“I might need it someday”

This is a really common thought that occurs to people when they are trying to declutter.

It pops up when they come across an item that they haven’t been using, either for a very long time, or not yet at all so far. It’s something like a box a phone came in, or a length of ribbon, or a spare screwdriver, or an umbrella, a jar, or a piece of wood.

It’s been languishing under a pile of stuff for who-know-how-long. Now they know that they haven’t been using it, they might not have even known they had it n the first place. So, because they are trying to declutter and a goal is to make more space, the logical part of them says “I should cull this”.

As soon as that happens, the emotional side of them jumps in and interrupts with “But I might need it some day!” or “But it could be really handy!”.

So then immediately, there are two teams fighting against each other in your brain. Logic and Emotion.

Usually when there’s an argument between our logical side and our emotional side, emotion wins in the first instance. It’s not really a fair fight, to be honest.

Emotion has a huge advantage over the logical side. Two advantages actually. One is that is gives instant gratification – keeping something you like gives you an immediate sense of comfort and security. Logic’s rewards are more long-term, and so are harder to see.

The second is that Emotion can evoke a physical response in you that is incredibly hard to ignore. It can raise your heart-rate, and make you feel nauseated as it diverts essential activities away from your intestines. It can make you sweat, make you jumpy, make you want to cry. It can make it harder to breath, or you may even hyperventilate. It can make you twitchy and very very intent on removing yourself from the situation, or angry and wanting to lash out.

Poor Logic doesn’t really have a hope against that, does it? And so to make all that go away, Emotion wins and you keep the item.

But every time you let Emotion win in these cases, it gets stronger. Then next time it pops up faster, more intensely. It feeds off your validation of it.

So how do we fight this?

We practice building up Logic so that it has a fairer fight. It still might not always win, but we give it a better chance.

  1. We stop and acknowledge the anxiety that Emotion has brought up. We temper it with facts and truths (for example, it’s true that jars do keep coming in the house, and that most friends will have a jar if you need one, and they are not at all hard to come by and are often free). We allow Logic to have its say, to tell its truths.
  2. We pick fairer fights, one where we know Emotion doesn’t have quite the strong stake in it. If Emotion gets repulsed at the thought of eating foods past their used-by-date, do some decluttering at the back of the pantry because Emotion won’t have quite as much to say about it when Logic suggests something needs to go. Go for the “easy” stuff to help build up that Logic muscle.
  3. We ask ourselves questions. Questions like “If I didn’t have this when I needed it, what would happen?”. Would you be able to borrow it? Use something else? Make an alternative?Be creative with something you already have?
  4. We extend the story. What we’re saying when we say “I might need it someday” is actually “I’m afraid of the consequences of not having this when I need it”. We’re telling ourselves a story that stops at the worse part. So extend the story – what ARE those consequences? What would happen if you didn’t have a spare screwdriver when you needed it? What would happen to you? And then what would you do? And then what? What’s at the end of the story? And is it so bad as you initially thought?
  5. We use our powers of creativity and ingenuity. Tell yourself stories about how resourceful you are and how you will be just fine without The Thing. Tell yourself about how smart you are at making do without, and how strong you are when things don’t go your way. Tell yourself how a little inconvenience won’t derail you, and that it’s unlikely to even happen at all. Back yourself, you can do it.

So next time you find yourself thinking “But I might need it someday”, stop and see if you can give Logic a fighting chance. And the more you do it, the better you and Logic will get at fighting off that pesky Emotion who keeps telling you that you aren’t strong enough.

A privilege honoured with transparency

This business is so much more about people than stuff. And anyone who tries to tell you differently either hasn’t done what we do, or does it very differently to how we do it!

Helping people move from one stage of their lives to another is a privilege to be a part of, and we always do our best to honour that privilege.

Other businesses “clear out” homes – we transition homes from one stage in their history to the next.

Other businesses “buy your stuff” – we help you re-home your treasures, treating them and your relationship with them with the respect they deserve.

Other businesses “move people” – we take the weight of people’s shoulders.

We really love it when we find treasures for our clients, things they didn’t know they had hidden away, or things they didn’t know had value.

Not too long ago we found a hidden, genuine Japanese sword from World War 2, a set of dog tags and a photo of our client’s father from the war holding the sword.  Our client thought this was lost many years ago.  The delight she had when we returned these items was so rewarding for us.

We pride ourselves on our transparency – all of the items we find that have value are always returned to the client or sold with the full proceeds going directly to the client.

Did you know that there are businesses that advertise a similar service, but they instead offer an amount money in return for clearing out the home, and in the process keep everything they find? In these cases, there could be some real treasures you may never even know you or your family members had.

