We’re All Collectors.

I’m not exactly a massive fan of junk, clutter or collections. But I also have a deep, personal struggle with some hoarding habits. I went through a few events in my childhood where beloved items were placed in storage only to be forgotten, damaged or stolen. And when you’re being uprooted again and again, however much you enjoy it, you can grow attached to things that go with you. I also find that when you’re frugal you cling onto things because you realize the value there is in reusing everything you own. Water bottles are good for mixing and transporting drinks. Egg boxes are good planters, newspaper can be formed into fire blocks…

So I spend a lot of my life sorting, organizing and getting rid of junk. And an equal amount of time gathering more junk, because I saw something on Pinterest or because planting season is coming up.

Which is where I’ve been finding out the importance of libraries. Most people think only of conventional libraries, but there are, in reality, all sorts of libraries. You can have a video library, a seed library or a pattern library, for example.

And if we’re going to keep some amount of clutter in our lives, we may as well categorize it. I keep my craft materials on some shelves, sorted by type. Some piles of fabric, some sewing boxes, some assorted material samples and some furs and animal bones. Everything I need to craft things when the urge arises. I have a specific shelf for current projects, so when the urge arises I can just leave new materials on it. If I don’t finish the project I will just get rid of the materials.

Keeping your collections in an organized library does three things.

Firstly, it contains your work. Never take out two projects at once, always put materials back and sort everything you finish.

Secondly, it reduces waste. You don’t end up throwing away a few things every time you tidy the house.

Finally, it limits your collection. Once your library is full, you need to focus on quality and can stop yourself from becoming a hoarder.

Because we all collect things, so we may as well not drive ourselves or anyone else crazy doing it.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

Why Do We Connect To “Things”?

In a world of abundance, it’s only rational to consider that people will want to have things. Humans are meant to accumulate, exchange and use resources, be they consumables, usables, culture or consumable replacements such as money.

But we also see an interesting phenomenon in the Western world that is not quite as strongly reflected anywhere else. We see an extreme attachment to physical objects that don’t have a specific use or job. And, because we have so many things, this attachment can happen in five, ten, a hundred objects. On a simple level, almost everyone has an item they feel attached to, such as a simple wedding band or a tatty childhood toy. In extreme cases we see problem hoarders: people who accumulate things everyone else would consider rubbish to an extent where their homes are full and their lives are impossible, but who can’t bear the thought of parting with it. Often we see a deeper attachment to these things than the person feels for unknown humans. Sometimes the person will feel better about driving away a loved one than parting with their things.

But why does this happen?

As mentioned above, there are only four purposes for something in a human’s life:

1: Consumables. Things you need to use to survive that cannot be reused or recycled. Water, food are the basics. Firewood, underwear and deodorant are less obvious consumables.

2: Usables. Similar to consumables except they are not quite as degraded by use and are often not absolute essentials. Houses, machines or phones come to mind.

3: Consumable replacements. Bartering chips we use to obtain consumables and usables. The main one today is money in physical and digital form.

4: Culture. Something that serves no utilitarian purpose, but provides entertainment, satisfaction and a bonding opportunity with the individual’s social group.

When we consider what these things often are, we realize they are not consumables, replacements or usables. They may have started out that way, such as a favourite jumper, a childhood toy or a phone, but they have been elevated beyond that. The jumper isn’t worn for warmth, the toy isn’t played with and the phone isn’t used only practically. They aren’t anything practical, they’re “just things”. These things must, therefore, be cultural.

However they aren’t cultural in the traditional sense. Art is culture, ceremony is culture, fashion is culture. These are things shared by groups of people. They are understood and appreciated. They have a shared meaning, shared rules, shared boundaries.

The things people become attached to don’t have that shared meaning. Nobody will know or understand why your toy cat is so special to you until you explain its history, its meaning to you. Even then they may not understand. Your phone does not bond you to people. At best it creates a weak association-by-trend between you and users of similar phones or brands. At worst it serves as a divider between you and the people you most often interact with.

So they aren’t culture. They are culture surrogates.

In societies where they still have faith, tradition, arts and a life rich with meaning, they rarely need such items. Parents will hand their last remaining childhood toy to their own children, knowing it might be torn apart. Children will more likely treasure an item with a shared meaning than a personal one. After all, this is how culture is born.

But our society rejects culture. We actively fight it. We seek to understand a little bit of every culture around us and embrace none of them.

So we have branded “things” as surrogates for religion. They help us bond, find new people, find some sort of a meaning to life.

We have childhood “things” as surrogates for memory and family. They help us remember pleasant times, feel loved, feel worthy.

We have nonsensical “things” as surrogates for art. They make us feel individual, unique, eclectic and special.

We keep all these things around us. When we are lacking associates we find a new brand to associate ourselves with. When we are lacking memory or love we find a new trinket to hold some memories in. When we are lacking individuality, artistic appreciation or visual stimulus and pleasure we find a new random item to put in our room to collect dust.

