Letting go of your clutter can be hard. You may have identified rooms which are cluttered and realise that certain items you have, just do not get used. You may desperately need more space and have trouble finding things. You may hate the way your home looks because it is so cluttered. Even knowing this, giving away or selling possessions can be very hard for some people.
Clutter steals your space
If you don’t use half the stuff you own, it isn’t harmlessly lying around, it’s eating into 50% of your space and increasing the burden of your housework. What prevents us from getting rid of the things that make our lives more complicated? Which excuses do we hide behind? Why do we make these excuses? Sometimes it comes down to not knowing how to make a decision about it. This is how the clutter build-up begins.
Clutter Excuse 1. I might need it one day
Maybe you will, but if you haven’t needed it for the past ten years then you probably won’t need it for the next ten years.
Do you really want to clutter up your cupboards and drawers on the off chance, when the space is so desperately needed? If you did find you needed the item or something similar in five years time, then you could buy another one! It will probably be cheaper by then anyway. But you will probably never need that Minnie Mouse feather boa. Live dangerously, take a chance and get rid of it. You take greater risks every time you drive your car than the imagined risk of getting rid of an item that you haven’t used for a long time.
Clutter Excuse 2. It was a present
So what? This may sound harsh, but gifts are meant to please the receiver and not the giver. If the gift is a dud, then you can be grateful for the thought, and pleased that someone cared enough to buy you a present. But don’t feel obliged to keep every single gift you are ever given, especially if you don’t like them or need them. People often don’t know what other people want or need, and so present giving can be fraught with pitfalls. This is why people receive naff jumpers, awful socks, unsuitable books, gruesome toiletries, ugly ornaments and vile videos. The person who chose them thought they were wonderful, but you hate them. Would you want someone to keep a gift you had given them, even if you knew they didn’t like it?
If you sell the item you can get some money to buy something you really do like. Or give it to a charity shop and benefit people in two ways: the charity will benefit and the person who buys the item at a reduced rate will benefit (and this person may be on a low income and really need what would otherwise just be clutter to you).
Clutter Excuse 3. It’s brand new
Again, so what? This is a silly excuse to keep something you never use. It may be brand new, but if it sits in your house all day long acquiring dust then it is clutter. Where would you use a surf board in Manchester? Sell it, or give it to someone as a present. First though, find out if they would use it.
Clutter Excuse 4. It’s never been worn
If it’s never been worn, there may be a good reason. It doesn’t matter if it’s never been worn, what matters is if it ever will be worn.
You may have vague ideas that one day an occasion will arise when you might want to wear it. It won’t. If you have had your moose costume for a while and not worn it yet, then the chances are you never will. Exceptions to this can be evening wear, ski clothes, or the type of clothing which you do wear occasionally, but not perhaps every year. Before you decide to keep it, check if it still fits!
Clutter Excuse 5. I’m going to mend it one day
Here’s how to deal with these items. Give yourself a deadline, say six months. If you haven’t mended it by then you must get rid of it.
It doesn’t matter whether you are genuinely busy or lazily slothful, the important fact is the reality of whether the item will ever get mended. If you miss the deadline, throw the item away or give it to someone who will mend it. Good intentions are responsible for a lot of clutter.
Clutter Excuse 6. It reminds me of…
If an item really does remind you of a special occasion, then it is fine to keep it, but don’t have it locked away where you never see it. Try and display it.
If your wedding dress gives you great pleasure to look at, then see it you can get a dressmakers dummy to display it on. If you are short of space, consider displaying a photo of you wearing the dress rather than keeping the dress itself. Things which are packed away and rarely come out don’t give much pleasure to anyone.
So if you don’t have room to display a sentimental item, consider giving it to someone who will get pleasure out of it. Looking at a photo can sometimes stir memories just as effectively, especially if you put them in frames on the wall. Alternatively you may be able to keep a small part of the sentimental item, for example, save your brownie badges but not the whole uniform, or keep your bridesmaid bouquet but not the whole dress.
Sentimental items can be tricky when it comes to deciding what to keep. It is nice to have tangible reminders of the past, but if you have too many, they tend to get packed away, or scattered around, and not properly enjoyed or appreciated. Get them out, frame them or display them on shelves. Cards and paper items can be put into a scrapbook. This way you can look at them and wallow in nostalgia whenever you want to. However if you keep too many, then you won’t have enough display space, and hundreds of scrapbooks would be impractical.
