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Summer decluttering – the hidden (?) costs of hoarding

Posted by on Friday 6 August 2010 in anti-consumerism | 3 comments

If spring is for cleaning, summer seems to be the time for decluttering: a number of unconnected bloggers I read have been having clearouts of late. I guess it makes some sort of sense: in the winter, you want things around you to make a cosy nest but in the summer, you want to pare it down, strip it back, carry the bare minimum with you. Tidy cupboards are the household equivalent of hotpants.

Like Damn The Broccoli and his good lady, John and I are many-hobbied hoarders. John’s lucky in that a lot of his hobbies take place on the neat containable space of his laptop but mine spill out everywhere. For example, on my desk, my work desk where I’m supposed to work not play, I currently have: five bags of sawdust for smoking food, some broad beans I’m saving for seed stock next year, ribbon, gaffer tape, felt (from making a rat costume for drama), patterns for said rat costume, my sewing box, a tshirt I dyed, Ramie top for spinning, cabbage seeds, two books, some drawing pens and a staple gun (lasted used for lining homemade wooden planter with plastic compost bags). I’m not kidding, look:

(The eagle-eyed will notice John’s desk is largely clear save for an ice pack (??), work things and a shiny silver kazoo.)

I like having a lot of different, varied hobbies – especially since nearly all of them are productive in some way, shape or form – but they do result in a lot of clutter. We also keep a lot of quote-unquote waste materials for reusing & upcycling – I’ve got box files upstairs filled with flattened drinks cans & reclaimed wire for crafting, glass jars are stacking up in the kitchen for jam season and (mostly due to John’s dad not us) there are a couple of stashes of salvaged building supplies around the garden – all very good from a green & frugal point of view but at the same time, it’s more stuff just hanging around.

Since moving house last autumn, we’re lucky to have, by and large, enough space to put things (we’re just too distracted to do it sometimes – hence my desk stash) but as we try to remind John’s dad when he carries concrete paving stones down the garden, hoarding things has a price.

It has a mental cost – remembering what you’ve got and where you put it. Sure, it’s not a complex mental cost like solving difficult mathematical formulae but it’s there. John thinks it’s more abstract than that – there is a mental cost of it simply existing. It’s cliché to say “you don’t own your possessions but your possessions own you” but it’s kinda true – it doesn’t cost your possessions anything to be owned, they don’t care about it in the slightest. There is a place in your brain for it, and your brain keeps things by recalling them once in a while. It is something you will have to deal with one way or another and you’ll waste brain cycles on it.

It also has a physical cost – it gets in the way and, in the case of the slabs & planks at the bottom of our garden, if we decide we don’t want them or need to get rid of them, it’s going to be a helluva job to get them back up the (four flights of) steps to the road level. We particularly found this a cost when we were moving house – we’d spent a decade slowly taking items into the house and having to move them all in one day was a challenge!

And finally it can have a financial cost. To run with the last specific example, it cost us more to move house because we have so much stuff. The arterial roads around Leeds are packed with primarily-coloured warehouses selling storage space. And cars parked on driveways/the street can have considerably higher insurance costs than if they’d been parked in the packed-to-the-rafters garage. They’re just some examples of actual money being paid out because of the existence of extra stuff.

This costs won’t stop us collecting craft/DIY tools & materials, or books for reference & enjoyment, but it’s something to consider. And we’re trying to be tougher with our stashes too: I consigned a bin bag of clothes from my “I might fit into them again one day” pile to the charity shop the other day and we’ve got a box of books and odd bits to go too. I bought four new (to me) books at the weekend so I decided I should put two old books into the for-the-charity-shop-box – I think I might keep that as a policy for now on: for every two books (or items of clothing etc) bought, I should send one thing to eBay/a charity shop. I don’t know how sustainable it is as a plan but it’s worth a shot to help slow down the growth of the clutter mountain.

Are you are hoarder or a minimalist, or something inbetween? Have you tried to cut down? Or do you like having lots of stuff?


Join the conversation and post a comment.

  1. JJ

    I tend to hoard shoes, because I cannot make my own and LOVE SHOES, yet am a clothing minimalist. I make most of my own new clothing out of my old clothing, and recycle the leftover scraps into pin cushions or rice packs as gifts, or small decorative pillows.

    I only own maybe 30 books, as I use the library, or buy used and resell when finished with them. My husband downloads movies to his XBOX, so we only have maybe 20 DVDs.

    I do hoard crafty things though, and reusable materials as mentioned above. I keep all bottles to repaint and gift as pretty vases. I keep dryer lint for fire starter in the winter. I hoard sale scrapbooking paper and fabric, thread and such. Anything I believe I can and will truly use again for a worthwhile purpose, I put in a #5 plastic container that food came in, since they’re not recyclable here; I wash the container, fill with the “reusables”, label it, and place on a shelf in the garage storage closet where it’s easily accessible and visible so that I am reminded often that I have it and that forces me to find a use for it sooner rather than later.

  2. Samanta Owen

    I’m trying to get rid of a lot of stuff like clothes I don’t wear anymore, old souvenirs, even newspaper from 2013. It;s really bad habit to collect unnecessary things.

  3. Greta Antil

    That post really made me think of how many things I have that I don’t really need! I have to do something about that! Thank you for sharing!


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