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Home Design with Kevin Sharkey

10 Things to Stop Hoarding

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Every collector knows that there's a fine line between curating an assemblage of treasures and hoarding them, something that happens when a collector loses control (or count) of his treasure trove. Even if you've found yourself close to the latter—it happens so easily with beautiful things especially—be comforted that the season of purging is upon us.

In the spirit of spring cleaning, I've detailed below the clutter-culprits that sneak up most easily in my life.  I also reached out to my friend and organizing expert Anduin Havens to see what she recommends cleaning out. Let me know in the comments below what items you love to collect and the ones you find yourself accidentally hoarding.

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My Top 5

1. Unless you re-use them, eliminate that stash of once-used paper and plastic shopping bags. Paper ones can go right into a recycling bin, and plastic ones can be donated to farmers and flea markets (or even animal shelters) for re-use.

2. Same goes for boxes. Truly beautiful boxes worth keeping are actually rare, so though my Achilles heel is a well-made box, I've limited myself to keeping Hermes and Marc Jacobs boxes.

3. As much as it pains me to say it, get rid of some of your magazines. Rip out the things you're interested in and file them. In the industry we call this "swipe." Martha calls me The Tear-orist because I'm ruthless about ripping things out.

4. Beauty and cleaning products. I don't know what it is, but everyone wants to open that new bottle of product before finishing the last. Toss forgotten half-used bottles or commit to using them up before puncturing a new seal.

5. Mugs. Break them all! Novelty mugs are the bane of my existence. Buy one nice set and leave it at that.

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Anduin's Top 5
1. Get rid of clothing! If you haven't worn it in 7 years, it's wasting space. That size 4 you haven't fit into since the 90's is a pipe dream. More and more re-sell boutiques are cropping up, if it pains you to give away something beautiful.

2. Go through jewelry and accessories regularly. Unless it's a classic piece, be ruthless.

3. Kids toys, books and games. Keep the absolute favorites for posterity but toss the junky plastic that has seen better days. Teach your children about charity by donating gently used items.

4. Electronics that you've replaced with updated technology – bring it to an electronic recycling center.

5. CDs! They take up so much space and can be easily uploaded into a digital computer file. If you must keep the actual CD, get binders so that they store smaller and no matter what, ditch the cases.

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Comments (18)

  • Where are all those Hermes boxes? Never put stuff in storage, never discard, LIVING zines, and never wear shoes in the comfort of your own home.

  • Thank you Kevin for this simplistic list to help me de-clutter. I also love th eidea of getting rid of 100 things over a weekend! Love your blog, keep up the great work.

  • Happy Monday Kevin, very helpful and interesting tips. Thank you both for your tips, and Anduin Haven videos collection of organizing ideas.
    Have a successful week!

  • As the daughter of a hoarder I constantly am making sure I don't fall into the same cycle as my Mum did, she substituted "things" for life, love and happiness. When she passed away it took me almost 3 months to sort through all her "treasures" only to be left with a small box of photos and moments of her life. How sad it makes me feel when we are constantly replacing "life" with a need to engulf ourselves with purchases and materialistic objects in an effort to make ourselves happy....

  • I collect books and furniture - I look for nice pieces at fleemarkets, auctions, small local shops and abroad. Like you, I have a tendancy to hoard boxes - especially the ones from Laduree. They're just too beautiful to throw away! I'm also a fellow tear- orist :) I tear out recipes that goes in my recipe files, and inspiring photos that I put in my scrapbooks. I have several differently themed scrapbooks that I turn to for inspiriation when redecorating etc.

  • Some good advice except I take one a step farther, when I see something in a magazine I like and want to remember, I pull it up on the computer and then Pin it. It took me a few weeks, but I no longer have files of items torn from magazines, now I have nice neat boards on Pinterest.

  • Hi there!
    Enjoyed reading your article! What do parents do with their children's old trophies that are left behind when they move out? I have over a 100 and hate to toss them. Do you have any suggestions?

    All the best,
    Joyce Ward

  • Author Comment:

    Great idea, Kristin!

  • Author Comment:

    Couldn't agree more about the Laduree boxes, Anette. Thanks for commenting!

