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Filled Up On Empty

There's a lot pack rats can learn from disposers.

I’m a ditcher. I get great pleasure out of dumping unused clothes, items and household goods. I don’t develop deep attachments to stuff. Clutter is my enemy. I hate clutter– the look of it and how I feel around it. It makes me nervous and uncomfortable.

I’ve always enjoyed visiting homes for sale even if I’m not in the market. Why? Because they’re empty. I like empty rooms. It’s as if there is more oxygen to breathe. There’s a sense of lightness and freedom. No heavy objects or distractions.

Do you prefer to walk into the Apple store or Macy’s department store? Your answer reveals a lot about you.

My husband and I lived in our first house over 10 years. When it came time to move, we began purging the insides of our current abode and it felt good. It felt so awesome that I dumped nearly everything, including trash cans and silverware. The closer we got to having nothing the more free I felt.

My husband, on the other hand, gets attached to stuff. Even useless stuff. You know the kind of guy that keeps old, outdated electronics around just because they still work. To his credit, he has self-repaired many of our gadgets using parts from old outdated items he’s had laying around. Much like a gambler, this just reinforces his “just in case” and “you never know when” reasoning.

Living with junk with the hope of an unexpected payoff down the road is an open invitation to clutter.

The cable show, Hoarders, is fascinating. Buried in filth and clutter, the emotional attachment these people have to inanimate objects is beyond belief. It isn’t the actual item that they’re bonded with but the pain they associate with discarding it. You would swear the professionals were asking them to give up a body part or their first born. The reaction is that severe. Just glimpsing at these homes makes my heart palpitate.

Two of our three children tend to be accumulators, much like their father. It takes some convincing for them to part with stuff. Yet it’s apparent that when they do jettison their surroundings, they feel so much better. I can see the relief in their faces and pride in their mission accomplished.

Why do some people resist de-cluttering so much?

1.  They don’t know where to start.

It doesn’t matter. At some point in the process you have to put that paper clip in the trash or in your paper clip holder in the office. Don’t decide based on some priority list because that causes stirring instead of purging. Start in one corner and require yourself to make a decision immediately with every object you touch. That is the only hard rule.

2.  They don’t know where to put stuff.

Make 3 piles next to one drum size trash bag outside the area you are working on. Pick up an item, no matter how small, and decide whether it goes in the keep pile, the give away pile, the “attic” pile, or the trash. If one of the items is a container filled with stuff (i.e. jewelry box, tool box…), go through the box right then. Don’t move on until you are completely done with each item.

3.  They think they might need it/wear it/use it down the road.

Give yourself a moment to think about it. Don’t keep things because they are still in good shape, they work, or they once served a valuable purpose. It may be a perfectly good sweater but it’s totally out of style. It may be a hardly used garden tool that you have no use for. Or maybe it was expensive so you feel guilty just throwing it away. The “attic” pile is not for those items. It’s for sentimental items such as a handmade card from a child, a baby blanket or high school yearbook.

4.  They are daunted by the task because it’s overwhelming.

Frustration sets in when you pick something up and put it back down without making a decision about it. Even if you are running around the house putting insignificant stuff where it actually belongs, before you know it you have cleared an entire corner. You have nothing left hanging over your head because you’ve dealt with all of it the first time! This rewards you along the journey and keeps your batteries charged.

Don’t underestimate the power of neatness and order on your psychological well-being. Whenever you’re feeling down, clean and organize a space in your home.

Tackle your kitchen and you’ll feel like Julia Child preparing the next meal. Sort out and coordinate clothes in your closet and you’ll feel like you’re dressing in a department store.


As you accumulate more stuff this holiday season, remember not to let your good fortune bury you. Liberate yourself from clutter and feel the space around you.

Free space can be the most valuable gift of all.


"Sometimes you have to let yourself go- purge yourself." Tina Turner


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