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Self-help Hoarding

Conquer the Clutter

Strategies to Identify, Manage, and Overcome Hoarding

by (author) Elaine Birchall & Suzanne Cronkwright

Johns Hopkins University Press
Initial publish date
Oct 2019
Hoarding, Mental Health, Cleaning & Caretaking
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2019
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2019
    List Price

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How to take back your life when your things are taking over.

Why does Cliff, a successful lawyer who regularly wins landmark cases, step over two-foot piles of paper whenever he opens his front door? Why do Joan and Paul ask Children's Services to take their three children instead of decluttering their home? Why does Lucinda feel intense pressure to hold onto her family's heirlooms even though she has no room for them? They have hoarding disorder, which an estimated 2% to 6% of the adult population worldwide experience.

Conquer the Clutter offers hope to anyone affected by hoarding. Real-life vignettes, combined with easy-to-use assessment and intervention tools, support those who hoard—and those who care about them. Written by Elaine Birchall, a social worker dedicated to helping people declutter and achieve long-term control over their belongings, the book

• provides an overview of hoarding, defining what it is—and is not
• explains the difference between clutter and hoarding
• describes different types of hoarding in detail, including impulse shopping, "closet" hoarding, and animal hoarding
• debunks myths about hoarding and hoarders
• explores the effects that hoarding has on relationships, on work, and on physical and financial health
• presents a practical, step-by-step plan of action for decluttering
• contains dedicated advice from individuals who have successfully overcome their hoarding disorder

The most comprehensive work about hoarding on the market, Conquer the Clutter discusses special populations who are not often singled out, such as the disabled and the elderly, and includes numerous worksheets to assist individuals in determining the scope of their hoarding disorder and tackling the problem. Over 40 pages of additional resources are available online at

About the authors

Elaine Birchall, the director of Birchall Consulting and founder of the Canadian National Hoarding Coalition, earned her master's degree in social work from Carleton University. A hoarding behavior specialist and clutter coach for more than 16 years, she provides training, consultations, and counseling to individuals and organizations.

Elaine Birchall's profile page

Suzanne Cronkwright, a technical writer and editor, earned her honors bachelor's degree in psychology from Wilfrid Laurier University.

Suzanne Cronkwright's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"When does a messy house cross the line into a mental health crisis? [Birchall] identifies the tell-tale signs—and explains how to safely intervene."

WebMD Magazine

"Beautiful book, accessible to everyone and absolutely interesting. Highly recommended."

Anna Maria Polidori

"Warm and big-hearted... The real-life case studies in part two bring the book alive, offering inspiration for change... [Birchall's] common sense and compassion come across loud and clear."

Healthcare Counselling and Psychotherapy Journal

"The authors of this optimistic book are a powerful combination of a get-up-and-go social worker who remains unfazed and energetic no matter what troubles are put in front of her, and her friend, Suzanne, who is also highly organised in presenting advice in the form of easily digested tables, lists and photographs... The book includes a set of very useful questionnaires on hoarding that may help people already prone to clutter to avoid entering the hoarding diagnostic arena, has sensible interventions to ensure collaboration, and adds substantially to input from health professionals. It is a mine of information that should be tapped."

British Journal of Psychiatry