Stacy and I have been working hard to organize, declutter, and generally tidy our home. It has been a fun journey that really started when Stacy began reading about The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. We have had lots of fun purging, sorting and generally finding out what we own that we truly love. The problem is, I don’t like to get rid of stuff. And you know what, I bet you (or someone you know well) doesn’t like to get rid of stuff either. How do you declutter and organize your home if you have pack rat or even hoarder tendencies? Read on.
I am not be a certified expert in hoarding. Some of those extreme hoarders have serious issues to work through that are way outside the scope of what we can cover here. That’s probably not your starting point, however. So first and foremost, let’s dismiss the excuse that you “can’t declutter because you have too much stuff and you don’t know where to start.” Unless your living space looks like something from the latest episode of Hoarders, that excuse doesn’t work for you. Deal? Instead, let’s look at some good questions to answer to help any pack rat get started on cleaning out and tidying up.
Do you love it?
This is the root of all the advice Marie Kondo talks about in her book. If you own things that you don’t love, why do you own them? Of course, certain things hold important utility value that you don’t love, but shouldn’t be discarded (think toilet brush). But whenever you’re trying to break your habit of being a pack rat, start by looking around at all the “stuff” (and that’s all it is) and ask yourself why you have things you don’t truly love.
Why do you own it?
This is a biggie. When my dad died and we started cleaning out his massive garage and the basement, we hauled off truckload after truckload of stuff we couldn’t even find a utilitarian value in keeping. It was trash – pure and simple. My dad kept just about everything. I am often the same way – I’ll see stuff in my own garage or basement and think, “I will use that” or “…one day….” I finally realized, though, the “I’ll use it one day” mentality or the “it is worth something” mentality will keep you from getting rid of things that really should go. If you won’t use it in the near future or can’t sell it easily, consider it what it is: a donation to the thrift store or very likely, trash.
Notice my important caveat there: If you have a bunch of stuff you won’t use but it is of value, why not sell it? The last time I wrote for this site, I wrote about how we’ve made money selling in online classifieds. So far, we’ve made over $2,000 selling things that we didn’t love and didn’t want to keep in our home. Some of that stuff was useful and we may even end up re-buying some of it in the future. But at this point, it wasn’t something we wanted and we didn’t need it in the foreseeable future. So we exchanged it for something I’m always glad to have on hand – cash.
Why did you buy it?
“It was on clearance!” “The deal was too good to pass up!” “I knew I would eventually use it.” “The multi-pack was only a little bit more than the single.” I could keep going, but I think you get my point. If you’re a pack rat, I’d almost guarantee the preceding statements describe your reason for buying lots of the things you’ve bought and never used. See the paragraph above for my thoughts on how to proceed. If you got such a great deal, you’ll make some money when you sell it to someone else. 😉
Does it bring you good memories?
I’m not super sentimental, but I have lots of great memories. I always kept every greeting card, letter, photo or trinket I was given. I had LOTS of them. If you’re a pack rat, I’d bet you do too. I still have plenty of them, but I went through every one and asked one question: is the item what has value, or is the memory what has value? Don’t get me wrong – I’m not suggesting you get rid of every love letter your spouse wrote you or the quilt your great grandmother made. What I’m asking you to do is to look through all those “memories” and determine if the item you’re storing is the valuable thing or if the memory is the valuable thing. What I found is that lots of the stuff I had kept I couldn’t even tell you why I kept it. I had absolutely no clue what the memory associated with it was supposed to be. The item stirred zero emotion, so it went in the trash.
Are you happy?
Stacy and I have been hearing from lots of you who have been trying to declutter. The comments are usually:
- This is awesome. It is so freeing to get rid of all this stuff!
- You hate the environment because you’re throwing away all that useful stuff. I hate you. Why are you making me feel guilty for having stuff?
- My husband/wife refuses to get on board with this whole idea of decluttering. We live in a dump. HELP!
- Ummm…if you are happy with your pack rat-edness (that is totally a word, right?), why change? If you love having clutter and chaos, that’s cool. That is your right and privilege. I am not asking you to change (and I’m definitely not demanding you to change). This isn’t a spiritual issue so I’m pretty sure you won’t go to hell for it. I’m not sure what gets people all up in arms about this idea of getting rid of stuff you don’t need or use, but hey – it is your stuff. If you are happy with your current situation, don’t change. By the same token, don’t be a hater because I choose to discard things I won’t use. Sheesh.
- Ummm…if Stacy were to throw away or give away all my stuff and call our home a dump I’d take personal offense. But instead, when she started talking to me about the idea of decluttering and getting rid of things, she started with her stuff. I know there is the only two-become-one thing when you get married, but her underwear is not our underwear. We are husband and wife – one unit – but we still have things that are hers and things that are his. If you want to declutter your home and your spouse isn’t cooperating, focus on the things you can control and your spouse won’t care about. As he/she sees the change it may prompt change in them. And it may not. But that’s where you need to start.
If you’re a pack rat, I still love you. I really do.