I'm a packrat. I save just about everything and dont know how to live otherwise. I save birthday cards, photos, notes, receipts, articles, etc. do most people throw these things away? Is there some rule of thumb I haven't been taught to help decide what should be saved and what should be tossed?
I have unhung artwork, too many clothes, files full of documents, too much furniture, etc. I have over 10,000 emails in my inbox. You get the point.
It's not a hoarders situation. I throw away food and trash, but I have too much stuff. I have no set guidelines of how much of a single thing I need (workout clothes, paper, light bulbs, etc.).
Do you have a friend you can invite over to watch you throw stuff out? I'm maybe not as cluttered as you describe, but I recognize I have a hard time letting go of inconsequential things.
It helps me to have my best friend come over and go through stuff with me. Mostly it's me talking about why I do or don't really need something, as I toss stuff in a trash bag -- one at a time.
[quote]It's not a hoarders situation
But seriously, the idea of getting a good friend might be wise. Sometimes people need a common sense kick in the ass to help them do the things they know they should do.
Sell or donate most of it. Take everything which you think has sentimental value and put it all together and take a picture. Then get rid of it all! You want the memory? Look at the picture. You will not miss 99% of it. I speak from experience. Plus you will have money to spend.
You sound like me OP. Right now I have a box containing my cassette tape music collection from my teens and twenites in my dining room I can't seem to throw out despite the fact that I will never listen to them again. That's just one example. Closets are bursting with clothes and when I try to weed out the old stuff I toss out one or two things then give up, since I may want to wear that 10 year old tank top again one day, etc etc.
With the email, you'll find as you're cleaning it out you've been getting a lot of junk mail from the same addresses. Use the email search engine to find all the emails from that address, and delete them. Handling it that way you'd be surprised how quickly you can weed out your e-box. I'd estimate it'd take you a week, maybe less.
" Is there some rule of thumb I haven't been taught to help decide what should be saved and what should be tossed?"
The rule of thumb for clothes is: "If you haven't worn it for two years, get rid of it." That rule can be applied to anything that's got a limited span of existence, or should.
Anther mental exercise is: "What would I keep, if I were moving to a smaller place?". Say you're going through your tools, or kitchen, decide what would stay if you had to work with half the space. That'll help you get rid of stuff that you never use, or is duplicated by something else.
My sympathies. One of the many reasons I live in a smallish apartment is that it helps to fight my packrat tendencies. If there's no room for more stuff, I actually think about whether I can fit it in BEFORE I buy.
Maybe you really should move some place smaller
You may need to establish rules for yourself if you find that having guidelines makes it easier to toss stuff out. (e.g. utility bills, 2 yrs then toss) I moved a number of times in my twenties and thirties and was shocked each time that I moved how I didn't remember even having some of the stuff I saved. Realizing that something that was important years ago had absolutely no value in my life and was insignificant enough to be forgotten helps me make current decisions about what to toss.
OTOH, I have had a good experience with keeping clothes. I recently lost a significant amount of weight and didn't have to go out and buy a new wardrobe. Fortunately, the type of stuff that I buy isn't trendy. The only annoyance is that pants and shorts which look like the could have been bought recently have higher waists. I find it a little annoying, but they'll get replaced over time.
Work on one project at a time.
Earlier this year my computer died after 7 years and I had to replace it.
My issue tends to be around electronics and anything to do with electronics.
I had boxes of floppy discs, zip discs old cds etc. I went through all of it one by one to make sure there wasn't anything that I needed to be saved. If there was no reason to keep it, I dumped it in the trash immediately and threw it away.
It took me awhile to clear it all out, but once I did I started on the next project which was to clear out boxes of old power cords and computer cables. All that crap was easier since I knew all of it was for stuff I didn't have or didn't use anymore.
Start with stuff you aren't emotionally invested in and pick an area an just start. Don't try to do it all at once. Decide on a goal like one drawer or a time period like a half hour and when done stop and then resume the next day. Do a little every day. Focus on one particular room and only move to the next room when you finish the first room.
It takes a while to accumulate all that crap and it takes some time to clear it out.
I'm right there with you, OP. I save way too much stuff. I'm not motivated to spend a weekend, cleaning and tossing. Consequently, my condo has become overrun with stuff, things, mail, clothes, boxes, receipts, etc., etc.
