Look around you and take note – how much stuff in your house do you actually use? These days we have more stuff than we could ever actually need – clothes we don’t wear, appliances we don’t use, and piles of things stored away that we can’t even see. Everywhere we go we’re confronted with consumerism. You need a new wardrobe. You need a new blender. The onslaught is relentless and it’s hard to abstain from spending money when we’re told that we deserve to treat ourselves. Studies show that families this day and age are smaller, but our homes are larger than ever. With more square feet of living space, many New Zealanders are able to fill attics, basements and storage units with clutter.
We’re all a little bit guilty of having too much because we’re living in materially rich societies that encourage the accumulation of things. Things won’t bring us happiness. It doesn’t have to be this way though. Finding the right balance between too little and too much isn’t rocket science, it’s simple. The right amount of stuff is the amount you can regularly use.
Packrat or Hoarder?
There’s a clear difference between people who have too much stuff and those who can’t bear to part with it. Hoarding is a serious mental condition, and if you have hoarding tendencies there’s help for you. Hoarders can’t throw away anything and have trouble making everyday decisions. Deciding whether or not to keep something is too much stress for a true hoarder, which is why their houses turn into death-traps as everything is piled up around them. Packrats, on the other hand, are prone to saving things for later use. Most often these things don’t get used! But packrats don’t turn violent when you get them to clear out their possessions as hoarders sometimes do.
One of the worst cases of hoarding saw hundreds of tons of trash, 14 pianos, and 2 dead bodies found in an apartment owned by two brothers. Other worst-case hoarding scenarios have seen some of the following in houses across America and England:
- Over 600 cats
- 50 cars
- Bags of rotting food
- Faecal matter
- Newspapers spanning 30 years
- Farm animals
Hoarding is becoming a more common condition with many reality TV shows popping up around the world on this very serious problem.
Throw Away Society
While hoarding is a terrible psychological condition, our landfills are overflowing with perfectly fine goods. Cleaning out the house is always a great idea, but getting rid of anything and everything isn’t a good sign either. There’s got to be a balance. Take stock of your things: just because you haven’t used something often it doesn’t mean it should go into the rubbish. A compulsion to get rid of things is another kind of psychological issue, even though it’s much less common. Known as a kind of phobia, neat-freaks tend to throw things out without a second thought.
Cleanliness is Next to Godliness
Some neat freaks take tidying up to the next level with containers to stash everything from take-out menus to toys. These clutter-phobes freak out when something is out of place. Often overbearing and leaning into “control freak” territory, clutter-phobes feel calmer and more relaxed in a minimalist space. Again, some kind of balance is necessary. A little bit of clutter is normal and healthy, and happy families have houses that look lived in, rather than looking like something out of Home and Garden Magazine.
Most people know when they have too much stuff in the house – the presence of all the things weighs down on the energy within a space, and can leave residents feeling trapped and depressed. Don’t fret! Cleaning up the clutter is easy, if you follow these steps:
- Make a list: Get a piece of paper and start itemising your house – if you see more than 1 of something, get rid of the excess. Do you really need 3 blenders? Ask yourself what’s going on. What kind of void are you trying to fill with all this clutter? The answers could surprise you. A lot of people turn to hoarding as a way of dealing with grief. There’s professional help in the form of counselling if you want it. Here’s a tip: if you haven’t used something in the last year, you’re probably never going to use it!
- Know your Clutter: We’ve got two kinds of clutter – the kind that we might use one day that builds up over time such as junk mail, magazines and unwanted gifts, and “memory” clutter which are things that remind us special moments and people. This clutter is sentimental and harder to get rid of. Tackle the first kind, first. The sentimental clutter can be stored away in a box for you to deal with at a later date. You don’t want to throw out something important that you’ll regret! Going through it all methodically will help you decide what to keep and what to throw away.
- Practice Mindfulness: Do not go shopping for anything new and unnecessary. You’ve just started to clean out your house so it’s not the time for retail therapy. Mindfulness is a real buzzword right now, but for good reason. Mindfulness is the practice of thinking before doing. So when you encounter a piece of clutter, instead of throwing it out right away, ask yourself if you use it. If the answer is yes, when was the last time you used it? Will you use it again? The objective of de-cluttering your home is to get stuff out – not just to move it to another room.
The Right Stuff
Trying to adhere to minimalist law is ridiculous, as not everyone can live well with a few belongings. That said, we don’t need to own a house full of things either! So, for optimal living we want to end up somewhere in the middle. But certain things tend to accumulate faster than others. Here are some of the usual suspects…
Sheets: You only need two sets of sheets at any given time, and that includes duvet covers! Instead of having multiple cheap sheets, invest in quality thread count and pure cotton. Organic sheets are all the rage as they’re softer and nicer to sleep on!
Clothing: No, you don’t need ten black shirts, you probably only need three, if that! Do the hanger challenge where you reverse all the hangers in your closet. When you use an item of clothing, turn the hanger around. By the end of the month you’ll know exactly what clothes you wear and what clothes you can donate to your local op-shop!
Hangers: Speaking of hangers, how do we end up with so many of them? A jumbled mix of wood, plastic and wire hangers are often found lurking in closets, making things look untidy. Good hangers, like the slim wooden ones will help your closet appear tidy and will keep your clothes in a better state.
Glasses: Do you have a glass for wine, juice, water, margaritas, martinis, spiders, and more? It’s actually not absolutely necessary! All you need, if you’re keen on the minimalist lifestyle, is a stemless wine glass for all your beverage needs.
Tupperware: You don’t need the whole Tupperware set, you really don’t. Invest in some Glad Wrap and have one for every day of the week – that’s just 7 total.
Cosmetics: Makeup actually has an expiry date and if you’ve got a bunch of blue eyeliners from 1985, it’s time to throw them out! Lipsticks, eyeliners and mascaras are particularly gross after a few months. Whatever makeup you’re not wearing, throw it out – it’s not worth the risk of an eye infection!
Towels: You don’t need to use a new towel after every bath or shower. And depending on how many people live in your house, you really only need one towel per person. Again, look at quality. A big fluffy, organic cotton towel is worth all 20 of your low grade synthetic towels. Get rid of them – especially the ones with the hair dye stains.
Cleaning Products: Take a look under your bathroom and kitchen sinks and bask in the glory of all your cleaning products! You don’t need 5 different spray and wipes – the best cleaning agent for your house is diluted bleach or vinegar. If you absolutely need a brand product, an all-purpose cleanser, scrub, and window cleaning product will do the trick!
Books: A lot of websites say to get rid of the books you’ve read and don’t plan on reading again, but it’s hard. Keep the books you love, but store them properly on bookshelves. You don’t need to be tripping over small piles of books littered all over your house. You could cull your collection a bit and get some warm fuzzies inside by donating books to your local library or school. There are great bookstores that will buy your old books too, not for much money, but still. Consider making the switch to reading books on your Kindle, IPad or IPhone.
Office supplies: What is it with our hoarding of office supplies? You only need a few working pens and one notebook to get through most things in life. Download a list app for your Smartphone and be completely paperless whilst saving trees in the process!
Now that you’ve got bags and bags of stuff you don’t need piled in your lawn – what do you do? Call the experts of course! We’ve got a team of pros on stand-by and we’re just itching to take care of your junk. So give us a call today and kiss your clutter goodbye!