Alert: Most CHA centers and services will be open on Presidents' Day (Monday, February 17th). Please see this schedule for details.

Clearing clutter!

When trying to clear clutter, categorize items into four groups - those to keep, donate, discard and reevaluate. Take 15 seconds to evaluate each item.

Elissa Klein, Outreach Program Manager, CHA PACE

Recently, the CHA Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) staff had the opportunity to participate in a training led by Eileen Dacey, MSW, LCSW, from the North Shore Center for Hoarding and Cluttering. We learned a tremendous amount from Eileen and wanted to share some of this information with our patients and the community.

There is a distinction between the clutter that many of us have in our homes and the challenges of folks with hoarding disorders. The prevalence of this anxiety disorder is roughly one out of every twenty people in the United States or 2-6% of the population, according to the American Psychiatric Association. Below are some distinctions between collecting, clutter, and hoarding which can help to identify early warning signs in friends and loved ones. After that, we have some tips to clear clutter.

In general, collectors have a sense of pride about their possessions and they experience joy in displaying and talking about them. They usually feel satisfaction when adding to it and budget their time and money. There is an inherent value to the collection.

What are the characteristics of someone with a hoarding disorder?

  • Holding onto an excessive amount of possessions with difficulty discarding them.
  • A need to save items regardless of value.
  • Items interfere with living spaces - rooms become crowded and at times unsafe.
  • Clutter causes distress, linked to parting with items and problems with daily living.
  • Items that may lead to hoarding include magazines, newspapers, mail, coupons, photos, clothes, furniture, boxes and bags.
  • Animal hoarding transcends simply owning or caring for more than the typical number of pets and affects every community in the United States.

Here are a few tips for clearing clutter.

  • Harm reduction is the first priority. Clear exits, paths and stairs. Ensure that smoke detectors and sprinklers are working and that all appliances are unobstructed.
  • Identify, sort and discard trash, recyclables, and returnables such as plastic bottles and cans.
  • Target one area and one item at a time when trying to declutter.
  • Categorize items into four different groups - those to keep, donate, discard and reevaluate. Take 15 seconds to evaluate each item.
  • Follow-through on organizing and maintain the improved space on a regular basis

Do you know someone 55+ who needs extra support to stay healthy in their home and community? The Cambridge Health Alliance PACE program provides the health care and social support that older adults need. Visit or call 617-575-5850 and ask for a member of the Enrollment Team to learn more.

Here are several additional resources:

Cambridge Health Alliance

Contributed By: Cambridge Health Alliance

Cambridge Health Alliance is an academic community health care system committed to serving all members of our communities. We have expertise in primary care, mental health and substance abuse, and caring for diverse and complex populations. CHA patients receive high quality care in convenient neighborhood locations, and have seamless access to advanced care through CHA’s affiliation with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. With over 140,000 patients in Cambridge, Somerville Everett and Boston’s Metro North, CHA is working hard to offer the integrated services its communities need now, and in the future.