There’s an idea going around that decluttering is just for the middle and upper class set who can afford to let something go that they might need to replace one day. Which begs the question, in what situation, rich or poor, will any of us need a single flip-flop, its mate left at the beach? Or a stack of newspapers from the 1990’s?
I’d argue that decluttering is an equal opportunity task, useful to all. Sure, the ultra-rich may be decluttering things they simply don’t like but if I’m living in dire straits, the last thing I need is a bunch of clutter everywhere, making it impossible for me to find the things I need. You could even argue that I’d need to declutter even more than the affluent packrat, since it may cause me hardship to have to buy a duplicate of something I already have but simply cannot find in amongst the clutter. If there’s stuff in there I could sell, I’m losing that opportunity by not being able to find it in my clutter-strewn abode.
The truth is, much of what leaves the house when you declutter is garbage. Old grocery flyers, lidless Tupperware, and torn, stained clothes. Tons and tons of ancient, unopened mail. We all must deal with the fact that stuff wears out, stuff comes in that we don’t end up using, stuff needs to keep moving so you can use your space. Decluttering on the regular helps you do that.
Whether you’re well-off and have accumulated a bunch of unused stuff through recreational shopping, or you’re going through hard times and you’ve picked up lots of free furniture from ‘free’ signs along the road, it’s still clutter if you don’t use it. Poverty mentality tells us we really need to hold onto that broken chair with the missing leg, but if we don’t fix the chair, if we don’t use it, if our dreams of selling the chair never quite materialize, it’s just clutter. If we stock up on scores of tins of beans because we fear not having enough to eat but we never actually eat those beans, then they’re clutter. They’re ineffectively papering over our fears. Decluttering isn’t the province of the idle rich and moneyed classes, it’s something that makes everyone’s lives better.
I’ve worked with people from all walks of life who’ve told me that decluttering was changing their lives in a way that meant the money they were spending to get it done was worth it to them. Just as you find the money for car repairs when you need them, getting help with a skill you don’t have can be a life-changing investment of resources. Decluttering is a necessary life-skill and if you don’t have the skill set yourself, getting help is going to change everything.
Undoubtedly, organizing has become decluttering’s shinier sister, with an emphasis on expensive containers, Pinterest-inspired fiddly labels, and the inevitable Marie Kondo fussy folding techniques. When people talk about decluttering as something for the middle and upper class, perhaps they’re thinking of all that stuff. The outer trappings of arranging your stuff so it’s pretty. But that Google millionaire who wants four custom-designed closets will still enjoy the results so much more if they declutter first, so they can find things at a glance.
And yes, most people can’t afford to pay for that and would consider it a luxury. But being able to find your stuff? Not having to wade through mountains of crap you never use? Saving money by being able to find the things you need when you need them? Priceless. Available to all. You can do all that without dropping a fortune at The Container Store. And it all starts with decluttering.
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