Friday, November 1, 2013

Decluttering is an exponential function

Since my realisation that I'm really a bit of a hoarder (slight understatement), I've been trying some different methods for decluttering, and I've found a sustained method that seems to be working so far, which I thought I'd share with you.

I'm essentially following the example of 365 Less Things in that my goal is to remove one thing each day - into the bin, or into the assorted piles which desperately need to be shifted. (One for the second-hand book shop, one for the second-hand clothes shop, one for the second-hand games and DVDs shop etc. I'd love a Help the Aged or similar nearby where I could just drop everything.) However, I'm not stopping there - most days I am discarding more than one thing, sometimes ten or more. I'm finding it easier and easier to let things go - although it's still a wrench, even for the most ridiculous things. (I honestly spent the best part of ten minutes debating whether or not to throw out a half-used bottle of body oil bought about eight years ago and not used since.)

I'm not being systematic, not focusing on areas of the house or anything like that. As I go about my daily routines, at some point my eyes light on something and I think: I don't need that, it doesn't add anything to my life, it should go. My bathroom cupboard, for example, has been denuded of, amongst others: assorted bottles of lotion, oil, gel, perfume, make-up etc which were not being used and were also hideously old; assorted homemade lotions which were not being used and were turning worrying shades of green; hair scrunchies which had lost their elastic and were not being used; and assorted plastic jewellery items which (guess what) were not being used. In fact, I think something like 90% of my bathroom cupboard just never gets used.

This is so far having two positive feedback loops. The first is that the areas which I use most often are naturally where the impact of this approach is being felt. Each time I open my bathroom cupboard to pin my hair or similar, the items left are glaringly obvious, and increasingly look redundant. The rate of decluttering seems to increase exponentially.

The second feedback loop is that these high-traffic areas contrast increasingly strongly with areas I rarely use (spare room, linen cupboard, cellar), so I am increasingly struck by how cluttered they are and how many things could be disposed of.

I'll be sharing my tips soon on the psychological method I am developing to persuade myself to let things go - in contrast to this spatial method - but I wanted to share with you this very simple and slow decluttering method. Rather than taking on a daunting challenge of even setting a 10-minute timer, the process of only requiring myself to discard one item a day means I feel no pressure, and with items with emotional attachments I can build up to it - each day I look at it and each day the question mark shrinks a little until finally I have no remaining qualms about letting it go.

I am feeling noticeably lighter and like I'm breathing better, weirdly - but also increasingly aware of my clutter and increasingly keen to get rid of it.


  1. Good for you. I'm a hoarder too. I suspect it goes hand in hand with being a crafter. You just know it will be useful one day, when in fact it will only be needed two weeks after you've thrown it away, and never before that time. Great approach to aim for one thing a day, but allow yourself to throw more. Good luck.

    1. Thanks - it seems to be working so far but of course the other thing with the one-a-day approach is that it needs to be sustained in order to have any impact! I have much the same concern that stuff will be needed, but in the meantime the clutter is preventing me from focusing on any projects (or at least contributing to my lack of focus) so that's what I keep telling myself. Having said that, the stash will probably not get decluttered any time soon...



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