It feels good at first, but soon people lose interest in decluttering and lack the mental and physical energy to tackle what’s left.
People, who fill storage areas as long as living spaces remain orderly, do not rise seriously to being a hoarder, which is considered its own psychiatric diagnosis. But clutter has its own risks. Among them are the chronic and repeated stresses that can arise, for example from frantically searching through piles of miscellaneous for an important newspaper or rushing to clean piles of bric-a-brac before visitors arrive.
Not to mention the risk of bumping into things left where they don’t belong. When my 61-year-old friend, who can’t seem to shake off anything, suffered complications from a head injury that kept him in hospital for many weeks, his wife felt compelled to clear their apartment of unspeakable objects lying around before she got home. .
Plus, clutter is distracting, diverting attention from worthwhile thoughts and tasks. This wastes time and energy and decreases productivity. And a 2015 study at St. Lawrence University found that a cluttered bedroom is associated with a poor night’s sleep.
The burden of clutter doesn’t even end when we die. When my friend Michael and his brothers cleaned up their 92-year-old mother’s house in Florida after her death, among the many multiples they found were eight identical jars of mustard, five dozen boxes of pineapple chunks, 72 rolls of paper towels, 11 walkers and four wheelchairs. Expensive truckloads of clutter had to be hauled.
You might be wondering why people collect so many things that we’ll probably never need. The fear of missing out is one of the reasons
People often buy things in bulk, especially when the desired products are on sale. A similar fear undoubtedly drove the rat race for toilet paper, pasta and canned beans at the start of the pandemic.
A clinical psychologist noted that our consumer society drives many people to collect things they don’t need.
Some also feel compelled to cling to the past, like a friend who keeps records of every event he has attended for the past six decades.
Out of guilt or sentiment, some find it hard to part with unnecessary gifts from people they love or admire. “What if they come one day and find there’s no more?” is a common rationale.
People use many reasons not to part with a long unused item. If it’s something you’ve treasured for a long time, like an old wedding present. People have an almost irrational fear that as soon as they get rid of something, they will need it again.
Still, I regularly bite the bullet and donate to charities that collect clothes and household items in my neighborhood. I also live on a block with a lot of foot traffic and if I put gifts – from shampoos and shoes to jars and picture frames – in front of the house, they tend to disappear within hours.
When I realized it was time to part ways with decades-old business records, I enlisted the help of an assistant, asking them not to let me see anything thrown in my drawers.
Establish a plan
You might want to go room by room or focus on one category like coats or shoes, but avoid changing course along the way until you’ve completed the task you started.
Set reasonable goals
Set reasonable goals based on your available time and stamina. If an entire closet is too daunting, even a task as small as cleaning items from a single drawer or shelf can get you started in the right direction.
Take a more gradual approach:
Keep a container in each room to house gifts. When she tries on something that no longer fits or looks good, it goes straight into the donation bag, not the closet.
Get help from a friend
If necessary, get help from a friend, family member or paid consultant who will not have the same attachment to your property.
Create three stacks
Create three piles to keep, donate, and throw away. Do not question your initial assessment; immediately discard the discard pile and schedule a pickup for the donations or take them to a worthy destination.
Follow a deadline
If your clutter includes items you store for other people, consider giving them a deadline to pick them up or suggest they rent a storage locker.
Finally, avoid stepping back.
Resist filling the spaces you empty with more stuff.