Using a Variety of Intervention Strategies to Conquer the Clutter

Conquer the Clutter: Strategies to Identify, Manage, and Overcome Hoarding has been designed for those suffering from hoarding disorder, their loved ones, and other professionals who are working with them. Elaine and Suzanne wrote this book to fill the gap between the two most popular type of information currently available: academic and organizing. The academic, research-based theoretical books offer protocols, which while appropriate for population-level application do not translate well to the individual. When those living with hoarding disorder and those who care reach out for help, they are trying in vain to overcome being overwhelmed and cannot make effective use of theories, research, and protocols.  Supports are scarce and often non-existent.  Organizing strategies are extremely premature.

This book reveals that if you help those who hoard to change their relationship to their things, hoarding disorder can be manageable.

Our vision for the lasting impact of this book is the following:


  • We believe the lasting impact of Conquer the Clutter will be the legacy of the insight and strategies of what has worked for those who have struggled with hoarding disorder, because Elaine feels that despite her academic qualifications, they have also taught her. Those individuals have lit the path for others to succeed.


  • Conquer the Clutter is a reminder to loved ones that it’s not simply about getting rid of things; it’s about helping the person find what is MOST important to them, and, working at their pace, helping them prioritize the remainder.


  • Conquer the Clutter is a reminder that our patients/clients come to us as whole beings and we do better work, with better benefit to them if we collaborate with other professionals and resources to support the person in the entirety of their challenges.
  • Above all, this book respects and appreciates the courage it takes for someone so OVERWHELMED to pick up the book, do the work, and face the reasons that feed hoarding disorder.

Often used for these at-risk groups above, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a valuable treatment tool, but in Elaine’s experience, sometimes people are not able to engage with it. That’s why she wrote this book. Over the past 26 years, 18 of which she has specialized in hoarding, she has honed numerous intervention strategies drawing upon them according to the needs and availability of each client. Some of these include CBT, family system, harm reduction, solution-focused, crisis counseling, Satir, neuro-linguistic, and psychodynamic strategies.

Elaine approaches the people who come to her as whole individuals, and firmly believes that she needs to respect and support their wholeness. Where comorbidities are profound, when possible she forms collaborative support with other experts and works cohesively together with them to provide the care team that individual requires.

As is outlined in real life vignettes in Conquer the Clutter, addressing life challenges might mean:

  • Thinking outside the box to coordinate practical supports
  • Providing skills training on parenting, shopping strategies, conflict resolution, goal setting, time management, or procrastination, and so on

People come to Elaine for help with their hoarding disorder, but the work she does weaves learning, skills, theory, and reclaiming self-respect into the fabric of each unique life. She has found that knowing the theory is important as a clinician, but she believes it is her responsibility to treat based on the needs of each individual. Elaine developed this approach over 18 years working with individuals “in the trenches”—the environ­ments where the hoarding occurs, at all levels of severity.

Suzanne, on the other hand, is a 36-year career technical writer who is known for her ability to craft simple, easy-to-understand procedures and policies for government and technology companies across North America. Working with Elaine on Conquer the Clutter has provided a wonderful opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream of using her writing skills to make a real difference in the lives of those around her. She has been delighted to provide project management advice, documentation and version control strategies, as well as blogging and journal article support for the book.

We hope you find joy through this work.

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. Suzanne Cronkwright, a technical writer and editor, earned her honors bachelor's degree in psychology from Wilfrid Laurier University. Together, Birchall and Cronkwright are the authors of Conquer the Clutter: Strategies to Identify, Manage, and Overcome Hoarding.