Hi, my name is Ali and I am a Hoarder … so the last topic I ever thought I would be writing about was decluttering! In fact the very idea of decluttering sent a shiver down my spine for many years (& not in a good way!). Now, however, I find myself turning into a bit of a decluttering addict and finding the process surprisingly cathartic.
Let me clarify … I am not decluttering and getting rid of things for the simple reason of getting rid of them … I have just changed my mindset and employed strategies that are working for me so I have collated tips I have used on my journey to a decluttered home…
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1) Find your Why.
… I don’t say this lightly … I came to decluttering in the midst of a period of ill health and it has been instrumental in my journey to recovery. I started journaling and free writing and on reflection noticed there were common threads running as undertones in everything I wrote: financial worries and feeling like I couldn’t relax at home. I realised I wasn’t enjoying our home as I always felt like there was something more to be done. I found it impossible to clean properly as I was spending all my time tidying. This was exacerbating my feelings around our finances as we were wasting money on duplicate items and we constantly lost things. Once I had realised My Why I was able to shift my mindset to be future & goal oriented. Go grab yourself a pen and paper and start writing what your ideal home / life / mindset is & keep coming back to that when you feel yourself slipping.
2) Play the Long Game.
So many “declutter” posts talk about big “whole house cleanses” in 1 or 2 weeks but I find the idea of that too daunting. As a result whenever I did attempt a declutter I found the whole process too overwhelming and invariably ended up emptying stuff out, collecting it in one place, making an ungodly mess and taking a lovely trip down memory lane … ending up in a bigger mess than when I started and inevitably only “purging” 1 or 2 items.
Face the reality that this is a mindset change, this about a process, not a quick fix and will require commitment – but the rewards are immediate and pretty addictive!
3) Inspire Yourself
There are so many great organisational / decluttering books available. My journey started over a year ago [see I told you it was a long game plan!!] when I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying: A simple, effective way to banish clutter forever, by Marie Kondo. I say my journey STARTED as I had recognised there was an issue and that couldn’t see the proverbial wood from the trees but the idea of talking to my possessions I found a little strange. Given that I am not a naturally tidy person the idea that EVERYTHING had to have a place and immediately go there upon entering the house was too overwhelming for me. BUT what the book DID do was make me wake up to JUST HOW MUCH STUFF I had accumulated over the years vs how much we actually used, enjoyed or got value from.
Once I had had this realisation I started to notice the things that really no longer had a place in our home. I took to Pinterest to seek inspiration – I have always loved interiors and browsing ideas for our perfect home and whilst I will never be a true minimalist the “lack of clutter yet cosy” feel to many of the images I am drawn to really appealed to me.
4) Employ the Bye-Bye Box
The fellow parents amongst you will recognise this from our good friend Bing Bunny … and yes I have absolutely, undeniably stolen this from our little furry friend – or is it Flop’s??
If, like me, you are coming to this post on the back of many failed declutter / purge attempts then you KNOW where your “Sticky Items” are … that summer beach dress you haven’t even packed for your last 5 holidays but are somehow still keeping “just in case” or the box of old knick knacks from your childhood bedroom.
So here’s my tip … if something is “Sticking” and you just can’t get rid of it (YET) … move it to a place where you can either bulk load down to the charity shop after your chosen amount of time has passed & you haven’t used them … or even keep the box until you’re really ready to face saying goodbye … believe me it WILL come and it WILL be a relief when it does!
5) Start Small and See the Rewards
What’s that crazy statistic … 80% of UK women only wear 20% of the clothes they own?! Something like that … and so it was with me … 3 wardrobes & 2 chest of drawers full of clothes and I still felt like I had nothing to wear.
Having inspired myself perusing the idea of capsule wardrobes I started viewing clothes differently … then I stumbled across this quote:
“I have an irrational fear of wasting a good outfit on an insignificant day”
… and that was it … CLICK!
Now I have changed my clothing mindset in 2 ways …
a) I have a strict WEAR IT policy … if you love something enjoy it – don’t hide it away from the world – feeling special and good can turn an average day into a great day!
b) if it’s stained or can’t be mended it goes straight in the bin … & let’s be honest if it CAN be mended … WILL I? If the answer is no, I’ll hoard it for 5 years THINKING I’ll get around to mending it but never will then that too heads for the bin.
One thing I did adopt from the KM book was her folding technique not only did this mean I could actually see all my tops but I could fit more into less storage … so 1 chest of drawers was emptied and I found the new space made our room feel so much better that I was actually grateful to have said goodbye to so much and enjoyed being in the space more.
Top Tip: Start putting your washed clothes back on the right hand side of the drawer … over time the items you don’t actually wear will migrate over to the left – then you can review and reassess starting from the left. You’ll get a better idea of what you actually wear … you’ll be surprised how much you don’t!
6) Be Gentle on Yourself
This is not an easy journey for us hoarders so a focus on what you have achieved is better than what you haven’t. Disclaimer: Don’t kid yourself into thinking that you are making progress if you’re not though!
So far we have sold 2 wardrobes and a chest of drawers by reducing the number of clothes we have – I can honestly say I haven’t missed a single one. Our guest bedroom is now a warm, spacious and inviting space for our family and friends to stay in and that is bringing me more joy than the mountains of unworn clothes ever did.
7) Get Rid of Space Consuming Incidentals
By this I mean the mountains of things you have “just in case” typical categories I have decluttered under this header are:
- Coat Hangers
- Carrier Bags
- Old candles [you know – the ones you planned on remelting one day]
- Craft projects that were never started
8) Reward Yourself
This can be deliberate – a chilled glass of wine in a bath after you have tackled toiletries … or a chill in the lounge with a fire and a good book after you have completed a category … or it can come unexpectedly… like the surprise text from the charity my first clothing purge went to.
I had provided my details so that Gift Aid could be claimed on my donation and thought nothing more of it. Then 2 weeks later a text arrived – thanking me and letting me know that my donation had raised £60 for the charity and they had been able to claim £15 back in Gift Aid too. Since then another 2 car boot fulls have been donated. I feel good that our unwanted “stuff” has gone to others with the added bonus that it’s raised money for a good cause in the process. Not WHY I took the donation – but a nice little serendipitous feel good factor!
9) Be Honest
A biggie here for me was food. If you go to your freezer do you have mince / chicken thighs that have been languishing under the peas for years? The new rule is if you wouldn’t eat it right now then it goes …
I struggled at first that this was a waste of money – but I have found this has actually saved us money! By being able to easily SEE what we have and implementing a meal planning system we don’t duplicate what we already have or buy unnecessary items.
So there you have it 9 reflections on how to declutter when your default setting is hoarder … As you can probably tell I have battled against my sentimental attachment to things and struggled to let things go for a long time. I am still very much on a journey. There are categories in our house that I have yet to face … but as time goes by I am finding it easier and easier to let things go – and finding the more I do – the more I want to do!
… I think I am about 75% of the way there and plan on holding myself accountable here. I truly hope these tips and my story have helped / inspired you and if you are in the same boat and fancy joining me leave me a comment – it would be lovely to connect and share ideas!
Love Ali x
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