How to Live a Happier, Healthier, Uncluttered Life

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Psychologist Dr. Robin Zasio, from the A&E show Hoarders gives advice on how to take control of your stuff and unclutter your lives. In The Hoarder in You: How to Live a Happier, Healthier, Uncluttered Life, Dr. Zasio shares stories from the show, including some of the most serious cases of hoarding that she’s encountered—and explains how readers can learn from these extreme examples.


Dr. Robin Zasio

Comments [46]

Eugenia Renskoff from Brooklyn, NY

I, I love to collect books and things that I find interesting, like china. China is very homey.I miss having a home of my own and sometimes I use the things I collect to make a little money.After I lost my home in Atlanta, GA, to foreclosure,there was a great big gap in my life--a gap that nothing so far has been able to fill. Sometimes the things I collect make me feel that I have something of value, that I am visible. Eugenia Renskoff

Nov. 15 2012 01:12 PM
Karen from New City, NY

Good resources for clutterers and hoarders is the National Association of Professional Organizers ( and the Institute for Challenging Disorganization.(

Nov. 14 2012 10:07 PM
linda from Greenwich

The Japanese call it Danshari.. Refuse, Detach, Dispose.

Nov. 14 2012 07:53 PM
CYNYC from Lower Manhattan East

And another thing...

I WANT to clear out. But I don't have anybody to help. If I had the Gold Card (Medicaid) I'd have a 'home attendant': But, I make 1K too much in disability. I lift a cast iron pan I risk a few days in bed.

So if anybody wants to help an interesting, funny (not today), decrepit bohemian type put an ad on NYC Craigs in Wanted with CYNYC in the subject line. Blow my mind.

If you were a female initial responder YOU WEREN'T THERE. If your "loved one" was killed in the towers and you got a million people are still mowing your lawn (I don't have a lawn--just saying) and bringing casseroles. (No press I could find wants this story.)

And I have a kid.

Nov. 14 2012 01:10 AM
Cynyc from The Pile Once & Young

I became a hoarder as part of the PTSD that related to be a 9-11 GZ responder. Ashcroft was telling us we'd need to run any minute and my mindset became that off 'if it's wrth a dollar it's a dollar we wouldn't have.'

As for the DSM--they ain't worth squat until they recognize female military sexual trauma as the VA has years ago. (Hint: Rape no included.)

Why does no one talk to front line people instead of talking heads?

But let's not be bitter. :-)

Nov. 14 2012 12:39 AM
Louis Botero from Colombia, South America

How do you address tech hoarding ? collecting thousands of mp3 files, movies, photos, files ? I think this is a serious issue on today's life.

Nov. 13 2012 12:39 PM
Suzy from Rye

Love this piece. I had a hard time letting go of stuff, until I realized that when I throw stuff out, I'm actually acquiring something else -- free, empty space. Now I can't live without empty space. Thanks!

Nov. 13 2012 12:39 PM

Getting rid of things the same day is very often not possible in New York. Most of us don't drive and even if we did, there's not "local dump" sorts of places where things can be taken. What's another strategy?

Nov. 13 2012 12:38 PM
Johanna from Brooklyn, NY

This may be of interest to some listeners (I can't get through on the phone):

Discussion and presentation on "Clutter and Landlord-Tenant issues"

who; William Gribben, Esq.,
civil attorney;
partner, Himmelstein, McConnell,
Gribben, Donoghue & Joseph

where: Seafarers & Int'l House
123 East 15th Street
northeast corner,
15th and Irving Place
NYC 10003
Sponsored by Manhattan Adult Attention Deficit Disorder Support Group, all welcome, I think they ask for a $5. donation.

If you are a hoarder, have organizational challenges, you may have undiagnosed Attention Deficit Disorder, there is genetic component, typically treated with combination of medication, coaching, (cog/behavior therapy)

further info:

Nov. 13 2012 12:38 PM
Jane from NYC

My husband and I are both moderate hoarders, but we can't stand the other's hoarding. I see all the junk he doesn't need and he sees all mine but each of us is convinced that the stuff we hoard (each in our own space) is justified while the other is an idiot. I see my stacks of junk and tolerate it. I can't stand seeing his. He is that way toward my stacks. Any suggestions?

Nov. 13 2012 12:36 PM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

foodaggro from Brooklyn:

Try scanning all your comic books, copying the CDs and DVDs onto a hard drive, and getting e-versions of the books, then selling the comic books on ebay and donating the rest to a local library.

Make sure you back up your hard drive, but think how much less space it takes up than what you're getting rid of.

When you've sold all your comic books, and given away everything else, you can throw a party with the money you got in the space you recovered. :-)

Nov. 13 2012 12:36 PM
bell from brooklyn

My Partner died very suddenly 3 years ago, and over the years I've been trying to find creative ways of letting go of his belonging so as to not become a hoarder. The items have strong sentimental value and represent memories, though recently I've gotten to the point where I understand that I will never forget him and memories will never die(and if they do I won't remember), the things are just things. That being said it's still difficult to release, the method I've come up with and what works for me, is to give his things away to our friends so that his memories are dispersed and shared.

