Spring Cleaning for Hoarders
Hi, my name is Lauren, and I’m a sentimental hoarder. Hiiiiiiii Lauren.
I have a ridiculously difficult time throwing things away. I’m not talking about garbage (though I do have an obsession with chic packaging). I’m talking about the varied detrius of life—the uniform tshirts from my old job at a crappy microbrewery; the cute patterned socks I never wear anymore because there’s a hole in the heel but I remember exactly how it felt to be 16 visiting London for the first time and buying dinosaur socks; old agenda books—the memories!
Recently, a friend of mine shamed me for my hoarding. I don’t know if that was her secret agenda all along when she asked me to hang out, but there we were on the métro, chinese food bound, and she started bragging about minimalism before slyly mentioning the state of my closet. My knee jerk reaction was to rise to my own defense: I might need that stuff eventually. I can’t throw out something that cost X amount. I can’t bear to part with the memories.
Coming home from lunch, however, I took a sidelong look at the closet and felt the weight of just how much stuff I was carting around. What I have in this apartment isn’t even everything I own! I sat down, and took to the internet. Did you know that Whit Stillman‘s life fits into a duffle bag? Don’t believe me? Check out what the New York Times had to say about it. Okay. You’re back? Great. I’m a little bit jealous. Look at Whit Stillman with his awesome life, and cool career, and clearly he knows how to organize—his life fits in a duffle. A duffle!
When I decided to move to Paris, I also condensed my life into a bag. But I didn’t go through the steps of completely cutting ties with the rest of my belongings. To this day, I take up prime real estate in my parent’s garage. And let me tell you, it’s a big garage.
On top of that, my life has somehow expanded in the two and a half years I’ve been living in Paris. I couldn’t move home if I wanted to! What would I do with all my books? My printer? The Moroccan metal table? My record collection?! I could keep going. While I’m not thinking seriously about intercontinental relocation, it would be nice to say that all of the things I’m lugging around from country to country, and apartment to apartment are worth the sweat. Newsflash—they aren’t. Not all of them, at least.
In my defense, not only is my interior design aesthetic Wes Anderson meets Grandma’s House, I’m also a Sentimental Hoarder. If you made me a card, chances are I still have it. Along with yellowed paperback books, vintage ceramic chachkis, dried flowers from long-gone bouquets, and empty, elegantly designed commercial packaging.
Anyone who’s ever accessed Instagram could tell you that internet is obsessed with minimalism. Clean lines, blank walls, and clear table tops are all the rage. While I can relate to the collective shivers of joy elicited by clean, empty expanses of desktop or a well-organized hanging rack closet, minimalism really isn’t my thing.
However, the more things you have, the more cluttered your apartment will become. I never feel better than when my sweaters are folded and my little Moroccan table is artfully arranged with simple candles. But at a certain point, it’s not where or how you’ve arranged your stuff. No amount of tidying and scrubbing and organizing will do the trick. Sometimes it’s the sheer volume of things.
So how do you even begin tackling the task of decluttering if you can’t part with a jam jar? I’m going to myself to a zen place, and attempt to find out.
Pop the Question
Ask yourself, “Do I need this?” Yes, I am advocating talking aloud to yourself at home. If the answer is yes, (it’s always a “yes” for Sentimental Hoarders) try a follow up question or two. I try to continue with “When was the last time I used this?” or “Does this have a functional use?” or “If I toss it now, will I regret it for the rest of my life?” The last one sounds a bit melodramatic—I know—but my fellow Sentimental Hoarders will understand.
Is it from Grams?
Maybe it’s just a poorly-knit scarf, but is it a poorly-knit scarf from your grandma? If my mom had thrown out all the strange winter woolens her grandma had inexplicably made her for life in Southern California, I wouldn’t be rocking some fabulous crocheted hats in Paris today! If I can’t justify a purpose, but my relationship with object is deep and profound, I keep it. I even save the envelopes addressed by my mom and grandma. One day there won’t be anymore letters with their spidery script arriving in the mail, and I’ll be happy I saved them.
Timeless Appreciation vs. Instant Gratification
My last screening process is pretty self-explanatory. That studded leather belt that was cool for five seconds in 2005? Buh-bye! A vintage illustrated book on cacti from 1930s Netherlands? A keeper! If it’s going to be something I’ll appreciate in the long haul, it’s worth saving.
So now there’s a pile of crap in the middle of my apartment. It’s probably smaller than it ought to be, but hey—I’m tackling this in stages. Now that I’ve successfully separated myself from the items in question, I’m going to bury them in a black plastic trash bag. If you can’t see the stuff, you can’t regret your choice. Take everything to the donation bin as soon as physically possible. Believe me, it works, despite the pangs of regret you’ll probably feel tomorrow.
Now for the tricky bit: applying the above to more complicated categories like severing relationships that no longer serve you and saying sayonara to dull obligations. But that’s another story.