Questions to ask before you acquire

One of the reasons we get cluttered is because we acquire a fair bit of stuff rather unintentionally. We let bargains and marketing and the need for “newer” or “better” get the upper hand over us.

Instead of asking yourself “Can I afford it?” and “Do I wanted it?” when shopping – ask these questions.

And answer honestly!

  1. Am I just buying this to feel better about my life? You could have the urge to purchase because you feel bad. You might feel anxious, stressed, tired. You might need a dopamine hit or some cheering up and you’ve gone looking for it at the shopping centre. Think hard – is there another way you can feel good without buying? Perhaps going fora walk in nature, watching funny bloopers on YouTube, cuddling a puppy or having a massage might do the trick instead.
  2. Where is this going to live? Do I have space for it? Buying stuff when your home is already full or overflowing is just buying problems. If you can’t think of a helpful home for the item, it would definitely be worth re-thinking the acquisition.
  3. Do I have this on my “to buy” or “need” list? If you’ve previously identified a need for this item (like last week when your kettle shorted out and refused to work) then it can be justified as a need. But if you see a fancy kettle and you think “Ooh, this is nice and it’s 60% off!” and your kettle at home hasn’t bothered you at all until now, then you are simply responding to marketing and don’t actually need it.
  4. Is the price the most enticing thing about this object? This is where you decide whether you actually want the item itself, or you want the thrill of the discount. If you had to pay full price, would you? That’s the test of true need.
  5. How does this item “die”? What happens when you’re finished with it? Does it go into landfill? Wash into the sea? Sometimes by thinking about the whole life cycle of the item, we can be encouraged to leave it on the shelf so that we aren’t contributing to landfill or other environmental issues.
  6. Is this item going to make my life better, and for the long term? Very frequently we buy based on the excitement of something new. A new top, the latest magazine, the new kitchen gadget, the exercise thingy. We buy because we think it will make our lives better. And sometimes in the short term it does, but long term it ends up in the back of a cupboard and ignored. We want to buy things that KEEP paying the rent on the space they take up, not just the deposit!
  7. Do I really need it? Or do I just want it? Perhaps you’re self-soothing and don’t really need the item at all. Usually we buy things we don’t actually need, they’re just for temporary highs. If you can spot this happening, you can avoid it.
  8. Do I already have a similar thing? Often we buy something we already have at home that does most of the job already. We might buy a food processor because the blender doesn’t grate (but we have a grater in the drawer) or we might buy an avocado slicer when we have perfectly adequate knives and spoons that can do the job. Think first – how have you survived so far without it and can you keep on surviving without it?

Your excuses to yourself aren’t helpful

You know what I hear a fair bit of? Excuses.

It’s understandable, and I empathise (after all, most of our behaviour does have a reasonable justification!), but the reality is that excuses are incredibly unhelpful.  They are normal, and expected, and we do it instinctively, but they are still unhelpful in helping us achieve all our goals.

Therefore, it’s vital that we catch them when they show up, and that we challenge them.

If you don’t like your life as it is now, you can’t expect it to change if your behaviour doesn’t. You can’t say “I don’t want to always be in a rush” and then keep adding to your schedule because you “have to do the thing”. You can’t say “I need to declutter” and then be unwilling to stop shopping “but I collect pink glass” or let go because you “plan to make something with it one day”.

Even if it’s unpleasant, the only way things change is if things change.

That means putting up with unpleasant decisions, making difficult choices, making sacrifices and putting in the hard emotional work. This means catching yourself in an excuse (“But I need to keep it for if I ever have grandkids”) and challenging that.

When people invite me into their homes, I don’t, I can’t, just wave a magic wand and solve their issues for them. THEY have to do the hard yards. I’m only there to show them the path, walk it alongside them and to put my hands on their back and gently push should they begin to slide back down the mountain.

You can expect miracles, but only if you work at them and be honest with yourself.

No more excuses, okay? You’ve got this x

A few reasons why you have too many clothes

For those of us that have more clothes than space (and I count myself in that right now because when I unpacked my summer clothes out of rotation last month, I got a shock at how full my wardrobe suddenly was!), then it’s helpful to understand WHY, so that after a declutter, it doesn’t fill back up again.

So here we go – here are some reasons you have more clothes than space:

