Updated: Jan 21
I’ve just arrived home from the Top Drawer trade show and was so pleased to see more brands and suppliers with a sustainable ethos... it seems we are moving in the right direction if we are to conserve our planet. However, there is no denying that consumerism is still alive and kicking and, whilst we are becoming more savvy shoppers, we are still consuming a great deal.
Of course we all need things and, let’s face it, we all like to have lovely things in our lives, and this piece isn’t about judging your purchases or the size of your wardrobe or shoe collection; it’s simply to highlight that there can be a mental cost to an abundance of possessions that should not be underestimated. Our things can gradually go from enriching our lives to becoming a burden. Often when I’m working with clients on decluttering, their mountains of stuff are not just taking up space in their homes, but they’re also fogging up their minds. If you are someone fighting for both physical space and for headspace, I would recommend taking stock and assessing what brings value to your life, and then to purge anything that you feel burdened by. I’ve compiled some tips below that can help you make a start:
1 ) If you are already overwhelmed, reconsider whether to accept hand-me-downs
Saying yes to hand-me-downs can be great because it can save you money whilst helping you do your bit for the planet. However, my observation of clients who already struggle with clutter is that accepting hand-me-downs is rarely beneficial. This is because most people who gift hand-me-downs are not necessarily filtering what they’re giving by suitability or condition meaning there may only be one or two diamonds in several bags full of rough! Secondly, if a person is already feeling overwhelmed by a lot of stuff, then it seems that they find the thought of going through someone else’s things (even for themselves) too big a job, and so rather than do it as soon as they receive it, the bags get pushed to the back of a cupboard, never to see the light of day again (until I come along and ask what they are, at which point I’m met with a shrug and a bemused expression)! So more often than not, hand-me-downs actually often end up being part of a bigger clutter problem.
Obviously if you do find that you rely on hand-me-downs and can’t afford to say no, then my advice would be to ask the person who’s gifting them to be selective with what they’re giving you, and to make sure you go through them as soon as you receive them. Put away what you’re keeping and immediately organise disposal of what you’re not (either to charity or recycling).
2) If you don’t like it but it might be worth something, then sell it
Often when decluttering for clients, we stumble across antiques that are not taking pride of place in the home (they’ve been put in the attic, or pictures are leaning against walls in the “dumping room”, for example). When I ask “Is this something that adds value to your life? Would you like to keep it?” the words that tend to come back are “I’ve held onto it for years because it might be worth something”. And this is a completely reasonable response if it’s something that you like or that holds some kind of sentimental value. But if it’s not, there doesn’t seem much purpose in keeping it, regardless of how much it’s worth. There is more benefit to you in being clutter free and having a clearer space and clearer mind (plus, money in your pocket if it is in fact worth something). So, if you’ve got a potentially valuable antique that you don’t like or want, then my advice is to sell it.
3) Consider which is more valuable… the space you will clear, or whether you “might need it one day”
Often clients hit a stumbling block with letting something go in case they might need it one day. And this is true… they might, but when might that day be? And is it really worth taking up their valuable space for something that they could potentially never use again? When you’re faced with a situation where you are not sure whether to relinquish something because you might need it at some point, then really consider the value of the “once in a while” use compared with the value of the space you’re gaining by getting rid of it. Also, try to picture the space without that item there, and how it makes you feel if it’s clear. This should make the decision easier for you.
4) Aim to be a mindful shopper
Research shows that we are hit with a rush of dopamine when we buy something, and this is heightened when we perceive that we’re getting a good deal. It therefore seems that we’ve developed hard-wired habits that make us feel good about shopping, particularly if it’s a bargain. However, similar to how addicts feel, after a shopper is hit with the initial hormone rush, feelings of guilt quickly ensue. My advice isn’t not to buy things per se, but it’s be to cognisant of our brain’s activity and to then make the decision whether to purchase or not, rather than to simply “do it for the rush” without any consideration of how our brains are operating, as this is when we end up with items that we don’t necessarily need or even really want.
5) Consider getting a professional in to help
If you are feeling overwhelmed and would like a clear space but are really struggling to let things go, or if you are living with a partner who is just as reluctant, then consider getting a third party in to help. Now you might just think this is shameless self promotion (I assure you it’s not), but it can be very difficult to face alone, and even more difficult for someone who wants a clear house to live with someone who really seems unable to relinquish the clutter. I’ve seen it many times… where partners won’t even dispose of old newspapers, crisp packets, outdated text books they haven't opened in 20 years, CDs (even though they don’t have a CD player)... the list really is endless. Having a third party to assist you can help to relieve the tension, and offer some impartial advice, and can also offer you moral support in feeling OK about saying goodbye to things.
I hope you found this blog post useful and please feel free to leave any comments or questions you may have. Have a great week!