I thought I'd have a little look into why we all seem to accumulate so much clutter in our homes. From my experience with friends, family and of course myself, there are a number of reasons why we have piles of stuff.
1. A sort of greed - I don't mean that to sound nasty, but a lot of us buy stuff just 'because' - because it's there, because we are constantly looking for new things. And we aren't operating a 'one in, one out' policy, so are just adding to our overstuffed wardrobes, cupboards, attics and garages. I aim for an elegant sufficiency in all things - I am not a collector though, but if you are, you may have lots of one particular thing (I saw a beautiful collection of hatpins on TV the other day). In general I aim to have enough for my needs, but not too much.
2. I might need it some day. Really? Your university papers from two decades ago? A pair of ratty old curtains? I think it's time to be a little bit brave, and believe that there will enough for you in the future, so it's ok to get rid of old and sometimes pretty unusable stuff. Just think, you might need that space it's occupying one day, too.
3. Presents. When I give someone something, I really hope they like it/want it/use it. That's the point of a present, after all! I wouldn't mind at all if someone exchanged/donated/regifted something I gave them that didn't quite hit the mark. However, I know that not all gift givers feel this way. It's hard to know how to deal with this - maybe keep it for a set period, and then discreetly donate it to charity?
4. It's broken, but I'm going to fix it. If you haven't fixed it for a year, you probably won't! If you think you might, set a deadline by which you have to have it up and running, and if you fail - out it goes. There is a little sub-category here - useless things. Like video tapes when you don't have a video player anymore. Maternity clothes when your youngest is taking their A levels. Odd socks. You get the picture.
5. It's new, and I've never used/worn it. I wonder why? If you have had it a year or so, you probably aren't going to use it. Unless it was buried under other clutter, and you've only just been reunited with it. In which case, rejoice, and start using/wearing it.
6. Sentiment. This is a tricky one. I stand by my favourite quote - 'You can't have everything - where would you put it?'. It's going to get harder and harder as the years go by to keep every greetings card your family have ever been sent if you live in a modestly sized home. Keep the very, very special stuff (have a memory box for each person in your household) and pass on the rest. If you can't bear to get rid of it completely, take a photo of it, and keep that, instead. This applies to holiday souvenirs too - I don't buy them, I have photos of my holidays, and my memories, and I find that's enough for me.
7. It's worth something - or might be. Research this. It's possible that your complete video taped series of Fawlty Towers isn't as valuable as you thought. If you love the item, think it's beautiful and it makes your heart sing everytime you see it, whether it's worth nothing or £500, then keep it. But don't keep things you don't like just because they might be worth something.
8. I'm holding on to it for family/friends. They might not want your clutter. I was given bags and bags of 10 year old, stained, poorly stored (musty) baby clothes by 'someone' when I had my elder son. Whilst I did appreciate the thought, none of it was usable, or even to my taste (or current fashion). Your house and all it's storage space is primarily for your family who live in it right now - don't clutter it up with stuff for other people.
Happy decluttering! xx