If you’re downsizing, decluttering, redecorating or just ready to embrace minimalism, you’ll be unearthing items and ‘stuff’ that just has to go.
And while you, dear reader, might be able to shrug it off and donate your things, you may well have a partner or family member filled with horror at the idea of decluttering and ‘losing’ a little part of them.
So use this guide – written with plenty of personal experience, we have to admit – to help you help your loved one ‘let go’ of treasured items, sensitively.
#1 – Help them construct a ‘decluttering management plan’
Someone with lots and lots of old, unused items can often feel overwhelmed when they think about how to get rid of things, or where to put them.
This might lead to panic or fear, which only encourages them to ‘hold on’ even tighter to their treasured things.
So, be kind, be gentle, and don’t lose your patience. Regardless of why your loved one feels compelled to hold on to things, you’ll need to summon all your compassion and consider them as someone who really needs your help in this moment.
A management plan or strategy could start with listing categories – i.e. clothes, books, electronics – and discussing where these things could live permanently.
Avoid being too quick to consign items to certain areas – your loved one might need a little time to adjust to the thought of putting items in storage or giving them away.
#2 – Tackle one thing at a time & make it a project
Those of us who like to hoard items will usually have a broad range of ‘stuff’, from different eras, previous owners, and of varying sentimental values.
Notice which items your partner is more neutral about – perhaps an old shoe collection or unused vinyl? – and suggest that you only focus on this collection for the time being.
Your loved one can get used to the idea of losing items, and that it isn’t the end of the world, with a smaller, more insignificant pile.
Don’t overwhelm them. Focus on one project at a time, and celebrate the success once it’s done.
#3 – Everything in its place & a place for everything
This old proverb is absolutely crucial when organising or decluttering! Having cluttered, closed boxes of lovely things in the hallway or scattered around the house means that no one gets to enjoy them.
Particularly if you’re downsizing, finding a place for everything (and keeping it there) is essential. This could mean some clever new storage within the house if your loved one isn’t ready to let everything go.
Use Pinterest (why not start with our boards? 😏) to get inspiration on how to store stuff at home neatly & cleverly.
#4 – Choose the ‘must keeps’ VS everything else
Ultimately, the reason your loved one is still holding on to items is because everything feels like a ‘must keep’. Items might have deep sentimental value, or be a family heirloom. Alternatively, your loved one might have convinced themselves they’ll ‘use it one day’, or ‘do something with it’.
You can tackle this by avoiding the ‘b-word (bin it!) and putting items into categories of ‘keep at home’ or ‘put in storage’. Then every item is still kept, but in a more manageable place.
After 6-12 months, point out how you’ve not needed or used the items you put away, and suggest that it’s time to donate them.
#5 – Find a charity for donations & avoid online selling
If your partner or family member has lots of things like books, clothes or other not-so-sentimental items, encourage them to find a charity they’d genuinely love to help. Realistically, we can’t put everything into storage, and as Frank Sinatra once sang, ‘Something’s gotta give’!
Find a charity that would appreciate your things, or plan a yard sale and donate the takings to a charity instead.
Our current nominated charity, Cerebral Palsy Cymru, does incredible work with children dealing with cerebral palsy.
And while they can’t accept donations for their shops right now, they’re asking for people to save up their donations for when they can accept them.
Don’t be tempted to try online selling, especially for items under £20-50 – visiting the Post Office to send an item you’ve sold for £3 isn’t worth your time!
#6 – Don’t be afraid of storage when decluttering
You might think, “We’ve only moved it somewhere else!” – but for your loved one, it’s a step forward in removing the stuff from their immediate vicinity, and getting used to the idea of separation without the scary ‘forever’ part.
Having that physical barrier offers some safe adjustment if they’re particularly attached to the items.
Wrap & protect the more delicate items before putting them into storage. This could help the act of storing feel less ‘harsh’ or finite.
Lockdown makes it difficult to buy packaging materials but you can buy them directly from us, and get them delivered!*
We’re currently open 24/7 to service critical & essential workers only who need our facility, but hope to be back open for all customers soon.
#7 – Keep one room in your home as tidy as possible
Now, this feels a big ask, especially if you’re in the process of moving home or downsizing – and it’s going to feel like whack-a-mole when you tidy a room and another goes to pot.
But even if you can keep one room a no-clutter-allowed zone, you’ll keep your sanity in check. Make firm rules for what can’t enter the room; no stuff for storage, no boxes, and no bags.
Starting with clutter already in there? Use our ‘clearing out your house in lockdown’ guide for extra helpful decluttering tips ↓
Wrapping it up
While the compulsion to keep, store & cherish our treasured items is perfectly common, for the rest of us, carefully teetering over piles of boxes and unused gadgets to get to the kitchen is no way to live.
Perhaps your partner has stacks of family heirlooms they can’t get rid of, or maybe your sister has an art collection that’s taking over the house – either way, you can help them conquer the clutter.
The key thing to remember is to be gentle and don’t judge. Your loved one needs you – time to get decluttering!
While this guide is not necessarily for people with ‘hoarding disorder’, it’s important to note that hoarding disorder is a serious condition that may require therapy or further help from a GP.
If you’re worried that someone you love might be a hoarder, visit nhs.uk/hoarding-disorder for information & how to seek help.
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*Packaging materials delivered to your home: T+Cs apply
Delivering packaging materials to customers is something we are currently trialling as a limited-time offer. Available upon rental of a storage unit (or for customers with existing storage units).
Available for customers within the Cardiff area only. Available on the assumption we have adequate staffing available – in the unlikely circumstance of staff illness or shortage, we may postpone your delivery but will inform you as soon as possible.
We’ll aim to deliver your materials within the next few business days after purchase, but deliveries may be subject to local COVID-19 restrictions.