Help me let go of clutter

(19 Posts)
ArriettyMatilda Wed 22-Jul-15 23:23:10

I feel like the secret to having a clean and organised home start with decluttering. I am stuck. For example I go to get rid of books and all these thoughts pop into my head- what if all the libraries close down, that's a book I want to keep for dd to read as a teenager, what if the Internet dies and I can't look that info up etc. How do you get rid of these thoughts to get rid of clutter ?

ijustwannadance Wed 22-Jul-15 23:39:39

Go and volunteer in a charity shop. A few months of sorting and binning other peoples junk will make you realise how junk you have and you will get rid of everything! (Or you will just buy more tat and become a hoarder). On a more serious note I had to clear out my brothers flat after he died, it made me think if i didn't bin all the pointless tat i'd held on to and anything happened to me, my poor DD would have to do it. When parents moved house after 40 years we were all ruthless and got rid of so much so it wasnt just dumped in the new loft. Felt amazing!

Teenytinee Fri 24-Jul-15 22:26:16

Watching the thread with interest. Same as OP. Would love any more tips

cozietoesie Sat 25-Jul-15 10:03:01

I'd actually disagree with the idea of going to work in a charity shop - if it was halfway serious.

One of the big determinants of cluttering is how the stuff arrives in my experience - and working in a charity shop is just too tempting to someone who likes to acquire. If you can get things cheap or free then a clutterer often will - if only to prevent them being 'unloved' and being thrown in the bin as charity shops often do with stuff which simply wouldn't sell - older books being a case in point these days, I'm afraid.

How do you actually acquire things, Arrietty ?

SavoyCabbage Sat 25-Jul-15 10:11:43

Stay away from charity shops!

My best friend is a hoarder. The thing that bugs me about it is that she can't live for the present at all. On,y the past and future. So her son has nowhere to store his underwear because she needs to keep all his baby clothes. And nowhere to put his toys because the top of his fitted wardrobe is crammed with a dinner service she is going to give him when he gets married.

She, like you, worried about what will happen if she chucks something away. What happens is that you deal with each thing as it happens. If someone asks you if you have that brownie recipe, and you don't because you gave that book away, you say 'sorry Margaret, I don't have that book any more'. It'll be fine.

About a month ago, I took a perfect dress that my dd could wear in the school play. She didn't have the part then. It would have been just the thing. But we don't have it anymore so she's going to wear something else.

ijustwannadance Sat 25-Jul-15 11:00:57

I was actually speaking from experience of volunteering in a charity shop. I have always found it difficult to get rid of things as i form emotional attachments to my stuff. By sorting other peoples junk it helped me realise that that is all it is, junk.

I allow myself 1 shoe box of memories and that is it. (Finally got rid of old school books after 20 years!) Favourite old outfits, kids toys etc just take photos of and make an album but write next to pic why it made you happy. I don't buy much, but tat will always appear (xmas/birthdays) etc. It's ok to just get rid.

Weirdly, i have no problems getting rid of my DD old/outgrown stuff and she knows she doesnt have to keep everything. Unless valuable don't keep your tat for your kids. They wont share your taste or want your tat, and books etc can be accessed easily online.

Oh Savoy, that poor boy. I can imagine that dinner service having an unfortunate accident in the future. Proper hoarders need real help as it's a mental health issue, not just an untidy one!

Also, once you start to clear stuff (not just move it around) your home will look better and you will feel better. Nothing bad will happen if you chuck an old book in your recycle bin, you can always download it. If worried about losing paperwork, scan into pc so you have a digital copy instead. If needed in future just print a copy.

BackforGood Sat 25-Jul-15 11:06:44

Good grief no - If I were in a charity shop on that regular basis, it would just be another amount of stuff coming into the home, as it was so bargainous...... shock

Have you thought about selling on a local FB selling group?
I've never sold on e-bay as the hassle of packaging it up and posting it just puts me off, but with local groups, people collect from your door, and, if you price it right, stuff just sells, so little amounts start to add up.

MarwoodsTrenchcoat Sat 25-Jul-15 11:34:36

Do you have favourites you borrowed from libraries or friends ages ago, but never bought and still remember fondly? If you are not much of a re-reader, other books, ones you've owned and got rid of, can be that way too. Though non-fiction for work and hobby purposes is worth hanging on to. (And that's what you'd need if the internet were down in any case, not so much several hundred okayish novels.)

What about the idea of books sitting there unused? You can pass them on to someone who will use it. (Especially rewarding if they are books used for courses or professional purposes.)