Try and weed out the really important stuff, the items that are really special to you and remind you of really significant occasions in your life. Keeping every cinema ticket and card you ever receive is excessive. But cards from close family and friends, or cinema tickets from a special birthday outing probably merit keeping. Scrapbook making is time consuming so if you don’t have time to start one straight away keep folders to put sentimental items into, and label them so you know what is in there. Don’t put the task off for too long, however, or the folders will become more clutter.
Clutter Excuse 7. It’s a holiday souvenir
Holiday souvenirs can be bought in the heat of the moment, (or the heat of Spain). When you get the souvenirs home you can sometimes wonder why you bought them.
What seemed charming and unusual when you were caught up in the atmosphere of your holiday, can seem tacky and cheap when you get home. Holiday souvenirs are often made of cheaper materials and tend to be mass produced.
You may not have considered whether you have room for your souvenirs or whether they will just add to your clutter. Unless it’s something you genuinely needed, it is best to avoid buying holiday souvenirs. Where would you wear leather lederhosen anyway?
Photos are the best form of holiday souvenir. They don’t take up much space, and can contain whole groups of people or locations.
Let the charity shop benefit, or have a car boot sale and let some misguided soul pay you to take your clutter away!
Clutter Excuse 8. It might be valuable one day
Get it valued. If it isn’t valuable now is it really the sort of thing that will be valuable one day, or are you indulging in wishful thinking? If it is in mint condition, is in its original box, and everyone you know doesn’t have one, then maybe, just maybe it will be valuable one day. Otherwise it’s not.
Even then, don’t assume. Do some research. Experts can predict what is likely be collectible in the future. However no one can be certain. Do you really want to sacrifice your precious living space on the off chance? Mass production means that most goods are around in such large quantities that they are unlikely to become rare.
So if perceived future value is your sole reason for keeping something, make sure it’s going to be worth it. Consider whether a lack of clutter and spacious surroundings would be more valuable to you after all.
Clutter Excuse 9. I’m saving it for…
Your relatives have enough junk of their own without having yours wished upon them. Give them a break.
Your children probably won’t want your old furniture (unless they are really short of money or you are giving them antiques). Your old sofa will seem old fashioned to them and shabby, and will not win them any kudos with their trend conscious friends.
Your baby equipment will be old fashioned too and may not meet modern safety requirements, as these are being constantly updated. Car seats in particular should be new, because wear and tear can compromise safety and new models are always up to date with the new regulations.
Anyone who has a baby loves choosing new clothes for them, (babies can be trend setters too), so unless the couple are on a very low income, hand me downs may only be greeted with forced smiles.
Find out first, don’t just assume that people will want to mop up all your old possessions. Being inundated with second hand clothes and equipment can add to a family’s clutter quota considerably, and if they live in a small house or flat it can be a source of stress.
Clutter Excuse 10. I might want to read it one day
Be honest with yourself – are you keeping some of those Dickens, Brontes and Shakespeares more for show than pleasure? If there is no realistic chance that you will ever read them, then try selling them to a second hand book shop or give them to a charity shop or school fair. Let someone else enjoy them in the way they were meant to be enjoyed.
Books take up a lot of space and bookcases are expensive. At least think before you just automatically keep all books that come your way.
Clutter Excuse 11. Someone might want to borrow it one day
Do you really want to be the lending library for every one else? The remote possibility that someone else may need one of your things is not a good enough reason to fill your life with junk. The space and freedom to move around in your own home should take priority for you and your family.
Clutter Excuse 12. I may take it up again one day
How much spare time do you have? If you are rushing around like most people and feel that there aren’t enough hours in the day already, then you will hardly have time to take up a hobby or past-time which you were unenthusiastic enough to drop once before anyway. The only people who really may have a bit of time on their hands are teenagers or retired people, and many retired people work part-time and are busying helping to look after grandchildren, or doing voluntary work of some sort.
Do you really want to keep those paintbrushes that you haven’t looked at for years, on the off chance that you may have time or the urge to take it up again when you are retired? How many years away is your retirement anyway? Give it to someone who can use it now, or give it to a charity shop. If it is valuable, sell it. Keeping loads of items you don’t use, drains your energy, when you don’t have space for the activities you are doing now.
Live for the present, not your past or a future that may never come. We rarely take up old past-times, there are too many other exciting things to do with our lives.