How to Cure Your Hoarding Habits

Is there lots of ‘stuff’ in your office? Is there lots of ‘stuff’ at home? Stuff that you don’t use very often, or actually haven’t used for years?

Cure Your Hoarding Habits

Do you ever open a drawer and find lots of stuff that has been there for years? Or have you ever tried to find a vital piece of paper and found it with lots of old out of date documents?
Or have you just not been able to find documents you needed?
Not enough space for your new books, CDs or clothes because your cupboards and shelves are full of the things you already have?
Do you know what’s at the back of your drawers? How long has it been there?
Are there pens in your drawer that you picked up years ago off some stall for nothing, don’t work, but are still there? Are some of them clearly broken?

Have You Ever Wondered Why You Hoard?

The Two Opposing Forces
Did you know that nature encourages us to hoard, in case of scarcity and hard times? (But, as you will have noticed in the recent economic climate, there probably isn’t enough hoarding – we call it “saving” – of money by Joe Public going on at the moment.)
On the other side of the scales the mesial prefrontal region of your brain stops you hoarding, or tries. But if it is damaged, the squirrel tendencies are off the leash.
This is a problem that can cause you serious time management issues. You will have seen offices or desks stuffed with all kinds of things and mountains of papers that you know will never be read or dealt with. You know this because simple mental arithmetic tells you that the person in this office won’t live long enough to do it.

When Silas, the chap who did my kitchen, came over to look at my office he said, in a tone of horror mixed with alarm “Do you really need all this stuff?”
Have you asked yourself this question recently?
This question came from a man who has a piece of wood that he had in his workshop when we first met over 20 years ago. It’s a lovely piece: English ash and unique in its way.

He kept it because he thought it might be useful one day and, as he said: “They don’t make them like this any more.”

A Terrifying True Horror Story About An Old Lady Who Went Missing.

Her husband couldn’t find her. He called the police.

They couldn’t find her and left after searching the house, which was filled to the brim, from floor to ceiling, with piles of old newspapers.
But when she still hadn’t come home later, the police went back and searched again. They found her, but it was too late. Falling piles of the detritus she had hoarded over her lifetime had suffocated her.

What Can You Do?

One of the easiest ways to reduce hoarding is by having clear rules about what you keep and what you don’t keep. That means you need to have a set of criteria.
Unfortunately, the “It might come in handy one day” rule can be a killer.

Are you one of those people who never gets rid of a book?

Here’s A Way To Deal With That

Get rid of any book as soon as you have discovered they are no good (boring or don’t have the information you want). Just put it straight into your ‘charity box’ (or the box for emergency Christmas presents for people you hardly know that suddenly give you unexpected, awful presents).
Have a shelf for the ones that you think might be useful “at some stage”. Then put a time in your diary to throw out the ones you haven’t used for a year. (You can give them to charity rather than throw them away.)

Will You Ever Listen To Those CDs Again?

Ask yourself how many CDs you have. Assume each one is about 45 minutes long. If you listened for eight hours a day solidly  you could get through about 18 CDs. On that basis, how many days of CDs do you have?
The truth is often that there really are some you will never listen to again. So why are they still there? It may be sentimental reasons…. Or that they might come in useful one day.


It all boils down to systems. If you have a system that means you keep more than you get rid of then sooner or later you will end up with no space in your cupboard. It may be in a year, 10 years or one week, but it will happen.

All Our Problems

Just about every problem is down to a system not working properly or being a bad system.
The Judge on the Potters Bar train crash enquiry, Michael Findlay Baker QC identified one of the problems that contributed to the crash:

On 9 May 2002, 16 hours before the crash, a rail worker, worried by “movement” as a train he was on approached Potters Bar told a member of staff.
The judge said the member of staff he told was “busy” and did not log the report. “He forgot,” said the judge. “In short, he did nothing.”

The system plainly wasn’t working.

Your Life is Full of Systems

Even though you may not realise it, I’m sorry to tell you that it’s true. So pay attention to the systems that you have created and see which ones are helpful and which aren’t.

Here’s a favourite example of one that wasn’t very good – a completely true story from a Time Management course.

A delegate turned up over an hour late. He said that he couldn’t find his keys so had missed the bus. He had eventually found the keys after 30 minutes of searching. They were on the floor under some clothes (also strewn on the floor).

I asked him where he normally put his keys. He gave an uncomprehending blank look. He did not have a ‘normal’ place to put his keys.
His system was:

  1. Come in through the door
  2. Drop keys
  3. Go to fridge for can of beer
  4. If there is no can of beer in the fridge, go out and get one….

You get the picture.

Three months later, Nick told me his life had completely changed. Now that he had put in a few systems (like a saucer to put his keys in) he had so much more time. Where he used get his excitement from wondering if he had a clean shirt to wear into work, he now got it from going sailing, which he found to be much more satisfying.

Check Your Systems

The most important message this week is this: check your systems. If there are problems that keep cropping up time and time again, you have a process or system problem. So spend a little time updating your system. Even better, if you are feeling particularly brave or adventurous, try asking yourself why you are doing this at all.

Improve Your Time Management In Just One Hour – Teleseminar Recording

In this live recording, I detail more specific systems and tools you can use to cut waste in your life. Plus I share a host of other practical tips and real life examples to help you to get more done in less time with greater ease and enjoyment.
You will discover:

  • The only two ways to improve your time management
  • What to do when you have too much to do and not enough time
  • Where we all go wrong over time
  • How to use the Pareto analysis to focus your efforts where they will make the biggest difference
  • How to plan effectively
  • Why you need to be able to estimate accurately
  • How to improve your estimating skills easily and effortlessly
  • How to Saying ‘No’ without having to say ‘No’
  • How to deal with Interruptions
  • How to save time in meetings
  • How to get long term continuous improvement
  • And lots more

You can find it here:

What are your worst Time Management problems?