If you are a hoarder, I am guessing that you see every single item in your house as important. You see each mountain of stuff as something that contains both junk and valuable stuff. The mountain is so huge that you don’t want to tackle it. Or maybe you do see each item as individual things but you find it difficult to figure out what’s important and what’s not because you have different types of values attached to them.
In order to be able to let go of things that you don’t need, we need to learn to look at all the things in your house in an objective and realistic manner.
The four layers of stuff
Every single item in your house from magazines to clothes to food belongs in one of the following categories:
The list is in this particular order for a reason. If you have stuffed a cupboard full to the brim or have piles of stuff lying around your house, the stuff in those piles, either physically and/or metaphorically speaking, are sitting in these layers. You have to first remove the layer of rubbish sitting at the very top of the mountain, then reduce the layer of excess things, then carefully put away your sentimental items to get to the final layer of things that you actually need, which have been sitting right at the bottom of the pile for a very long time.
The rubbish layer signifies anything that is of no use to you any more, because you’ve either moved on (say from a hobby or a person) or you didn’t really need it in the first place (such as things you bought on an impulse) or it’s simply broken/used up. These are the items that have been niggling away at you every day whenever you look at them and you think ‘I really should get rid of that/give to so-and-so/donate’. This layer is amazingly easy to get rid of once you enter the mind-frame of decluttering.
The excess layer is stuffed with things you just have too many of. Each individual item may be really useful to you and you use it every day, but do you really need 10, 20 or even 100 of that stuff? Just because an item is useful, does not mean a 100 of them will all be equally useful. Acknowledging that x number of a particular item is all you need, will make it easier for you to let go of the rest.
The sentimental layer is the things you are holding onto because they hold some memory of the past. These are the items that your grandmother gave you or the toys your now-grown-up children played with a lot when they were little, or your husband gave you on your first date. I don’t think you should get rid of the items that really mean something to you. However, what is unhealthy is if you hold on to stuff in order to avoid dealing with an issue you had with them.
The need layer doesn’t need much explanation. These are things you need in order to live a healthy and fulfilling life. And you need surprisingly little to do that with. You don’t need a mountain of stuff to enhance your interactions with other members of your family. If you do, then you are trying to avoid a deep seated problem. What is making you so uncomfortable that you need to put diversions in the form of stuff between you and your loved ones?
The higher up the layer you are, the more things you should get rid of. Everything in the rubbish layer must go, either to the tip, recycling or to charity. A small portion of the excess layer can be kept (the things you actually use), and the rest should be given away. Any items in the sentimental layer that you keep because of an unresolved problem should be let go so that you can focus on improving the situations. The rest of the sentimental layer should be stored away or displayed carefully. Finally, everything in the need layer should be organised and maintained.
Next time you have to make a decision on what to do with the item in front of you, try to figure out in which layer this item belongs to. Over time, this categorising process will become second nature, and you will find making decisions about what should happen to your stuff will become much easier.