What do you hoard? Find out how to exorcise your personal clutter demons

Even the tidiest and most minimalism-loving of folks have their Achilles’ heel, that one area in which they don’t like anyone asking them why they’re keeping so much of something. Smug yours truly thought she didn’t have such a category in her home…

I am Tania O’Donnell and I am a hoarder. You wouldn’t know it to look at me as our flat scrupulously follows the principles of ‘useful’ or ‘beautiful’ in what we keep. Gary is more of a hoarder as he likes to have ‘stuff’, but even he is pretty good and I can accept his cube of CDs that he’ll never listen to again and his tiny shelf of crap books (technical term – he calls my taste in music crap so I can call his taste in books crap, them’s the rules). I thought I wasn’t that way about anything, but then I got a big jolt of ‘physician heal thyself’ as I realised I have a serious problem with letting go of linens.

Linens are the best. In my mind they incorporate tea towels, bed sheets, sheet throws, duvet covers, pillow cases and towels. I’ll admit I came to tea towels late in life as I thought it was very unhygienic to dry your dishes with a tea towel when paper towels were single use and seemed somehow cleaner. I then started to attempt to properly improve my eco credentials and realised how useful and brilliant tea towels are. Plus they come in so many designs. I love tea towels. However, when they get stained, grubby and threadbare, I find it impossible to chuck them. I clean them and keep using. When it gets to the stage that even I know it has had its day, I keep them to use to buff up floors with.

I am the same with sheets. Cripes, I love sheets. A clean soft cotton sheet is a pleasure to lie on. However, a bobbled one is awful and yet I don’t throw away my bobbled sheets. I think “what if we have guests and it is an emergency and I need extra sheets” without thinking how nobody wants to lie on bobbled sheets. Most would prefer not to stay with the sort of host that lets you sleep on bobbled sheets. Just go down to Asda and spend a twenty on a fresh set of bed linens if it is such an emergency. I can’t logically explain why I hold onto all these ’emergency’ sheets and duvet sets.

However, I plan to be a reformed character and ditch them this weekend. I will take out all my sheets and duvet sets and examine them closely and make sure they are not threadbare, bobbled or, heaven forfend, moth-eaten. Then I will only keep the ones that are perfect and that I love. Linens are quite a bit like a wardrobe in that you only use 20% of them 80% of the time. I can’t say I won’t set myself a napkin-making project with some of the prettier sheets that are surplus to requirements or that I won’t cut the more rubbish ones into rags for cleaning. But I’ll try to keep this to a minimum and get this one blind spot with me sorted.

Here’s how you can identify and deal with your hoarding blind spots:

  1. Ask those who know you best if there’s something you end up with too much of. I don’t mean collections – those fall under the ‘beautiful’ category and give lots of pleasure. I mean more straightforward practical things that you don’t need 10 million versions of – for example, hessian bags or biro pens.
  2. Remember that you want to enjoy what are your favourites and you can only see/find your favourites if you stop hiding them in among things that aren’t as good. So identify your favourites in the category you’re looking at and chuck/recycle/sell/give away extras.
  3. Consider useful re-use but not to extent that you have bags of stuff awaiting projects that never happen.
  4. Operate a ‘one in, one out’ policy once you’ve got yourself down to your ideal number of things. For example, if you have three complete duvet sets, you should only buy another one if you can bear to get rid of one.
  5. Reward yourself with something you enjoy afterwards as decision-making is a hard and difficult process and needs to be praised.

Need some more decluttering tips? Here’s our editor at large Marion Williamson’s take on the subject.