It's not to the point I don't know where to begin.
But no one can come to my place. It's a nice place in a nice compex, but I'm embarrassed by all this crap.
I bought a really great shredder a while back and every once in a while I set it in the middle of the room and then go around gathering up the papers, mail, etc. that's piled up. If I can't think of a good reason to keep it after about 15 seconds of thought, it gets shredded.
My one piece of advice is to get a handle on this now, while (I'm assuming) you're young, and not let it accumulate and isolate you from loved ones and meaningful life experiences. Because this is what tends to happen as you get older if left unchecked.
I'm 59 and it finally took my Mom's passing several years ago, when I had to deal with her possessions, to realize I had to change for good. She was not a hoarder or packrat, but had a large house meticulously organized with a lot of highly sentimental things that were meaningful for her but not for us. It was upsetting to deal with all this, especially as someone with hoarding tendencies. I don't have kids and it made me realize that I don't want to put my wonderful nieces and nephews in an even worse situation. As a result I have decreased my load considerably, for them, but I remain watchful.
These are all great tips. I get my dislike of clutter from my mom, so I'm constantly going through my things and discarding what I don't need.
A shredder, as someone else mentioned, is perfect to get rid of old bills that have personal info (name, address, phone number, etc.) on them.
Just last night I helped my sister organize her makeup collection as there was a lot of it and it was all jumbled together. As other people have mentioned, it is best to go through one thing at a time so you don't get overwhelmed. With my sister's makeup, we took it one drawer at a time, deciding what to keep and what to get rid of. Things that were empty obviously got discarded, as well as things that were so old they were probably unsanitary. Once the level of makeup was under control, we had sections for eyes, lips, foundations, etc. so that her products would be easier to find.
When going through your items, ask yourself when the last time you used/wore it was, and if you could see yourself using/wearing it again. As far as keepsakes go, I purchased a large plastic bin and told myself that whatever fits in that bin can stay, but whatever can't has to go. Over the years I had saved random things like birthday invites and free pins, so for each item I asked myself if it really held any sentimental value.
Call Julianne Moore, seriously!
You have to be savage about disposing of things, and it takes some time to get to that point.
As others have suggested, setting out some rules or guidelines is a help, but keep them very simple. Don't organize into umpteen piles; instead, aim for just two or three: keep, toss, donate. And finish one project before moving on to another, don't have piles of shoes and clothes and books and kitchen goods and bath towels and... Do all of one thing, and make it a point to get the stuff you're disposing off out of the house immediately.
If you're weeding out clothes, think seriously about what's the most that makes sense to keep. Put the choice "keep" clothes on new hangers or fold them nicely and put them in drawers so that you can see all that you have. The benefit of some new organization may help drive the weeding out process. If it doesn't fit now, if you haven't worn it in one-year, toss/donate it. Time will not improve its use to you. A one-time favorite that you don't fit in or which is worn and faded and frayed... get rid of it. Look at your closets and chests of chests of drawers and aim not to have more than you can easily store so that everything is always easily accesible and in view.
Find out where you can take personal papers for secure shredding and be ruthless: 1 year for bank statements and credit cards, etc; 3-years for anything associated with tax returns. Keep the stuff filed chronologically so that when you have a fourth year of tax papers, the oldest year can be gathered up and disposed of. Cards and letters and photos and clippings? Pick a nice, modestly sized storage storage box and keep only the choicest things that will fit into it. If you don't immediately recognize something and think it is vital to keep, toss it. You'll never fucking miss it.
The more of this you do, the easier it is to be disciplined, and the more satisfaction you derive from it and the less time it takes to do.
My problem comes more from e-mail hoarding. I fall into the "I may need that for reference later" trap, and so much accumulates in a disorganized way, that half the time I can't find it again anyway. I look on with jealousy at some associate's inboxes….mostly empty or nicely divided up into archived folders that make sense.
Only sort on days when the places you will take your donations are open. Because once you've decided to donate you need to get out of there now. Once it's gone you will not have a chance to rethink your decisions. And the sooner you will realize you don't miss it.
I'm the complete opposite. I throw everything out. When I die it will take 5 mins. to clear my stuff.
