Get Rid of Your Clutter Once and for All

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This is the final part of our mini-series aimed at improving organisation skills. Click here for Part 1. In Part 4 we now discuss ‘Hoarding Tendency’.

Every cupboard and storage space was bursting with old belongings

By age 28 every cupboard and storage space in my house was filled with old items and belongings. I had vast numbers of bags full of paperwork and things I had saved. I had also begun to use folders to organise my paperwork. This had resulted in my accumulation of around 30-40 folders. Each one was designated to contain papers of different categories. I hated the fact that my cupboards and storage space were bursting with bags and old belongings. It was a visible sign that I had no control over my affairs. During my 30's I began to take serious action in order to overturn my hoarding problem. After I had made significant process, I conducted some research into the behaviours of people who have a tendency to hoard. Here's what I found.

People who score high on ‘Hoarding Tendency'

  1. Have lots of items in storage that they haven’t used for a long time
  2. Keep items if there is a small possibility they will use them again one day
  3. Struggle to throw things away

People who score low on 'Hoarding Tendency'

  1. Throw clothes away when they haven’t used them for a while
  2. Keep the number of their possessions and belongings to a minimum
  3. Are ruthless about throwing things away
Find Out If You Have a Hoarding Tendency: Try our Hoarding Tendency quiz: CLICK HERE

4 Steps towards a clutter free environment

People who struggle throwing things away typically end up with a backlog of mess around them. It took me many years to overturn my hoarding tendencies. In the end, I had to adopt certain attitudes and procedures to help me overcome my problem. Here's the method I used to overcome my hoarding problem. I began by choosing a bag or pile of items to sort through. I then went through the following steps.
  1. Attitude. I think it is important to recognise that there is no point in trying to address hoarding unless you have decided in your heart that you need to change. If you haven’t reached this point yet, and you are still trying to justify your behaviour, then I think you are unlikely to make much progress. If you want to succeed, you MUST begin with the attitude 'Eneough is enough! I want to be free of this problem!!'
  2. Be prepared to spend. I think the underlying attitude in hoarding is often the thought process, ‘I may need this item one day – I better keep it just in case.’ To combat this, I adopt the following attitude. a) Find 10 items that you have not used for some time. Then ask yourself, 'If I were to get rid of all these items, how many of them will I have to replace in the future?' I'll give you an example of an item which I found that I hadn't used for some time. I had purchased a packet of special photo paper on which I can print photos. I had never used this paper, so I gave it away to someone whom I thought would use it. That was some time ago. I have not needed the paper since I gave it away, and I don't think I ever will. b) Now look at your 10 items again. Make an estimate: If you get rid of these 10 items, how many will you end up having to replace in the future? i.e. You may find you end up needing one of them at a later date. In this instance you would have to replace the item you threw away. I decided that my ratio is probably about 1 in 10: i.e. for every 10 items I get rid of, I probably end up having to replace 1 of them in the future, due to finding I actually needed it after all. Once I had decided what my 'ratio' was, I adopted the following attitude. 1 in 10 is obviously the same ratio as 10 in 100. Therefore:
    Start Quote “If I get rid of 100 items, I will end up having to buy 10 of them again (1 in 10). These 10 items are the ones I find I actually end up needing on a future occasion. However, I have also binned 90 other items. Therefore, my house is 90 items clearer than it was before.” End Quote
    In my mind it's worth re-purchasing 10 items if this means I have managed to bin 90 other items. Let us imagine that over the next 5 years I have to spend £30 buying those 10 items I threw away. Sure I lose £30. But I have also managed to clear my house of 90 other unwanted items!! Therefore, the cost of living in an uncluttered house is £30. In my mind, spending £30 in order to be rid of 90 unwanted items is one of the best ways I could possibly spent £30!! But it depends how much you are willing to spend on improving your emotional well-being and your sanity! And how you respond to this question is always very telling.
  3. Bin a Third! I began going through my belongings in ‘sweeps’. By this, I mean that I sort through all of my belongings: I would call this the first 'sweep'. This first sweep might take a year in total. Then I would have a break before starting again. Each time I did a 'sweep' through my belongings, my aim was to bin a third of my everything. I found this useful because it gave me an aim as I was going through a bag or drawer. Importantly, applying this rule also meant that I knew that I could keep two thirds of the items I found in a bag or drawer. This gave me some freedom to keep a lot of items, whilst also binning others. However, I also knew that if a third of items were not going into the charity shop pile, I needed to be more vigilant. Work out a ratio that is manageable for you.
  4. Reverse the question. Lastly you will need to adopt a new attitude. Instead of asking yourself: ‘Should I keep this item? Will I need it one day?’, you will need to adopt the exact opposite attitude. You will need to ask, 'Can I get rid of this item?' Do you see the difference? The original questions are biased towards keeping things. You could argue that you 'might' use every item you own again one day. And I think that adopting the 'Will I need it one day?' attitude is exactly why hoarders can never get rid of anything The new question is directed towards looking for items to get rid of. Instead of thinking about keeping items, you need to look for things which you can bin. Your first thought when you look at an item should be, 'Could I possibly bin this?'
Question: I'd love to know what you think: Do you struggle to throw things away? Or are you a 'militant binner' - constantly looking for items you can throw away? COMMENT BELOW. Quiz: Try our Hoarding Tendency quiz and find out if you have a tendency to hoard. CLICK HERE

Cognitive Treatment for Hoarding

The following book contains a chapter covering research and cognitive treatment for hoarding. Very informative if you are interested in hoarding research and treatment. Photo: Alexander Saprykin

References

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