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Hoarding vs De-cluttering, or is there another way?

July 16, 2013

This post has been written by the rather brilliant Jenny Flannagan who blogs regularly at Jenny from the Block. Where this blog originally appeared 

Do you love to hoard, or to throw stuff away (or to give it its new middle-class name, ‘declutter’)? I’m a thrower-away by nature, I love to make space, make bold decisions, make do.  I’m not great with chaos.

Andy is also pretty uninterested in ‘stuff’, but his (our) livelihood depends on a certain amount of space-consuming equipment like guitars, and his CDs and books which get carted around the country and world to be sold.  I made a flippant comment recently at a Christian gathering about how we needed to get to work on his clutter to make room for the baby, and it led to a number of serious prayers being offered up against Andy’s hoarding tendencies.  It was kind of funny, but not so much for him.

(Just to set the record straight here: he is not a hoarder).

Being anti-clutter gets better press than being a hoarder nowadays, so we’re on the right side of fashion (for once).  Feng shui and decluttering get trendy books and websites; hoarding gets its own TV series in which we sit wide-eyed at some vulnerable people’s weird, crazy, obsessive inability to throw stuff away.  It’s the absurd, tangible endpoint of our culture’s obsession with consumption and materialism, and even though we live lives on a parallel trajectory, we laugh and raise our eyebrows and pretend to be incredulous.

Andy and I have spent many hours of the last week going through our flat to clear out what we don’t need.  We are making room for a new person (admittedly a very small person with very few possessions as yet) and so it seemed the right moment to reconsider all the clutter we had accumulated (and struggled to store in our flat).  It felt brilliant.  But now we have a pile of stuff we no longer need.


(the guitars and the painting and the jug are not being evicted)

So there’s gumtree and charity shops and maybe even eBay. There’s the recycling collections. You’re also welcome to any of it that you fancy (there are some cracking books).  And to be honest, there is probably some of it that will simply be thrown out.

And there’s the problem, the bit I don’t think about when I’m energetically selecting all the things I don’t need (but which I stupidly already bought).  Where does it go when it leaves our flat?  Whose space does it take up?

For a while, I read Sarah WIlson’s blog, and she has a series of posts about ‘A SImpler Home’, in which she challenges the decluttering imperative (amongst other things):

You’ll also notice I don’t speak of “Decluttering”. Decluttering denotes chucking stuff out, and often perfectly good things that are then replaced by a less cluttery version of the original. And complemented by a visit to The Storage Shop to buy a whole heap of containers and filing solutions. Which is More Stuff.

Instead, I’ve gone the simple slant. Simple is minimalist, green, decluttered, low waste, practical, economical and all the rest of that good stuff rolled into one. Well it should be.


Go to the shops less. Buy less. Consume less. Recycle less (recycling should be a last resort). Less furniture. Less gadgets. Use up what you have first. Improvise. Make do. Use the same thing for two purposes. Need less.

This is the thing that stands out to me more than anything.  For all the clever rearranging I do and recycling I attempt, the real challenge is to want less. To shop less. To be ok with less.  And that is something we never seem to want to choose.  The dream that no-one wants to sell us.

There’s a new film that has come out called Trashed (2012) which tries to get us to understand that there is no mythical place called “out” where our rubbish goes, never to be seen again.  It ends up on other corners of our planet (where other people live), in our oceans, our atmosphere. And it’s a crisis we have to face.  Have a watch of the trailer.

You can watch the full film (for a small fee) here.

Have you had any success in teaching yourself to live with less, and be fine with it? I’d love to hear…


2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 16, 2013 7:20 pm

    I’m a hoarder, my husband’s a hoarder and our families have hoarding tendencies, but and it is a big but, we do actually use a lot of what we hoard. I have overflowing baskets of empty jam jars at the moment, but it won’t be long before they are full of produce from our garden and this year we are going to put some in the basement instead of falling over them in the apartment we live in. We have just cleared out a whole load of cardboard boxes, they went to line paths in our vegetable garden, which were then covered with sawdust from a local saw mill to make lower maintenance paths. White vinegar bottles (because we don’t use soft rinse we use white vinegar instead as it deals with sweaty smells better) gets recycled into containers for home-made fermented vinegar and mosquito traps. Plastic bags are washed and re-used until they are not usable and so the list goes on. Mind you I am getting to the stage where I am wanting to reduce some of the stuff, rather than trying to find more places for it all to live, until we do find a use for it.

    My husband’s hoarding tendencies include bits of wood, nails and screws, but you can see here what he has done with it. – there are more but I think that is enough for now, you get the idea

    Oh and don’t forget the recycled welly

  2. November 4, 2013 1:43 pm

    I have managed to find a happy medium with my habit of hoarding but need to de-clutter. I have a self storage unit that I can keep all the things I want but it means they are out of the house as well!

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