I'm sure that's not normal either.
R15, if you would purchase Microsoft Outlook, it has a search function which allows you to easily search all of your emails by keyword.
I use it all the time and it is indispensable.
Anything paper: buy a scanner and scan cards, recipes, letters, pictures etc. into your computer. Toss the paper shit out. And only scan the ones that mean something. If all someone writes in a card is "Happy Birthday" you don't need to save it or even scan it.
My other tip is to go through your kitchen and place every single utensil into a box. At the end of two weeks, anything remaining in the box (that you didn't use), toss it. I did this with my kitchen and was amazed that I really didn't need two of everything. Didn't need two ladles, two spatulas, etc.
OP - in terms of objects, find a donation center that you can bring them to. It's SO fulfilling to know that you are helping others.
Just make it part of your weekend, every weekend. Find a bag's worth of stuff to take to the donation center, then drop it off.
Don't forget to get a receipt for tax purposes!
Think of the people that actually NEED and would love the things that you are not using. People who can't afford to buy them. It's a great feeling to be contributing in such an easy way.
I would hate to be making mashed potatoes sometime in September, R20, only to realize I threw out the masher in July because some ninnyhammer on the internet said to throw out all my utensils I didn't use during the last two weeks.
Absolutely the worst advice given in this thread. Don't do it, OP (or anyone).
[quote]Microsoft Outlook, it has a search function which allows you to easily search all of your emails by keyword.
They all do. Just for sport I checked and even the dinosaur Webmail had a search function.
They also all have the ability to sort by sender and date and size and other criteria.
At the least, create folders for 2012, 2011, 2010, etc. and move all of the ancient messages into deep storage; it will make looking for things easier and make the [current year] of messages that you see every time you open your mail less dauntingly huge.
And make a habit of deleting messages that are junk or unimportant as soon as you read them. Create a TEMPORARY folder and other folders for a few key things (ADMINISTRATIVE, PROJECT X, PROJECT Y) for stuff you want to keep in case in turns out to be useful and get in the habit of deleting or putting into folders a lot of mail as you read it.
When I moved five years ago from a place I had lived for a long time I was pretty ruthless about purging my belonging, especially since I paid a professional mover. I got rid of casettes, most CD's, lots of books, old clothing,electronics, etc. as I realized how much it would cost to move them. Since then I routinely go through my belongings and purge.
Couple of rules I follow:
I throw out magazines when the new one arrives, even if I have not finished reading the older one. I know from experience I will not read it (despite saving it).
I take all new books to a reseller or donate to the public library, once they have been read, again I know I will not re-read.
I have coverted most of my bills to ebills.
I purge my mail at the front door and throw all circulars, offers, etc into a recycling bin I keep at the door.
I am having all my photo albums scanned.
When something ceases to work properly, and it cannot be repaired, out it goes.
A lot of people recommend digitizing stuff--cds, photos, papers etc, but if you go that route you want to also back the stuff up and store the backup in an alternative location.
Most thieves wouldn't bother to steal somebody's photo albums, but they will take you computer or your external hard drives. If you don't back up your digital copies and your electronics get stolen or destroyed in some kind of disaster you can't replace that stuff.
You also need to check what your insurance policy will cover. If you rip your CD collection and save it on your computer and your computer is stolen and you've gotten rid of the original cds, in many cases you are screwed since insurance companies won't pay to replace the digital copies. So sometimes hanging onto that stuff is worthwhile.
I've been trying to declutter myself for the last month and the way I've been doing it has been throwing just one or a few things away each day. If I have a hard time with it, I just have to find reasons why I should, and I write it down. Eventually I hope to be much more minimalist than I am now, even if it takes a long time.
A cheap crosscut paper shredder is a good investment.
Great advice, R25. I'm going to keep my CDs until I die, even though I have them all on my computer and most on an external hard drive. You never know when a computer could die on you.
I have 48 days of music in iTunes, and if it were to disappear, I would be miserable. So I'm keeping my CDs.
And your idea about keeping old photos is brilliant. Who's going to steal those instead of your computer?
I have destroyed two cheap shredders, R27, just by shredding with them. You know of any that will last? Thanks.
Oh, and don't add new clutter or throw out extra clutter to make way for anything new.