You also don't have to do it all at once: start with the ones you'd be least bothered about getting rid of, and do this every few months. If you've got less stuff coming in, that could get rid of several hundred books over a year or two depending on the size of collection.

Unread books: a lot of people say to chuck anything you've not read within a couple of years of buying it. But know yourself: I've rebought or borrowed unread books I'd got rid of a few years earlier.

Ebooks as replacements: they may take up less physical space, but they do still cost money, and the money can't be recouped because you can't sell on ebooks. (Irrelevant for cheapo novels, but might be for a £20 non fiction, depending on your circumstances.)

Are books a big clutter problem in your house?
They are quite easy to organise and store compared with some other things. Is addressing books a step on the way to working on other more complicated clutter? or semi-procrastinating? Or are they spilling off the shelves and in stacks on the floor?

If your income is lower, replacing stuff you might need again in a couple of years isn't as easy - there are articles about how decluttering / minimalism is a hobby for upper middle class people. (Though equally, there are some things sitting idle which can make a bit of money, especially kitchen and fitness gadgets.)
To what extent is doing this right for you & your family?

ijustwannadance Sat 25-Jul-15 11:40:46

People who go round charity, or any other, kind of shops and constantly buy stuff do not have a issue with a cluttered home. That is just a side effect of a deeper issue. Its THAT issue that needs sorting, whether its the buying buzz they like or deep seated family problems caused by parents, abandonment, death of a loved one etc, which manifest in the need to surround themselves with stuff like a comfort blanket.

'Normal' clutter and mess just needs a slight change of ingrained habits. Just think, the more you get rid of it, you easier it will get and will feel great. All that headspace wasted worrying about it and having to look at it everyday.

MokunMokun Sat 25-Jul-15 11:46:01

I got rid of a ton of books. Just kept the ones I honestly wanted to read/re read and got rid of the ones I was indifferent about. Only have as many as I can fit on my bookcase now. My parents kept a ton of our stuff from when we were kids but the boxes went mouldy in the garage so it all got thrown out. It really wasn't the end of the world.

Mercedes519 Sat 25-Jul-15 13:06:29

OP I feel your pain. I am a declutterer because I am a hoarder in instinct. I am trying all the time and I think this helps because I am not trying to do it all. It overwhelms me if I think about the whole house.

For example I've just cleared out a load of old envelopes which I've kept in case of need - I don't need them. Instead of getting rid of them all I have kept one of each size, because I think I might need them and that makes me more comfortable than getting rid of the lot. So can you get rid of 50% today? It makes the other 50% easier in the future.

Have you tried Freecycle for your stuff? I gave away two (big!) bags of packing and envelopes today to someone who needed them. That makes me feel better rather than throwing it away.

On the books front, I can't help you there. Clothes, toys, old mementos all fine. Books are a step too far for me!

It was a moment of clarity when I realised I didn't need better storage, I just needed LESS stuff.

BualadhBos Sat 25-Jul-15 14:43:29

Just keep saying to yourself 'I have enough, I am letting go'.

mistymeanour Sat 25-Jul-15 15:50:46

I recently got rid of 2 whole floor to ceiling bookcases full of books -it was a wrench as I have had many for most of my adult life and have been a great comfort to me at times, but now they are gone it is fine. I downloaded a lot onto my kindle - either they were free or under £2 for a huge collection of the authors work (most were "classic" books) so that I could ensure psychologically that "I still had them"

Get them out of the house really quickly or you will be tempted to retrieve some. My DP still won't sort his - but the bookcases can now accomodate his floor piles.

clary Sat 25-Jul-15 16:00:30

I have a rule that when I buy a new item of clothing I have to get rid of one - preferably the same kind of thing. I don't follow it religiously, but when I recently went on a charity shopathon with a friend and came back with 5 new tops and a skirt, I didn't let them in the wardrobe till I had removed some unworn ones.

If it's in my cupboard unworn for 6 months (a year in the case of seasonal items like shorts) then it's out. I have lost weight and have been getting rid of things that are too big - wore an old fave dress the other day and realised it has to go - even DH commented that it was too big. Feels good to do it. Could you do something similar with your books - only make it buy one, get rid of two?

hippospot Sat 25-Jul-15 17:16:16

I think decluttering needs a bit of a mind-shift.

- think about how much crap someone else would have to sort through after you go (sorry to be morbid)

- think about having less but better, eg bin all your oldest towels and keep only the number you need (2 per person, 1 or 2 for guests, plus beach towels). Keep your best, for example, jug or vase, and enjoy using it because it's beautiful. Try to use stuff you love instead of saving it "for best". You don't need more than one of certain things eg butterdish, soup tureen. Personally I'm not attached to dinner services, I'm happy with plain white which is easily replaceable. I admit if I'd inherited my gran's beloved set it might be harder to let go of.