And I guess having a few of these things is just natural. We’re human, after all, so a family heirloom or a painting that actually resonates with us will elicit strong emotions of joy, belonging, satisfaction and meaning. But do we really need quite so many of them?

What about you? What “things” do you have in your home? Are you a clutter bug or a minimalist? Do you find yourself attaching meaning to objects easily? Or do you have one or two things you need in your life and everything else is disposable? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

How To… declutter your wardrobe the easy way.

Spring cleaning time! We’ve already addressed the clutter in your house. How about we take a look at our wardrobes next? I know, I know: “The horror!” You, like me and pretty much everyone, hate the idea of clearing down your wardrobe. And I get it. It’s always been time consuming, we never know what to part with, we hold onto something and everything “just in case” and eventually we are done, with nothing to show for it but a couple of wasted hours and a top with a few holes in it that maybe we’ll throw away, reuse or thrift (we never do).

So here are some foolproof steps to clearing down your wardrobe the easy way.

1: Sort everything by season.

First of all, none of these tricks work properly is your jumpers are between your sundresses and your shorts. Try and separate your clothing by the seasons there are in your country. Maybe there’s just a dry and a wet season, maybe the Spring and Winter are very obvious, but the Summer and Autumn are similar. However you do it, sort your clothes by the season you’re most likely to wear them.

2: Get storage boxes.

One marked “mending”, one marked “rags and upcycling”, one marked “charity”. Keep the mending one near your sewing. Keep the other two somewhere you can easily move them into your room several times a year, but where they’re out of the way for about 300 days of the year!

When you come across something that’s broken that should be in your “keep” pile, add it to the mending box. When you come across something that’s too bad to give away, put it in the rags box. When you come across something nice that isn’t right for you, put it in the charity box.

3: Use the hanger trick.

Go through this season by season. Hang all your seasonal clothes the wrong way around. Put your seasonal tops and underwear and whatever else upside down in drawers. And just use them all as normal. At the end of the season, whatever’s still the wrong way round hasn’t been used and probably won’t really be missed.

When it comes to work clothes and formal wear, keep them in rotation for a full year. If they get no use in a year, then you probably don’t need them.

Once the first year is up, we move onto stage two of the sorting.

4: Sort it by size.

We all do it. We keep clothes that don’t fit. Maybe they’re from when we were a different size, maybe they shrunk or stretched in the laundry, maybe we were given them. Whatever it is: you don’t need them.

Most people have two sizes they hover between over the course of the year. In my case it’s a small to a large 12, or a large 10 to a small 14. So first make a pile of your range, be it 8-12 or 10L-14S. Everything outside that pile, unless it’s an overgarment you regularly wear over many other clothes, can go.

Next, look through your “keep” pile for anything that only just fits and take it out of the pile. Just because the label says it fits or it sometimes looks OK doesn’t mean it actually fits.

5: Get a theme going.

Like it or not, we all have colours, cuts and styles that suit us. Depending on where you like your variety, try and theme your wardrobe. It’s fine to have a gothic wardrobe full of various colours and cuts, a dress wardrobe full of various styles and colours or a wardrobe that has a bit of anything blue, green and grey.

But if you have a wardrobe with clothing in styles ranging from hippie to emo, in cuts ranging from grungy to classic dresses, in all the colours of the rainbow, you will soon run out of things to wear. Why? Because not only should your wardrobe suit you, your clothes should match. When your clothes largely have something in common you don’t run out of combinations or ideas. So find out what colours suit you best, what your personal style is and what cuts and items are best for your life and see what theme you can work out that meets all your needs.

So now we’ve worked out what to keep, we have three daunting boxes ahead of us.

6: Make a mending pile.

So, this is one of the only two parts where you will actually have to sort the traditional way. Sit down and organize your loved, well-fitting, themed clothes that need mending. Sort them by the type of repair: darning, stitching, patches, rehem, reline, bleach. Then, find a day when you have enough time to repair one group. Do this until you’ve repaired the whole box.

7: Repurpose.

Another part where you have to sort traditionally. Arrange the clothing by fabric type so you can easily access them when you need them. Then, put them in your stash or put them away.

Ideas for old clothes include: dishrags, carseat covers, aprons, cushion covers, hanging organizers, under-table hammocks, patches for mending, etc.

8: Give away.

Finally, take what you’re going to give away. First try offering items to friends or family. Whatever they don’t want, put through the wash, fold and give to a local charity shop.

And that’s how to declutter your wardrobe the long, but very easy way. Not only have you got rid of your clutter, you’ve also got a better wardrobe, fixed your damaged clothes, got an endless supply of dish and wash rags, given to charity and hardly thrown away a scrap of fabric! How about that?

How do you declutter and sort your wardrobe? How do you reduce your fabric footprint? What is your fabric stash like? Do you reuse much? Please share your ideas, thoughts and advice in the comments!

TTFN and Happy Hunting!