Shredders are virtually indestructible R29. You don't throw them out if they jam.
R28 - put the files on multiple hard drives. That's what I am trying to do
Date a drunk who smokes or a pyromaniac or a meth head.
Remember, cds are NOT for archival purposes the was VHS tapes are. They are useful for about 10-15 years only. You may as well rip them to your computer (and back it up) and toss them before they disintegrate or get scratched.
R28, I unfortunately learned the hard way.
I had a break in about 6 weeks ago. Thieves got my desktop, laptop, iPad, several iPods and 3 external hard drives. I mistakenly thought I had myself covered with the backup of my backup in case one of the drives failed.
I'm still reripping by CDs since I had them all stored away in boxes in my storage room. It's a PITA, but I was unaware I had a bizarre electronics rider on my insurance that only covered $5000 worth of electronics (and digital media on the devices) that connected to the internet.
A lot of my friends got rid of their cds collections when they ripped everything to iTunes. Apple makes it easy to redownload everything you've bought from them, but stuff not gotten from iTunes is harder to deal with.
I've had some of my CDs for 30 years, R34. The only ones I have a problem with are really long ones whose last two tracks don't rip perfectly to my computer (I hear clicking).
You just can't have the mentality of "I don't know, if I throw this away I will be looking for it some day and regret that I threw it away". From my experience this not the case: I will NEVER be looking for it, lol. Take a good look at an item and then take like a minute and make a definite decision about the item: keep or purge. If it takes you longer than that to decide, then just get rid of it. I give a lot of stuff to charity: I walk away with a really good feeling when I do this. Think of items that you really don't need but can probably really help out someone in need. Or if you want to make some money off your stuff, try selling clothes to consignment stores or maybe having a garage sale. Good luck!
OP, do not throw away birthday cards even if they just say Happy Birthday as one poster upthread suggested.
That is bad advice.
You'll be happy to remember who sent you cards in years to come especially if your contacts tend to dwindle in upcoming years.
I disagree R38. It's depressing when the only people who gave you cards are work friends you didn't know very well.
I think it is nice to keep cards so one can review who cared about you from year to year, different periods of your life.
No, I would not save cards from people at work which are obligatory.
I was talking about cards from other people.
Check out this page from Suze Orman's website for how long to keep paperwork.
Just remember when discarding, to shred any documents that contain any personal information. Or, if you have too much, some communities have special events where they'll take your papers and shred them for you. Also, there are companies that will do it for a fee.
R29, in my experience with a home office, Fellowes makes the best shredders.
This may sound stupid, but if I've let my place go, I'll sit down and watch a few episodes of Hoarders. Just seeing that is more than enough to motivate me to get off my ass and clean stuff up.
The other thing that will motivate me to get it together is to invite friends over for dinner. That will get me going enough to clean the bathroom, living room, kitchen and dining room.
Having out of towns guests is also another way for me to give me what I need to pull it together. When I know people are coming for the weekend, I can really pull it together.
I'm coming off a period of being mildly depressed and I let things go for most of this year. Doing something about being depressed is also a way to motivate yourself if you suffer from depression and your clutter is an outward sign of the depression.
Google stepping out of squalor. You don't live in squalor, but their chat room is really helpful - they all chat and then every 15 minutes spend 15 minutes decluttering. You'll be surprised by how much your situation can improve with a little group support.
If you have papers scattered everywhere because you want the coupons, file them, and file them by expiration date so that throwing them out is easy.
This advice is meant for a particular person, but can apply to many.
Thank you R45, I had forgotten about that board and really want to rejoin. It is very helpful!
I went through this myself, OP. You have to be totally objective and free of emotions. It took months for me doing a drawer a day, a closet a weekend, etc. But I can tell you that for all that I either threw out or donated, I have yet to have a regret or even realize it was "missing." I have to tell you that keeping a clean house is SO much easier this way. Good luck!
Tis the season to de-clutter...
How are you going?
I bought a Fujitsu scanner, and I'm just scanning everything into my Dropbox. I don't really need any of it, but knowing it's out there somewhere makes me feel okay about throwing the physical paper away / shredding it.
BUT - with CLOTHES - what do you do? This stuff is wearable - I just don't like it anymore. What do you do with clothes you don't want?
