We know we live in a consumer age but many of us don’t realise what our shopping habits are doing to our happiness, our freedom and our wealth.
De-cluttering - getting rid of things we don’t need or want - is actually more about gaining than losing.
It’s about gaining space, freedom and clarity. If you see it as an exercise that gives you something, you’re much more likely to throw out things you know shouldn’t be in your life.
It can even help you to lose weight, according to some doctors. Dr Pamela Peeke, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Maryland, often instructs patients trying to lose weight to create at least one clean and uncluttered place in their home.
She recalls one patient whose garage was “a solid cube of clutter”. The woman cleaned up her home and in the process lost nearly four stone – perhaps the extra exercise helped. “It wasn’t, at the end of the day, about her weight,” Dr Peeke says. “It was about decluttering at multiple levels of her life.” Here are three essential steps to take when de-cluttering your home.
Set yourself a goal De-cluttering doesn’t just give you freedom and calm, it can also make you money. Research from eBay has found that, as a nation, we are hoarding £7.3 billion worth of unused items. We might as well convert that junk into cash.
Set yourself and your family a target: perhaps enough for a week’s holiday in the South of France (perfectly do-able for most families’ level of clutter) or enough to have a really splendid Christmas with no debt hangover. Try to make the goal an experience rather than yet another thing to buy.
Use new sites that don’t have the high fees charged by eBay, which kick in when you sell more than 20 items a month. For example, Ziffit.com takes secondhand books, CDs, DVDs and games in a quick and easy way for almost instant cash.
You just scan the barcode of your items (or input the ISBN number on the books) into the website or app for an instant quote. You can expect to make roughly £4 an item.
When selling clothes, try ASOS Marketplace, which charges a flat 10% commission on any sales you make. The site is particularly good for vintage clothes.
It’s worth rifling through your children’s cast-off toys, too, as there can be some surprising gems there. Lego, for example, can have an astonishing resale value, particularly if it is complete, boxed and rare.
The largest percentage rise in price for any Lego set has been on ‘Cafe Corner’, a model of a hotel, that went on sale in 2007. The set originally sold for £89.99 but the price has risen to £2,217 online since it went out of production.
Disney DVDs can also be surprisingly valuable if they have had a limited stock sold. For example, Amazon is selling a Beauty and the Beast Blu-ray 3D Diamond Edition at an eye-watering £98.95 today, but it would have cost no more than £24.99 on release in 2011.
Even broken items may be worth something. Cash for Cartridges will pay up to £4.50 per empty printer cartridges and you can trade in old electronic items at Argos for vouchers or sell them on sites such as Money4mygadgets.com or CashInYourGadgets.co.uk.
Do it your own way There are various approaches to de-cluttering but ultimately you should do what suits you best and what you are most likely to continue with.
Marie Kondo, author of a new illustrated manual on home organisation, Spark Joy, as well as best-selling guide The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, writes that you should only keep items that “spark joy”, whether they are clothes or cutlery, books or bath salts.
She recommends going through your possessions in types. So rather than taking a drawer or cupboard at a time, she suggests doing all your books, perhaps, followed by your clothes, then your CDs and so on.
Anthea Turner, TV presenter and star of BBC show The Perfect Housewife, says you should be ruthless when you sort and only allow items to stay if they are useful, beautiful or seriously sentimental. “It’s no good just tidying up a drawer or cupboard and keeping all the same stuff.
Each item has to earn its place there,” she says. However, before you do it, it’s useful to follow the four box rule as you go. Have four boxes (or bags) which are designated ‘Sell’, ‘Mend’, ‘Charity’ and ‘Bin’. The ‘Charity’ and ‘Bin’ sections will be easy to dispose of and then you just have to work on the ‘Sell’ and ‘Mend’ boxes.
Set up healthier spending habits Now that you have de-cluttered, given things away, filled bin bags with useless piles of paper and sold stuff, you have probably already resolved to cut down the number of things you buy from now on.
There’s nothing like getting a fiver for something you bought for £200 to show one how easy it is to lose money.
So make this a turning point. Now that you have de-cluttered and even, perhaps, got rid of a few cupboards and shelves, make sure that from now on you question all purchases asking yourself: “Do I really need this? Will it give me joy long term?” Usually the answer will be ‘no’, so cut out the middle man. Take joy in not purchasing and you will continue the freedom and pleasure of a de-cluttered life.
Clear your mental clutter While de-cluttering your home can give you a wonderful sense of freedom, there may be even more benefits from de-cluttering your mind.
Next time you are on a plane or train journey, use the time to clear out your email inbox. Delete as much as possible and only answer those that really must be dealt with. Be ruthless.
Also, cut down on social media. Try going without any social media for a whole week and see how you manage. If you find yourself happier and calmer without it, then take yourself off all but the most essential platforms such as professional networking site, LinkedIn.
Or simply go through the people you follow and do as Marie Kondo says and get rid of any who don’t “give you joy”. Importantly, cut down the hours you spend in front of the TV. According to Thomas Corley, author of Rich Habits:The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals, 67% of rich people only watch TV for one hour or less a day.
Also only 6% of the wealthy watch reality shows while 78% of poor people do. Instead, spend more time with friends and go out to do things like taking an evening class or going to concerts.
In other words, live rather than watch.