At another home recently, we found four pure silver ingots hidden away.  Again, we returned the proceeds to our client – these other businesses would have kept this for their own benefit.

Again, it’s a privilege to help people in this transitional phase of their lives, and we pride ourselves on making sure we honour that with transparency and honesty at all times.

If you ever get quotes from an auctioneer, estate clearer or other similar downsizing service, make sure you ask all about their policies regarding sale and disposal of items so that you can be sure you don’t fall victim to any of these methods.

Conditions that can masquerade as “hoarding”

I have had quite a few clients that have been told they are “hoarders” (by experts and non-experts alike). Some diagnosed and some not diagnosed. And many clients have self-diagnosed themselves as “hoarders” also.

I have also had professionals (support coordinators, social workers etc) say “This person is a hoarder”. However, there are a LOT of conditions, neuro-diversities and behaviours that can cause (or masquerade as) hoarding and challenging domestic environments.

Autism can cause executive dysfunction that results in overwhelm and avoidance, which can end up looking like hoarding to the uninitiated.

ADHD can do the same. It can also cause impulsive buying which can then also look, on appearances, like hoarding.

Autism can result in collecting behaviours in special interests, and very strong attachment. This can be mistaken for hoarding disorder.

Depression can cause decision-making anxiety, which means that things can’t be decided-upon get left unresolved, which can result in unclean living conditions and unfinished tasks, which also can be mistaken for hoarding.Depression can also cause low motivation, which results in unfinished tasks, and sometimes self-soothing actions like buying and collecting, which can build up clutter and sometimes unclean spaces.Bi-polar can have similar effects – during mania episodes, there could be impulsive purchasing. During depressive episodes, there could be a lack of motivation, overwhelm and difficulty starting and finishing tasks.

OCD can mean that regular household tasks become gargantuan and unmanageable due to the complex rituals that need to be undertaken. Washing the dishes could take 5 hours. Who’d want to do the dishes if it took that long?

Creativity can cause a high interest in numerous activities. Couple that with ADHD and you can end up with high level of clutter and an inability to put it into order.

Childhood trauma (or any trauma really) can cause attachment issues and self-soothing activities that can cause high clutter levels. Also for some people, there was no role model to learn helpful space and stuff management behaviours.

I could go on, but my point is – hoarding behaviours and “unclean” living environments can come from many possible sources.

Be careful not to saddle someone with a label that has stigma attached to it (hopefully that will go away but for now, it’s here) when it could simply be a behaviour that has its sources in a place other than hoarding disorder.

Also, assuming it’s hoarding disorder can mean that potential treatments can be missed out on.

And if you have hoarding behaviours, go easy on yourself – you are a whole person who cannot be reduced to one behaviour. You’re awesome x

How to declutter when you can’t access charities

I was on the radio this week talking about this. Unfortunately the host decided to go off-topic and my list I had prepared didn’t get to be discussed!

Rather than waste it, I thought I’d do a blog post about it.

So, here are 10 ways to declutter and organise when the charities are closed:

  1. Create an “unwanted zone”. This temporary zone can house your unwanted items until you can get them to charity. Pick a place that’s out of the way, not blocking up any living spaces. If you have to use a living space like a toyroom or office, do some rearranging first so that there is a clear boundary between the wanted and unwanted items – you don’t want them getting mixed up. Think of them as two different coloured playdoh balls – don’t mix the colours because its really hard to undo that!

  2. Label large items with stickers and leave them in place. Applicances, jugs, vases, side tables etc. Just put a sticker on them and when everything is back to normal, do a treasure hunt in the house to find all the stickers

  3. Give things away on Gumtree or Facebook Marketplace. You can do this safely, cleaning items and leaving them at a safe distance for collection. Those collecting items can wear gloves and quarantine or wash the items when they get them home.

  4. Sell things on Gumtree, Marketplace or Ebay – most people on Ebay expect postage rather than pickup so you can then have contact-free disposal by mailing the items.

  5. Choose a recycler that you can mail items too. Manrags will take 10kg of your old clothing for resuse or recycling.

  6. You can engage companies that still have access to the charities. 1800 GOT JUNK can still access the charities they normally take re-usable stuff to, and here at Clear Space we also have access to charities that are closed to the public.

  7. If you have vintage clothing, and you’re in Adelaide, Dulcie’s Bus is still collecting – if you contact us I can arrange it for you. And summer clothing and shoes still being received at AussieGhana Relief at 1/518 Goodwood Road, Daw Park and 333 Marion Road, North Plympton.