  • "Mugs. Break them all! Novelty mugs are the bane of my existence. Buy one nice set and leave it at that."

    This is a hilarious no nonsense organizer. How true! You you have your own show .

  • Do not get rid of all those toys and children's outfits you treasured too quickly. My children loved playing with my "vintage" toys whenever they visited my parents and my daughter is photographed in several precious Polly Flinders dresses mom saved. Agreed, there is a limit to what you can keep, but one those things are gone, they are gone for good!

  • Friends and family can help each other by not giving gifts that almost inevitably become clutter (novelty mugs, post-it notes or t-shirts, etc.) or that create or add to a meaningless "collection". ("Mom drinks tea, so let's give her a teapot on every gift-giving occasion.") Even food items become pantry clutter if they aren't likely to be eaten right away.

    I realize it's more fun to buy and wrap some of those items than it is to give a gift card at a general-purpose store. But, what a shame to spend badly-needed money on something that we know will be/should be discarded or given away as "clutter".

  • Hi Joyce!

    Here's a few suggestions - You could take a few photos of the trophies and create a small memory book that includes pictures of your kids when they received these awards (it will take up a lot less space in your home!).

    Also, if your kids don't want them, check with your local Big brother/Big Sister organization or similar community group. They may be able to remove the nameplates and re-purpose the awards for deserving kids in your community!

    You could just save the nameplate or include photos of them in your memory book!

    Good luck with it!

    - Wendy

  • I feel the same on gifts. We like to request things like zoo or museum passes that we can't always afford for the kids. I'd so much rather have a ticket to a usable event for the kids, than just more "stuff" they don't need or want. Our relatives like to give a wrapped gift from a big-box store. That's their deal, but it doesn't need to become ours; we have learned to share (donate) the unnecessary gifts. It helps me to remember not to let gifts become a clutter trap or a guilt trip - once they are they are yours, they are yours to use (or give) as you please.

  • Excellent advice.

    I have a chronic illness that makes me feel like I have the flu. I learned decades ago to do something in small increments. I couldn't clean the whole living room at one sitting but I could do something for for ten minutes, rest for thirty. you get the idea. They have a website called the flylady.com. Sounds stupid but she gives out common sense. I could have made millions.

    For toys, my brother is now 43, had a lot of old toys in mint condition. He threw out the crap ones and displays the good ones in a cool curio in his Studio. It looks perfect.

    If u have tons of toys around your kids won't appreciate it. I made my attic into a craft/toy room. I have twins, first grand kids in the family, so u can imagine how many toys they have. My dining room was the toy room until last summer. I dumped all of the toys upstairs. My first floor is clean. I try to go through a bag a day The expensive ones I bought, I give to co workers. U will be shocked how many people cannot afford things and are too proud to ask. Or donate craft supplies and toys to school. Do you know teachers have to buy most of the stuff. I have one gorgeous armoire that doesn't fit in with our renovation. We finally saved enough money to buy a good piece of furniture every year. I was going to donate it but started asking co workers. Easiest way to get rid of stuff. Don't charge.

    Trophies, pick out a few that mean something. The first and last one he won, something along those lines. You get the idea. The rest give to a local school for autistic kids, etc. they would LOVE it. Someone mentioned take a pic of the trophy or dress and put it in an album

    I might be sick, mentally, but I love organizing. Once you get rid of stuff and organized you will literally feel a weight off your chest. You will be able to breathe in your home.

    Great blog as always

  • My rule for clothing is if I haven't worn it during whatever season it is it leaves when I pack that season up to store.
    I am also a swiper! I have a 3 ring binder that has categories for most things. I clean it out every 6 months and reevaluate whether I am going to use it in the NEAR future!
    I haven't bought a cd in years! If I-tunes doesn't have a song I don't need it!
    I am a pretty box hoarder and don't plan to weed any of them out because I use them all for craft storage. I also hoard anything butterfly or fairy that I can use in altered art! Craft supplies are another danger zone for me!
    Thanks for the tips!

  • A lot of these items can be repurposed. Think green Kev!

  • I will thank you only after I have de-cluttered. I need serious help.

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