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The Emotional Cost of Clutter. Thursday February 20, 2014

William Morris once famously said: "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."

Some of you may be very good at keeping your living spaces clear and living a minimalistic life as far as personal possessions go. Most of us can only aspire to that. "Stuff" seems to come into our life and sticks like glue.

The emotional cost of this clutter however, takes its toll on our mental well-being. Common forms of clutter that can have a hugely negative impact are: (and I speak from personal experience)

1. The gifts from loved ones.

Mothers are particularly good at this. They give you gifts and then you feel you have to keep them always. A friend of mine has a great saying: "Keep the love it came with. Pass on the object that contained that love; it's just the wrapping".

2. The "just in case" objects.

I once kept a Savarin mould for twelve years without once actually making a savarin. I'm not even sure if I know what one is – certainly I've never missed it in the five years since I found the courage to pass it on.

3. Objects connected with past unhappiness.

I don't care how useful it is, or how beautiful; if it makes you sad or feel bad, it should go. Replace it with something that you do feel good about.

4. Those "bargains"...

Most often found in our wardrobes, these items remind us of the time we bought the shoes that pinched because they were cheap, or that third tee-shirt in drab olive, just because it was buy-two-get-one-free. Let these things go: they only remind us of bad decisions.

5. The stuff that isn't really you.

In the past I've kept books that I thought looked impressive. But I could never get beyond the third chapter of Stephen Hawking's "A Short History of Time" and, quite frankly, I really don't enjoy Dickens. So what's the point of using up valuable bookcase space on him, just because it looks more erudite than the Agatha Christies and Nora Roberts? It's lying by implication really, isn't it? It eats away at your integrity and authenticity.

6. Excess.

Would someone please tell me why I have 126 wineglasses? And why there are 15 ball-points and 24 pencils in the pot by the phone (I've just counted)? This must be insecurity clutter here. The resistance to getting rid of it is just about resistance to change. Take a deep breath and get over it. Move on and keep that energy moving.

7. Other people's stuff.

It doesn't belong to us, so we can't get rid of it. If we have agreed to keep something on behalf of someone else then there has to be a time limit. After that, we start charging!

8. General stuff that arrives.

Magazines, receipts, junk mail etc. We need a system and a regular diary date to deal with them. It becomes an issue when the quantity builds up to unmanageable proportions and it just gets overwhelming.

So – some of the above points I think I've mastered. Others – well, just writing this has inspired me to get started. I'll let you know how I get on.

A Moodscope user.

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Anonymous Tue, Feb 18th 2014 @ 4:40pm

HI Mary
This is so good; I am dreadful at "decluttering" - but I know I must and this post will help me to do so; I wanted to reply the day this was posted but for some reason couldn't - perhaps explains why no-one else has ... Thank-you again. Frankie

Anonymous Thu, Feb 20th 2014 @ 8:20am

Brilliant Mary! That's exactly where I'm at, but first... my Inbox! Thanks for simplifying the problem which was cluttering my mind too!

Anonymous Thu, Feb 20th 2014 @ 8:35am

Bit of a curate's egg for me. Some of the post I agree with, some not. It's a personal thing. Don't think people should feel they are doing the wrong thing if they are hanging on to gifts, memorabilia and so on for sentimental reasons, even if the belongings are not beautiful. I don't hoard newspapers, receipts, clothes and so on. I've always found this Morris quote rather dictatorial - each to their own.

Anonymous Thu, Feb 20th 2014 @ 9:37am

I am with you. My home is me, cluttered and filled with memories.
And is my comfort when life is tough.

Anonymous Thu, Feb 20th 2014 @ 9:48am

My biggie is that I have been working towards the house I want to live in for years. It is what keeps me going. It is my benchmark of success. Giving things up would be to give up on the ambitions and let life decide for me. My collection of beer glasses is for when I relax with a beer in the correct glass. Other things are conversation pieces for when I get visitors. I don't seem to have much stuff in the categories above. I say this when the owner of where I live is moving back soon so I am having to pack it all up again. One day I will unpack it all in my last house and say "home at last!"