  8. Focus on rubbish and recycling only for now. Skip companies are still operating, as are scrap metal recyclers and council hard rubbish collections.

  9. Donate your items to friends. I recently dropped off a few bags of kids’ clothes to a couple of friends. Make sure they need it first!

  10. Do organising projects that don’t require much decluttering. Organise your digital photos or your printed photos. Set up memory boxes, archive kids’ schoolwork, declutter paperwork (you can hire shredding bins – we recommend www.greenteam.com.au), re-organise your recipes, re-arrange the living room etc.

So if you’re looking to get some clearing and organising happening, it’s still possible!

 

COVID-19 and Clear Space

It’s a scary, strange and confusing time. With the pandemic sweeping the planet, everything has changed.

We wanted to let you know that Clear Space is still open for business, albeit it in different ways to normal of course. So much has changed for us – auction houses have closed, charities have closed, and we have to sanitize like mad, not work in groups and stay safe distances from each other.

If you need us, we’ll see if we can find a way to help that is safe and complies with the new rules and regulations surrounding social distancing, gatherings, hygiene and the like. We take safety very seriously and won’t just take on anything – it has to be safe for all involved.

There are many jobs that we can do solo without any personal contact with the client – either by working alone to clear an estate or by coaching online.

If you’re wondering if we can help you or not, just give us a call. We’ll have a chat and see what we can come up with together. There are many ways we can help and still stay safe, so just ask and we’ll work it out together.

 

Leaving room for the warm fuzzies

When you declutter or downsize, there will be items that are challenging to make decisions on. There are various reasons, but one reason is definitely that there is a sentimental connection somewhere.

Sometimes it’s an item that reminds you of a past event, or even just a past feeling. It could remind you of blood, sweat and tears that you put into it. It could have been given to you by a loved one, or someone who has passed. It gives you a good feeling that you don’t want to lose.

When you have more stuff than space, it’s important to reduce your belongings – it’s actually necessary. However, you don’t need to give up on off of the things that fill your heart and soul.

When you are decluttering and downsizing, it’s fine if you want to set aside some space for your memorabilia. For some people, it’s a really important piece of who they are.  They key is to be intentional about how much space it can take up. If you’re moving into a smaller home, designate a certain storage area in the new home for your warm fuzzies.  Ideally, you’ll use them and they’ll be in the daily cycle.  Second priority would be to display them. But even if there’s no room to do either (or it’s not appropriate to display Great Grandpa’s love letters or your school reports), you can set aside a space somewhere out of the way to keep them safe.  Sometimes just a few items can meet the same emotional needs as the whole lot.

It’s okay to make space for your heart, just as long as you do it intentionally and it takes up only a helpful amount of your living space.

Being able to keep some things that give you the warm fuzzies is important.

A better life? You choose….

When we buy things or keep things, we often have reasons why.

“I might need it”
“But it’s part of my history”
“I need to finish it first”
“I’ll feel guilty”
“It’s still usable”
“These things always come in handy”

ALL of those rationales could be re-written as “My life will be better if I keep it”, couldn’t they? You’d be prepared, or have memories, or have knowledge awaiting you, or you won’t feel guilt. You’ll be better off than if you discarded it, right? I mean, that’s why you’re keeping it, really, isn’t it?

Next time you catch yourself making an excuse to keep something, tell it how it is. Say how you think it will make your life better. Then question that. Will it REALLY? Or just potentially? Or just in the short term?

What about your goal of living a life that is more intentional, mindful, simple and meaningful? Will living like that make your life better?

So which will you go with?

Keeping: “My life will be better if I keep it”

OR

Discarding: “My life will be better if I don’t keep it”.

It’s up to you to choose, so choose well.

Mindful shopping: an antidote to clutter

One of the most common causes of clutter I come across is excess acquisitions; when people buy more stuff than they have space or need for.

People shop for various reasons. One is a basic need – you need sustenance, so you buy milk and bread. You have a hole in your shoe, so you buy a replacement pair to stop your feet getting wet.

Another reason we buy things is to give to others. Presents, gifts, donations. Or as an investment – jewellery, art etc. We also shop to create an environment we feel happy in. We buy home-wares, clothes, artwork and decorations.

Another big reason we buy things is to make ourselves feel better. To feel more successful, to feel more content, to feel more beautiful, more intelligent, more accepted, more creative.

Finally, we shop to get an adrenaline rush. Either the thrill of the chase, or the thrill of the bargain. And then once addicted, it’s just for the rush and no other reason.

People don’t usually shop with the intention of filling their house to unhelpful levels, nor with the intention of growing large amounts of debt, of feeling constantly unsatisfied, or of needing to buy more storage, or of filling our oceans and landfill with excess goods we didn’t need in the first place.  But this is what happens anyway.

