The only time I visited the home of a hoarder, the moment I stepped inside the front door I felt completely overwhelmed, claustrophobic and I desperately wanted to escape. There wasn’t a bare surface anywhere and it was a considerable challenge negotiating around black plastic bags and piles of miscellaneous stuff.  It was an immense relief to step outside, breathe fresh air and move freely again.

Of course, most of us live with clear surfaces and floor space, although clutter can collect in cupboards and on shelves over time. Many of us have certain things that we can’t bring ourselves to part with whether books, papers, tools, ear rings or shoes.  We tell ourselves that they may be useful sometime and anyway there’s plenty of space to keep them “just in case”.

We all have our weaknesses

Because I have moved house many times, I’ve become fairly disciplined with regard to accumulating stuff. But I do have a couple of weaknesses. One is books. I’ve boxed up, unpacked and rearranged many hundreds of books over and over again, adding to the collection between moves.  At one point I decided this was ridiculous and gave away hundreds of books – only to repurchase some and continue adding to my library of friends.

Another weakness has been a reluctance to part with files and paperwork full of interesting material that I may want to refer to in the future. I have filled filing cabinets that have grown in number and have traveled the world with me.

De-cluttering techniques

I am moving house again and this time I’m doing things differently. Over the last couple of months I have gone through my books and for each one I have asked myself four questions:

  • When did I last open it?
  • Will I read it (again)?
  • Can I get this information in another one of my books?
  • Is this unique?

In this way my library has been reduced to a more manageable size and only contains books that I feel I cannot part with – for the time being.

With regard to the papers, I am being ruthless and am currently on my second shredder!

For your peace of mind

It is recognized that clutter and untidiness affect the brain and cause stress. People with mental problems have been found to benefit considerably from living in orderly surroundings.

To avoid being stressed by your stuff, you could create a routine and check through a different cupboard, drawer or shelf every week and ask similar/relevant questions to the ones I asked myself about my books, or else the following:

  • Is this useful?
  • Is this beautiful?
  • Will this bring joy?

If the answers are “no”, you can pass whatever-it-is on to someone who will benefit from owning it and who will use it rather than keep it in the back of a cupboard “just in case”.

Stuff can enrich our lives or resemble a slow-growing monster that suffocates and gradually takes us over. It’s up to us to know the difference, to be in control of our lives and to create our own inner and outer peace.

With love,


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