The Hoarder in You: Book Review

 hoarder in you

The Hoarder in You, by Dr. Robin Zasio

Dr. Zasio, author of The Hoarder in You: How to Live a Happier, Healthier, Uncluttered Life, is a therapist in private practice and an expert on the Hoarders TV show I’ve never seen the show, and probably never will, but this book caught my eye at the library a few days ago.

The Hoarder in You is marketed not only to hoarders, but also to those with hoarding tendencies (“clutterers”) and their families. I doubt this book will be of much use to compulsive hoarders, but it looks helpful for garden-variety pack rats as well as people without much clutter who need help getting rid of a few items they no longer want but have trouble parting with.

Understanding the Hoarder in You

This book prompts you to think about not only about whether you have too much stuff, but why you keep the things you do.

One chapter discusses a continuum of clutterers, with a “clear and clean” house on one end and “borderline hoarding” on the other. As you might guess from the fact that I’m a gradual minimalist, we still have some work to do. Our house is “neat but dynamic.”

Exercises to you help you understand the hoarder in you include

  • What does your stuff symbolize?
  • Are you a saver or a pack rat?
  • What kind of organizer are you?

Why Are You Keeping This?

The Hoarder in You addresses many of the reasons we keep stuff we really don’t need.

We often hold on to things because they’re associated with memories of a vacation, event, achievement or loved one. Sometimes we keep items we feel remind us of lessons we’ve learned or represent the way we’d like to be. Dr. Zasio’s suggestions include creating a small memento box for things related to your favorite memories and reminding yourself that your accomplishments are real even if you don’t save all the evidence.

Some people have too much stuff because they can’t resist a good deal, don’t want to waste anything, or fear not be able to get more in the future. In this situation, it may help you to realize that by spending money on this item, you have less to spend on things you really need, and that if you have too much stuff, some of it will spoil before you get around to using it.

Handling Someone Else’s Clutter

When we’re frustrated by how much stuff a family member or friend has, we often choose either to ignore the problem or try to address the problem but end up in an endless cycle of argument over the clutter.

Dr. Zasio points out that we can’t “fix” people who don’t want to change, and that nagging won’t help. The Hoarder in You offers advice on to help clutterers in your life, including the most and least helpful things you can say to and do for clutterers.

How to Let Sentimental Items Go

This book offers advice on how to decide what to keep for its sentimental value and how to keep the sentimental value without keeping the item itself, including making a quilt out of old clothes. I want to learn to quilt someday – I love crazy quilts, quilts from souvenir t-shirts and denim quilts from old jeans.

You can also take photos of favorite items and, if you’d like, put them in an album. You’ll almost certainly appreciate these items more seeing them in a photo album than never seeing them because they’re buried in clutter.

Buying Less

The Hoarder in You talks about rethinking how you shop and what to when you’re buying out of fear, whether it’s fear of not being able to get the item later or fear of not being loved if you don’t have it. Dr. Zasio also points out that you sometimes shop because you need a distraction or have too much free time. In that case, you can do something else like take a walk, go to the library or volunteer.

She also discusses how to avoid getting things you’ll never use just because they are free or really cheap, including reminding yourself that “free” items “cost you in terms of clutter and the stress it can lead to.”

Although she suggests you not get this stuff to begin with, another good solution – but only if you’ll actually follow through with it – is to give these items to charity. For example, homeless shelters are often happy to receive travel sized toiletries, and when there’s a buy-one-get-one free sale at the grocery store, you can always drop the second can of food in the food bank collection bin.

If, however, you know yourself well enough to realize you’ll just end up with a garage full of stuff, it’s best to take Dr. Zasio’s advice and just avoid the freebies.

How to Declutter and Stay Organized

The Hoarder in You discusses clutter problems room by room. It identifies documents you need to keep and tells you when you can throw away paperwork like pay stubs, bills, receipts and bank statements.

Dr. Zasio offers advice on how to choose an organizing system that makes sense to you, then suggests you begin by cleaning the easiest room first, setting a goal for the session and sticking to it.

The last chapter provides tips on how to keep clutter from creeping up on you, including setting aside 15-30 minutes a day to deal with problem areas (like my desk, or worse, my garage).

My Recommendation

I found The Hoarder in You helpful.  It’s easy to read and includes a lot of practical advice on decluttering and buying less. I especially appreciated the sections dealing with irrational reasons we keep things.  However, I generally buy only books that I expect to read several times or to keep on hand for reference. To me, this book is a one-time read, so I suggest you check it out from your library.

I should mention that if you’re a fan of the show, you might not like the book. Dr. Zasio gives several examples of extreme hoarding, which I pretty much skipped over since they don’t interest me, but some reviews I saw mentioned a desire for more of the “horror stories” depicted on the show.