Shopping mindfully can help to reduce these negative effects of consumption.

Ask yourself what do you really NEED, and can this item give you that? Will that pretty notebook really make you happier than you are today, beyond the first page of using it? Will that new outfit really make you feel more attractive in the long term?  Will that new phone still be good enough when the next one comes out?

Ask yourself if your home and your life can handle more stuff in it. Is there a home for that item? Do you have time to maintain it, put it away, dust it, clean in, move it around, repair it etc?

Ask yourself if you already have enough. Do you have something else already that can do the same job as that thing you’re eyeing off? Can you survive without the item? (for most things the answer is yes as you’ve survived just fine without it so far!).

Finally, as yourself what truly makes you happy. True, lasting happiness comes from being accepted and part of a community. It comes from helping others. It comes from being grateful for what you have. It comes from learning and growing. It comes from being mindful and present.

Ask yourself these questions before you next make a purchase – and be intentional and mindful of what you bring into your life.

Make this tax time an organised one!

The end of the financial year is coming up so I thought I’d throw together a few tips for managing your paperwork so that tax time is stress-free moving forward.

  1. Have an easily accessible file for your taxable receipts and make sure they’re separate from non-taxable receipts (an envelope in a drawer works just fine, just label it well with the year)
  2. Keep all your tax stuff together in the one storage type – don’t stash them in different places such as portable files, tubs ore piles on the bookcase.
  3. Always have a “current tax year” folder at hand to drop anything relevant in there as it arrives (no more asking for a replacement group certificate!)
  4. Ask your accountant to send you a detailed list of what you need to keep and for how long so that you can refer back to it when filing, organising and culling
  5. Digitize as much as possible and sort the files with folders by financial year
  6. When you’re sorting through your piles, have one for “current tax year” and the rest can go in one pile for now – it’s the current one (and any not lodged yet) that are important at the moment
  7. Don’t let it build up – work on it throughout the year and it won’t be a) lost or b) overwhelming when the time comes.

If you struggle with paperwork, perhaps setting up a proper household paperwork system that suits your personality might be worth the effort? Make next year’s tax a breeze!

My thoughts on Marie Kondo and “Tidying Up”

I’ve been asked my opinion on Marie Kondo’s show and her method a lot lately. So I have gathered my thoughts in this post (and also recorded two podcast episodes on it!). I’m not really a huge KonMari advocate, but I’m definitely not a complete detractor either. I think it has merit, but with a few warnings.

I have tried to watch her show both as a person who owns stuff and lives in a house, as well as from the perspective of a professional who has been doing what she does for close to 15 years now.

As a regular person, I was profoundly affected by the respect for the home, the greeting of the home as a spiritual practice, and the respect for the belongings. I have an uncluttered home, but I don’t have the reverence for my belongings that she promotes and I was inspired to change that. I actually cried when she greeted the first home, and get emotional every time. I think I’m in the minority among POs with this opinion – many of my colleagues found my admission rather amusing! But I think we could all do with more gratitude and respect for our homes and our belongings. Perhaps it would translate into more respect for each other and our environment; I don’t think it’s a bad thing at all.

I was inspired by her calm manner and the deliberate way she speaks, moves and touches things. She seems very sweet and genuine – I couldn’t help but like her. I know some don’t like it, but the cute jumping and smiling didn’t bother me at all, it was endearing to me. I’d happily allow her in my home and let her walk on my counter tops.

Conversely, I felt that if I wanted to do her method, I could, but I felt there wasn’t enough information on how to make decisions. I know how to myself as I do it for a living, but if I didn’t, I think I would have had MANY questions that weren’t answered. At one point when a woman who had insisted on keeping everything at the start of the show then later said “I don’t need to keep everything” I shouted at the television “HOW? How did you come to that conclusion? I want to know!!!”. Decluttering is ALL ABOUT DECISION-MAKING and it was not covered thoroughly enough.

I found the show a little boring at times. I was interested in the psychology but it was glossed over a bit and there was more time spent on the people on their own than with Kondo and her insights. And some processes were repeated in every episode at the expense of others.

Her paperwork system lacked a LOT in the way of detail – it definitely wouldn’t work for me. Pending, Important (what’s not important and if it’s not, why is it kept?) and Miscellaneous (shudder) as categories just don’t cut it.

There should also have been more focus on not acquiring. How to make decisions when shopping, how to talk to family members about gift giving, why we shop etc.

