no more clutter logo no more clutter newsletter for May/June 2004

This month I am going to look at the psychology of hoarding.

I'm fascinated by why people hoard. What makes someone hold onto 50 margarine cartons, old pieces of string and used wrapping paper? What makes someone fill every last inch of their home with collections, a forest of ailing plants and piles and piles of ancient newspapers? What makes someone turn their precious spare room or garage into a no-go area and fill it to the rafters with junk?

At one end of the spectrum extreme hoarders can't bear to throw anything away and may be suffering from an illness like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. At the other people live so minimally they can't bear to have any excess possessions in their homes at all. I met a man recently who was proud of the fact he only had 2 mugs in his home. I'd like to think I'm a bit more relaxed than that although I have a pretty low tolerance for clutter in my home. My bliss at the moment is the minimal look but the most important thing to me is that it feels like home, not a hotel bedroom.

So do you need to understand what's behind your cluttering behaviour to change? It's not essential - my website and approach to decluttering are primarily practical. However I do have a degree in psychology and I believe the more you understand about why you are holding onto things, the easier it is to effect long term change.

So ask yourself...

  • What was your family like when you were growing up? Is there a history of hoarding - can you identify anyone else who holds onto excess stuff?
  • Did you grow up in a very neat and controlled household and have been rebelling against it ever since?.
  • Have you ever been through a period when money was tight or hard emotional times?
  • Are you sentimental and can't bear to throw away even a postcard?
  • Are you a rescuer - can you never walk past a skip without saving something or do you haunt boot fairs on the lookout for a bargain?
  • Do you see yourself as a collector rather than a hoarder?
    Are you afraid of making a mistake and regretting throwing something away?

Spend a few minutes thinking and making notes on why you hold onto stuff. Can you see that some of your beliefs and behaviours are counterproductive. That rather than making your life better - they are leading to a cluttered home - which is causing frustration and irritation.

Now spend 10 minutes decluttering a drawer - be aware of any negative or hoarding thoughts that crop up. Counterbalance these with calming thought - reassure yourself nothing bad will happen if you let go of used wrapping paper. Over the next few weeks - stay conscious of all the psychological influences that are driving your hoarding behaviour.

June's Challenge

Congratulations to all of you that managed to complete April's challenge and clear a room or area in your home, then keep it clear of clutter for the rest of the month.

For June tick off the following areas as you declutter and complete them. If you've got under an hour try the quick challenges

Quicker Decluttering tasks...

  • Cutlery drawer
  • Underwear drawer
  • Bathroom cabinet
  • Linen closet
  • Bedside table
  • Edit out unused cookbooks

Longer tasks...

  • Larder or food cupboards - make sure everything is still in date
  • Under your bed - if you do keep things here make sure they are stored in proper underbed storage. John Lewis has a wide range.
  • Bottom of your wardrobe - my experience is there is more junk than anything useful stored here
  • Understairs or hall cupboard if you are feeling very brave - I bet you don't even know what is lurking in there.

Good luck and do let me know how you get on. I'm always happy to hear your stories and any tips for decluttering or storage that are working for you.

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Sue Kay works with a wide range of clients to organise home offices, small businesses, declutter before a house move, prepare your spare room for a new baby and organise your wardrobe ready for the new season. If you're selling your home, she can help you present it clutter-free for the market to achieve a quick and profitable sale. For practical sympathetic help call Sue on 07974 076 675 or 020 8444 5149 or check out the website at


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