Posted by: Jocelyn | December 31, 2008

Decluttering (a cautionary tale)

Decluttering 1
Decluttering 2
We wanted to do some major decluttering over the Christmas-New Year break, so hired a jumbo bin for the period. You really cannot get an idea of the size of this thing from the photos – but that is a bed in one corner, and you can see my car parked behind it in one of the photos. It is BIG!!! And it is nearly full; it will be completely full when it is taken away.

In our defence, not all that rubbish is ours!
A couple of years ago, a few months after my father-in-law had passed away, my mother-in-law moved into a rest-home. My husband and I, and 2 of his siblings and their partners, gathered at the house to clear it out. At the time, we got rid of 3 jumbo bins of “things” and the rest somehow ended up in our garage.

So for the past 2½ years we have literally not been able to get into our garage, there was so much stuff. And now we are throwing it away. With very few exceptions, it is all just being thrown away.

The cautionary tale… Mum-in-law was (is) a master hoarder. She kept everything. She also bought lots and lots of stuff by mail order (they didn’t drive and lived a fair distance from any shops, so shopping expeditions were done by the bus. Mail order was her friend!).

If you are a bit of a hoarder yourself – please re-consider. Do you want your sons and daughters to have to cope with a whole house-load of trash? Do you want them to have to sort through cupboards of old linen, and plates, and mouldy old craft items?

Or if you are the sort who makes do with old things while new ones lie in their packaging untouched, again, please reconsider. We found piles of old stained holed towels and tea-towels which they were using, while new ones were stacked up in cupboards. We found the kitchen full of beaten up old cutlery, chipped plates, and dented pans, with new ones stored in their garage.

We found things purchased by mail-order, where the box had been cut into to see what was inside, and then put away untouched. We found old electrical appliances that had been kept even though there were rusted and useless.

Most of the still-useable things have found new homes, but really, nearly everything has been thrown away. I have been quite sad, throwing away all this stuff – some of it truly rubbish, some of it things they had treasured but which means nothing to others.

If you have new things put away for “special occasions” or just to be used ‘later” – use them now. Use them. Enjoy them. Get rid of the old stuff which is cracked and chipped and holed and broken. By all means, keep some mementos and reminders of past good times, but don’t keep everything.

Use those silver napkin rings, even if it’s with paper napkins and take-outs. Or give them to someone who will use them, or sell them.
Use that fabulous big cutlery set. Why should it be kept for special occasions only – it was made to be used – use it! Use the new sheets on your bed, and the new towels in your bathroom. What is the point of keeping them unused?
Why not use that lovely dinner set often? Yes, a plate may get broken, but at least it will be enjoyed. How much enjoyment do you get from it while it is sitting in the back of the cupboard?
Why continue to use a tatty old handbag when you have some new ones just sitting there? At the first sign of disrepair, throw it away. Use the nice ones and throw away the old ones. Don’t keep them in case you want to use them again. You won’t! Throw them away!

Your sons and daughter will thank you for using the nice things and throwing away the old ones.

End of todays’ lesson.



  1. good idea. I am the opposite – i chuck out everything. I am using for everyday (oh the horror ) the ‘good’ dinner service my nanna gave for our engagement – it was her wedding present and it got used once a year at Christmas. i was going to do the same but then i thought why not actually use it. none of it broken …yet!
    My mum is a bit of a hoarder – especially using the old stuff while new stuff sits in the cupboard. just recently i told her to make sure not to use any of the new stuff so when she dies I can have it – ive always wanted a big pile of mothbally unused linen and towels with 1970s patterns :). she took the hint and threw out some of the older stuff. she was complaining she didnt have enough space in her linen cupbboard – i pointed out she only needs a couple of towels and sets of sheets – wash one use one and then when they wear out buy another two. i worked out that at the rate a towel wears out she had enough linen in her cupboard to last her the rest of this lifetime and probably another one or two.

  2. Oh dear, I think I’m in the ‘Hoarder” category. We still have some tea chests, unpacked, in the back of the garage from our move to this house 31 years ago! They’ll all be vintage homewares by now, probably go for a bomb on Ebay, LOL. After our recent brush with a house fire, I’ve started to tidy up inside and throw a lot away. BUT we have to reposition the laundry for a few months while they re-furbish it and the bathroom as well. Looks like we’ll need a couple of large skips to tidy up the garage so the washing machine can go in there.. which leads to more sorting and tidying and chucking out… Do I need all this now, with all my textile committments? Not really, but no-one else has offerred to do it yet. And I don’t really want one of those professional house cleaners to come in, as they don’t know the “keepers” from the “chuckers” when they see my stuff.
    I do know what you mean though about using the good things instead of saving them for a rainy day, I drank a vintage bottle of Champagne almost on my own at a party last night ! No headache and in the end it was only a bottle of (excellent) vintage Champagne !!

    Happy New Year, hope 2009 is all you wish it to be

  3. Decluttering is on the agenda for me in 2009 – my daughter has loaned me a copy of Peter Walsh’s “It’s all too much” – maybe it was a not-so-gentle hint. it is the first organising book that made any sense to me.
    In my favour I do use most of my linen and china – sometimes the choice is based on whether it will be easily ironed or whether it can go in the dishwasher – but often i don’t let either deter me.

  4. Joycelyn, You are sneaking around my stuff! LOL
    Your little story is so true, I am also a hoarder, who is slowly getting the clutter out. Haven’t talked with you in a while. The renevation is fablous. I know it give you a whole new feeling. Also that White Work is beautiful. You do such special stitching, have a good 2009, keep stitching

  5. That’s quite a story about cleaning out! I am currently cleaning things out, but on a much smaller basis. Makes it easier to clean weekly and to spend more time doing artwork! I saw your fiber postcard online and just love it (the bird). I am an art therapist/painter mainly, also college. I would love to create a piece like yours. I do know how to embroider a bit and would like your advice as to how to start a small project such as yours. Remember, I am a novice. Any advice for me? Thank you kindly. Your work is absolutely awesome! Barbara

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