Confessions of a recovering hoarder

0046Alison writes

Following on from my interview with Jacqueline, I have interviewed another fantastic friend, Jess*. Jess is a super organised, working mummy friend whose efficiency I can only aspire to so I was really interested to hear more about her experiences of putting lots of her stuff into storage.

Why did you initially put stuff into storage?

We were trying to sell our house so first we had a clear out and put some of our stuff into storage before putting the house on the market. We thought it would sell better if it looked less cluttered! Basically this was stuff that we knew we wouldn’t need like Christmas decorations, spare chairs, children’s toys and crafts and our own files and papers from when we were younger.

How did you feel when you put your first batch into storage?

It was fine as we had a storage unit where we could access stuff. We thought we would take the items directly to our next house, but finding another property took us a lot longer than we had thought. We had to go and get the Christmas decorations back out. But we didn’t miss most of the other things such as children’s toys, arts & crafts materials.

What happened then?

Then when we sold our house we weren’t able to complete on our house purchase. So we had no option but to put our furniture, clothes and all our other stuff in storage – and just hoped it was all going to be ok. I remember the next day I couldn’t find our passports and panic set in- I eventually found the next day.

We kept out the bare essentials but as we had to keep packing our things up as we were moving around temporary accommodation for 3 months. I really had to be quite strict about how much we kept out with us.

What did you miss most?

I have to say we didn’t really miss anything. It was nice not having to worry about everything and be much more mobile. We realised that the children didn’t need lots of their toys and they didn’t miss them. It was absolutely fine! I don’t remember thinking at any point, “I wish I’d got this or that”.

What did you do when you got all your stuff back?

When we finally moved into our house 3 months later, it reminded us of the day we received our wedding presents!

When we retrieved everything, there was a lot of stuff we no longer needed. For example our children had grown out of some of the clothes. I had put a lot of stuff into storage that we weren’t sure about, but the reality was when we got it out of our storage unit we realised we didn’t need it, so we ended up giving a lot of it away.

Our old house had a huge attic and cellar so stuff could be put there out of sight and we didn’t have to go through it. Our new house doesn’t have lots of out of sight storage. There are cupboards but we have to think about what we want to store and there is no space to store stuff you’re not sure about!

What do you wish you’d done differently?

I really wish that we had gone through it all more thoroughly before we put everything in storage.   I wish I’d been more ruthless and given stuff away or recycled all the bits of paper I’d kept.

What habits have you changed as a result?

I don’t now keep every artistic masterpiece that the children have made. I am much more organized and just keep the really good ones in a file.

I’m also much better at giving things away. For example, if I notice I haven’t worn certain clothes for a while, I give them away there and then rather than waiting to do a big clear out.   I am much more ready to do that than I was before.   When you haven’t had something for 3 or 6 months (because it was in storage) and have lived happily without it, you realise that you don’t really need it.

The reality is that it takes time to go through your stuff and it’s boring at times but if you don’t do it on an ongoing basis, it becomes overwhelming.

It’s good teaching the children to give things away too. They all now put stuff in the charity bag when they have grown out of it.

That leads onto my next question – what did your children think?

I think kids hold things more lightly than we do, but they do inherit our habits. Occasionally they did miss some things but when we had to live in lots of different places we learned that the most important thing was that we were together.   Life carries on whether we were in a permanent home or not. They have great imaginations and they really didn’t need all the toys.

It’s great to see now that they understand about recycling and reusing stuff and when we’ve finished using it giving to charity. We have started going to the library too instead of buying books. It’s a nice thing for them to do.

My husband found it more difficult as he is a natural hoarder. I confess my heart did sink when he brought loads of things back from the storage unit. His view is that he doesn’t buy much but the things he does have he doesn’t want to part with. He gave a lot of stuff to one of his cousins who was upsizing but he has a lot of his old files and notebooks which he hasn’t got rid of yet, plus old clothes. He is a lot more nostalgic than me and I have to accept it takes him more time to come to terms with parting with things.

What have been the benefits now that you have decluttered?

You spend less time tidying it all up! There are fewer things to lose and it is much easier to find things.

It’s also clinically proven that women can get depressed by all the clutter. I do feel better and enjoy being at home more.

What advice would you give to someone like me who is struggling to clear out?

Ask yourself do you really need all this stuff?   Life is about so much more than stuff, e.g. family and friends. It is really quite freeing not to need it all!

Ask yourself, if I can’t fit into a dress anymore, will I need it?   If you haven’t worn it for a year will you really want to wear it again? You are paying for space to store it, whether in your house or somewhere else, so why not use that money for something else! It feels much freer!

Thank you Jess!

*Jess is a pseudonym