They walk among us on the street; you have definitely sat next to one in a cinema or on the train; you may have even invited one into your home. Chances are also very well that (gasp) you are one!
Clutterers or hoarders may sound ominous, but the real problem is not what they can do to you, but rather what they are doing to themselves – and their homes. Some cling on to elements for fear that they may need them later; others because they feel it adds purpose to their lives. And if you can’t bear to part with that toaster manual you bought two years ago, then you definitely know what we're talking about.
Most people with a clutter problem fall into one of five categories – and we have them right here. So, scroll on, discover which type you are (if any), and what you can do about it to save both your sanity and your living space.
The symptoms: Cabinets, drawers and a desk filled to the brim with tangling cords, chargers, remotes, old USB drives, and basically anything that is associated with technology.
The culprits: Devoted lovers of anything Apple; online-shopping enthusiasts.
• Since technology moves too fast, nobody wants your old gadgets anymore. So, recycle an item’s box within a month of purchase and donate old devices to charities, like a women’s shelter. When you move, simply pack those electronics in bubble wrap or a towel.
• Label your wires to distinguish camera cords from mobile phone chargers; note the contents of all mini drives.
• Label four shoebox-size containers with “look” (for all things visual like a camera and its charger), “listen” (all things audio related), “travel” (for all those holiday thingies like a portable GPS or plug adaptors) and “data” (mini flash drives, a wireless network card, etc.), and place them on a shelf.
The symptoms: You pride yourself on clipping coupons and keeping three years’ worth of paper towels and mint-flavoured Tic Tacs in your garage or attic. You’ve also started stocking up on baby nappies – yet you’re still single.
The culprits: Stay-at-home mums; retirees; anyone driven by the notion of “if I own it, I am better off, regardless of what it does to my space or finances”.
• If you can’t park in the garage because it’s full of dishwashing liquid, you have a problem; designate one single area for bulk purchases and stop buying once it’s full.
• Only buy what you know you need, not what the salesperson or multi-coloured store banner tells you to.
• Be more creative with your spare time. Instead of cruising the stores for discount specials, donate your time to a local charity or learn a new language. Just break your addiction to the cheap rush of bargains. Remember: you can go broke saving money!
The symptoms: The appearance of a clean and well-organised home – until a closet door is opened and a wealth of folders, papers, broken toys, old kitchen appliances, and goodness-knows-what-else tumbles out!
You are living in some flawless future universe instead of focusing on the clutter problem of here and now.
The culprits: Perfectionists; control freaks; working mothers; and basically anyone who’s overbooked and permanently rushed.
• Start small; if tackling that cupboard filled with personal keepsakes and mementos seems too daunting, rather opt for something simpler, like the drawers in your home office that are laden with paperclips, old files, etc.
• If necessary, invite a friend over to keep you on track with questions and remarks like: “Are you really keeping those old vases?” and “What the heck are these shocking pink 80s leg warmers still doing in your wardrobe?”.
The symptoms: Storing baby clothes, nursery drawings, and report cards belonging to adult offspring – and wrongfully assuming said offspring will someday want these elements; packing away unsorted boxes of deceased relatives’ clothing; clinging on to war memorabilia.
The culprits: Besotted parents; empty nesters; anybody who has suffered a certain loss or who feels responsible for preserving family heirlooms and history.
• Start distinguishing between your grandfather’s World War 2 medals and a box of receipts you used 10 years ago. Keep the most meaningful items and toss the rest.
• Frame a few old photos of ancestors along with a few boxes containing some of their favourite keepsakes that remind you of them. When you treat the real treasures with honour and respect, it becomes easier to let go of the rest.
• Establish a limit on kids’ artwork – photograph each piece to store in an album while quietly getting rid of the older artworks as time progresses.
The symptoms: Stockpiling every book you have ever read – or are planning to read – as you somehow believe that owning the book means you own the knowledge. When you encounter an interesting article online, you print it out and stash it into that overstuffed folder filled with 25 other articles…
The culprits: Book club members; enthusiasts of coffee table tomes on travel, gardening or interior design; recent university graduates who want to show off their collection of 18th century French poetry.
• Go digital where possible. Although nothing can replace a beloved and well-worn novel, just know that an e-reader can store an entire library without taking up so much as a shelf.
• Be sterner with what magazines you keep. As new issues arrive, donate the older ones to a local hospital or library, or recycle them.
• Establish limits by designating a clearly defined area for your book- and magazine collection, whether it’s one or four shelves. And as soon as they are filled up, force yourself to remove a book/magazine before adding another.
To help you out, we’ve gathered these: Creative bookshelf storage solutions – have a look!