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This was mentioned in the article section: The Dos and Don'ts of Treating Hoarding Behavior


I am working on downsizing and clearing out but I apparently do not have good sorting skills. I get stuck and don't know what to do.

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My husband and I were in the military and we moved over 20 times in 30+ years. Every spring, I would do a purge to get ready for our next move. Here is my guidelines (they may work for you):

1 - If worn out, throw out.
I know I can fix a lot of stuff and some clothes may come back in style or be easily repaired, but holding on to this "stuff" just fills the place up.

2 - If I haven't used it in 3 years (average tour of duty), get rid of it.
The only time I break this rule is for items that we didn't use because of climate - like winter coats since we live in Florida but we have family we visit in Chicago.

3 - "Doubles" need to go.
Nobody really needs 10 cans of the same type of soup. Having 1 spare item for food and toiletries is OK. More than that is "hoarder zone".

4 - Streamline every room is more like a swanky hotel.
Ever wonder why we enjoy going to nicer hotels on vacations? It is because the focus is on quality, not quantity. Keep nice sheets on the bed and 1 spare set. Pare down "personal objects" until there is mostly clear table space, then add 1-2 objects of less than 1/2 the room.

5 - Closets - if I haven't worn it this season, it goes.
I tend divide my clothes into spring-summer and fall-winter categories. As each season begins (1 week before school starts and 1 week before spring starts) I try everything on for it. Keep only the ones that make me look great! At the end of the season, if I didn't wear something, out it goes.

6 - Personal/memory items
Decide in advance how much you will keep. Usually 1-2 bins full for a 3 bedroom house. Keep only the items that are beautiful and useful. Take pictures of the rest and send those along to others.

7 - Think donations
Usually, yard sales are a bust. If an items has value try selling on Craigslist or donate to a charity.
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Reply to Taarna
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Here are some criteria I use:
is it damaged, discolored, smelly? put it in the trash!
is it a magazine, newspaper or catalog? Throw it out. If there is ONE recipe in it, cut that out and put it in a notebook and get rid of the paper item.
is it a greeting card from a family member or friend that is just signed with their name? Get rid of it.
Is it a letter from a friend/family member with a landmark announcement? Keep
is it a letter from family friend, that was just newsy? Throw it away.
put all old photos in a clear shoebox. At some point sort out duplicates and throw them away. If you have no idea of The Who, what, where or when, throw them away.
Books-if you have no plans to re-read the book, get rid of it. Give it to a friend, donate to a senior home or free lending library. If it’s old and smells musty or has mildew on it, throw it away.
One old paperwork-throw old utility bills away, and receipts for anything past it’s warranty period. Throw old manuals to items you no longer use away.
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Reply to DILKimba
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elaineSC Sep 4, 2020
I could use this advice myself. Thanks for the suggestion.
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Looker, to add to my earlier post. Another thing that helps me is that Carolin, my helper, takes the donations away with her. The day after session I take all the bags of garbage to the dump, the recycling too.

Having the things leave the house immediately is a good thing for me, there is no temptation to check what is in the bags and boxes. This is part of the reason that I am not selling anything or having a free garage sale.
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Reply to Tothill
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Looker, my apologies.   When I referred to "standards" for the "keep" pile, I was thinking of items you want to keep, and these factors:

1.   Do they represent family times, memories, things that are comforting to you, or are they business records, etc.?

2.   If clothing, are they in usable condition, or do they need repair, or are they just not salvageable?   You could keep the first, and the second if you want to repair them, but the third probably would go into the trash bin, or if local charities take clothes for rags, that's an option.

3.    Generally, establish your standards for keeping something, whether it's just for pleasure, memory, use, or something just to cherish.    Those are keepers.    If you don't need it and it's in good condition, it can be donated.    If it's in bad condition, old and dilapidated, or dysfunctional, it's probably not worth keeping.

E.g., I found my old 1960s era skis, swim slippers, goggles, my father's skin-diving equipment, an old pickle barrel Mom used to pickle cucumbers, lots of planters, a juke box, and a drafting table.   

The skis, flippers and skin diving equipment are probably not in good shape, not usable, and the tanks are well past being current.  I think they're in the "thanks for the use but goodbye" category.   The pickle barrel wasn't in good condition either, so that too was discarded.   The planters and pots merely need to be washed and can be used.  They're keepers.   The juke box and drafting table can be cleaned up and used, and the juke box might be sole to an antique shop.   

Another example:   Dad had a rototiller and shredder used in the garden.   I don't know how to fix the tiller and maintain it, and same with the shredder.   In addition, there are newer, easier to use and more progressive models.   With a few tears for the good use they've provided, I sacrificed them to the scrap pile.

Does this make sense?  Just ask again if you need further explanation.
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Reply to GardenArtist
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OkieGranny Sep 4, 2020
"thanks for the use but goodbye"

*groan* Good one!

We went through this first when my mom died and my dad went into assisted living. My mother was a hoarder (think one drawer stuffed with nothing but rubber bands from newspapers), and it was a horrible ordeal. Who knows how much that was valuable was lost because it was buried under mountains of stuff?

