De-cluttering when it’s hard to let go…

One of my first posts I ever wrote on this blog was about spring cleaning, and I seem to be having that same manic desire now to rid myself of STUFF. I find it both liberating and exhausting to go through all my things and get rid of that clutter that is taking up valuable space and generally weighing heavy on my mind. All those boxes with things you haven’t looked at in years, drawers overflowing with clothes, and general tat that’s gathering dust…

Selling off things you’re never going to use and giving things away to friends or to charity where they’ll be put to much better use is a load off your chest while creating physical and emotional space in your life. In practical terms, it also means that you’ll be able to find the things you actually need while it’ll also be easier to move when the time comes For me, the biggest culprits are books, and clothes. Here’s how I’ve been dealing with mine…

Books:

I grew up in a house with walls lined with books from ceiling to floor so perhaps it’s no wonder that I’ve done the same in my own apartments. Amazon is a particularly dangerous beast: they’re incredibly good at recommending books you’ll like, while you don’t realise how heavy your shopping bag is getting since you’re buying online. I’ve even turned to buying books in charity shops, which cuts down on cost as well as doing good… but, still, my shelves are full of books that I’ve never read and probably never will.

A good test I find is to pick up a book and see if you feel like reading it right now. If not now, will you ever feel like reading it? I’ve found hardbacks particularly impractical, as I mostly read while on the move and these are just too bulky and heavy… It’s all very well to have coffee table reading, but does anyone actually read these?!

books
A small selection of the books that I’ve managed to part with…

For books that you have read, ask yourself if you’ll read them again. Are you just keeping them for the nostalgia of it, or the impression they give (either to yourself or to visitors)? Lonely Planets especially look great on your shelf, showing you as the well-travelled adventurer that you are; and who doesn’t want to keep all those classics like Austen, Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy, and in my case a ridiculous amount of language books, to keep up the intellectual charade.

Clothes:

Clothes can be a particularly emotional thing, especially for women with all our concerns about body image and fluctuating weight. It’s easy to keep old favourites in the wardrobe, telling yourself that you’ll lose that weight and fit into them again soon. The truth is, though, that you probably won’t lose the weight and if you do you’ll want to go out and buy new clothes to show off your figure rather than delving into your old stuff.

There’s some statistic that we only wear maybe 10% of the clothes we have, and it’s pretty depressing (and impractical) to fill your wardrobe with things you’re never actually going to wear. Why not get rid of that 90% so that you can actually see what you have and not waste time looking through all those clothes that are too big / too small / too whatever…?

I read a book once that gave advice on how to decide whether or not to buy something you’re trying on in a shop, and I think the rules apply when getting rid of them too:

  1. Do you love it?
  2. Is it flattering? (Not just okay, but “wow”!)
  3. Do you have a specific occasion when you’ll wear it?

I often fall at that final hurdle, buying beautiful dresses that look great but lacking the social calendar that warrants a wardrobe full of them. (Can someone please invite me as their +1 to lots of weddings this summer?!)

Stuff:

So what do you do with all these things you’ve managed to purge? Well, if you want to try to get some money for the more valuable things, there’s Music Magpie (I’ve used this for my entire CD and DVD collection) and eBay (though I find this is only worth the hassle if we’re talking designer clothes or expensive things like old iPods), as well as Gumtree (or your country’s equivalent) for the bulkier items like furniture. For books, I’ve been giving them away recently to friends and will take the rest down to the charity shops.

One tip to make it easier is to do it in phases: first, get rid of everything that’s easy, the clothes that don’t fit, the books that you no longer have any interest in. Then come back to it another day and re-evaluate the ‘maybes’, the things that made you hesitate. If you can’t bring yourself to part with them yet, try to put them away in a box in the attic and if you haven’t used them in a year then it’s sayonara, baby!

Of course, the biggest challenge is to avoid buying all this stuff in the first place. These days I buy mostly e-books to read on my Kindle or phone – the cost is still there, and the e-shelves still full, but at least they’re not taking up physical space in the house. When it comes to clothes, I’ll keep working on only buying things when I actually need them… Sounds simple, doesn’t it?!

Do you do regular cleanouts of your things? Have any tips on how to make it easier? Let me know in the comments below!

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