Nov. 13 2012 12:34 PM
Clif from Manhattan

Where does your guest think the line is between hoarding/clutter and OCD about being clean and not cluttered?

Nov. 13 2012 12:34 PM
Craig from West Orange

The Salvation Army pick up truck was at my house as I was listening to this interview. Nice serendipity. It felt good to get rid of a lot of stuff, but I also notice how much more We could have given away.

Nov. 13 2012 12:32 PM
Alma from queens

a study i heard about on Oprah, from her anti-hoarding expert (Peter?) - he said that hoarders have problems with basic pattern recognition: if you show a normal person the same shirt in a dozen different colors, they see the same shirt in a dozen different colors.
If you show a hoarder the same shirt in a dozen different colors, their brains process each shirt as being unique.

have you heard of this study?

@ susan re: CD's
you can recycle your cd's at the lower east side ecology center's recycling events. they have a compost table in union square at the greenmarket, and you can get info there.

Nov. 13 2012 12:31 PM
Noni from Nassau

Dr. Zasio- are hoarding and depression directly related? As someone who has struggled with clinical depression, I find myself often physically exhausted and unable to see projects through to completion, leaving piles around my home. I don't like seeing things in this condition, but I also don't feel able to tackle the clutter.

Nov. 13 2012 12:31 PM
Guest from Montclair, NJ

There's good advice here in this segment, with one glaring exception: the idea of having an exchange with a neighbor who hoards--you help them get rid of clutter and they help you--is a very, very bad one. It's like asking a neighbor who's a recovering alcoholic to come over for cocktail hour.
When you're getting rid of your clutter, it will just end up next door. They'll be very happy to take it off your hands and find a "use" for your stuff. Please don't do this.

Nov. 13 2012 12:31 PM
Amy from Manhattan

For the doctor who called about not being able to throw out medical journals w/useful articles, maybe she could cut out the articles she wants to be able to read again in each issue & recycle the rest of the copy. I've done this w/newspapers, & to the extent I stick with it, it helps some.

For Susan from nyc, you can send your CDs to GreenDisk (, which accepts CDs & other electronic equipment for reuse/recycling. They wipe the disks & sell them as blanks.

Nov. 13 2012 12:30 PM
Ann from Brooklyn

As a social worker I used to visit apts on the UWS as part of a Community Psychiatry clinic at St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital. Many were hoarders before we even knew the name. My question is the effect it has on children. We have a neighbor who are major hoarders. Their son told me that they just never unpacked after their move (10 years ago). Clearly there was shame for him.

Nov. 13 2012 12:30 PM

Re: Taking photos of items to be decluttered...or recycled. Helped me a lot...with some things.

Nov. 13 2012 12:27 PM
Steven from New York

Many years ago a friend suggested that I take a photo of things I really love and want to keep. It's not perfect but I was amazed at how much I was able to toss after I had the photo.

I also bought a really good scanner and have already cleared out 2 file drawers. And It's so much easier to find things because I have OCR software and a filing system that matches the file drawers.

Nov. 13 2012 12:27 PM
The Truth from Becky

I have noticed this behaviour as well - when you approach a hoarder they get DEFENSIVE and IRATE!!

Nov. 13 2012 12:27 PM
foodaggro from Brooklyn

I have a large collection of comic books, CD's, books and DVD's. I know that all media can be found online, but I hold onto the physical items because I imagine one day it may all be gone from the web, or no longer accessible for whatever reason. It's always good to have a hard copy!

Nov. 13 2012 12:27 PM

The apartment of one of my relatives is like the Collier brother's apartment. He's been threatened with eviction by the landlord & fireman.
When we talk about the need to clean this out he has an extreme emotional reaction, trembles, turns red & looks like he's going to have a heart attack. He won't discuss it. Do you have a list of therapists in NYC who specialize in helping such extreme hoarders?

Nov. 13 2012 12:26 PM
Ninetta from NYC

I've had a problem ever since I've had to empty my family's house--my apartment is filled, virtually unusable now, with stuff from my ancestors--books dating back to the 1500s, valuable art . . . ephemera . . . Ah! you're just dealing with this topic now.
I think it's my sorrow at losing a troubled family I never really knew--the bigger my grief, the more I seem to bring into my apartment. I wan't like this before. I recognize what's going on, at least on the surface, but can't seem to get control . . .

Nov. 13 2012 12:26 PM
JM from Manhattan

Please address 2 points with cluttering:

Overcoming the initial step of de-ascending - How to start sorting and purging.

AND, automatically not creating clutter, maintaining a habit.

