapped in plastic.
The Laundry Room, 2011, Carrie M. Becker

A Miniature World

Carrie has other themed small scale sets and they don’t all depict compulsive hoarding situations. I definitely recommend looking through her Flickr sets.  She’s been featured on Huffington Post and TIME.com.  She has her own website, carriembeckerart.com, and you can also find her on Facebook.

*All photos have been shared with Carrie’s permission.  When I found her art, I contacted her through Facebook and asked if she’d mind being featured on NotJustClutter.


I feel so honoured to have been given to opportunity to write a guest post for Psychology Today.  Recently, the same doctor conducting the studies about compulsive hoarders and their relationships touched base with me and we’ve been having some great conversation about the lack of resources on this topic.  Truly, people like me, the hoarders son, and other children of hoarders have limited help in sorting out our feelings and relationships with our hoarding loved ones.

Raising Awareness

Dr. Amy Przeworski, from Case Western Reserve University, wants to raise awareness…and I’m hopeful when I hear mental health experts like Amy getting involved.  I wrote a guest post about what it’s like to be on one side of the wall of stuff while my Mother exists on the other.  I hope you’ll hop over to read my post on Dr. Przeworski’s blog…and stick around to read more of her own posts.  She speaks of anxiety and other family mental health issues worth reading.

Find me on psychology today

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/dont-worry-mom/201209/outside-the-wall

 


Thanks to the Kings College London Institute of Psychiatry (the same people doing the Hoarding Study I recently participated in), I’ve learned compulsive hoarding is likely to be included as a new mental disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders or DSM-5. DSM-5 is due to be published in 2013.  I’m hoping this means more research and attention being devoted to treating compulsive hoarding.  I also hope it means less people thinking hoarders are just lazy deadbeats who just need to throw a garage sale.  There’s something about this being made “official” that gives me some hope.

Below are the proposed diagnostic criteria for Hoarding Disorder. All criteria A-F must be met to qualify for the diagnosis.

A. Persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions, regardless of their actual value.

B. This difficulty is due to a perceived need to save the items and distress associated with discarding them.

C. The symptoms result in the accumulation of possessions that congest and clutter active living areas and substantially compromise their intended use. If living areas are uncluttered, it is only because of the interventions of third parties (e.g., family members, cleaners, authorities).

D. The hoarding causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning (including maintaining a safe environment for self and others).

E. The hoarding is not attributable to another medical condition (e.g., brain injury, cerebrovascular disease, Prader-Willi Syndrome).

F. The hoarding is not better accounted for by the symptoms of another DSM-5 disorder (e.g., hoarding due to obsessions in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, decreased energy in Major Depressive Disorder, delusions in Schizophrenia or another Psychotic Disorder, cognitive deficits in Dementia, restricted interests in Autism Spectrum Disorder).

For people meeting all diagnostic criteria A-F, the following ‘specifiers’ can be noted as well:

Specify if:

With Excessive AcquisitionIf symptoms are accompanied by excessive collecting or buying or stealing of items that are not needed or for which there is no available space.

Indicate whether hoarding beliefs and behaviors are currently characterized by:

Good or fair insight: The individual recognizes that hoarding-related beliefs and behaviors (pertaining to difficulty discarding items, clutter, or excessive acquisition) are problematic.

Poor insightThe individual is mostly convinced that hoarding-related beliefs and behaviors (pertaining to difficulty discarding items, clutter, or excessive acquisition) are not problematic despite evidence to the contrary.

*I believe this is where my Mother is, leaning towards Absent insight.

Absent insight (i.e. delusional beliefs about hoarding): The individual is completely convinced that hoarding-related beliefs and behaviors (pertaining to difficulty discarding items, clutter, or excessive acquisition) are not problematic despite evidence to the contrary.

You can find more information in the DSM-5 website.


I’ve recently had some peers read my blog and comment how they recognize hoarding tendencies in themselves.  It’s easy to think that hoarding is something only common in seniors, but the road to compulsion can be long and gradual.  Perhaps it started with a junk drawer in the kitchen.  And then maybe a closet stuffed so full it the door barely closed.  And suddenly, here you are with piles past the windows and goat paths from room to room.

Peter Walsh, the organizing expert from TLC’s Clean Sweep, posted this article the other day.  What’s Your Clutter Style? It’s an interesting read, and you just might find yourself reflected in his definitions.  I know I certainly did.  Is it possible to have 5 different clutter styles?  If I have so many clutter styles, does that mean I’m “hoarding” clutter styles?  ;)

According to Peter, the 5 different styles of clutter are:

  • The Behind-Closed-Doors Clutterer
  • The Knowledge Clutterer
  • The Techie Clutterer
  • The Sentimental Clutterer/Family Historian
  • The Bargain Shopper/Coupon Clutterer

I’m looking around my office, which serves as my craft room, too.  I’ve got a closet full of fabric and computer parts.  A few drawers of patterns and more pattern books on the shelves.  USB keys and random cords in various bins and baskets.  Several thousand photos I’ve taken of my family (in print and digital formats).  I’m not necessarily a coupon clutterer, but I appreciate a good bargain when I see one…that might be why I have a stack of empty picture frames under the desk.

It’s a slippery slope, I think.  By starting this blog, I’m really going to have to take a closer look at my own “saving” habits.  I have many interests, but can’t really fulfill them because I don’t have an organized space.  I’m feeling a hard core purge coming on.  Spring Fever might have something to do with it.  It’s only early March, and the weather is so mild here I’ve already spotted robins and crocuses this week.  It’s a good time to open the windows, open some trash bags, and open my doors to having visitors.

So, what do you think?  Do you see yourself in Peter’s descriptions?  I’d love your feedback and comments.