I don’t know why some of us have such a strong propensity to accumulate, collect, and otherwise hold onto stuff beyond a reasonable limit. Maybe we’re born that way. Or more likely, we’ve picked up an understandable yet unfounded fear of not having enough of what we might need someday.
Whatever the reason, it starts with clutter that can quickly lead to hoarding—something that is expensive in terms of time, money, relationships, health, and peace of mind.
It didn’t happen overnight, but one step at a time, by applying these seven simple tips, I can say with confidence that my inner hoarder has been put in permanent time-out.
Know What It Is
Accepting the fact that I have OCD tendencies that could lead to something more serious was my most important first step. Gratefully, it never came to all-out hoarding.
The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DMS-5), classifies hoarding as an obsessive condition related to OCD. It is characterized by a persistent difficulty in discarding things.
Only a very small percentage of the world’s population displays clinical hoarding characteristics. If you think you might have a hoarding problem, reach out to a therapist for help.
Trying to undo years of accumulation in one weekend is just asking for failure. Instead, tackle one drawer or closet. For me, it was a very large closet. I was shocked and embarrassed to count 17 plastic storage bins filled with fabric, yard goods, fat quarters, and quilt kits. My fabric stash was something to behold. And completely and utterly overwhelming.
My dear friend Rosalie offered to take all of it to her house where over many months she gifted and distributed all of it. Her act of kindness was a gift I’ll never forget. It was my turning point as I discovered the joy of letting go, of freeing myself from the burden of too much stuff.
Can’t decide what to keep or what to do with magazines, toiletry items, kitchen cupboard clutter, clothes, and on and on that are in great condition but don’t fit or for some other reason have turned to clutter? Put them in a box, close it up, and write today’s date on the top. If after six months you haven’t opened it, you won’t believe how easy it will be to let it go.
What I call my box method has become a kind of easy “interim” step. It makes the process so much easier, which for me means doable.
- MORE: Clutter’s Last Stand
I collected teacups. I had dozens, all of them very old and [I thought] precious. I only had them because I inherited them along with some kind of self-imposed need to enhance and expand the collection in order to one day pass it on to the next generation. They were never my idea, never my style.
Once I realized this, and that I would not be dishonoring my mother-in-law in any way. it was easy to give them away. If you struggle with overwhelming collections, consider keeping the one most prized in the collection, take pictures of the rest, and find a way to get rid of them.
The neighborhood website, Nextdoor.com, has given me so much joy. Joining puts me in contact with others in my neighborhood where we share news, information, as well as offer things for free or for sale. I love this because it gives good stuff that we no longer need or enjoy a new home.
I post things on NextDoor for what our group calls “free porch pickup.” I include photos and a full description, then set the item(s) out on the porch.
Invariably within hours, they’re gone. But here’s the best part: Grateful recipients post their joy and thanks, which turns around to fill me with more joy. No hassles, no negotiating—just pure donation joy.
I do a lot of talking to myself these days and I mean in my “slippery” places like Costco and Amazon. And before dropping the LLBean or Pottery Barn mail-order catalog into the trash.
It’s like dealing with a bratty toddler sometimes.
- Why do you need that?
- Where will you put it?
- How many months will it sit a box (refer to “Box Method” above) before you surrender and just get rid of it?
I still make myself go home or leave those places to think about it for a few days. Invariably, I either forget about it altogether or change my mind.
Embrace the alternative
There’s something wonderful to be said for minimalism. Clear counters, an empty closet, a drawer with only three things in it. Those things slow my pulse, clear my head, and make me feel nimble.
My closet with only items that fit that I love and wear is so refreshing. My kitchen with only the tools and utensils I use regularly makes me enjoy cooking and baking.
That sense of freedom is my alternative to clutter. It keeps me heading in the right direction and my bratty inner hoarder in time-out!
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