For most of my life I was a hoarder. My house, workspace, and mind were all filled with clutter. I refused to throw away anything, doesn’t matter how insignificant or useless it was. Old pieces of paper, clothes that had become too small, mobile phones that had stopped working… I clinged to them like a safety blanket. Just the fact they were there was reassuring.
My mom used to joke that one day I would need to buy a house just to store all the stuff I refused to throw away. Until it stopped being a joke. At some point the clutter became too overwhelming. I was literally drowning in it. With a heavy heart, I decided to throw away some old things there were broken or I had lost all interest in.
But it was only the tip of the iceberg. You can’t go from hoarder to minimalist in one day. I certainly couldn’t. For the past ten years I went through hoarding and decluttering phases, managing to collect just a bit less and throw away just a bit more every time.
But it was only when I decided to move to London a couple of months ago that I was forced to seriously face and conquer my hoarding habit. I only left with a small pink carry-on trolley (I didn’t want to give Ryanair, the only low-cost company that flies Ancona-London, money for a second or third suitcase) and needed to pack all my most important belongings in there.
It was hell. For every item that made the list, five stayed at home. It was brutal. And emotionally painful. I got through it thinking that, once I were properly settled down, I would ask my mom to send over all my stuff. In the meantime, I could buy everything I needed in London. There’s no shortage of shops here!
But so far, I haven’t done either. I bought a few essentials, and the occasional treat, but most of my stuff is still back in Italy and I don’t miss it. I don’t even feel the need to replace it. I never thought it was possible, but I’m enjoying a minimalist lifestyle. It brought me so many unexpected benefits. Here’s what I’m talking about:
Why Should You Declutter?
If you love your clutter, you don’t need to do anything about it. But if it is starting to overwhelm you, it may be time to simplify. Here’s what you can expect when you finally take the plunge:
1. Less stress
Clutter is basically procrastination. Those papers accumulating on your desk need to be filed. The clothes that are scattered all over your bedroom to be sorted out and put away. And all the trinkets that have somehow managed to take over every available surface need to be found their own place or thrown away.
All stuff you need to do, but can’t be bothered to. You try to ignore it, but you can’t. The thought is always there, at the back of your mind, nagging you to do something about it. Once you do, and you manage to keep your space relatively clutter-free, all that stress disappears, and you can finally just relax in your new, neat and organized, space.
2. More Efficient
I used to call it “organized mess”. I knew where everything was, so the clutter wasn’t really impacting my productivity. I was wrong. My workplace was full of distractions. I would start writing and then something would catch my attention, taking precious time away from my work.
Now my workplace is a simple white desk. On top of it, I only keep my computer, a pen, a notebook, a bottle of water, and my phone. Such simplicity allows me to focus better than ever, and writing more (and hopefully better!) than I ever have. It feels good to be so productive!
3. More Living Space
Houses in London are quite small. Unless you have a job that pays really well, you have to live in a flatshare. That’s not so bad. If you’re lucky, you get to meet some very interesting people. But it means you only have one room for all your stuff. Fill it too much, and you’ll be out the door.
Even if you have a whole big house to yourself, all that clutter seriously limits your living and working spaces. Maybe you filled your garage to the brim and now are forced to park your car in the street. Or your kitchen is so crammed with all sorts of foods and cooking tools, you have to eat in the living room. Declutter them, and you’ll have a whole new room to live, work, and relax in.
4. Saves A Lot Of Time
There is a reason why we keep procrastinating dealing with our clutter. It takes up so much time. If you’ve been accumulating crap for decades, it may take a week or more to sort everything out. But you know what takes even more time?
Spending ages looking through all that mess to find what you’re looking for. In the long run, dealing with your clutter straight away will free up a lot of time to work, live, and play.
5. Saves A Lot Of Money
If I hadn’t been able to leave all my old belongings at my parents’ home, I would have had to rent a storage unit. Can you imagine how much that would have cost every month?! Even if I could have brought everything with me, I would have spent a fortune in moving costs.
But maybe you have no intention to move, and don’t need to rent out extra space for your stuff. But what about little storage units for the makeup and jewellery you have stopped wearing ages ago? They can cost a pretty penny too.
It’s nice to have everything neat and organized in their own little boxes and closets, but if your stuff lies in there unused for too long, then those storage solutions were also a waste of money.
How To Tackle Your Clutter
So, you’re finally ready to tackle your clutter, but don’t know where to start? You have so much stuff, it is overwhelming! Don’t worry. Just take a deep breath and follow these tips.
They helped me pack my small suitcase for a big move, keep my room clutter-free and, once I’ll be back in Italy, I’ll use them to get rid of all the crap that has invaded my parents’ house (sorry mom!). I’m sure they’ll help you too:
1. Start Small
Focus on one area. Just one. It can be as big as a whole room or as small as a drawer. Just begin somewhere. Take everything out and put it in one of three boxes. One for stuff you’ll keep, one for stuff you’ll donate to friends or charity, and another for stuff you’ll throw away. When you’re done with that area, choose another. Before you know it, you’ll have decluttered the whole house!
2. Ask Yourself These Questions
The first step sounds easier said than done, right? How do you figure out which stuff to keep and which to give away? If you’re like me, you’ll find a reason to keep everything.
That sweater I loved when I was 5 and is now riddled with holes? I need that for my future kid, even though I’m still single and have no intention of having children any time soon! That 10 year old shopping list? But it’s a piece of paper! I may still need to write something on it!
Sounds familiar? When you feel the urge to find these silly excuses to keep something, ask yourself these questions.
- 1. Have I used this item within the last 6 months? If not, chances are you won’t use it for the next 6 either, so give it away.
- 2. Would I buy this if I saw it in a shop today? If not, donate it or throw it out. It’s obvious you don’t really care that much about it anymore.
- 3. Does this bring me joy? Just because something isn’t useful, doesn’t mean it has no place in your home. If you filled it only with useful things, you’d be living in a factory. You also need to surround yourself with beautiful things that bring you joy. If something puts a smile on your face or brings back a pleasant memory whenever you look at it, keep it.
3. Declare A Clutter-Free Zone
Once one area is clear, declare it a clutter-free zone. Don’t put everything in there that you’re not using. Once you’re done with it, put it back in its place immediately. If you wait even just a few hours, you’ll never do it again, and, before you know it, you’ll be back at square one.
4. Be A Smarter Shopper
Even clutter-free zones can become cluttered again really quickly if you keep buying new stuff. Of course, you can’t stop shopping. Even if you don’t really need something, it’s nice to treat yourself to something new every now and then.
Just don’t go overboard. Whenever you see something you like, ask yourself, do I really need it? Would it really improve my life in some way? If not, go home and sleep on it. If, a week later, you still desperately want it, go buy it. But chances are, you’ll have forgotten all about it by then.
5. Change Your Habits
Although it can seem otherwise, clutter doesn’t happen on its own. It happens because you let it. Maybe you just love shopping too much. Or you can’t be bothered to put things back in their rightful place after you’ve used them. Or you just have issues with letting go.
Ask yourself what caused you to create so much clutter in your life. Then, strive to change it. It won’t happen overnight. You’ll fail a few times and suffer some setbacks. But keep at it. One small step at a time, one day at a time, you’ll be able to conquer your bad habits and create a clutter-free life.
Are you a hoarder or a minimalist? Have you manage to conquer your clutter or are you still drowning in it?