Unclutter my life – stop holding onto stuff ‘just in case’

I am downsizing. Big time. From a sprawling 3 storey, 6 bed Edwardian townhouse to a 2 bed Victorian terrace.

There will be nowhere to hide anything that is not useful, very little room for anything that is beautiful, so the stuff has to go. As William Morris said:

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

The useful have been culled (no one needs 10 frying pans) the beautiful will be curated (too many dust gathering, useless ornaments and too many pictures that don’t reflect my taste). The Poole Biscuit Barrel met both beautiful and useful criteria so will come to the new house with us. The rest, donated.

Phil, my husband, and I emptied the attic a couple of weeks back and it was truly shocking what crap we had hidden in there. This week we tackled the cellar. Surely the damp, empty cellar would not hold any horrors.

It did. I knew the top box for the car was there (which we have used twice) and the Brio train track (there for 15 years plus) but not the unopened packs of insulation material that were in the attic when we moved here 17 years ago. There were empty plastic bottles we were saving to make a greenhouse. Straight into the recycling. Soggy cardboard boxes. Empty bags that coal had been delivered in. An old light fitting and an old tv stand. To the tip. Our 8th visit to the recycling centre.

Then I found the Lego

Star Wars and Indiana Jones Lego. Plus some odd bits from my youth. Gathering damp dust.

I have soaked it and scrubbed it. And found a new home for it.

Why didn’t I do this 10 years ago? Because I was hiding it in the cellar, holding onto stuff,  just in case.

I have been shocked at the amount of stuff that I have found while decluttering.  

Stuff that me, my husband and our son (to a lesser extent) have held onto. Just in case. Why did we do this?

It might be valuable

Oh the things we hold onto because they might be valuable. Check if it is valuable and if it is, decide whether you like it. If it fits neither criteria set down by William Morris, sell it.

I found some Turkish, never worn, gold jewellery amongst my mother’s vast jewellery collection. This did not meet the Morris criteria and so it was sold. The proceeds paid for a holiday for Phil and I. We went to Santorini where we scattered her ashes as she had requested.

I also found numerous £5 and 5 shilling coins. They were gifts from grannies and they lay around in various drawers. Taking up space, gathering dust like most unwanted gifts. My husband wanted to hold onto them because they may be valuable. I showed him this. They are not legal tender and they sell for very little on ebay. Let Acorns have the money.

It might come in useful someday

A dangerous word. Someday. If someday is code for never that stuff you are keeping will never be used and is dust gathering, space stealing clutter.

I have spent 3 years decluttering this house. Is that what you want to do? Is that what you want for your kids? Think about it for a moment. Is your clutter the legacy you want to leave for your children? They will thank you if you start clearing your stuff now. This is what has motivated me the most on this journey, that my children will not have to go through what I did when my mother died.

If in doubt, apply the 20/20 rule.

Anything we get rid of that we truly need, we can replace for less than $20 in less than 20 minutes from our current location.

The Minimalists

The Minimalists are a major influence in my approach to decluttering. They influenced the choice of house that I am moving to (no room to hide that clutter) and enabled me to let go of stuff.

Of course there are other reasons we hold onto stuff.

Sentimental reasons

Old letters

I recently found some letters from a close friend who I don’t see enough of. This person, 15 years ago, was going through a dreadful time. And BF, before Facebook, we wrote letters to off load. And we held on to them. The letters made me sad.  I threw them away as they were just reminders of bad times. They were the past. I can’t change that, but I can help that person now. In the present and in the future.






Childhood toys

I kept two teddies, one was mine and had belonged to my aunt, so is 60 something years old. The other is small and was a favourite of my son. the cot blankets were sent to charity, the old and forgotten Cabbage Patch Doll which was my daughters, discarded.

Thomas and friends. Held onto for 16 years. Just in case. Now being played with by the grandchildren of an old school friend. Loved and used toys. Not dust gathering space stealers.

Bionicle. Eventually let go by my son, who caught the decluttering bug. Held onto for years because they cost a lot of money to buy. Former dust gatherers and space stealers donated to Acorns and sold the day they went on display. £50 in the till for a charity.

Old diaries

I found one and as I read it it, I sobbed. Do I want to hold onto sad memories? No, I don’t. As for my teenage ones, cringeworthy and funny. Useful material when I was the parent of a teenage daughter. She is a grown woman now. It is going to be tough but they will go. So cringeworthy they will not be shared anywhere. May have to set them on fire.


I recently threw several thousands of photos away. It was a much needed thing to do that I had been putting off because many of them were my mothers. I can almost hear you gasp with horror.

You threw away photos, how could you? All those memories.

Many were duplicates, poor quality, or no reflection of what my life is now. The rule was that if I wouldn’t display them on the wall, why keep them? I kept the best, the happy ones.

I still have the memories. They are in my head, not on a piece of paper.

The kids artwork/cards

Photographed, blogged about, and recycled. I have kept a few items, yet I think once the move is over I will realise that more will have to go.

Decluttering is therapy

Going through the boxes has been very therapeutic. Discovering old photos that capture the family having good times together and love letters sent to Mom has reminded me of what I have. A past that shapes my future. A loving family. If it brought back an unhappy moment it was discarded.

My stuff defines who I am

I held onto books from my undergraduate days for over 30 years. I bought books, asked for books for gifts, kept all the books I bought the children. Both mine and my husbands childhood books were on shelves unread for decades and gathering dust. I have now reduced my book collection from 4 bookcases to 4 shelves on 1 bookcase. Two were selected to be made into unique artwork (beautiful) the rest have gone to friends and charity.

This shocked many people who know I love my books, who love their books.

How can you?

Because they no longer define who I am.

I am not the 19 year old student studying Bronte and Dickens. The print in those books was far to small for my older eyes. They are on Kindle. For free. I now borrow not buy. Libraries are my source for other printed books. Although the new Bill Bryson may just creep in.


Hundreds of cookbooks I never use (most recipes are online now).

Books gathering dust. I kept a few cookbooks that I use regularly.

I kept some travel books, Bill Bryson mostly, as I re read these often.

Childhood favorites from the 50’s and 60’s and a couple from the 30’s. Not valuable, but beautiful. These will be made into 3D pictures that will hang in my new house.

Self help books too. Having reaped the benefits of life coaching, I now found these are useful resources.

They all define who I am, now. Not who I used to be. And that is what decluttering has done for me, helped me define the authentic me. I am letting  go of the past. Planning a future for the person I am now. I have a vision.

A person who will not spend her life on the 9 to 5 treadmill, who will not be spending her free time cleaning a cluttered house. I will be a person who who writes and travels. Who inspires others to declutter. Living my authentic life. Life after normal.






2 thoughts on “Unclutter my life – stop holding onto stuff ‘just in case’

    1. Thank you. The growth in the storage business in the UK, and I suspect in Australia, is frightening. I was determined that this was not an option for us. It has been tough but ultimately a better choice. I am hoping that I inspire others to make those tough choices now, otherwise we leave a legacy of clutter for our kids. And that’s not fair.

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