Convinced that decluttering or ‘minimal living’ is not for you because you like having stuff in your house? It’s time to reassess what decluttering means for you!
How to declutter when you love stuff
There can not be many people who have not heard of the recent craze of decluttering, minimal living, sparking joy etc. Charity shops up and down the country have been inundated with bin bags full of clothes, books and mugs as people have attempted to clear their homes of anything that is not essential or somehow makes them happy or ‘joyful’.
But if the thought of decluttering your home brings you out in a cold sweat then do not fear.
There are generally two types of people who fear decluttering:
- People who want to declutter but can’t face the time and effort it will involve
- People who don’t want to declutter because they like their ‘stuff’ thank you very much
This post is designed to help Type 2 people (like myself) who never quite understood the whole decluttering craze. (Type 1 people-never fear, you will be helped soon!)
What decluttering is and what it is not
The first step towards decluttering for people who like stuff is to reevaluate what we mean by decluttering and turn it into something more positive.
Let’s run through some myths about decluttering:
- I have to throw away everything I own. Not true. YOU are in charge of your decluttering. There is no decluttering police force that will come knocking at your door and haul your fondue set away.
- I will have to live in a show home with no personality Not true. Some people like to express their personality, interests and style through their homes. You can still do that. In fact, it will make it even easier as you will really be able to focus your attention on the things you love.
- I have children/pets/business in my home–I can’t possibly declutter! This may make decluttering a bit harder and time consuming but it can still be done.
The most important aspect of decluttering for people who like stuff is to remove the idea of ‘getting rid of’ and replace it with ‘making the most of’. To do this I suggest using a technique I call ‘visual noise reduction’.
“Wait a minute-I though decluttering meant throwing out lots of stuff?”
It might-it might not. It will depend on your personal visual sound level preference. This will be different for everyone and you may even find it changes for you as you go through this process.
Your visual sound level preference
Some people hate quiet. I’m one of them.
I hate sitting in silence. Even when I’m working from home, I need some sort of sound around me, even if it’s just the radio.
My other half is the opposite. He finds sounds very distracting and will happily sit in complete silence (this makes for some interesting situations when we’re both working from home).
Our belongings are a bit like sound, except it’s our eyes picking it up rather than our ears.
Some people will have higher tolerances to this ‘visual sound’ than other people. That’s fine, and it’s the first thing to consider when you begin your decluttering journey.
Again, I quite like having ‘stuff’ around me. I find it comforting and homely. I could not imagine living somewhere that didn’t have bookcases lining the walls, filled with books in various stages of being read.
But noise is something different…
What is visual noise?
When it comes to sound, noise is actually an unpleasant, unwanted or unneeded sound.
We can think of visual noise in the same way. It’s the visual sound around us that is unnecessary, unpleasant to see or gets in the way of the stuff we really want to see.
Imagine trying to listen to your favourite album but there is a TV show blaring in the background. That’s what the visual noise around you is doing. It’s taking attention away from the things you really want to pay attention to.
Decluttering will help to reduce this visual noise so you can arrive at your ideal visual sound level.
How do I do this then?
Remember our original problem. How to declutter when you love stuff? Well, that is how you do it-by focusing on the things you love!
Rather than starting at the ‘find everything that should be thrown away’ end, switch it around and start to focus on the things that you really want to see and interact with a lot in your day to day life.
This might be a lot of stuff at first. That’s OK.
Let me take you through an example.
I love having stuff on my walls. Photos, prints, clocks, mirrors-you name it, it’s on a wall in my house somewhere. But I had gotten to the point where I had so much stuff on my wall I simply was not ‘seeing’ it anymore.
I had visual wall noise!
I have one print that I love-a Picasso print (I’m obviously not rich enough to own a real Picasso!) from a holiday in Barcelona. But I barely noticed it anymore, as it was sharing a wall with-wait for it- a clock, another print, a framed tapestry, a decorative plate, a poster and a framed card.
It didn’t stand a chance amongst all that visual noise!
I decided I really wanted to notice that print again.
So I took the bold decision to take down everything else except the clock (I did still need to know the time).
It was a heart-in-throat moment as anyone who loves their stuff can appreciate…
The result? The print jumped out at me and I had a little moment of joy every time I walked past it. I was able to see the print now that all the visual noise was gone.
Did I miss the other stuff? Yes. But I made life easier by storing the other bits rather than instantly getting rid of them. This provides a bit of a comfort blanket when you are decluttering. If you feel you’ve made a mistake, you can always go back!
You can take this method as slowly and as far as you want.
Find a place in your house that has lots of visual noise and see if you can identify the pieces that you really want to notice.
Don’t think about the stuff you will be getting rid of or evaluate each individual piece. Just find the one or few bits that you really want to notice again and think about how you can best achieve that.
- Is your wardrobe overflowing so much that your favourite dress is permanently buried under something? (you might want to check out my post on creating a capsule wardrobe)
- Own so many cookbooks that it’s a chore to decide which one to use?
- Have you forgotten what films are actually in your DVD collection?
Spend some time reconnecting with the things that you really love.
The good news is that if you love a lot of stuff-that’s OK. As long as you are really able to appreciate everything. I still love walking past my bookcases full of books.
So have a go at decluttering even if it feels very unnatural for you.
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I hope you found this guide on how to declutter when you love stuff useful! Share any tips you have on decluttering below and remember to share this post before you leave to help other people!