The Psychology of Decluttering and How to Overcome It
When you begin a home move your thoughts will inevitably turn to the amount of “stuff” you have. As you visualise packing it in boxes you’ll look at ways to reduce the mammoth task. Moving home is a great opportunity for decluttering yet it’s not as easy as many lifestyle gurus make it sound.
Throwing away items such as used paper or empty boxes when decluttering is easy, it’s the valuable items, both in sentiment and cash that are difficult to part with.
As a psychology graduate, I’ve moved many times and I think I now have a handle on the reasons we’re reluctant to part with items. More than this I’ve also found solutions that have recently helped me downsize from a 17 room Manor House to a 4 bed farmhouse.
Worried about Losing Children’s Memories
Children bring home all sorts of art from school and each piece creates a memory. As you look over each piece you’ll be greeted with the memory of them presenting it to you proudly, telling you they made it especially for you. It’s understandable that you don’t want to throw any of these away, after all children grow so fast but there is a solution.
If your child is still in secondary school you won’t only have one piece of art you’ll have hundreds. From cardboard models that take up whole shelves to portfolios of work brought home at the end of term.
The Solution: Choose one from each school year to keep then take a photo of the remaining, one photo for each piece. Then you can throw them away (unless they’re very useful such as a desk tidy!) and still retain the memories. You can create an album when you have time after the move of all your favourite pieces.
Worried about Parting with Sentimental Items
My late father was an antique dealer. I grew up around exquisite furniture, solid wood dressers, bronze statues and gorgeous ceramics. Some of my best memories are of scouring his shop and begging him to let me “borrow” an item or two. I still have many of these items today, not only because they remind me of him but because they’re practical and beautiful. This is the reason I understand the sentiment behind hand me down furniture. Every piece has a past, from the bed your older brother passed on when you moved into your first flat to the brass table that was given as a wedding gift. How can you part with it while still having a clear conscience?
The Solution: There’s actually a few solutions for this problem as you can:
Sell on Ebay
This does sound cold but if you sell the items on EBay or in an auction you can put the money towards something needed for your new home. The person who gave you the furniture will be glad they’ve been able to contribute to your new start.
Top Tip about Antique Auctions: If you do choose an antique auction ask them to visit you at home, they may identify other pieces that could fetch a healthy profit. They’ll also be able to give you a rough quote.
Give Items to Charity
If you really have no use for the items and they just take up space, give them to charity. The person that gave them to you will be happy to know that they’ve gone to a good cause.
Pass Them On
Just like they were to you, pass the items on again to a friend or family member. This way they still get used and you can even pay a visit on them from time to time! You’ll make someone else very happy while making space in your new home.
Worried about the Cost of Replacement
There are some decluttering tips that seem to do the rounds every springtime yet have little or no thought behind them. For instance, “throw everything out you haven’t used in a year”. I’ve tried this and regretted it. It’s that regret along with the fear of Murphy’s Law that stops many of us decluttering.
For instance, I bought a pasta machine. I used it once, put it away. I didn’t use it for a year so threw it out in a spring clean. Just a week later Jamie Oliver shared a fresh pasta recipe on C4 and so it was back on my wish list. Before this big move, I worried about the expense of replacing everything I wanted to throw out.
The Solution: If you haven’t used something in a year don’t throw it, sell it. Then put the money into a separate account and leave it there (if you can afford to) for six months. This is your fund for replacing items you regret parting with. If you don’t use any in that six months, spend it on something else or a treat for yourself for a job well done.
Top Tip: If selling on EBay make sure it is worth more than £50. Your time is very limited and you have enough to do with the move. Less than this and it won’t cover the time you take to place a listing, upload photos, communicate with buyers, package and post the item. Any items you still want to sell for under this amount can be sold at a car boot sale or antique auction.
Worried about Losing/ Putting on Weight
One of the biggest space suckers we have is our wardrobe. Shoes and clothes tend to spill out and despite extra storage the drawers fill up fast. Decluttering often begins here yet it never seems to make a difference. You can console yourself that most properties have a loft and they don’t take up much space in bags so if you really don’t want to throw your clothes out you don’t have to. Even if you do plan to store clothes you can’t fit into in the loft, decluttering the wardrobe is always a good idea as it has a positive impact on your mental health. All it takes is one pair of trousers that are too small to start your day off feeling fat and frumpy. No one needs that.
The Solution: Now you know you’re moving you can try to adopt a new habit that will ensure you’re always happy with anything you try on from your wardrobe. On one of the hangers hang a good sized empty bag, a bin bag is fine. Now whenever you try something on that doesn’t fit, isn’t flattering or that you simply don’t like put it in the bag. It’s completely up to you whether the bag goes in the loft for another day (for when you’ve lost those pounds or put on that weight) or if it goes straight to the charity shop. Selling clothes on EBay seems like the obvious solution, personally I think it takes far too much time for little money. Clothes need to look pristine, they need to be designer to rise above the £10 mark (even then it’s not guaranteed) and when you begin to declutter you’ll have so many it would take days to list them all. Not only this but it also gives you a lot of time to change your mind and 9 times out of 10 back in the wardrobe they go.
These are just a few of our top tips for your new home, check out our blog for more.