Nov. 13 2012 12:25 PM
Adriana from New York

I have a huge issue with my partner and cluttering/ hoarding. Our house is full of clutter and she just can't not bring herself to throw stuff away, for all the reasons you're talking about on your show: maybe I'll need it, i paid a lot of money for it, my mom gave it to me etc. It's not so bad as the show, but there's clothes all over and she stills holds on to old printers that we'll never use, but maybe one day we'll need them.
My issue is I haven't been successful in helping her, she's completely in denial and I'm afraid it's affecting our 3 kids and definitely affecting our relationship.
thanks so much for your advise.

Nov. 13 2012 12:25 PM
Nicholas from NYC

I've moved to a smaller apartment recently and look at it as a way to force myself to reduce clutter and possessions that aren't really needed. No longer an option. NYC apartments are still spacious compared to Tokyo so I've been looking at some space saving techniques there.

Nov. 13 2012 12:24 PM

I am married and have 18 month old twins. Our family lives in a small apartment in Brooklyn. We are constantly running out of space, so I've been trying to cut down on clutter, but my husband is reluctant to get rid of what I consider "his clutter," and it's caused a lot of arguments. How can we deal with that situation?

Nov. 13 2012 12:24 PM
Jennifer from New Jersey

My mother is a hoarder on denial. How can I help her if she doesn't think it is a problem despite living in filth? I've offered to help, but she doesn't want it nor claims to need it. It never really affected me until the storm. (Aside from not being at her home for years.). She was the only one in our family that had power and was unable to house us because of her mess. She sees a therapist for other issues and has been for years. My sibling and I don't know what to do. She is in denial.

Nov. 13 2012 12:24 PM

My Inner Hoarder responding to the doctor's medical journals dilemma:

When she said she stores them in piles based on levels of excellence, I realized she's probably outgrown regular shelving in her living area. BUT, my response was; MORE SHELVING! And then file by date, but with colored dots on the spines to indicate level of excellence.

Yes, I am...I think...a hoarder...maybe. Still rationalizing and denying.

Nov. 13 2012 12:23 PM

Hello I am probably a hoarder with my art work. I have my internal qualifications of what I should keep, or projects I might pick up and continue. I do not show my work anywhere, but have tried.. Am I a hoarder?

Nov. 13 2012 12:23 PM
Beatrice from Brooklyn

My problem is always with where to take the things I'm uncluttering. Without a car, it all sits in my front hallway until there's enough to merit renting a Zipcar to take things to Goodwill. I feel guilty and wasteful just throwing things out. What are the best ways to get rid of things?

Nov. 13 2012 12:21 PM

Why doesn't the Dr. caller who keeps old professional journals scan the articles that she wants to keep and store them with documents on her computer?

Nov. 13 2012 12:19 PM

How about digital hoarding??

Nov. 13 2012 12:19 PM

Where's the line between collecting and hoarding?

Nov. 13 2012 12:19 PM
John A

What are those WNYC commercials that came back?
"You like to hoard information, and we like that about you."
No, I do not like these commercials.

Nov. 13 2012 12:17 PM
Lara P from Jackson Heights

I just wanted to say that I came up with a solution that might work for others. When objects are sentimental but no longer useful or broken or old, I take a picture of them with my iPhone and then discard them. Then I don't lose the memory that the hold. I have a little iPhone gallery of these discarded objects.

Nov. 13 2012 12:17 PM
Sarah from Brooklyn

Could you address the trauma related issues that can cause hording?

Nov. 13 2012 12:17 PM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

One of the best things for hoarders to do is to take a picture of whatever they want instead of buying it and bringing it home. You can store it on your computer and look at it from time to time, but you've saved yourself money and space.

I keep a single file folder full of catalogue pages of items I think are interesting but which I don't want to buy or have in the house. That way I remember what they are, or I can refer to the file if I have a friend who might need something I've seen, but I don't have to have the item itself in the house.

Another suggestion for newspaper hoarders is not to buy them. Get your news on radio or TV, go on line and download the crossword puzzle, and that's about all you need.

Nov. 13 2012 12:16 PM
Susan from nyc

How do I get rid of 500 demo CDs that I paid a lot of money for and cannot use? I don't want to throw them out, but I don't know what to do with them. They're not anything that anyone would want.

Nov. 13 2012 12:16 PM

Isn't hoarding an emotional belief that the future won't provide?

Nov. 13 2012 12:15 PM

What can a person do if a neighbor seems to be a hoarder and resists any suggestion or intervention?

Nov. 13 2012 12:14 PM
Mia from Manhattan

Is there anything you can say to someone who won't get rid of piles and piles of New York Times issues who is afraid that if they throw out the unread papers, they'll miss some important piece of information or news?

Nov. 13 2012 12:13 PM
Annabel from Brooklyn

I cleared out my mother's house after she passed away 2 years ago and still have boxes and boxes of her things. Decluttering my own stuff is hard enough. How do you let go of stuff that belonged to a loved one?

Nov. 13 2012 12:13 PM
Jim B

Please illustrate the difference between extreme bachelor Oscar Madison sloth and compulsive hoarding!

Nov. 13 2012 12:11 PM

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