Anonymous Thu, Feb 20th 2014 @ 9:58am

Decluttering is my therapy, but it's true if you want to keep then carry on ;) my partner keeps everything I keep v little it's works for us both ! Great post

Anonymous Thu, Feb 20th 2014 @ 10:01am

This is one of the most helpful Moodscope blogs I've read.

I'm in the process of decluttering at the moment and this has helped to no end! I can be a bit sentimental about all the wrong stuff to keep.

Thank you!! :)

Suzy Thu, Feb 20th 2014 @ 10:06am

Spring must be in the air Marypops because I too had it in mind to get a post out about the feel good factors of decluttering!
It's excellent Mary, as always. ??????Thank you!

Anonymous Thu, Feb 20th 2014 @ 12:07pm

Thanks Mary - excellent post; I find it virtually impossible to declutter but will really try. It's been on the agenda for ages; and I am all too aware of how clutter can sap energy and fill up the mind; your advice will help get me going - wish me luck! Frankie

Anonymous Thu, Feb 20th 2014 @ 12:24pm

Paper is what accumulates around here, and it's overwhelming. It seems I am constantly recycling paper, shredding paper, sorting papers, filing papers - both at home and at work. It's exhausting, but if I skip a few days it quickly turns into an overwhelming mess.

Anonymous Thu, Feb 20th 2014 @ 3:10pm

I feel your pain as I skipped a few years and now have ,for example , documents tucked into newspapers so cannot just chuck it all . Bags of cuttings and piles of papers.
Any attempt to tidy some of it creates more mess as I start reading yesterdays news lol

Anonymous Thu, Feb 20th 2014 @ 3:12pm

Oh, apostrophe ! Where did you disappear to ? !

Anonymous Thu, Feb 20th 2014 @ 4:19pm


Anonymous Thu, Feb 20th 2014 @ 5:22pm

great post. this is part of my therapy. i used to keep so many little trinkets and sentimental objects, but now i throw them away where i can. they bring on emotions that are not good to me. we just don't need half this stuff lying around. another one for me was boxes just in case i sold the item again, i wanted it to be sold boxed. they go now after a few weeks. living in a small flat has helped me cling to less, so when i move to a bigger place i'll take this with me and fill the house with love rather than stuff.

SES23 Thu, Feb 20th 2014 @ 7:29pm

Great post, very familiar. The Flylady may be something of interest to anyone struggling with this clutter thing. ( it's free and you just jump in where you are. It's really helped me, I finally discovered that the carpet in the living room has a lovely pattern. Some days it's the only thing that makes me smile, and I'll take that as it may be the only thing (daft as it sounds) that prevents the day descending into chaos.

Anonymous Thu, Feb 20th 2014 @ 8:21pm

Thankyou Mary for your excellent post. Today I started to tackle about 2 years of mostly paper clutter. Utterly exhausting. Stuff overwhelms me. Depression always saps my energy. And I can get so very little done at the worst times. Watching the video yesterday: The story of Stuff on youtube dropped a penny for me. And I managed to make a start today. The place is now filled with piles as the sorting continues. So thank you Mary, for me clutter depletes my limited energies.

Anonymous Thu, Feb 20th 2014 @ 10:14pm

When you don't have much, it's hard to get cluttered. I moved into my current flat a few years ago with everything I owned in a small holdall.
These days I've got the computer I'm writing this on, and a desk and a chair and a bed, but what more do you need?

Quacko Fri, Feb 21st 2014 @ 12:22am

I am a hoarder and am going to massively dump most of my worldly goods in the Spring with help from support groups and friends. I learned a lot from my support group- one of the best things I learned is that not all hoarding/clutter is emotional. I have the issue of "Potential Clutter"- everything is wonderful to make things out of and has great possible use. I have been a teacher and artist for many years and now realize that I do not want this stuff anymore. It is a battle for many creative types.

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