Children’s toys are among the commonest neat stacks of clutter in people’s homes

As we go through life, we gather things, some scattered and others unnoticed. They tell the story of our lives. Taking inventory of what I have gathered so far, they reflect my values, my identity and dreams at the different stages of my life- a baby, a child, teenager, adult, student, wife, mother, and now a grandmother. There was a time in my 40s when everything I possessed had a place, and there was a place for everything  but I set up homes in different countries and places and the children grew up , I have now settled for keeping neat stacks of clutter. Surprisingly, I know where most things are in those neat stacks of clutter.

The Oxford dictionary defines clutter as  a lot of things in an untidy state, especially things that are not necessary or are not being used; a lack of order synonym mess

Every home has some clutter either visible or tucked away in a garage, basement or attic. Clutter is the result of overbuying things or untidiness. It can cause us stress, anxiety and confusion. It makes us less productive and less effective. Hoarding things can also lead to clutter.

The psychologists give us three reasons why we all tend to keep too much:

  1. Fear- this is the main reason for our having too much. Our world has become a consumer society: we buy new goods especially goods we do not need since society attaches  high value on owning many things. A large part of people’s sense of identity and meaning is achieved through the purchase and use of consumer goods and services. Out of the fear of loss of security, loss of status, loss of comfort and loss of love, we tend to accumulate things.
  2. Sentimental attachment- cherished memories are linked to some of the thing we keep and our previous identities like college student, motherhood or fatherhood may be tied to the stuff. In this instance we are led more by emotions than reason.
  3. Belief that things have hidden monetary value. Such people think that they could sell off the items at a high price in future.

It is said that ‘later’ is the best friend of clutter.

The psychologists also warn us that if we keep accumulating things, we shall be overwhelmed by our possessions and be tied down. We all tend to gather things from past careers, relationships and unfinished business like a hobby we abandoned along the way. Over time, possessions become extensions of the self- symbolising our past, hopes, dreams and the better version of ourselves in the future. This explains why we all find it hard to get rid of the things we have accumulated.

 One Finnish proverb says: Happiness is a place between too little and too much.

However, most people who have lost everything through wars, fires, floods, earthquakes and have had to start all over again, have a different perspective of life and have developed the good habit of buying and keeping only what they need and what they can control. For such people ‘less is more’.

“ If it doesn’t add to your life, it doesn’t belong in your life.’’– Unknown

With a huge and thriving advertising industry that creates the need for products and services, we have no choice but to learn the organisation skills of elimination, categorising and organisation. This means organising your home regularly to create space and order. Everyone has individual reasons for clutter; clutter in our homes is a reflection of our emotions so when we declutter, we free our emotions too. This explains why some people who are completely overwhelmed by their possessions may need a psychologist to help them declutter and move on with their lives.

“ You can’t reach for anything new if your hands are still full of yesterday’s junk’’ – Louise Smith

The psychologists have some simple guidelines for decluttering your home/space

  • Do not buy what you do not need- If you do not have an immediate idea of what to use an item for or who to give it to as a gift then do not buy it.
  • Get rid of what you do not need, regularly, keep only things that add value to your life.

The two years we have spent at home during the Covid -19 pandemic Lockdown, have taught all of us what things are most important in our lives and what we need to live comfortable and enjoyable lives. This has made the process of getting rid of unnecessary items easier for us.

  • Set boundaries- it is your space and you are supposed to keep it orderly and organised so store only your own things. Many people take long to collect what has been stored for them by others.

How to get rid of things you no longer need or enjoy :

  • Give away- things that last like toys and books, can get a second and a third home. Give them to those who will enjoy using them.
  • Hard to give away items – items meaningful to you can be given to family members or friends.
  • Donate items to charities- to support causes you believe in. You give away out of gratitude so you enjoy it.
  • Sell some items- regularly hold a garage sale.  You clear out your home clutter while making some extra money.
  • Throw away-items that are no longer useful, broken or too old and any that do not add value to you or anyone else.  They include old newspapers and magazines, old furniture, expired stuff and things that rake up bad memories.

From my own experience, I have observed that habitual decluttering is generally easier for those people living in countries with the four seasons of winter, spring, summer and autumn. The weather patterns of each season demand for a different set of clothing, shoes and the styles and fashions tend to change every year.

My second country, Botswana, in the Southern Africa region has two main seasons: Summer and Winter. For the decades that I lived in Botswana, I had to declutter my wardrobe at the end of the year and donate the items along with what my children had overgrown to charities like the Botswana  SOS  Children’s  Village. I always left this place feeling good about myself.

The Bible in Acts 20 verse 35 tells us that it is more blessed to give than to receive.

Since I returned back home in Uganda, I hardly throw anything away after decluttering. This is because a large part of our population is struggling to buy the basic necessities of life like food, clothing and shelter. Once I sort out what I do not need anymore- from the simplest plastic container to an old phone or laptop, I just recycle it among my relatives and they find them useful and treasure them.

May be I should spare some time and sort out my ‘neat stacks of clutter’ and find a new home for the things that last.

Decluttering is never a one-time event since we keep buying things and decluttering is considered to be part of self-care. You declutter to reclaim your space. The more you do it, the better you get at it.

Remember that you never have to throw away that which you never buy.


Has this post helped you to see things differently and motivated you declutter your space regularly?

Published by

Jane Nannono

I am a mother of three, a medical doctor by profession, who has always been fascinated by the written word. I am a published author- my first fiction novel was published in March 2012 and is entitled ' The Last Lifeline'. I self -published my second fiction novel entitled ' And The Lights Came On' . I am currently writing my third fiction novel and intend to launch it soon. I also write short stories: two of them - Buried Alive in the Hot Kalahari Sand, Move Back to Move Forward were published among the 54 short stories in the first Anthology of the Africa Book Club, Volume 1 of December 2014. It is entitled: The Bundle of Joy.

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