Decluttering with Hoarding Expert Erica DiMiele

Erica DiMiele, one of the youngest hoarding experts in the country at age 29, has been helping people declutter their homes and their lives for almost ten years. Since 2015, the Edmonds resident and Eastside native has been one of four experts consulted on A&E’s Hoarders, which begins its tenth season on March 5.

“We deal with the most extreme cases in the nation,” said DiMiele. “And a hoarding disorder is more common than you might think. There are about 15 million compulsive hoarders in the nation, and 360,000 in Washington state alone.”

A hoarding problem, DiMiele explained, can be identified if the functionality of a person’s home is impaired or if spaces are no longer being used for their intended purpose — a shower full of boxes, for example, cannot be used to shower.

DiMiele tries to make her way up the stairs of a Redmond home.

While being a hoarder is different than having a cluttered home — and needs to be addressed at a psychological level beyond the act of cleaning up — DiMiele said that a rule of thumb to prevent hoarding is also an effective one for keeping a tidy home in general.

“When you bring something into your home, another thing (has to go),” she said. “Our lives are so busy that when we buy things, we bring them into our home and other things don’t leave.”

Start in one area of your home and look to see if there’s anything you can trash, donate, or recycle, she advised. Once you’ve cleared out those things, stay decluttered by trashing, donating, or recycling one thing for each new thing you own.

DiMiele emphasized that the process of going through and getting rid of things before organizing is essential. Like the viral instructions given by Marie Kondo — to go through items and discard those that do not “spark joy” — DiMiele’s advice to purge unneeded items is a necessary part of the process of organization.

“I get a lot of people saying they want to be more organized, but they don’t acknowledge that the first step is decluttering,” she said. “You have to get rid of things. You can’t just organize a hoard. You can’t organize your clutter.”

If you’re trying to declutter and are going through the process of throwing things away, recycling them, or donating them, DiMiele warned against the impulse to gift things or sell them, especially for someone who is chronically disorganized.

“Clutter is just a postponed or unmade decision,” she said. “When someone says I’ll gift it or sell it, I recommend the action is implemented right away. You have to put a timeline on it if it’s a keepsake or valuable. Make a plan for it, otherwise, it will just remain clutter.”

Catch DiMiele on the tenth season of Hoarders, which premiers on A&E on Tuesday, March 5.

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