  1. You don’t have a style guide or curated colour palette. This means you buy things that don’t suit you or “feel like” you (they’re probably on special though, so enticed you anyway), OR they aren’t consistent with other styles in your wardrobe so you find them hard to match up and then don’t wear them. You need more clothes when things don’t match.
  2. You refuse to pay full price. When you shop with a discount in mind, that discount becomes the main reason for buying something. It is so enticing that regardless of the item and its suitability, you buy it anyway. By paying full price for something, however, you are more intentional and deliberate. You don’t compromise at all. You don’t think “well it’s a bit tight under the arms but I’m sure it will be okay” or “This will do for now”. You think “This has to match with several of my other clothes, shoes and accessories, fit perfectly and last me a long time”. And so you only buy it when it promises just that. Paying full price means ultimately buying less items overall.
  3. You don’t shop with a list. When you go shopping without a list, it’s easy to impulse-purchase. It’s easy to buy things you want, instead of things you need. Keep a list at all times (in your head, your phone, in a notebook, wherever!) so that when you’re shopping, you can refer to it when the impulse strikes. Update it regularly (when you are standing in front of your wardrobe thinking “I really need a black singlet for under these tops” or when something gets a hole in it that you can’t repair). Then make a rule for yourself – Only buy things that are on the list.
  4. You can’t let go. Hanging on to clothes we don’t wear anymore is a common behaviour. There are a lot of reasons we stop wearing clothes – we don’t fit into them anymore, they go out of fashion (as I’m getting older I am ignoring fashion more and more though!), they get “tatty” or worn and not suitable for public display. However a lot of the time, we keep them anyway. If you can’t let go, and you keep buying more, it’s only going to get more and more cramped in there.
  5. You follow fast fashion. In the fast fashion industry there are over 50 seasons in a year. That’s a new collection every week. If you strive to keep up with these seasons, you will invariably end up with an over-full wardrobe. The antidote is to be comfortable wearing clothes for many years, and creating a style for yourself that does not depend on trends. Also being selective on what trends you follow can help, too – that will reduce the influx a little.
  6. You haven’t set any boundaries. You buy what you want, when you want it. Your space expands (or compresses!) to fit the clothes, instead of the other way around. Your shoes are in five different locations, your clothes span more than one wardrobe, or have spilled over into tubs in the garage or spare rooms. Set some boundaries on how much space your clothes can take up, then stick to it.

So these are a few areas for you to address if you want to ultimately have a “just right” volume of clothing in your life – give them a go and see how well it works!

Sell or donate? Here’s how to decide.

You’ve done it. You’ve decided to de-own an item and say goodbye to it. What next?

Well, it’s another decision – sorry! You need to decide next on what you’re actually going to do with the stuff. There are a few options that can be simplified into:

  1. Sell
  2. Donate
  3. Recycle or landfill

If you’ve decided it’s too good to toss, you’re down to two options – give away or sell. Sometimes it’s an easy decision. If the item is worth thousands then yeah, you don’t have to agonise too much. But what if it’s maybe worth something but you aren’t completely sure and need to figure it out?

There are two things to consider when deciding whether to sell or donate. The first is how much time you have, the second is how much money you have (or need).

  1. If you have time but no money

    Selling stuff takes a lot of time and effort. There is research to be done, people to call, photographs to take, things to upload, people to message, space to find to put the stuff in the meantime … it’s a fair amount of work.

    However, if you have the time and need the money, selling privately via Facebook groups, special interest groups, specialty dealers etc WILL be worth it financially. You could also try a Garage Sale or a car-boot sale too.

  2. If you have money but no time

    Honestly – just donate it all. Call a charity and have them come and collect it in one go. It’s fast and it’s easy. Not to mention good for the charity that receives it!

  3. If you have money and time.

    Donate it, but go the extra mile and find small, specialty charities that the stuff goes directly to those in need. It’s very satisfying to know your stuff is going to be well used and appreciated. Ask your friends for their favourites and curate a list that suits you and your passions (and the stuff you have!).

  4. If you have no money and no time

    Try an auction house – you just have to pack it all up and get it there, and they do the rest (they take commission for their trouble but you still get around 75% into your bank account). Or you could hire someone (a student, family member, someone on Airtasker) to sell the items on your behalf for a cut.

If you’re still on the fence, ask yourself if the stress is worth it. Is losing $50 of potential sales worth it for the shorter to-do list on the weekend? Look at it like it’s an investment in your mental health. That’s like spending $50 on therapy!

How to avoid this downsizing mistake

Downsizing is very different to a regular move. There are additional things to consider, the biggest being decluttering your belongings so that they fit in the smaller space.

Many people discover only after they have moved, that they can’t comfortably fit all of the stuff they brought with them into the new home. One client recently had well over a dozen boxes of stuff that would not fit in their new apartment.

There are a few impacts that this has:

  • Things cannot be unpacked into the most convenient or effective home and things get “stashed” where they fit, which means later things are hard to find
  • There are unpacked boxes often left for a long time in the living areas, getting in the way
  • Alternative storage may need to be arranged, which has a high monthly cost.
  • The new home feels cluttered and isn’t quite the “fresh start” that is anticipated

The main solution to this is planning. Plan, plan and plan some more.

Many clients remember to plan out their large furniture, and measure up their spaces to ensure that it will fit, or to buy new items if the need be.

What people often fail to do, however, is think of the “stuff”. The spare dinner sets, all the vases, their photos, craft supplies, shoes, stashes (spares of things, extras and duplicates for “just in case”), memorabilia, paperwork, travel supplies, books, tools and electrical stuff, outdoor gear and more.

We recommend you spend some time doing a full inventory of the belongings that you’re taking with you. Write down EVERYTHING, and then, thinking about the space available in the new home, allocate every single item (or at very least, each category) a home. Where your volume is higher than the space you have available, you need to cull down to size.

This planning ahead will help you be a bit more accurate in the amount of belongings you declutter and help you get the fit into the new home just right.

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

“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.

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.