- re books, I decided to only keep the stuff I would either re-read or stuff I'd want my kids to read when they're teens (I like the idea of them having free access to a "library" of quality/classic/cult fiction to choose from when the time comes).

- think about how much time you will save cleaning! Whenever I buy something new I try to get rid of something at home so that I don't accumulate too much. Not having much storage forces me to be discriminating. I view knicknacks as "dust magnets". If I go on a trip and want a memento, I try to buy something that can be hung on a wall rather than sit on a shelf.

- Find someone in need (or a charity shop) that you can give outgrown clothes and toys to - you get a nice feeling of charity from giving things that are useful for others. For me it's nieces and nephews, if the stuff is good quality. Stained stuff goes for recycling.

- for clothes it might be worth having a kind of "halfway house" box where you can put things you think you don't want, then reassess after 6 months. If you don't go looking for it in that time, you won't miss it. Exceptions are wedding/occasion wear that don't get worn very often at all.

PolterGoose Sat 25-Jul-15 18:52:45

I'd struggled with getting rid of books, but we were over-run and had no more room. I got a Kindle the Christmas before last and by the summer was ready for a big sort and clear, I took a car load to Oxfam and Gift Aided the lot. This morning I had my second 'statement' from them and in total they raised nearly £500 from those books. I haven't missed the books at all. It was so satisfying knowing what a difference that money makes we've sent 4 big boxes today for the local hospice shop and ds filled 3 big boxes which are ready to go to where he chooses.

YeOldeTrout Sat 25-Jul-15 19:03:09

If the Internet dies we will be living so hand to mouth that you really won't have time for taking care of more than the basics, no time to look up all the trivia we usually come here for.

If libraries shut down, ditto.

ArriettyMatilda Sun 26-Jul-15 09:34:28

Loads of great tips here thank you. I don't think I should frequent charity shops too often, as I found myself browsing after donating recently. Too many people to reply to individually whilst on my phone, but I will try to answer the questions people have asked.

cozietoesie I suppose some things must be bought, but not recently. I tend to buy consumables (food, soap etc) so at least those things will be used. My mum gives me a lot of stuff too that's she bought cheaply, sometimes useful things, like washing up liquid. Recently it's been toys for dd and I don't feel like I can always say no to these. For Christmas she gave me things like hairspray, one season of TV programme, random books just because they were cheap and I wish she hadn't bothered as I have no use for these things. Then I feel like I have to offer them back to her before I get rid of them in case she'd like them for someone else.

BackforGood maybe I ought to join a group, but even that seems like hassle since I just have lots of little things that aren't worth much and I'd rather donate to charity. And like the charity shops I may be tempted to buy more.

MarwoodsTrenchcoat books are just one example. Nothing is major problem (except toys l, but that is because dd is a toddler and we don't always make time to put them away) but all the little bits add to the untidyness. I love the idea of it being a middle class hobby. We do ok but it would feel stupid to get rid of pens and paper not used for the last two years. I've not accumulated any more paper or pens but neither have I needed to spend money on them either. Mercedes519 that's why I can't get rid of things like that, I know I'll eventually use them, it's not just case of thinking I might need something. I will try freestyle if I ever need to get rid of something that a charity shop won't take.

I will try to at least do the one in one out rule, that might work for toys especially. It will have to work for books since my shelf if just full, not spilling out yet!

Thanks again, I think we just need to keep plodding on with the getting rid of things we don't need. I need to lower my expectations, as it isn't going to happen all at once. I can we least concentrate on not bringing anything more in for now and if I do making sure I get rid of something else.

sayerville Sun 26-Jul-15 10:35:56

I can understand, my parents passed away and it has taken me about a year to clear their house, tomorrow the final item is being collected by a charity and that's it.
My problem was (is) my parents were proud people worked hard and loved all their belongings and they kept hold of whether it be LP's or my Nan's tea set because they loved them and also they might be worth a bit one day. I think the problem was their generation had nothing in the war so stashed their stuff.
Now I have boxes of stuff in my garage etc as I feel disrespectful for getting rid, though I know I must I'm not ready yet. I have given away/binned 95% of stuff so I think I've done well it was the hardest emotional roller coaster of a job I've ever done, I don't want my DD to go through that so I need to get rid of my own stuff, so I have bought the Kondo book and need to do it!
I wish you luck I know how hard it is but I know we'll all feel better for it.

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