295: Strategies to Identify, Manage, and Overcome Hoarding with Elaine Birchall

295: Strategies to Identify, Manage, and Overcome Hoarding with Elaine Birchall

Eric’s guest on this episode of ADHD reWired is Elaine Birchall. Elaine is a social worker and a hoarding behavior and intervention specialist. She is the director of Birchall Consulting and is dedicated to helping those with hoarding behaviors to learn to manage their possessions and vulnerabilities. She founded the Canadian National Hoarding Coalition and hosted the weekly Voice America radio show Take Back Your Life When Things are Taking Over and many other things.

Elaine describes hoarding as a disorder that leads to excessive accumulations of stuff, some or all of your living spaces are not useable because of things and stress or impairment of functioning because there are piles of stuff. You might say to people I am a bit of a hoarder, but unless the symptoms repeatedly occur, consistently and extend over some time, it’s probably not hoarding. The younger a person is when diagnosed with the disorder, the better the chance of recovery is.

For some people decluttering a room is very difficult. Elaine gives us tips and tricks to keep it from taking so long. The key to a list is keeping it close by, you don’t want to look for it, or you might get sidetracked, and the whole hampster on a wheel things starts over.

Elaine tells us to set three goals every day to get your decluttering done and still have time to do what you want. She talks about her scaling system so you can decide how to categorize the items you need to get rid of. Can you rip your house apart and get it all done in one day? Elaine says to find out how much energy you have and do a task that matches it. Don’t have the power to do a 15 min job, but try to handle an hour’s situation. It won’t work. 

Listen to this fantastic conversation, and if any of this sounds like you or someone you know. You never know when you may have an ah-ha moment. Take notes, phone a friend, or just sit back and plugin but you won’t want to miss this episode.

You’ll Learn:

  • [03:04] Elaine, welcome to the show!
  • [03:47] They chat about hoarding confoundedness and vulnerabilities.
  • [04:21] Elaine, how did you get into specializing in hoarding?
  • [07:52] There are three criteria of hoarding. Elaine defines and explains them.
  • [12:21] Hoarding and ADHD can have very similar rules.
  • [14:35] It needs to be repeated, consistent, and extend over some time before you can call it hoarding.
  • [15:53] When diagnosed early, it is easier to recover than if you wait, and the groove gets more profound, then you can only manage it.
  • [22:32] What triggers the hoarding disorder? What is the Path?
  • [27:33] Being in control of a part of your life gives you peace like a clean.
  • [29:51] Don’t put it down, put it away!
  • [30:19] Catch yourself when you say I’ll pick it up later. Tell yourself, do it now.
  • [31:58] The trick is to take a second, hold the thing in your hand, and ask yourself if I was looking for you where you would be?
  • [32:44] Two ways to remediate the clutter is the swiss cheese method or pick a spot and start in a corner and work your way around.
  • [35:27] Externalize the message so that it occupies time and space. A chalkboard list or a list on your phone.
  • [38:01] Set three goals every day (1) Have joy, fun, and play (2) remind yourself that you are a developing human being (3) Legitimate work.
  • [41:48] Elaine explains her rule of three.
  • [42:27] Elaine talks about her scaling system around clutter.
  • [44:02] Can you rip your house apart and do the whole thing in one day?
  • [44:48] Gage how much fuel you have and find a job that matches that.
  • [49:24] Elaine runs two support groups for hoarding, but she is preparing to do an online group also.
  • [51:32] Elaine gives us some tools to use on how to approach someone with this disorder.
  • [52:06] Get Elaine’s book, it is designed to fill the gap if you aren’t getting help.
  • [54:31] If you’re a regular listener, consider becoming a patron and on our Patreon at

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