Unclutter my life in 7 days – Month 30

Yes. Month 30.

It gave me a shock too. In my head I have only been doing this decluttering malarkey for a few months. Earlier today I was checking back on photos I had posted on Facebook and realised that in December 2012 I began the cull of books. Many of these books are currently in bags, in my hallway, to go to the charity shop today.

Why has it taken so long? I really do not know. Probably due to my super power of procrastination. What I have realised though is that while some people can go for the big clear out in a week or a month, for others it takes longer. I also recognise the need to be to be kind to myself. But when I am in the mood to get going I make big changes in a few hours.

Progress is being made

Over the last few weekends major changes were made, space reclaimed, and many bags of books, DVDs and CDs were packed up destined for a charity shop. And then left there, cluttering up my dining room/office for two weeks. (Hard to let them go and I might need them, someday). This is why it has taken 30 months.

In these two pictures, taken in January 2015, you can see the difference made by getting old sofas out and new ones in.

This was the lounge in December 2012, so it has been a long work in progress.

A blitz over a the May Bank Holiday and a trip to Ikea transformed the music storage and DVD collection.

The sale of a Bakelite radio and the old storage units paid for the new streamlined storage.

The books are the ones I am currently planning to keep. This may change. The DVD’s are all that are left from over 100 we had and never played.

Mom was a hoarder

And there was another reason for the decluttering process coming to a halt. In December 2012 my mother was very ill. She died in January 2013. I had to deal with all of her clutter. she was a hoarder, albeit an organised one.

Her partners daughters made it very clear that they wanted her stuff out of the house as soon as possible. It was weekend after weekend of sorting and bagging and transporting it to my house, and took over 7 trips in the car. I got ill (not surprisingly, going through the process of grief and the pressure from the sisters). There was a break of a couple of weeks and when I got back to the house the daughters had bundled it up and  had decorating around it. At one point they suggested they take it all to the tip for me.

I then spent a sunny summer selling many of her lovely clothes.

Selling at the shuffle

Then I sold some of her jewellery to pay for a trip to Santorini to scatter her ashes in April 2014. Mom always said that she wanted to be there.  I had joked with her that she needed to leave me the money to pay for the flights. She did, in her own way.

Since making that trip I have been much more focussed on clearing the clutter in my own home so my kids don’t have to.

Procrastination is the enemy

Motivated by a desire to travel more and either rent out or sell the house, and with the support of a wonderful life coach, I have really got on with the task in the past few months. I am no longer procrastinating, because this is the task that is helping me to achieving my goals. I am no longer closing the door on the clutter (apart from the photo sorting but that is another story).  I am getting ever near my deadline (trip to Australia) which is always a help for procrastinators to get the task completed.

Declutter your home for your family

Just last week I asked my son if me getting rid of all the stuff and talking about selling the house was unsettling him. He does after all live here, and if we sold the house, he would be technically homeless. Of course he wouldn’t but it would mean change for him. His response pulled me up in my tracks. He hadn’t noticed a significant reduction in the clutter, and wasn’t really convinced that the house would be sold. What?

Of course he is right. The evidence is there. I started sorting the books in December 2012 and many of them are still in the house. I was struggling to let go of them. Convinced myself I was decluttering when all I have been doing is moving around piles of stuff. Yes, some has gone, quite a lot really. But I have rooms I could never show to guests. Rooms you have to climb over bags and boxes to get to the desk or the bed.

I read blogs and books on decluttering and everyone makes it sound so easy. Seven Days and your life will be clear, get a box and tape it up and if you haven’t opened it in 6 months you don’t need it. This is what they proclaim. But what if you don’t want to?

The truth is, it isn’t easy. It is very hard. We develop emotional attachments to our stuff even though we know we don’t need it any more. My husband told me that his cassette collection was full of memories. It is not, the memories are in his head. And he listed them, realised he had most of them on CD or could download them, and let them go. Yes we have to tackle the issue of a huge collection of CD’s but one step at a time. I think that for me it has been lots of short bursts of energy, doing a lot over a Bank Holiday weekend, and then closing the door on it for days, weeks and sometimes months, has held me back.

