The glory of decluttering

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Every summer, I throw a bunch of things out. By this I mean, okay, sometimes bin, but usually sell, give to charity or give away, and honestly it is one of the most surprisingly therapeutic things to do. Why should you do it, then?

Increasingly it seems that people are gradually more and more preoccupied with possessions and the material world. Especially in this part of the globe, people tend to have a lot of, well, stuff. Looking around my room I can see things I need, sure: toiletries, clothes, and… actually, that’s it in terms of things I technically ‘need’. Sure, I love my cactus candles, and I have an ornamental porcelain shoe that does nothing but I’ve had it since I was six, so I need to keep it, right?

Probably not. But I want to, and this is readily interchangeable with need. I like stuff, and I am a material person. This doesn’t mean that I hang on to every paperclip I own for dear life, but it does mean that parting from things is a little more difficult, as more things have some sentimental meaning that occasionally I can conjure up in my head five minutes before I know I’ve got to get rid of it.

A few years back now I can remember seeing, in some paper’s magazine, an article on 20-somethings restricting their possessions to fit into one box or crate only. My mind boggled at this prospect. How cool would it be to be that mobile, right? So easy! So little to worry about! Indeed, that was what the article proclaimed, this ‘new trend’ growing increasingly popular as a carefree, easy and very cheap way to live. One pair of shoes, three t-shirts and his laptop was all that this one guy had to be smug about. Fourteen-year-old me thought this was a great idea.

Anna then looked at what she had, and suddenly living frugally was extremely difficult. She wasn’t spoilt then, and nor does she have money now, but one pair of shoes? What about if you want to go running, or to dinner? That hardly covers both. Naturally, now I look on those people from the article with intrigue and wonder, because I will never be one of them, as my mum proclaimed to my disheartened younger self.

Nonetheless, there is still a lot to be said for what can only be described as decluttering. I still stand by my starting claim that it is weirdly therapeutic, and it’s an organisational dream (sounding really cool now). There is some kind of rule that says look at your clothes, and any you haven’t worn in the past _____ [insert time period here] you should let go of. Obviously you’re not going to throw away your winter coat in August because it’s gathering dust, but think logically and don’t get caught up on an item because you’ve had it for soooo long and there are so many good memories with that hoodie, sigh… It could probably earn you some money, if anything. Maybe not if it has chewed sleeves, but set up an eBay account and get selling, as you can be surprised as to how much things can go for. If this is hassle, then take some things down to your local charity shop, or even bag things and pop them in a clothes bin. If it can be recycled, then you may as well, as there are even charities sending old bras to Africa for women without them there. Check out your options. It’s really worth it.

I’m terrible at hoarding magazines. I downright refuse to let go of maybe 90 copies of my childhood subscription to the craft magazine ‘Make It Groovy’, an oddly prized possession of mine. However, I opened a box in my room last summer, and had maybe 40 copies of Glamour, Cosmo and Company kept for no apparent, memorable reason. “Are you keeping those ‘just in case’?” My dad asked snarkily, and that was it, they were binned. If you share this habit, go through them and cut or tear out the pages that matter to you, and make a mood board or file them. There is a way to condense these things somehow, and it frees up a tonne of storage space.

The reason I find decluttering to be most valuable is that it is a fresh start. Not everyone needs these, and you don’t have to have a meltdown in order to re-evaluate what you own, but without sounding corny as hell it works to clear your head, too (I’m running with that statement). New Year’s is usually this big palaver of new starts and fresh beginnings, when in actual fact I tend to find the end of the academic year a lot more productive as a ‘new’ time. It means you’ve got a while to sort things out, there isn’t the pressure associated with calendar change, and you can potentially earn money or at least do something good by donating items to charity. There isn’t anything wrong with the material world unless you start losing sight of the things you own that really do matter to you. I’m going to sell a summer top – it doesn’t really suit me – but my grandma knitted me a jumper last Christmas. I’ve worn it maybe twice, but I’ll keep it forever.

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