When I first started decluttering and sorting through everything I owned, I was a traditional hoarder.
I made great progress at first, but eventually, I got stuck. I still had a lot of stuff – more stuff than I wanted – but I didn’t seem to be able to pare it down any further.
Decluttering books no longer helped me. They told me to ask questions like:
Is this useful or beautiful?
But if I followed their rules, everything in my house needed to stay. But I still had a house full of stuff. Too much stuff.
I remember wandering from room to room, wondering why I didn’t seem to be able to let anything else go. It all seemed so important, so useful.
It took me a lot of thinking time to solve this problem, but eventually, I realized that although I was no longer hoarding things that I never used, I was still hoarding.
I was hoarding things that took time, without the time to do them.
I was hoarding projects and hobbies.
Things like scrapbooks, non-fiction books covering topics I was interested in, and other ‘equipment’ such as gym balls and shot glasses and cocktail shakers.
The use of all these items depending on something I was short on. Something that we all tend to be short on.
To create scrapbooks, I needed time to sit and work on them.
To use my books, I needed time to sit down and read.
To use the gym ball, I needed to set aside time to exercise in my house.
To use the shot glasses and shakers, I needed time to hold some kind of drinks party (with two under-fives in the house?!).
I realized that although all these things were useful, practical items, there was still no point in keeping them if I was never going to have the time to use them.
But telling myself:
I might have time in the future.
Was the time-equivalent of the old excuse:
But I might need it someday.
Time is a factor that is often overlooked when it comes to sorting through your things. Or, it is only mentioned with regards to commitments like meetings, talking on the phone and watching TV.
But the fact is, your possessions also take up your time. If something you own is not something that you use regularly and functionally (like the plates you eat your dinner from or the shampoo in your bathroom), then it requires a time investment from your ‘free’ time.
A time investment that you could be putting to use in one of a million different ways.
So it turns out there is another question you should bear in mind when you are sorting through things in your life:
What do you want to spend your time on?
- When you are decluttering and having trouble letting go of something, ask yourself if you are holding onto the item because you plan to set aside the time to actually use it.
- Be realistic about your time. Are you actually going to make time (in your already busy schedule), to do this project or activity? For example, are you really going to repaint and stencil the side table? Are you really going to read the complete works of Thomas Hardy? Be honest with yourself.
- Bear in mind that you should be spending your time on the things that bring you the most joy and the most personal satisfaction (from what you work on, to how you play). If you spread your time too thin, on too many different projects, you won’t get the best out of any of them.