When does being frugal turn into hoarding? I keep coming back to this question lately.
Both my husband and I tend towards being pack rats. I think it’s my European roots, but I hate throwing perfectly good things away. It just seems so wasteful. We both like to hang on to things that we think may be of use down the road. We don’t have drawers of used nails, or twist-ties, but things get crowded quickly when you live in a small space.
We have a technique we use to get rid of “perfectly good” junk. We hang it on the fence outside our apartment building and usually within minutes it is taken. It makes me feel good that that item isn’t being carted off to a landfill. But we still have clutter. We don’t have stacks of newspapers piled up on our floor, but we do keep a section to use to start our bbq. I don’t have mountains of craft supplies, but I usually have what I need to start a project on a whim. I am slowly trying to weed out books we haven’t read in years, but I like to hang onto my reference books (canning, chicken keeping, cooking, nature guides, etc.)
I can’t figure out how to live with less stuff without throwing things out and then having to re-buy them later. Certainly the obvious answer is to not buy things later. Learn to live with less stuff. See The Story of Stuff, which is a great video. Having a kid adds to this stuff exponentially. My daughter is constantly being given gift bags at parties and school, which are filled with cheap plastic toys. This stuff makes my skin crawl because it is fodder for landfills. Zerowastehome’s blog details how she has taught her children to refuse these things. I admire her, but I’m not quite there yet.
I know I hang on to things for sentimental reasons as well, but I think that’s what makes a house a home. Personal items that mean something to you. A friend of mine who has a very uncluttered home once said to me that she would come here to help me de-clutter. She would hold something of mine up, I would tell her the story about it, and then she would throw it away.
And, honestly I know I’m not a hoarder. I had a relative who was and it goes far, far beyond having a messy or cluttered home. It’s just in reading about the approaches psychologists use to help change the behavior of hoarders that I see similarities:
- Make more reasonable judgments when deciding if an object is worthy of keeping or not.
- Learn how to make quick decisions on whether to keep an object or toss it.
- Practice discarding items while sorting through the intense emotions they trigger.
I guess my dilemma is how to keep this stuff from making its way into my home in the first place (Just yesterday I filled a giant recycling bag of paper – mail and school papers). And how can I get rid of it in a way that doesn’t lead it straight to a landfill? And am I a “normal” person who just lives in a tiny space without much storage? Or would I just fill my attic and basement with stuff if I had an attic and basement?
What’s a girl to do?