Got Clutter?Posted: November 7, 2017
Noah Clyman and his team at “NYC Cognitive Therapy” can help.
Think about the following 5 questions:
1. Because of clutter or number of possessions, do you have difficulty using the rooms in your home?
2. Do you have difficulty discarding (or recycling, selling, giving away) ordinary things that other people would get rid of?
3. Do you have a problem with collecting free things or buying more things than you can use or afford?
4. Do you experience emotional distress because of clutter, difficulty discarding, or problems with buying or acquiring things?
5. Do you experience impairment in your life (daily routine/job, school, social activities, family activities, or financial difficulties) because of clutter, difficulty discarding, or problems with buying or acquiring things?
If you answered “yes” to 2 or more of these 5 questions, you may have a problem that can be helped considerably with Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT).
What happens in therapy: Treatment is designed to educate clients about the diagnosis of hoarding disorder, to develop skills to address the problems, to address barriers and learn how to work with setbacks. You will learn the required skills for sorting and discarding and you will have opportunities within each session to practice these skills. Briefly, the skills and topics that will be covered during treatment include: assessment of hoarding symptoms and severity; understanding the nature of hoarding; developing a personal model of hoarding; setting goals; increasing motivation; reducing acquiring; improving decision-making; problem-solving; and organizing skills; practicing sorting and discarding; addressing unhelpful thoughts using cognitive strategies; managing barriers to progress; accessing support (e.g., through coaches); maintaining gains and preventing lapses; and wrapping up.
Understanding the psychology of the problem: Overcoming chronic clutter is often very difficult. Many people find it extremely helpful to have a support person or “coach” who can assist you with the process. Chronic clutter is not a single, simple problem, but consists of several interconnected problems. These usually include:
A. Excessive clutter. This is the most easily recognized symptom. Often the clutter becomes so overwhelming that the person has a hard time knowing where to start.
B. Problems organizing and making decisions: A person with excessive clutter may have difficulty thinking clearly and their clutter and what to do about it. They may have a hard time recognizing the difference between items that are useful vs. non-useful, valuable vs. non-valuable, or sentimental vs. non-sentimental. Therefore, to be on the safe side, they may treat all items as if they are useful, valuable, and sentimental. This leads to difficulty in deciding when it is time to throw something out.
C. Difficulty letting go of possessions: One of the most striking problems is difficulty letting go of and removing things—discarding, recycling, selling, and giving away items. This occurs even with items that seem to have little or no value. The amount of distress associated with removing clutter is often enormous.
D. A tendency to avoid or procrastinate: People with clutter problems often feel very overwhelmed by the sheer volume of clutter and the difficult task of decision-making. They may also feel depressed or nervous, which can add to a sense of fatigue and a tendency to avoid taking action. As a result, the person with clutter is often tempted to decide, “This is too big to tackle today. I’ll do it tomorrow.”
E. Difficulty resisting urges to acquire objects: For many people with clutter problems, the urge to acquire things can feel very strong, almost irresistible. Some people may feel a need to buy things; others may feel a need to pick up free things.
Not everyone with clutter has all of these problems. Every person and every clutter problem is a little bit different, but all involve strong emotional reactions to possessions, thoughts, and beliefs about saving things that may not seem rational to you, and behaviors that enable the problem to persist. As part of the treatment program, your therapist will carefully review these aspects of clutter and determine which problems are particularly troublesome. This is important, because the particular kinds of the problems you are facing will guide your therapist in deciding what interventions to use.
Want help? Ready to get started? Call today (347-470-8870) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and ask for “help with clutter.”
Noah Clyman, LCSW-R, ACT
Academy of Cognitive Therapy (ACT) Diplomate & Fellow
Certified Trainer/Consultant & Credentialing Committee Member
Clinical Director, NYC Cognitive Therapy