When ‘normal’ decluttering rules don’t apply

I read a lot about decluttering and hoarding and minimalism and simplicity and all of that stuff, in the hope of finding the magic trick I need to get this hoard out of my house and having a home that looks normal.

If I could, I’d skip the advice that was aimed at people with ‘a bit of clutter’ and focus on advice for those of us with significant hoards, but there just isn’t enough of that available. So, I look at the tips and guidance aimed at people with a few more items of clothing or kitchen equipment than they need, and try my best to apply them in a way that suits my problem.

The thing that provoked this post was hearing some advice about throwing out / giving away one item a day. I understand this as a concept – it feels manageable and consistency is important.

But if a hoarder gets rid of one item a day, it will take them about 480 billion years* to have a tidy home (*may be a slight exaggeration).

So, can advice like this be translated in a way that hoarders can relate to? I guess my goal of getting rid of 100 bags of stuff a month is a seriously super-sized version of one item a day, so the principles of consistency and making continual progress are still there.

Perhaps that means that we can take advice for ‘normal’ people and adapt and apply it in a way that’s more realistic for us. I hope so.


I want

I want to be able to sleep on my whole bed, not just curl up in the small section that’s clear.

I want to be able to move from one part of my home to another without climbing over crap.

I want to not panic when someone knocks on the door, in case they need to come in.

I want to be able to invite friends and family over.

I want to hate myself less.

I want to be able to use my cooker and my fridge easily.

I want to be able to find things when I need them.



I’m doing great! I’m doing terribly! Can I be both?

On the one hand, I’ve nearly got 100 bags out of the house already. On the other, it just seems to be highlighting just how very far I’ve got to come.

Sometimes, I’m enthused and determined and I will get this mess sorted. But others I freeze in utter despair and overwhelm.

This is horrible. I live in horrible surroundings and it’s all my fault. And I just don’t know what to do about it.

If it was someone else I’d advise them that the only way to do it was bit by bit – the only way to eat an elephant is bite by bite, right?

But then I look around myself and it feels utterly impossible. That nothing other than a massive bulldozer could ever get this place sorted.

It makes me scared.


Minimalism: When It Makes Me Shudder

I often like the idea of minimalism. Those beautiful Japanese apartments where the few items that are owned are on display in just the right spot. Those amazing eco-homes where everything has a purpose and is responsibly sourced.

But, then, there are times it makes me shudder. I look at homes like the one in this video and they just look so soulless that I can’t understand how anyone can bear to live there.

Sure, he’s happy, and that’s all that counts. I’m not criticising his choices, I’m just saying there is no way I would ever aspire to owning two pieces of underwear and living somewhere with no personality whatsoever.


How Would it Feel to Have a Mess-Free Home?

It can be useful to visualise how we imagine our homes will look when we have finished dehoarding (notice I’ve stopped saying ‘if we finish…’ – we need some clarity if we’re going to get there!).

We can imagine what our bedroom will look like or how easy it is to move around our kitchen. And we can also imagine how it will feel.

How will it feel to hear a knock on the door and not panic that it might be someone who needs access?

How will it feel to be able to invite friends over without embarrassment?

How will it feel to be able to find what we need, when we need it?

How will it feel to be surrounded by things we’ve actively chosen to keep, rather than every piece of shit and trash and junk we’ve acquired over decades?

Visualising what it will be like, both aesthetically, and emotionally, can be a really helpful motivational tool. Let’s commit to doing it on a regular basis to keep track of where we are up to.


81 bags already!

I may need to revise my goal of 100 bags this month – it’s only the 7th of January and 81 bags of rubbish have left the house already.

I know I’m all fired up and motivated, and I won’t keep up this level of decluttering on a daily basis, but still. I’m pretty impressed with myself.

And that doesn’t happen often.


Including Time to Reset at the End of Tasks

Inspired by this video by Gayle Goddard, I have been thinking a lot about what she said about including ‘time to reset’ at the end of a task. This involves making sure that the last few minutes of the time you’ve allocated to a task are given to tidying up after it.

So, if you’re going to do some arts and crafts for half an hour, the last five minutes should be given over to cleaning up and putting things back where they belong.

To naturally neat people, this is probably just common sense. But for people like me, who gave up trying to have any order in her home for far too long, it feels a bit like a revelation.

Often, it seems pointless (oh hi, overwhelm again!), and yet, if we don’t, things get worse, not better. Progress is not just halted, it’s reversed.