Mary Hunt

I don’t know why some of us have such a strong propensity to accumulate, collect and otherwise hold on to stuff beyond a reasonable limit.

Maybe we’re born that way. Or, more likely, we’ve picked up an understandable yet unfounded fear of not having enough of what we might need someday.

Whatever the reason, what starts as clutter can quickly lead to hoarding — something that costs us time, money and peace of mind.

It didn’t happen overnight, but, one step at a time, by applying these seven simple tips, I can say confidently that my inner hoarder has been put in permanent timeout.

What is it. The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) classifies hoarding as a condition related to obsessive-compulsive disorder. It is characterized by a persistent difficulty discarding things.

While I’ve come to accept that I have OCD tendencies that could have led to something more serious, gratefully, it never came to all-out hoarding.

Only a very small percentage of the world’s population displays clinical hoarding characteristics. If you think you might have a hoarding problem, reach out to a therapist for help.

Start slow. Trying to undo years of accumulation in one weekend is just asking for failure. Instead, tackle one drawer or closet. For me, it was a very large closet. I was shocked and embarrassed to count 17 plastic storage bins filled with fabric, yard goods, fat quarters and quilt kits. My fabric stash was something to behold; it was overwhelming.

A dear friend offered to take all of it to her house where, over many months (years?), she gifted and distributed all of it. Her act of kindness was a gift I’ll never forget. It was my turning point as I discovered the joy of letting go and freeing myself from the burden of too much stuff.

Box method. Can’t decide what to keep or what to do with magazines, toiletry items, kitchen cupboard clutter and clothes that are in great condition but don’t fit or, for some other reason, have turned to clutter? Put them in a box, close it up and write today’s date on the top. If after six months you haven’t opened it, let it go.

Rethink collections. I collected teacups. I had dozens, all of them very old and (I thought) precious. I only had them because I inherited them from my mother-in-law. They were never my idea and never my style.

Once I realized it would not dishonor my mother-in-law in any way, it was easy to give them away. If you struggle with overwhelming collections, consider keeping the one most prized in the collection, take pictures of the rest and find a way to get rid of them.

Donation joy. The neighborhood website Nextdoor has given me so much joy. Joining puts me in contact with others in my neighborhood. We share news and information, and also offer things for free or for sale. I love this because it gives good stuff a new home.

Self-talk. I do a lot of talking to myself these days, especially in my “slippery places” like Costco and Amazon. And before dropping a mail-order catalog into the trash.

Embrace the alternative. There’s something wonderful to be said for minimalism. Clear counters, empty closets, drawers with only three things in them: These things slow my pulse, clear my head and make me feel nimble.

My closet — filled only with items that fit, and I love and wear — is refreshing. My kitchen — stocked only with the tools and utensils I use regularly — allows me to enjoy cooking and baking.

That sense of freedom is my alternative to clutter. It keeps me heading in the right direction and my bratty inner hoarder in timeout!

Household hints

SMART PACKING MATERIAL . I never use Styrofoam peanuts when packing an item for shipping or storing. Instead, I save our shredded junk mail and old files.

When I need to ship items, I put the shredded paper in a plastic bag, which will conform to whatever shape I need. Then, the recipient doesn’t have a mess on his or her hands with loose packing material when she opens the box.

— Retha

COPPER CLEANER. I have a copper-bottom saucepan, which I inherited. It is beautiful, but the copper discolors, which is normal. Here’s how I clean it: When I have leftover dill pickle juice, I pour it into a pie plate and then set the pan into the brine and leave it for 20 minutes or so.

The copper comes out sparkling clean with no scrubbing.

— Gwen

TWEETY BIRD REMOTE CONTROL: I attach my remotes to stuffed animals with rubber bands. They don’t fall beneath the cushions or get lost under papers or covers. Snoopy is for my bedroom TV. Sylvester is for the VCR. And Shark operates my office TV.

And I can see them all from quite a distance, too.

— Ann

Mary Hunt, founder of, writes this column for Creators Syndicate. Send tips or address questions to: Everyday Cheapskate, 12340 Seal Beach Blvd., Suite B-416, Seal Beach, CA 90740, or email her at

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