So many people dream of living a simpler and less cluttered life. We love instagram images of minimalist houses and Pinterest pins of decluttering and organising methods. But the action required is often overlooked in favour of other things. What stops people from decluttering and creating an environment they want to live in?
Stuck with decluttering? We’ve all been there.
You start out full of enthusiasm, ready to tackle that drawer, wardrobe or cabinet, and after the first 15 minutes you find yourself staring at the same thing over and over, unable to make a decision about it.
Long-forgotten feelings surface. You think about the memories attached to it and although you really thought you didn’t need it any more, suddenly it seems important. It doesn’t belong in the room you’re in, but you aren’t sure where else to put it.
A nagging feeling eats away at you. You start to get bored with all this sorting out. It’s taking too long. Decluttering has stopped being fun and is now hard work.
Are you living in a house that is so cluttered and messy you think you’re beyond help? Maybe your clutter problem has gotten so bad it’s affecting your job, or your relationships with others? If nothing else is working, here’s what to do if you have so much stuff you can’t even see your floors.
If you’ve gotten yourself into a situation like this, you need to know that the origin of the problem is not physical.
This level of extreme clutter (or hoarding) tends to occur following traumatic life events like divorce and death, but it can also be a cumulative representation of a life that you just aren’t happy with.
Paring back your possessions and living with less is most often a slow process. It takes mental adjustment along with the investment of time and energy to let go of things, and a way of life, that you have taken for granted for many years.
One of the things that can help you as you make this adjustment is the principle of keeping like with like. Keeping like with like was instrumental in helping me to finally organise my endless mess. It also made it easier to declutter because I could see just how much of each thing I had.
When you first start decluttering, what’s the first thing you should do?
You’re standing at the bottom of a mountain of stuff, and you know things have to change. You can feel the fire in your heart for a cleaner, clearer path forward. But you’re worried. Because the job just seems enormous.
How can you start, and make your start a success? So that several hours later you aren’t sitting in an explosion of your own things, conflicted over how many pencil sharpeners you need to keep, while on the floor around you is a flood of stuff that you can’t seem to find a home for?
When I made the decision to declutter my house, it was a big goal. I imagined that when I had finished, everything would be wonderful. In reality it turned out to be a long time before I learnt that actually, decluttering is habit.
Unexperienced in keeping things to a minimum, I assumed that one great purge in every room would leave me with the clear and calm environment I craved. Decluttering commenced with a huge amount of passion and motivation, fuelled by a vision of how life would be when it was done. I sorted through every drawer, every cupboard, and tackled every surface.
It took months, and I learned some important lessons. Like how decluttering sometimes makes more mess than the clutter in the first place. And that getting the sorted clutter out of the house requires a lot of work. I also learnt that decision fatigue sets in after an hour or two. All-day sessions are not as productive as short intense bursts.
When I first started getting rid of stuff, I listed it all on eBay. My reasoning was: why give something away that could make me some cash? It had never occurred to me that I could choose to sell or donate.
Partly this was because I was unemployed and living with my Dad, but also it was because I still had a very strong attachment to my things and I needed to somehow feel that I was getting compensation for getting rid of them.
Selling things however – as anyone who’s ever done it will know – takes quite a lot of time. Whether it’s a card in the newsagent’s window, a listing on eBay or the rumour mill of family and friends, getting rid of things this way is far from instant. There are item descriptions to worry about, photos, decisions on pricing, and then packaging up the item to send, or even dropping it to someone else’s house… it all adds up.