Maintaining simplicity, internally and externally, is a crucial part of moving to a more sustainable existence. Why? Because being overwhelmed with what we no longer need, or with more than we need saps our energy. Whether that’s extra internal stuff, such as limiting beliefs, attachment to drama and gossip, or fantasising or whether it’s external stuff such as material goods, rubbish or simply an overgrown garden, it all contributes to our attention being commandeered by the meaningless rather than dedicated to the meaningful.
As a recovering hoarder and ‘just in case ‘ fanatic, I’ve explored a variety of approaches to keeping mess and clutter at bay.
Here are some ideas I’ve come up with for how to overcome hoarding and live more simply:
1) Monitor usage – to begin with just observe how you use technology, clothes, books, kitchen equipment, tools etc. You will probably find that your usage follows the 80:20 rule (The Pareto Principle) that you use the same 20% of something 80% of the time.
2) Sell, freecycle, recycle or give away anything you haven’t used in the last year.
3) If that’s too big a step in one go, put everything from 2 (i.e. that you haven’t used in the last year)in a holding space e.g. spare bedroom, loft space, cupboard. Anything that’s still there, unused, after 6 months, get rid of (mark a date in your diary to do this). You’ve then got 6 months to get used to living without those items and to test to see which you really have a need for.
4) Then go back to 2.
5) Keep a box, or other space in the house where you put items that are leaving your living space and preferably separate items for sale from those to freecycle, recycle or give away. Completely clear this space once per month.
6) Own up to underlying beliefs that support hoarding:
a) I’m keeping it just in case
b) I’m keeping it because someone else would want me to (often someone who’s not longer there e.g. has passed away.)
c) I’m keeping it for someone else
d) I’m keeping it as a momento of my past
e) I’m keeping it because it’s too good to throw away.
7) Recycle those beliefs:
a) Keep for the foreseen, not the unforeseen. The only way to plan for the unforeseen is through building personal resilience, not through hoarding.
b) Keep for myself and what feeds me only.
c) If it’s someone else’s, they can take responsibility – give it back, renegotiate a storage arrangement for a limited time only, or get rid of it.
d) Living in the past holds me back. I let go of the past with gratitude for all it’s taught me. (For someone who’s died, and with whom I want to keep some material connection, keep one small item, or one small box of treasures, if this serves me in some way e.g. by supporting me through the grieving process.)
e) If it’s too good to throw away, then it’s too good to keep and not use. Let it go to someone else who would use it and appreciate it. Take steps to sell or give it to them. Pass it on with joy.
8) Think carefully about anything you bring into your living space. E.g. through shopping, accepting items from others etc. Do I really want this? What is the underlying need? What do I already own that would fulfil that need?
10) Apply all of these principles to electronic hoarding too e.g. files on your computer. Have a place for everything and everything in its place. Delete anything you haven’t used in the last year. For any new information you receive and want to keep, create a folder for it straight away that’s clearly labelled.
I know this can be really challenging, because at the root of hoarding are likely to be some pretty strong feelings about my identity and security (and maybe the identity and security of those I care about too.) In my experience, what can be especially self-supporting and self-empowering with this process is to begin by setting an intention, for example to reclaim my energy for meaningful work, to benefit others by passing on useful items, to enjoy living and working in a clutter free environment. It can also help to take some baby steps in order to get the momentum going and to make it easier to embed the new simplicity habit.
An intention I find particularly effective for those about-to-depart-from-my-life items is:
‘ May these items be well used and bring happiness and benefit to others, either in their current form, or after being transformed by nature or by man.’
What is it that most helps you to overcome hoarding?