“Aren’t there really just three words that need to be said about this topic?” my son asked. “Throw? It? Out?”
And I had to tell him, no. Those are not the only three words needed to help people who want to get rid of clutter take what is for some of them a really big step–and actually do it.
And yet this is more or less the advice offered by many of the books that promise to help people with too much stuff get rid of it.
In fact, the central message of many decluttering books can really be boiled down to a refrain that goes something like this: “Throw it out, throw it out, throw it out!” These books offer all kinds of perky rules for getting rid of the clutter: “If you haven’t worn it in a year…” “If it isn’t either useful or beautiful…” And so on.
The problem is, many people actually can’t “just throw it out.” They need help in overcoming a variety of both practical and emotional reasons behind their reluctance, and a book that tells them to “just do” what they can’t do is not going to help them get rid of all the excess stuff that is cluttering up their lives. It is just going to add one more decluttering book to their shelves, where it will gather dust.
The problem with many decluttering books is that they don’t really address the reasons why people have difficulty parting with certain kinds of objects.
What if the “dress you haven’t worn in a year” is one that belonged to your grandmother, that she wore on her wedding day? You don’t want to keep it, but does it really go into a paper bag, and off to the thrift store, along with your children’s outgrown playclothes from last year? Or is there a better new home for it, and if so, where might that be?
What if the sculpture your daughter made for you when she was in first grade is, to be honest, neither very useful nor all that beautiful (at least anymore), but you still are loathe to let go of it?
What if you have absolutely no emotional attachment to the electronic gadgets cluttering up your basement or closet, but you know that it is ecologically irresponsible to just throw them in the trash? What do you do with them?
What if you can admit that you don’t want a particular item, but you are haunted by the thought that “someone could use this”?
All too often, these are the kinds of stumbling blocks that keep people–good people, kind people, well-meaning people, and people who really would like to live in a less cluttered home–trapped in an ever-growing pile of things.
Well, we have good news for the New Year: our new ebook is available, and we think it has something to offer that most decluttering books do not.
Our book has helpful suggestions for ways to approach each of the kinds of obstacles listed above, suggestions that professional organizers, senior move managers, and just “ordinary people” have told us really work to help break the impasse, to get things heading out the door without breaking the hearts, or the spirit, of the people who find letting go hard to do.
Our book acknowledges and respects the fact that sometimes there are very good reasons why people hesitate to just “throw it out,” and offers ways to help get them over the hurdle, to get those things to places where they can be appreciated, used, or properly and responsibly disposed of. It also has great basic advice for how to properly care for the things that you don’t want to get rid of–family heirlooms, for example–and our list of resources shows those who need more detailed information where they can find it.
We hope you’ll take a look at it and that maybe it can help you–or someone you know–to overcome all the good reasons for not just “throwing it out”–and find ways to live a less cluttered life as well.
Now that would make for a Happy New Year, wouldn’t it?
Janet Hulstrand is a writer/editor, writing coach, travel blogger, and coauthor of Moving On: A Practical Guide to Downsizing the Family Home.