Clinging on to the old? How to let it go

by Claire Minnaar


Every household has that one room full of white elephants and unused clutter – and most individuals have no real idea of the true value of their unwanted items.

An international study by Gumtree has shown that women are twice as likely to feel bad about selling an unwanted gift, but men can be more nostalgic about their belongings. (One in five feels an emotional connection to their clutter, compared to 15% of women). Surprisingly about a third of the households were also hanging onto their old VHS tapes and cassettes, rather than digitising. Clothing, books and shoes are the items people are most likely to hang onto without using.

“Even the most Spartan among us will admit to hoarding something for emotional reasons. It’s a common thread,” says Gumtree Head of Marketing Claire Cobbledick. “Your children’s old clothes have sentimental value. (Your old clothes might remind you of your younger self!) The giant porcelain Cocker Spaniel Aunt Martha gave you has never quite matched the sofa, but it would feel a little ungrateful to get rid of him. And although you might have only worn those stilettos once (in the 90s) throwing them out would be like admitting they were a waste of money or a poor decision on your part.”

Psychologists believe that clutter says a lot about us and the way we handle problems. Dr Susan Biali, writing for Psychology Today has said that clutter can be a sign that you are taking on too much or ignoring issues in your life. “If you look around at the clutter and “stuff” in your home and in your life, what does it tell you about you? Where are you out of control? Where have you taken in or on too much stuff, whether it’s in your closet or your appointment book?”

She believes that we can lose up to 15-20% of our budget because of procrastination and avoiding making decisions about the way we live and function, including clutter. “Saying “I really should get my office more organized” is one thing. Understanding what you might lose if you don’t is another thing entirely.”

De-cluttering can be liberating (and profitable) experience, particularly if approached correctly. It shouldn’t be a case of boxing everything up and getting rid of it – but rather done with a goal in mind beyond clearing out.

“Start by assessing the value of the goods you no longer need or want. You’d be surprised to hear that some of your ancient Fischer-Price plastic toys are fetching high prices from sentimental collectors, and vinyl is back with a vengeance. Even broken appliances and aged laptops are being snapped up, refurbished and resold,” says Cobbledick.

“Set reasonable prices but indicate that you are willing to negotiate – if you are using classifieds there aren’t set bid prices and buyers are communicative about what they are willing to pay. Make sure that you take good quality, well-lit photographs of items to set a good impression.”

Lastly, she says, think about why you are reluctant to sell something. “Many people hold on to items hoping they will come back into vogue or become a collectors’ item, but for most of us that doesn’t happen. Very few items stand the test of time – for something to really make a comeback it has to be in pristine condition and have a timelessness about it. Everyone has that one gadget that will be “oh-so-useful” but if you haven’t pulled the automatic bread maker out of the cupboard since 2011, chances are you aren’t going to miss it when it’s gone. And Aunt Martha’s porcelain Spaniel was destined to be appreciated, just not by you – you do have the right to love the furnishings in your home, and banish the ones you don’t.”

Why not set a goal to achieve – or a new item to buy – when you set out to sell off your unwanted goods? It can be a trade-up to a better appliance, or even a weekend breakaway for your family.”

When you get rid of the old, you’ll not only have a lot more space in your home, but a lot more cash in your pocket to explore the new.

What your clutter says about you:

According to Cynthia Ewer, the Author of the Complete Idiot’s Guide to Getting Organized, there are four types of “clutterers”:

  • The Hoarder: Hoarding is rooted in insecurity – fearing that they will never have the resources they need if they let go of any possession. This is typical of individuals who have survived the Great Depression or any other kind of deprivation earlier in their lives. They won’t simply hold onto to valuable items, but also empty egg cartons and old magazines. “Reassure yourself! Stuff will be with us always!” says Ewer. “Magazines are indexed at the library, kitchenware can be picked up cheaply. Dare to dump it!”
  • The Deferrer: These procrastinators like putting aside bills, old newspapers, items that need to be repaired. “Deferrers need to be reminded that tomorrow has no more time or energy than today–and that putting off decisions drags down each new day with yesterday’s unfinished business.”
  • The Rebel: Maybe your mother forced you to pick up after yourself, and now as an adult you are still refusing to pick up your toys. Remind yourself that you are in charge now – and deserve a nice house to live in. Sell your junk and invest in a new tattoo – it’s much more rewarding and more likely to drive your mother insane!
  • The Perfectionist: “Perfectionists are wonderful people, but they live in an all-or-nothing world. They do wonderful things–when they do them!” Ewer says that without the time to give 110% to the project, Perfectionist Clutterers let’s matters slide. Her advice is to not wait for the perfect color-coded shelving unit, but to take action today, using the principle that “20% of the job will take care of 80% of the problem”.

Image Credit:

Join the List

Subscribe to our mailing list and stay informed on what's happening on MomTalk!

Awesomeness! Thank you for subscribing!

Oh dear! Something has gone wrong. Please try again.

You may also like

Leave a Comment