An aunt of mine is a world-class collector. She keeps stacks of magazines from the 1960s, owns thousands of books and dozens of bookshelves, multiple copies of the same CDs and DVDs because she’s forgotten that she already owns a copy, and, no kidding, has enough VHS tapes to open her own video store.
But is there anything wrong with holding on to a ton of stuff? To my aunt, the answer is simple: Of course not.
To me it’s obvious that her living space is too small for her things and her home has turned into a multimedia sprawl. Recently, I helped with a major clean-up project at her apartment. The process was an adventure and a few pointers occurred to me that are worth sharing for those of us who are more likely to store rather than purge our extra items.
Regularly schedule time to clean and purge
It’s safe to say that this apartment has never really undergone any “spring-cleaning”, by which I mean a periodic cleanup in which a bunch of old stuff is thrown away. So after taking the umpteenth box of stuff out of her apartment an inescapable piece of advice occurs to me: “Clean up, clear out, and stay ahead of the mess.”
I think that for a lot of hoarders like my aunt it takes a life event to realize that it’s time to get rid of things. Otherwise that pile is neglected again and again until you just stop noticing it any more. Messes can grow on you.
To keep things manageable, to reclaim the garage or closet, it’s important to have a spring cleaning mentality more often than once a year (or once every couple of decades). What I suggest is that you try to have a moderate clean-up-clean-out effort every few weeks, and then every quarter for a more thorough job. Cleaning house will become easier if you keep at it
Give things away (instead of throwing them away)
Certainly a reason that people are hoarders is because they have a hard time letting things go. But try looking at it this way: keeping so many beloved treasures can start piling up and will eventually turn into an unwieldy heap.
Giving things away to charity can help. Knowing that someone else is using it means that its usefulness isn’t completely spent, which helps to ease the pain of parting with your things.
Sort items to keep, store, or toss
Professional organizers often recommend clearing out clutter by sorting things into three piles: keep, store, and toss. One of the advantages to this approach is that you won’t have to make an immediate decision on all your things and the process is less emotional.
With an option to set things aside for a period of time, say three to six months you’ll have time to discover if you need and miss the items or are ready to let them go. Self storage can be a great option for the “store” pile so that you can fully enjoy the space you’ve cleared out!
As I helped my aunt with this process it was clear that some things were more valuable to her than others. This keep, sort, and toss process helped her to keep things that were most meaningful and part with the rest.
Whether you’re evaluating your belongings for a move or just need to clear out some clutter remember to clean up, clear out, and stay ahead of the mess.
What do you do to stay ahead of the mess? Do you have any relatives with pack-rat or hoarding tendencies? What advice can you give that helps you keep ahead of the clutter?