#179 / Vol. 34, No. 4, OCTOBER / NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2007

Hypnotherapy To Treat Clutter & Hoarding

By Beverly E. Taylor

You are getting neater! Beverly E. Taylor is certified in hypnotherapy, medical hypnotherapy, stress management, and habit control. Find this longtime lister under OPEN EXCHANGE’s Hypnotherapy and Organizing categories.

Many OPEN EXCHANGE readers are no doubt familiar with the use of hypnotherapy to overcome personal issues such as weight, smoking, fears, or lack of self-confidence. But clutter and, in its most difficult manifestation, hoarding, can also be addressed by hypnotherapy.

So, how do we define “cluttering”? And what is “hoarding”? Most of us feel that our homes are comfortable: messy, perhaps, but comfortable. However, if the home is cluttered, we’re not comfortable there. We cannot relax at home because of the papers, books, clothes, magazines, cardboard boxes (you name it) on top of the tables, piled on the floor, or perhaps even on the furniture. This is “cluttering.” It makes us uncomfortable and we just don’t seem to be able to deal with it in a continuing way.

Oh, sure; we give it a go periodically and eliminate a pile or three. But the stuff never goes away and stays there! It just keeps mysteriously re-appearing all over the place.

Hypnotherapy can help the client find the motivation within the subconscious to continue to minimize clutter. Because will power can only work if the subconscious mind agrees, the subconscious is the key to any change. During hypnotherapy sessions, the client releases emotional obstacles and beliefs which then enables him/her to clear the clutter away over an extended period of time, not just an hour here or an hour there when the mood strikes. These gentle techniques allow the client to be persistent in removing clutter from the home and to eliminate those “all or nothing” bouts which end in exhaustion and the feeling that “I’ll never do that again.”

Beyond cluttering there is hoarding, or (as some term it) “compulsive hoarding.” This is probably the culprit if we

• have great difficulty discarding objects that most other people would consider useless or valueless (rubber bands, yogurt tubs, old newspapers);

• have lost the ability to use some rooms of the home in their intended fashion (cannot use the shower because of items stored there or cannot sleep on the bed due to possessions in the way); and/or

• feel that the process of accumulating and being unable to discard our precious items is beyond our control (criteria from Tolin, Frost, and Steketee, Buried in Treasures, 2007).

There can be real health and safety risks if compulsive hoarding is present. Stacks of papers hinder movement in the home, and could even present a fire hazard. Perhaps major appliances have needed repair, but the client just cannot face calling a repair service because of embarrassment or even shame at the condition of the home. Far from being a place of comfort and refuge, the home itself is a source of anxiety and uneasiness.

Hypnotherapy can help compulsive hoarders reduce their anxiety and begin to recover the functions of rooms in the home a step at a time. No full-scale onslaughts here! Rather gentle, effective, supportive techniques and skills, which are more effective at solving the situation in the long run.

Family members of clutterers or compulsive hoarders can also benefit from hypnotherapy by learning how to support the clutterer/hoarder’s efforts through positive feedback on the skills that the client is beginning to master. It’s very difficult for a clutterer who has cleared, say, the coffee table to hear, “Yeah, but what about the dining table?” Family members generally want to be helpful with the cluttering or hoarding situation but are at a loss. Clearing negative emotions is also helpful for them. It’s even possible, after a couple of individual sessions, to have a joint session for both a clutterer and his/her partner so that both are on the same page with the gentle, effective clearing techniques and the positive feedback.

In a 2003 study I performed, a strong majority of clutterers overcame their difficulties regarding clutter and hoarding, some in as few as three sessions. All of the clutterers felt they had improved in their ability to limit incoming clutter, organize their possessions, and/or clear surfaces in their homes.

The self-identified hoarders in the study were very pleased that they had been able to invite others into their homes—sometimes for the first time in years!—after releasing emotional obstacles and learning gentle but effective clutter-clearing techniques during hypnotherapy sessions.

Almost all participants had described feelings of shame, embarrassment, depression, overwhelm, and lack of motivation prior to beginning the study. After just one session, most participants reported feeling hope (sometimes for the first time!) that they could get better.

For example, “Judy” had been cluttered her entire life and believed that she could never fix the situation. She had read organizing books and tried to improve for many years, but without success. By participating in this program, she threw away 75 large garbage bags of “stuff” from her bedroom alone! She found not only hope, but also the emotional motivation to be able to accomplish her wish.

“Anne,” an administrator, said, “Without effort, I was motivated to do the tasks at hand and move toward the goal of a tidy and organized environment in my home.”

This is a common characteristic of hypnosis, in which the new action is now easy and automatic, as the change is made in the subconscious mind. This is the secret for success.

The results of the Clutter Study were outstanding and heart-warming. For example, one couple lived in separate cities. In their one and a half years of dating, the boyfriend had never allowed the woman to enter his apartment, not even to use the bathroom! Yet after “graduating” from Clutter to Clarity™, one day he announced to her that she could come in, see his apartment, and even use the facilities!

Another woman hadn’t allowed any workmen into her house, even though a bathroom was out of order and not usable at all. She was too embarrassed to allow anyone other than very close family into her home. After participating in the program, her children now—for the first time in fifteen years—invite friends over, and a workman is fixing the bathroom!

Many of the Clutter Study participants were single and had not dated much, because they were too embarrassed to have anyone get close to them. Several marriages became happier after the improvements.

One participant’s daughter described the change as a miracle. Another participant was about to be evicted from the family home because he had filled three rooms with piles of papers over 5 feet high. But after working with hypnotherapy, he began to let go emotionally and to let go of the piles. The family was encouraged as they saw him continue to let go.

Other participants were able to complete their taxes and organize their mail and bills to begin being financially sound. Compulsive buying and gambling were stopped or drastically curtailed—often in just one, two, or three sessions! Successes were usually achieved in only three to six individual hypnotherapy sessions.

Most importantly, people released feelings of shame, embarrassment, and depression, and replaced them with hope, self-respect, and pride.

If you personally have tried to clear your home or other space of clutter, and have been unable to do so alone, give hypnotherapy a try.

If you have a family member or other loved one who struggles with clutter or hoarding, please see what hypnotherapy can do for both of you.

Lightness, clarity, serenity, and freedom await.