The trouble with clutter is that it’s really a bunch of individual items. We may have realized that there’s too much stuff in the house; we may be ready to make a change. As soon as it comes to picking up an item and deciding whether it stays or goes, the party is over.
· How can I get rid of this? It might come in handy!
· It’s perfectly good!
· It was a gift!
· I could sell it on eBay!
· I love it!
· It’s my favorite color!
· I collect these!
· I was going to read that!
· So-and-so might want it!
You know something funny is going to happen on Hoarders when the marimba music starts playing. This is often when the crew starts carrying things out onto the lawn and the protagonist is supposed to decide whether to keep them or toss them. “Keep… Keep… Keep… Keep… Keep…” It’s like a Gregorian chant performed by crickets. Of course they’re going to say “Keep”! That’s what we do! The reason we brought all this stuff home is that we like it and we want to keep it! We just have a very hard time accepting that there’s a finite amount of space and resources for it all.
This is where the good old-fashioned rating system comes in. We’ve become accustomed to rating everything on the entire Internet with 1-5 stars, with the possible exception of Facebook friends. We can rate books and movies and restaurants and kitchen sponges. It never ceases to amaze me the way people will write a three-page review for something they are giving just one star. When prompted, we are automatic rating machines, ready to quantify our appreciation of every object, location, and experience across the galaxy. Pluto: 4 stars, because I still have lingering irritation over that whole planet/not-planet thing.
The trick is to use this rating system to surround ourselves with only five-star things and cut away everything else. If you’ve heard of the Pareto Principle, it says we get 80% of the results out of 20% of the causes. We also use roughly 20% of our stuff roughly 80% of the time. It might be hard for us to differentiate the four-stars from the five-stars, at least at first, but it should be pretty easy to spot the one-stars.
· Never liked it
· Doesn’t fit
· Doesn’t work
· Don’t have all the parts
· Belongs to someone else
· Has bedbugs
· Possessed by demons
I’m consciously avoiding the pitfall of trying to come up with guidelines for the two-, three-, and four-star items. The very impulse to do so is a sign that we’ve slipped into a gray area. There is no room in the house for gray area items. Let’s talk about what rates five full stars.
· Use it on a daily basis
· If it was gone, it would have to be replaced immediately
· Could list it off and describe it from memory
· Has a clearly defined storage space all its own
· Clothes: makes you look and feel fantastic; perfect fit; goes with everything
· Tools: totally reliable, easy to use, gets the job done, would recommend to everyone
· Is awesome
Every house has items that are merely also-rans. The stuff we only wear on laundry day, or not even then. The kitchen utensils that remain in the bottom of the drawer and are only there to get tangled with the good stuff. The billion old magazines and decorations and random objects that we carry in and just never carry out again. These things make it hard to clean surfaces and find the truly important objects. They’re basically just insulation. We take all this clutter for granted, year after year, until we find out we have to move and get all of it into boxes. Why not get rid of all the ‘meh’ objects and keep only the fabulous ones?
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.