And then in one weekend, after moving piles for 30 months, I decided everything had to go. I am off to Australia in a couple of weeks and don’t want the house looking like Mr Trebus lives here.

Hoarding is contagious

Adding up what we have spent on all this stuff we hoard has also convinced me that we could all be happier if we had less stuff. And that we learn to hoard.

“There is a higher likelihood to be a hoarder if it’s in the family. We might pick up the condition by learning it’s important to keep things just in case from observing a family member who does exactly that.”

Clinical psychologist Dr Simon Rego at the Montefiore Medical Center, New York

Countless TV programmes are being made about hoarders, every new year the magazines are full of articles on de cluttering. There are hundreds of books on the subject (I have a few of them). The quote above came from this BBC article about hoarding. Dr Rego classifies hoarding as an anxiety disorder. I can resonate with that. Getting rid of stuff has been tough but I feel lighter. Yes I still have a long way to go, but my wardrobe is much more organised than before. The declutter bug is catching as both my husband and my son have let go of stuff they had been hanging on to. And having them on board has really helped, as finally those books leave the house.

Document the journey

I have documented my decluttering journey, taking photos and writing blog posts, and sharing the photos on Facebook. And I am glad I have. Because although it has shocked me that the book sorting has taken 30 months, I know that in other areas of my life and house I have succeeded in getting things done. The before and after photos are evidence that I am progressing. I also know that I have inspired others to de clutter. And by sharing my story it may help those who have started the journey and got off track. It is not the same journey for everyone, we all have to take different paths to get there. And sometimes the going gets tough. I now know I need to be kind to myself and take a break when I need to. And remind myself every now and again of how far I have come.




2 thoughts on “Unclutter my life in 7 days – Month 30

  1. I definitely agree that we learn to hoard and the trend to re-use, recycle, and re-purpose promotes hoarding, because we’re very lucky if something can be turned around immediately.
    Although my mother was a great “chucker-out” in later life, as a child I remember saving buttons, bits of string, paper, broken jewellery, scraps of fabric and unravelling old jumpers to use the wool again, because it all might have a use. We needed old newspaper to start the fire and wrap a gift of surplus vegetables in; a gift of beans from my 87 year old neighbour last week came wrapped in paper from the previous December.
    My OH won’t let anything go that may be vaguely useful in the future, generally in the garden, such as bits of wood and metal, and we hang on to the contents of my late father-in-law’s workshop, because “you never know”. I think a lot of that is emotional attachment and a need to demonstrate that we are continuing the habits of thrift that stretch back to the 1930s, so feel bad when I yell about not being able to find anything in the garage because of the clutter.
    I can only de-clutter in bursts and it took me a year to move house when I retired. I insisted that furniture I no longer needed should be sold, not thrown away, until my brother pointed out how much rent I was losing because of that, and now I have boxes of books in the garage because I couldn’t bring myself to ask the question ” will I ever read this again, if I wanted to, if I had the time.

    I came across your blog from a friend’s post on Facebook and am enjoying it and learning from it.

    1. Thank you for taking the time to reply. And your kind words. My OH found it hard to let go of stuff and while I was all for getting rid of things he clung onto stuff like a security blanket. Until we did the two house clearances. It exhausted us both, mentally and physically. Since we downsized (two years that have flown by) we now have a clear vision of how we want to live. Short bursts are steps in the right direction. The thrift of the past is certainly preferable to the culture of perceived and planned obsolescence that is the norm for millennials but we also need to be realistic that not every piece of string will come in useful. If it hasn’t in the past it is unlikely it ever will. For me, being able to find things in seconds is preferable to spending an hour or two hunting for something buried under stuff that may be useful someday. I think of my time as valuable and what I would bill for the time I spent looking for something. Mush like holding onto stuff to sell instead of giving it away – the cost of storage and the time it take outweighs what you may or may not sell it for one day. Sunk cost. Let it go. Take care and continue reading and commenting. Thank you.

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