We’re getting close to Christmas, when almost everyone’s clutter load increases due to gifts given to them, and gifts they gave to themselves while they were out shopping for others. On Black Friday, I couldn’t help but notice that most of the people I know who go out that day for bargain prices on gifts come home with many things for themselves. I had to wonder how much of that stuff they really even needed.
Some people will use or wear their gifts (to themselves or from others) for a while, but many will just add them to their already overwhelmingly large group of belongings. It seems as though the people who tend to collect things are the ones who keep the most gifts, even if they don’t use them.
For those who do this, decluttering is too overwhelming to contemplate. Whenever they’ve tried, they’ve given up fairly soon in the process. Seeing how much stuff they have tucked away in closets, the attic, the basement, the garage and maybe even in storage units is just too much to think about. As for the poor souls who have so much clutter that it has spilled out all over their homes, forcing them to create paths through the piles of stuff, well, overwhelming may not be a strong enough word.
I know someone like this. When they had a cat, they would often lose it….in the house. That’s just plain scary! I would love to help this person declutter, but they would never accept my help. So I’m putting a tip out here for those of you whose homes have almost reached hoarder status, as well as for that person, should they ever stumble onto my blog.
If you really want to declutter your home, but you don’t know where to start, you need to make a list. But you can’t do it at home. You must do it away from home: at a coffee shop, in your car while parked at a scenic spot, or on the train as you commute to work. Pick a spot where you can write uninterrupted, and bring a pen and paper, your tablet, your phone, whatever you like to take notes with.
Once you’re alone, situated, and ready to write or type, make a list of your most treasured possessions:
- Think of the things you would hope to have time to remove from your house in case of fire.
- Think of things you use all the time, things that you would be lost without.
- Think of things you treasure because someone you love gave them to you.
Spend 15 minutes at most working on this list, and then stop.
Almost certainly, you will come up with more things after you stop writing or typing. Don’t add them to the list. Keep the list as it was when you stopped.
When you get home, look around your house. Do you see all of the treasured possessions that you put on your list, or are some tucked away where you can’t see them? What about the things that popped into your head after you stopped making the list? Can you see them? Or are they also buried somewhere in your house?
Perhaps you’re seeing things in your house that you completely forgot when you made the list and even afterwards. No, you can’t add them to the list, but I’ll bet you wish you could. You see, your love of so many things is how you got into this mess in the first place. When you see your things, you can always think of reasons to keep them. Either you love them, or they were useful to you in the past, or you think you’ll need them in the future, or perhaps you’re saving them for someone you care about who might need them someday.
You’re attached to too many things, and that’s why you live with clutter. If it didn’t bother you, you wouldn’t have a desire to declutter your home. But it does bother you. You just don’t know how to make yourself let all these things go.
There are strategies for decluttering when you’re attached to so much stuff. I’ve explained many of them in my book, The Sentimental Person’s Guide to Decluttering.* I lived this reality when we downsized our lives and had to move from a huge house to a little one. There was no room for most of our belongings so we had to let…them…go.
As painful as it was, it was also incredibly freeing to give up so much stuff. At times, I still have to squelch the impulse to keep everything, but I remind myself how good it feels to live without clutter. Then I fill my car’s trunk with things we don’t need anymore and head over to the drive-up at Goodwill before I can change my mind. I usually forget what I donated fairly quickly.
Next time, I’ll tell you what to do with that list you made.
*Print version coming soon!