Our summer project at the Homestead seemed simple enough, but it became a lesson in how to purge like a reformed hoarder. Not only did I use my project management skills to conquer a messy situation, I also had a chance to meet Matt Paxton himself (from the TV show Hoarders) and gain some brilliant insights into the minds of real-life hoarders.

Our summer project at the Homestead seemed simple enough, but it became a lesson in how to purge like a reformed hoarder.


The goal was to switch Hubby’s office and Stepson’s playroom and turn Stepson’s playroom into a tween/teen room.  In theory it sounded easy enough.  In reality… well… it became a lesson in organizing and purging because organizing two rooms turned into two rooms plus three closets plus the utility space in the laundry room.  I used the concept of a Venn diagram to determine what to keep and what to toss/donate.


How to Purge Like a Reformed Hoarder by coconutheadsurvivalguide.com #organize #clutter #venn


It’s hard to part with items, whether they are ordinary items you may need some day, or sentimental items you have an emotional attachment to.  How do you decide what to keep and what to toss? (Note – by “toss” I mean trash, donate, sell, recycle, etc.)  You can use this Venn diagram to determine what is most important to you, and then find the overlap for each item.  It’s not an exact science, but if you take the emotion out of the equation and think about purging more cerebrally, then it should make the process easier.




Every Day Items


Ask yourself these questions:

1.  How often do I use this item?  Will I really need it in the future?

2.  How much is the cost replacement and how easy is it to replace the item?

3.  What is the value of the item?


This is my Achilles’s heel, because I hate to be wasteful.   I will give you four examples.  For these examples, I weighed what is most important – use/need over cost over value.  Is space or money more important?  Or does it depend on the item?

Example 1 – A small, unopened bag of white craft pom poms.  Why should I toss them when I might need them some day for an unknown craft or school project?  Is it more important to “waste” $0.99 or “waste” space?  I can’t think of anything specific in the next year where I will need craft pom poms.  If I do, the craft store is one mile away, and a bag costs $0.99.  And I always have cotton balls on hand if there is an emergency need for white craft pom poms.  Toss.

Example 2 – A bag of random cables and cords.  The bag has not been touched since we moved three years ago.  At this point, do we really need them?  Maybe?  Probably not.   Toss.

Example 3 – Two rogue Command hooks.  Are they worth keeping?  While they can easily be tossed and replaced, we do use Command hooks periodically throughout the year for various reasons.  Keep.

Example 4 – Paint cans.  The majority of the painting in the Homestead is complete.  Paint cans take up a lot of space, and the longer you keep them, the greater the probability the paint will go bad.  I transitioned the paint to those small, sample size jars, and labeled with the paint color title and code.  We have a small amount of paint for touch-ups (and let’s get real here – how many of us really do paint touch-ups?).  The remainder of the paint we recycled if it was old (it shouldn’t be thrown away in the regular trash) and gave the remaining good paint to a friend.

I do consider myself fairly organized, and I have a large box labeled, “Bits and Pieces” which is the catch-all for those random bits and pieces that never have a real home.  It’s great for smaller items, but it can’t be the catch-all for everything in the house because then it perpetuates the clutter.  The two rogue Command hooks are now in the Bits and Pieces box.

This is all well and good, but what about when the items you need to purge contain sentimental or emotional value?  What about the items that you can’t put a price on?  The same concept applies.


Sentimental Items


Sentimental items take on a more emotional attachment, but the process is still the same:

1.  How often do I use or enjoy this item?  Will I really need it in the future?

2.  How much is the cost replacement?

3.  What is the value/sentiment of the item?


I’m all about being sentimental.  But sometimes, you have to let go.  Does the item itself contain the memory, or does it remind you in general of the person or event?  Can you repurpose the sentimental item into something else that will maintain the emotion but not take up as much space?  Make a plan that works for you.  For smaller items, find or make a nice memory box and use that space to control the amount you keep.  If you inherit a lot of items from a departed loved one, keep 10% of the items that mean the most to you, and sell or donate the rest.  If you have a lot of school papers from your child, keep several of their best work and toss the rest.  Do you need all of those CD’s or DVD’s from your youth?  Or can you enjoy your favorite songs or movies on iTunes or Netflix?

Stepson is growing up and transitioning out of playing with his toys.  He is not ready to part with them, but he wants more space for him and his friends to hang out.  The solution – we boxed up his toys in several large containers and placed them on a high shelf.  They are accessible if he needs them, and are ready to be donated when he’s ready to part with them.



Lessons from the Hoarder Whisperer Himself

I had a chance to meet Matt Paxton from the TV show Hoarders and Co-Founder of Legacy Navigator, and gain some wisdom from him about real life hoarders. BTW – he is absolutely hilarious and totally down to earth and super cool to hang out with!

According to Paxton, the majority of hoarding situations are brought on by some kind of trauma. “It has nothing to do with the stuff, and everything to do with the emotions.” This year alone, there are an estimated 16 million people who are hoarders, which is about 5% of America. When asked what is the difference between collecting and hoarding, Paxton explains, “Collecting is something you do with your family. Hoarding is when your collection IS your family.”




Celebrate Your Success!

If you took the time to clean up a space, don’t forget to celebrate your successes!  Diffuse some Harmony and Joy Essential Oils and find a comfy chair to read The Secret Lives of Hoarders by Matt Paxton or  The Hoarder in You by Dr. Robin Zasio from the TV show Hoarders.





Everyone’s pain point is different, but these general guidelines and examples can be applied to any situation.  Would any of these processes work for you?

Are you Inspired?

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Our summer project at the Homestead seemed simple enough, but it became a lesson in how to purge like a reformed hoarder.


Love, hugs, and organizing one trash bag at a time.

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