Are You a Hoarder?

The main reasons why people can't seem to let go of their stuff and the smartest tricks for outwitting that hoarding instinct.

Nato Welton
Nato Welton

Reason #1:

"If I get rid of this wedding vase, I'll feel guilty."

Solution: People feel a responsibility to be good stewards of things, says Randy Frost, a professor of psychology at Smith College, in Northampton, Massachusetts, and a coauthor of Buried in Treasures. Especially items they've been given by or inherited from a loved one. Getting rid of a present feels like disrespecting the giver. But remember the true meaning of gifts.

"When you receive a present," says Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan, an interior designer in New York City and the founder of, "your duty is to receive it and thank the giver―not to keep the gift forever." That goes for items you inherit. "Ask yourself, 'How many things do I really need to honor this person's memory?'" says Frost. Select a few objects with strong associations to your late grandmother, say, and keep them in places where you'll see them. Let the rest go to people who want them more than you do. Likewise, don't be shy about admitting a mistake you made and moving on. The $120 pair of heels you bought last spring that pinch? Cut yourself some slack and give them away.

Also See:Organize Your Bookshelves

Reason #2:

"I think this brooch/chair/ugly knickknack might be valuable again."

Solution: When you hear the appraisers on Antiques Roadshow say that someone's grandmother's old Bakelite bracelets would now fetch $500, it's easy to wonder whether your vintage piece might be worth a bundle. Stop guessing and find out what the item in question is truly worth. Take a 10-minute spin on eBay, searching for an item similar to yours. (Click on "Advanced Search," then "Completed Listings Only.") If the sale prices look promising―or if you can't find equivalent items―consider having the item appraised by an expert.

Many local auction houses will do this for free in the hopes that you will sell the item through them later. (Google "auctions" and your city to find an auction house near you.) For the greatest certainty, hire an independent appraiser through the American Society of Appraisers ( or the Appraisers Association of America ( Be sure to ask for an estimate first. Remember―for something to be considered valuable, it must be in tip-top shape. "People think their old baseball cards or National Geographics are worth money," says professional organizer Caitlin Shear. "But that's true only if they're packaged in a Mylar sleeve and in pristine condition."

Also See: Tag-Sale Price Guide

Keep reading:Are You a Hoarder?

You Might Also Like:

Conquer your biggest clutter challenges

Clutter busting secrets of the pros

31 ways to makeover your closets