R50, donate them. Have you ever heard of Goodwill?
Donate them r50! Give them to Goodwill or ring a homeless shelter and ask if they'll take them. They're are plenty of places who will take them.
this is a wonderful book -
Unstuff Your Life! : Kick the Clutter Habit and Completely Organize Your Life for Good Paperback
by Andrew J. Mellen (Author)
R50, read that book - he's got GREAT tips on clothes
I cleared out my DVD and CD collection a few years ago (1,000+ items). I sold as much as I could, gave away the rest. The "guideline" I set for myself in deciding whether or not to keep something was:
"If the house burned down and I had no insurance money, which of these items would I buy again at full price?"
I found out really quickly how much of my stuff I didn't really care about--I haven't missed a single thing I sold or gave away.
Obviously, this advice won't help you with sentimental things, but it's a start for other items around the house.
One more thing:
As for clothes, unless it's formal wear, if you haven't worn it in two years get rid of it.
Last time I moved I really reduced my wardrobe (which wasn't huge to begin with). I took everything I hadn't worn in a while and separated it out into two bags...
In one bag I put dress shirts, etc. and donated it to a local thrift shop. In the other bag I put jeans, sweatshirts, etc. and literally handed the bag to one of the local homeless that lived on my block.
[quote]e.g. utility bills, 2 yrs then toss
Why would anyone need to save a utility bill for two year?
i'm pretty much the opposite - i guess this is because i grew up with a mother who would not throw away a single damn thing.
#1: make rules that make sense to you. like: if i have not used this item in the last 24 months, it needs to go. if it's not from someone withing my core family, it needs to go.
#2: don't move stuff from one corner to the other. the moment you touch it is the moment you HAVE TO DECIDE about it.
I'm more like you, R58.
Currently I'm giving away books and CDs. I just have too many of them. I gave one of my best friend's wife a couple of brand-new Martha Stewart cookbooks at Thanksgiving, among others. One of them was still sealed. She loves Martha and was just thrilled. I gave him a bunch of classical CDs I thought he'd like (ones with "ancient" in the title).
I hope the other recipients enjoy them.
I don't know if anyone remembers Clean Sweep from quite a few years ago but that show did it for me. I went room by room and promised myself to get rid of 50% of each room. Some rooms I managed 70%. When I downsized a few years ago I was appalled at how much had accumulated again. Now I do a room a month and I am brutal. Take a picture and get rid of it.
There's an underlying reason you're hanging onto stuff you don't need, ie: old greeting cards, articles, receipts (beyond what you'd need for tax purposes), etc. Unless you address the root issue(s), you'll wind up at best doing a huge purge only to be buried under more crap within a year.
Why do you have anxiety about throwing away things that don't have any obvious use? What are you afraid will happen if you read that birthday card from Aunt Flossie, smile, then throw it into the trash? What compels you to instead toss it into a drawer or onto the kitchen table?
I'm sure you've received much good advice about methods of decluttering, but until you work on relieving your anxieties and feeling more secure WITHOUT hanging on to objects, you'll be in the same position again after having worked very hard to dig yourself out from under all the accumulated flotsam.
Good luck, I mean that sincerely.
Start putting household items up your poop shoot. Then you'll only save the really long hard items, you freak.
for every ten things pick out one thing to keep. the nine others must be thrown out. you will actually feel better later. been there done that.
Here's some advice for you;
THROW SOME SHIT OUT!
A tip on knowing what to throw out from your closet. Face all hangers in same direction. When you wear something, hang it in the opposite direction. In six months what's still hanging the original way can be thrown out.
A friend with a cluttered studio apartment refuses to get rid of 100 LPs. He doesn't own a turntable, will never hear his Broadway shows and yet keeps them.
That link at R42 ...
1. What is a 20/10?
2. People have some horrible, horrible apartments.
I agree with the suggestions to get a friend over. When I need to do it, I just call a couple of my girlfriends who are OCD control freaks. They knock that shit out in a couple of hours.
I have 100 LPs, too, R66, and no turntable. I keep thinking I'll buy another one someday, so I'm keeping the records. They live on the bottom shelf of one of three bookcases, so they're not clutter.
Maybe for Christmas you could buy your friend a cheap bookcase from IKEA. The Billy is what I have.