A few years later when my dad died, he had almost all the walls of his apartment covered in framed awards, certificates, and diplomas for almost everything he had ever done. Well, they all ended up in a dumpster, because nobody is going to keep that kind of stuff. Keep that in mind when you are deciding what of your own you want to keep. One person's treasure is another person's trash. We can't take it with us.
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Whenever Ive downsized, I've used the 3 pike method.

1. One pile is discard.
2. One pile is donate
3. One pile is keep.

From the keep pile, you then identify the place it goes.

Do this for maybe 10 minutes a day. As GA says, if you get "stuck" either relax for a while or move on to another task. Good luck!
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Looker Sep 1, 2020
Dear BarbBrooklyn, You have hit the nail on the head: identify the place it goes. I see I need shorter work sessions and more relaxing breaks. Thanks for the insight. Looker
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If you have Netflix, watch "Tidying Up" with Marie Kando. However, if you do not have Netflix here are the top three principles of tidying up.

1. Commit yourself to the job.
2. Imagine your ideal lifestyle or in this case the ideal setting for your loved one
3. Finish discarding first! Sort into three piles: Discard/Trash, Donate, sell
1. If the stuff is in good shape, barely used/worn donate it to Salvation Army or a Charity thrift store for a cause you support. Some large items such as furniture and electronic equipment the shop will have a truck and help to assist with the removal. You can sell/resell items at a consignment shop or antique shop as well.
4. Tidy by category not location. Sort clothes one day etc...
5. Follow the right order: Clothes, books, paper, komono ( small personal items), sentimental items. The purpose of this is to build your brain up, emotions up, to enable you to have strength to let go.
6. Ask yourself if it sparks "joy", if there is no feeling no reason to keep it, let it go.

Source: https://www.penguin.co.uk/articles/2017/goodbye-things-tips.html
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Tothill Sep 4, 2020
I really did not like the show. I watched a couple episodes and I did not feel her system is a one size fits all as it is purported.

I read the book when it first came out and again it did not "Spark Joy".
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Is this for your own stuff or a family members?

I struggle with hoarding. My Dad is a full blown hoarder and I never want to get to that stage.

My problems are linked to 2 traumatic events in my life where I had no control, I was scared, my support systems had collapsed and I hung on to stuff, because it was the only thing I could control.

In trying to clear out, I would find things that triggered all the feelings from the trauma and I would freeze. I would be unable to function.

I have taken a slow and steady approach. But most importantly I have hired a lovely woman to help me. We started 16 months ago and have met about 12 times. We do one room at a time.

We have the trash, donate and recycle bags, I just want stuff gone so I do not have a sell pile. When one of the trigger items comes up, I tell Carolin it has to disappear, I leave the room and come back later. I do not touch the trigger item.

I have 100’s of books, after donating a few 100. Over the winter I will sort and shelve them.

I am a quilter and I need to sort my fabrics, notions and tools. Again a winter project.

I have a ways to go, but the slow and steady approach is working for me.
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Looker Sep 1, 2020
Dear Tothill, thank you for your kind reply. I sympathize with the traumatic events in your life. Slow and steady sounds good to me. Looker
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I am a neat freak who loves collections, collecting, junk shops, etc. So you can imagine the pull in my head. Were it not for my severe control issues I would likely be a hoarder. When we moved to a smaller place 20 years ago I got rid of 1/2 my life. Best thing I ever did. Now I am known as the lady who puts the "best stuff" out on the street for others. Gave up all collections but two; I tease I will begin again next life.
Hoarding is a mental issue that precludes any of that. Were I to come to your house I guess I would say "Looker; have you USED this in the last year" and your answer is no, then out it goes. Starting in one corner you work your way in, knowing it is slow, knowing you cannot bring in more.
I don't honestly think a hoarder can do this alone. I think you need someone NOT FAMILY who is an organizer who would assist.
I admire your intention. I hope you will be us updated. For me, keeping things neat kind of keeps my "head" from getting so cluttered. Our homes often reflect our inner feelings.
Wishing you so much luck and admiring your attempts at this.
I guess I don't believe in the box for donating, box for saving and box for throwing because because in these days no one wants donations and the keep box is the one that fills. If it is good stuff put it at the curb. The general public will let you know quickly enough if it is REALLY good stuff.
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Looker Sep 1, 2020
Alva Deer, thank you so much for taking the time to write such a thorough reply. Looker
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All good suggestions. After cleaning out Moms 7 room farmhouse Mom had lived in for 60 yrs, I started on mine.

When I started on Moms she was still living there. I sat her down on a chair and had a bag for trash then a pile to donate and a pile to keep. I would ask donate or keep. Then when that was all done I would take the keep pile and ask, are u sure u want to keep this? On second thought, it went into the donation pile. The donation pile went with me.

After doing that for Mom, I started on my house. Anything left from the girls they were asked if they wanted, if not donation. I have been here 40 years so, if it was something I had never used and wouldn't I got rid of it. Odd dishes, go rid of them. I donated a lot of stuff. Not that there isn't probably more, but will worry about that stuff when we move. Tell my girls not to buy anthing until they check to see if I have it.

Oh, and do one room at a time. Not so overwhelmng.
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Reply to JoAnn29
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My mother has lived with us going on 30 years. I have been cleaning her things out for awhile now, she is at the point she doesn’t know what she has, she has basic clothes and a few ornaments. After cleaning out my father’s when he died ( they were divorced) I decided to start on my Mom’s early.
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