As soon as I mentioned I was having a mass declutter to my Mum, her first comment was “you better not be getting rid of any of my stuff” – note that I am clearing MY house, so what she technically means by ‘her stuff’ is anything she has bought or given me – EVER. This highlights one of the problems I have with decluttering with others; having someone else there means potentially dealing with one extra bundle of emotions, making it impossible to shed your possessions.
Whenever I have tried to clear up with accompaniment I have had to contend with cries of “oh I forgot about this, I can’t get rid of this” whenever they came across a toy, picture or item that had been unceremoniously dumped in a box and stored away in the back room for years. I am equally guilty of this. When I asked my daughter to gather up a few things for a charity sale I was holding I couldn’t help have a look through the bag she brought down from her room…and I couldn’t help but rescue my bracelet, an owl I had bought in India and a Littlest Pet Shop lizard belonging to my now 19 year old (because I KNOW she will want it to live among her cactus collection). The point is, we cannot judge what other people consider to be junk, so how can we help them clear it? People just as often fall into the ‘bin it all’ camp as they do the ‘you can’t throw that out’ camp, neither of which are particularly helpful when you are trying to declutter large amounts of stuff.
I was recently reading an article about the pitfalls of decluttering alone. While I acknowledge each point made, the exact opposite of everything said could be equally as true; the piece just seemed to confirm what I have long believed about getting your home sorted – it is quicker and less hassle, at least at the initial stage, to do it yourself.
The ‘Pitfalls’ and why I don’t necessarily agree:
“There are too many distractions if you tidy alone” – the article suggests people move around and try to clear too many areas at once because they are distracted, or give up when one area becomes a little overwhelming. This can happen whether you are alone or not, and is more about focus and having a plan. Chose the area you want to clear and work on it, not moving on until it is done. If you do not complete it, do something else – that ISN’T clearing! – and then come back to it. Do not try to do too much at once or you will become totally disheartened with the whole exercise.
“It is slower on your own” – Not if you have to justify every item you are discarding it isn’t! There is an old African proverb: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. I am not advocating clearing your entire house on your own – some of that stuff might be heavy! But for the initial stage of deciding what you want to keep, and where you might put it, go it alone. Get in help when you need it and when it will benefit what you are trying to achieve.
“Sell? I found a bunch of stuff I wanted to sell, but then I had to deal with putting up the ad, taking pictures, dealing with … weirdos on craigslist. That in itself is not a huge ordeal, but it adds another layer of clutter in your mind.”
Not sure how having someone there would make this any easier. I made a decision early on that I wouldn’t sell my stuff; if it was good enough I donated it. I learnt this one the hard way – I had 3 Ikea blue bags full of “stuff to sell”, but never got round to taking the pictures or advertising it, and had I got round to E-baying it, as was the plan, I would still then have to had to take into account trips to the Post office and packing it all. In the end it was still just clutter, organised in bags, hanging around my house, so taking it all to the charity shop was liberating! We need to start looking at our possessions as just that, things we pay money for (or are given) that are used and, once their purpose is served, we are free to give them away, guilt free. They are not investments; you don’t need to get your money back on a dress you bought if you have worn it, enjoyed it, but no longer want it. Space and freedom from clutter is always better than potential money sat in the corner in the form of things you no longer want.
Hauling it out. Now you have to haul it down stairs, to your car, and drop it off, sell it, or trash it?
Why would it make a difference whether someone was there or not? Unless you have literally bagged/boxed yourself into a clutter corner and need a friend to dig you out, you can easily do this bit alone. In fact, this is the best bit: it’s already bagged up, you are the closet you have been to clearing the space than you have been all day. We always clear a ‘landing area’ for the things we are trashing. A spot in the corner of our living room. If the junk is visible you are not then tempted to leave it shut away in a spare room; if it in your ‘face’ or main living space you HAVE to clear it. Once I have enough I pile up the car and take it to the tip. Before I had a car, I would organise a friend to collect it for me – this gave me an extra incentive to bag up and declutter quickly as I knew there was a time limit. If you are not in the position to get stuff out, try to plan some help in advance, so your declutter rhythm doesn’t get broken.
What is the alternative to NOT hauling it out? Keeping it? Why declutter in the first place if the most important bit – the ACTUAL getting it out of your house – is going to pose a problem?
Getting permission. “How could you get rid of your Star Wars toys?”
All the more reason NOT to have people there! Unless the friend wants it in their house, you are entitled to get rid. I had a declutter yesterday of a drawer I had been unable to access after the handles fell off (the struggle is real! ) there were photos, old DVD’s, a plate one of the kids had decorated in 2011… We had not missed any of it, but, had there been people with me we would have stopped to go through all of the pictures, I would have had to explain who the people were in them… it would have taken a lot longer than it the five minutes it did to dump most of it (I kept a few photos).
So, if you want to declutter – have an initial look through on your own. If you decide you need help, then you can bring someone in. Remember: These are your things – you do not need permission to get rid of stuff that no longer has a place in your life.
What is the hardest thing for you to declutter? What are you holding on to? Would you prefer to have help, or go it alone?
Still not decided about whether you want to declutter yet? Here are five reasons for decluttering ; some suggestions to get you thinking.
If you don’t want to commit to a full scale tidy, here are five things to declutter today, to start you off.