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Hoarding: When messiness causes stress

Karen Hawthorne is a health and lifestyle writer and producer in Toronto, Canada. Her work has appeared in print and online for publications including Glow, Homemakers, BestHealthMag.ca and the National Post.

De-clutter to stress less

Have you watched the TLC show Hoarders and felt like it hit too close to home because of your messy office or overflowing closets and storage nooks? The need to save and stash items is more common that you might think. But taking steps to sort and organize can decrease your stress and even empower you.

Woman in messy living room

1Out with old -- begrudgingly

Out with the old isn't always easy. Who knows when you may need that fourth set of measuring cups or those skinny jeans when you return to your high-school weight again? But a disorganized, cluttered space can mess with your mental outlook and focus, says Jeremy Greer, a professional organizer and innkeeper in Toronto.

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Clutter can be overwhelming

"When a space becomes too cluttered, the person living in that space becomes cluttered, too," Greer says. "You have too much responsibility at this point, too many tasks, from all those items. It often makes people feel overwhelmed or trapped."

3Your belongings are your responsibility

Why? Greer says the more things we have, the more responsibility we have. When every item equals a chore or a to-do, our lives can become "pretty discombobulated."

4Let go and go forward

Letting go is a learning experience we all need to help us move forward with our lives. One client of Greer's went from being a "cluttered" career lady to a top sales representative. Greer's own grandmother gave up smoking cold turkey after he worked with her to de-clutter her entire home – 37 years of accumulation.

5We really don't need more stuff -- it's just stuff

We accumulate because commercialism tells us we need more stuff, and then we have a hard time prioritizing what we really need to keep. We're afraid to let go, he says. " 'What if?' screams fear. I can guarantee there will be items you will throw away or give away and need again. And that is OK! You may even have to buy something again. There is no need to worry over this."

Up next: Expert organizational tips >>

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