We Are What We Keep

Clutter comes in many different forms and varieties. We accumulate it over time and every major life stage seems to spawn its associated assortment of material possessions. Boomers are in that unique mid-life position- still working and able to continue to buy. Many are inheriting assets from the previous generation, as well. It is likely that no generation in the history of the world has had as much stuff to contend with, as this one does. The average Canadian household wastes $1,300 a year on items that are purchased but never used.


A study undertaken by the Australian Institute in early 2008, entitled “Stuff Happens” Unused things cluttering up our homes, identified which kinds of people were likely to retain clutter, and which were not. Among the findings were:

· People under 35 were less likely to have cluttered rooms than people over 35

· Couples with children had more clutter than those who were childless

· Single parents and more clutter than singles without children

· People who own their homes have more clutter than those who have a mortgage- who in turn have more clutter than renters

· People who live in detached houses have more clutter than those who live in townhouses or apartments, presumably because they have less space.

In an attempt to understand the nature of clutter and how it invades the home, the author, Stephen Fear, classified 4 categories of clutter.

1.  Emotional clutter– Things with high sentimental but little financial value. This includes many items and photographs that we inherit from loved ones.


  • Record albums, cassette tapes and 8 tracks
  • Devices or players in which to play them
  • Comic book collections
  • Action figure collections
  • Birthday cards
  • A cell phone the size of a milk carton! (Yes, one of my clients had one =.=)
  • Homework from elementary school
  • College texts
  • Autograph dogs
  • Bronzed baby shoes
  • Macramé hanging plant holder

2. Just in case clutter– little sentimental meaning but held on to for emergency or perceived use in the future basis. 55% of respondents in the survey indicated that they acquired things for that reason.


  • 30 years worth of pay stubs
  • Screws and miscellaneous hardware of undetermined origin
  • Duplicate toasters and other appliances in case the main ones break down
  • Tax returns older than 7 years
  • Recipes
  • Boxes and packaging for computers and audio equipment that may have to shipped for repair some day
  • Dusty cans of food without expiration dates on them
  • Toy stockpiles in case someone’s grandchild comes to visit
  • Clothing that’s too sizes to small in case you lose 20 pounds

3. Bought Clutter – impulse items, often purchased recently, that never gets used.


  • Clothing
  • Anything from the Home Shopping Network
  • Items bought to replace things you could not find
  • Books and magazines
  • Gourmet kitchen gadgets
  • Electronics
  • Stockpiles of gifts for other people

 4. Bargain Clutter – clutter that is acquired cheaply (like garage sales), given to you or picked up at the side of the road


  • Lumber and building supplies
  • Kitschy salt and pepper shakers and creamers shaped like cows
  • Bikes in need of repair
  • Games with missing pieces
  • Punch bowl set for 20

So now that we have listed out pretty much everything that we keep, it is time for cleanup!  However, unlike computer software, we cannot simply hit the “Delete” key ( yes, life is never easy:( )  In my next article, I will share with you 10 Good Riddance tips to make your life clutter-free.  If you have any question, simply comment below or even better, contact us at Good Riddance! We’d love to hear from you.

Susan Borax
E: goodriddance@shaw.ca
P: 604 421 5952


Susan Borax and Heather Knittel

Co-author of Good Riddance: Showing Clutter the Door.
Good Riddance Professional Organizing Solutions
Practically Daughters Senior Move Managers



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s