You don't need to save any cards, clippings or letters. Unless you are severely brain damaged the human brain can remember all of these things you think you need to keep. It's why we have a memory in the first place.
Someday you are going to fall from your high place, R70. For now, I'll just call you Hubris Queen of the Week.
(R71) i just mean it isn't anywhere near necessary to save a physical object to remember something or someone. One of my former friends was a lifelong hoarder. His son and I helped him move to his last house and his son said (under his breath) "i'm going to throw this away" The father got upset and said no you are not going to throw anything here away. The son said yes I will throw everything in this house away. It will be after you die but I will throw everything in this house away and when I do it I won't look at every little thing and think about what it meant to you. It will all be thrown out into the dumpster. The only way you will be able to keep me from doing that is if you throw it away yourself. Of course the hoarder didn't throw snything away and now the son won't let his children go there because it is dangerous.
Op…if you are really serious you can work with a professional organizer.
I am lucky to have one who happens to have a masters in psychology. She just decided she couldn't sit all day in an office and would rather work with her hands.
She is utterly trustworthy..yes.. I had one who stole from me…and my current can even work independently if my back is out of whack.
Get good references and tell them what your goal is..and stick to it.
Wow. Two extremes, R72.
I'm something like you. I have never needed to take photos to document my life on earth, and have kept few physical keepsakes beyond the things I collect, which are not "other" related.
But I'm not like everybody else, and I don't expect everyone to behave just the way I do. People's memories are different. I used to get so furious when people wouldn't remember my name, because I'm the opposite of people who are "so bad with names." I remember practically everyone I've ever met. I can give you classroom lineups from grammar school, high school, whenever.
I remember perfectly specific meals I ate with specific people, in restaurants or at home, 30 years ago.
But I can't sit down and write out the complete words to my favorite songs, even though I probably listen to music more than most people. My best friend could get up and sing, or speak, entire albums, or recite entire scenes from movies, something I only wish I could do.
My point is that everyone's memory is different, and your manifesto in R70 pays absolutely no attention to that.
BTW, I'm not a hoarder; I'm not calling you out because I'm identifying with them.
OP, lots of good advice in this thread. The most important thing is just to GET STARTED. And the most visible decluttering is when you clean out closets. Get a big box of 30-gallon trash bags and start filling them with clothes from your closet and then your dresser if you have one. Call Purple Heart, AmVets, the Lupus Foundation, etc. - any organization that will come to you to pick stuff up and they all do - when you think you're done going through clothes. Trust me, once you just make a START, you will want to continue because you won't want a bunch of filled up trash bags cluttering up your place.
It will also give you the motivation to go through your old papers, cards, books, CDs, DVDs, etc.
When you clear the decks of one type of item and you realize you can survive its loss, it will then be much easier to get rid of other types of things.
The hardest part is just to start. You don't sound like a hoarder to me, just someone who doesn't like to organize or make a decision.
As for your email inbox, just create some folders for things you want to save and move the old mail into them. Emails don't take up physical space so you can keep as many as you want but you probably won't want to keep as many as you think you will once you start organizing them.
Open your mail consistently, only keep the contents and return envelopes you need (better yet, pay online).
All of that mail shit piles up so quickly.
[quote]My one piece of advice is to get a handle on this now ...
I agree with R11. It's a slippery slope from packrat to hoarder. You need to nip it in the bud. I think a move really gives you the opportunity to purge. But I've lived in the same place for many years, so I have to be diligent. Probably the best thing I've done is to get rid of all the extras I've bought -- dishes, glasses, white shirts, black shoes, etc. And I won't buy anything else if I have anything similar in my house already.
[quote]Open your mail consistently, only keep the contents and return envelopes you need (better yet, pay online).
I keep a trashcan next to the table I open my mail at.
OP, I just signed up to scan my books - those they don't have Kindle versions of, and which I really want - on this 1DollarScan thing. Wired said it's good. It'll get rid of a huge amount of stuff on my shelf.
good luck to you OP! i sort of have a similar problem, i'm a sentimental fuck and keep notes and letters, esp those written to me by my dead father, he had such beautiful handwriting.
I always hold on to clothes, because they always come back in style decades later! i buy only classic styles anyways...