As professional, I like how the whole family is included – this is something I promote too as much as possible. It didn’t promote perfection as much as I’d expected and I loved how the homes were still real (and not “furniture catalogue”) when they were “finished”. I like how the people were made responsible for doing it, not anyone else. They have homework and are held accountable.

There are steps to follow, which is really helpful for viewers overall. After the first three categories it gets very vague, however, and they get left with little guidance. But steps are a good start.

It’s inspiring, even if not quite instructional enough. I got up and immediately cleaned out my bin drawer that I’d been putting off! I apologised to my house for letting it get so grotty (I’m uncluttered, but I can be rather lazy!).

Now for my professional doubts. Firstly, as mentioned previously, you can’t see them getting help making decisions. “Does it spark joy?” can’t be the only question they ask themselves as it won’t work for all items. I did see her asking some different questions but it was very brief and vague and glossed over. The most challenging part of decluttering is decision-making and it’s not done justice.

The participants are shown to be left alone when overwhelmed and distressed. This can be quite detrimental if it happens in real life.

They are working on it every day, all day for a month. This is not explained properly and some viewers desperate to overcome their clutter might think it’s a manageable time-frame. If you work and have young children, there’s no way the whole house can get done in a month, especially things like paperwork, garages and photographs.

There’s few tips on where things can go or how to dispose of them, that’s a bit thin.

It’s not very practical to put all the clothes on the bed in one big pile, or every book in the house on the living room floor. Psychologically it’s often helpful to see the volume (although for some it would just be overwhelming), but it’s not practical. Most people don’t have all day to clear it off, and then it ends up on the floor and in a mess again to be re-sorted. Also, many people who need help have no space to put all their stuff together in one spot (if you can’t see the floor or the bed, what do you do?) AND they have their stuff stashed in several places and many they don’t know about. Getting all their books together is virtually impossible. Hopefully viewers understand there are definitely other ways to declutter than the “all together” method.

It won’t work for everyone, and I wish that was communicated more. She seems so confident in her method that she doesn’t really cater for the differences in people, and the extremely high prevalence of mental illness in cluttered homes.

The charities all were happy to receive their goods. This is NOT my experience and I do many many charity runs – a few a week. Charities are overloaded and picky and often rude and ungrateful. Getting rid of the stuff is a LOT harder than it is portrayed. This will result in many homes full of things “to go”.

Again, there isn’t enough talk about acquiring. Why did they have those items? Why did they feel they were important? How did they arrive and why did they get purchased and never used? How can they stop the influx?

There is no investigation into the WHY – why they have so much stuff, why they have trouble parting with it, why they keep acquiring.

In the show’s defense, I feel many that write off the show or Kondo’s method don’t look at it through any lens other than their own. They find it silly, so it’s silly. They find it too easy, or too hard, or too boring, or too shallow, so they tell everyone that’s what it is.

Many opinions are formed without watching the show properly, or reading the book. Many opinions are formed based on a misunderstanding of the literally translated terms and the differences in culture. There area a lot of opinions that are based on thinly veiled racism.

“Spark joy” is ridiculed by many (and I’m not immune – I’ve been known to say that for many people, everything “sparks joy”) but perhaps we shouldn’t be so quick to ridicule it because what we are hearing is not exactly what she means. She doesn’t really mean joy in the sense we mean it, she means a sense of excitement, of “throb”. It’s not “does this make me happy?”, it’s more like “does it promote a strong feeling, bordering on urge or excitement, of wanting to use it?”. We still may disagree if we could translate it properly, but we should at least be aware of this issue.

I definitely do not think this show is a bad thing, and I think it can properly inspire people to live more intentionally. Of course, it won’t be for some, but as with everything else, there is never one thing to suit everyone. I love watching The Walking Dead on TV but I’d never insist that everyone should watch it, and the show itself doesn’t come under criticism for not being a show everyone would love. Why then, is Kondo’s? I think in part it’s because of her fans – they are VERY loyal and some people find that annoying. What Konverts need to understand is that what works for them shouldn’t be shoved down everyone else’s throats – it worked for you, that’s really awesome, just don’t insist it will change everyone else’s lives as well.

For people for whom this method doesn’t work on you, don’t worry, you’re definitely not alone, and there are loads of other methods of decluttering you can try. I have written a whole book just for people who find that “Does it spark joy?” is no help at all, and there are hundreds more out there, as well as professionals that can come to your home and help you in a way that works for you.

So take it as it is – a show you can choose to watch, or a show you can choose to not watch. And take from it what you will, and don’t worry if there’s only a few things, or even nothing, you can take from it.

I’ll take from it a need for more respect for my home, which compliments my existing philosophies of intentional living. I think that’s a good thing.