Q: “How Do I Declutter My Home and Stop Collecting Stuff?”

“Changing your life and your relationship with your stuff is hard and will not happen overnight. Start to declutter your home by asking why decluttering is vital now.”

This donation box is a good cleaning tip as it prevents clutter and puts things you don't need to good use.
This donation box is a good cleaning tip as it prevents clutter and puts things you don't need to good use.

Q: “I am so ashamed and frustrated by all the stuff my family has — buckets of photographs and hand-written notes, bookshelves overflowing with books, rooms filled with unopened toys and unworn clothes, and an unusable garage. How do we stop collecting clutter? I keep spending money buying things I can’t find or don’t remember having. Is this even normal?” — Tomman

Hi Tomman:

Yes, it’s normal. Let me provide you with some statistics to illustrate. In 2012, the Center on Everyday Lives of Families (CELF) at UCLA studied the home lives of middle-class, dual-income families — and specifically their priorities regarding “their stuff” and how it affected the rhythm of their daily family life. Observations about these families and their “material culture” were reported in the book Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century: 32 Families Open Their Doors by Jeanne E. Arnold, Anthony P. Graesch, Enzo Ragazinni, and Elinor Ochs. (#CommissionsEarned)

Here are some insights from the book:

  • The average home contained 300,000 items.
  • The more stuff families had on their refrigerators corresponded directly to how much stuff they had in the home.
  • The average visible possessions in each home included 438 books and magazines, 139 toys, and 39 pairs of shoes. This did not count items behind closed doors or out of view.
  • Three-quarters of garages had no room to store a car. The typical garage held 300 to 600 boxes, storage bins, or spillover items from the house.
  • The average value of unused merchandise was $7,000.

So, what does this all mean? Clutter costs us in every facet of our lives. It costs us time and space. It costs us money when we can’t locate the stuff we need, so we purchase it again. It costs us emotionally when we struggle to organize items that we don’t have enough room to store. It costs us physically. The CELF study found that women’s stress hormones peaked when they dealt with their possessions and material goods.

You asked how to declutter your home. Every person whose home is buried with possessions has a different answer or methodology for getting out from under it.

[Self-Test: Is Your Clutter and Disorganization Out of Control?]

Many terrific ADDitude articles offer decluttering tips and techniques to help you declutter and get organized. I invite you to check them out here:

How to Declutter Your Home Step 1: Clarify Your “Why”

Before decluttering, take this one step to ensure you’re set up for optimum success.

Changing your life and your relationship with your stuff is hard. And it will not happen overnight. Therefore, the first step in any organizing process is to clarify your “why.” Ask yourself:

  • Why is decluttering so vital to you?
  • Why now?
  • Why do you need to make this change in your life?
  • Why is this item so important to you?
  • Why am I holding on to all this stuff I don’t need, want, or possibly even use if it makes me so unhappy?

Isn’t being happy with less stuff better than being unhappy with more?

How to Declutter Your Home Step 2: Consider Hiring a Professional Organizer

One final thought: Have you considered hiring a professional organizer? Professional organizers are trained and skilled specialists who help people declutter their homes and create organizing systems and structures that work FOR YOU. They work side-by-side with you to help you make clear and rational decluttering decisions.

[eBook: Declutter Your Life (And Home! And Office!]

An organizer never tells you what to do or even what to get rid of but will challenge your decision-making process so that you see it from a different perspective. Most importantly, a professional organizer will help you change your behaviors, learn new skills, and develop consistent habits.

For more information, visit The National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals and the Institute for Challenging Disorganization. Hiring an organizer is a very personal decision so feel free to ask lots of questions and choose someone you are comfortable with.

Good luck!

Declutter with ADHD: Next Steps

ADHD Family Coach Leslie Josel, of Order Out of Chaos, will answer questions from ADDitude readers about everything from paper clutter to disaster-zone bedrooms and from mastering to-do lists to arriving on time every time.

Submit your questions to the ADHD Family Coach here!

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