Are You a Clutter Junkie?

Real Estate Sales Representative with Remax Results

The hardest part about moving isn’t the furniture. Those are big chunks. It is almost always a shock as to the amount of clutter, and unused ‘stuff’ we accumulate. “Where did I get all of this?” And then, “What do I do with it, how do I get rid of it?” It crept in piece by piece, sale by sale.

A few years back I worked through two years with an 88 year old widow. She wanted to move, but the garage was stacked with her deceased husband’s tools. Her daughter and sister sold it all. “Well, there is still all that stuff in the attic.” The daughter and sister hauled it down, sorted out who wanted what, and held an estate sale. Then they started on the house which overlooked a small lake. Heavy drapes and big lamps blocked the views. The drapes disintegrated in my hands as I took them off the rods. The carpet
was original to the1978 rambler. “Bought it with the house, gonna sell it with the house. It’s a good rug.” There was a tea pot collection, her son’s record collection, three vacuum cleaners, and antiques that nobody could remember what they were. By the time they finished, tears were trickling down the widow’s cheeks as she passively watched the flurry. Sunlit views from the lake washed across gleaming hardwood floors in every room. She had never noticed. She was angry that they had taken control, and it all happened too fast. “It looks like a hotel, like I don’t live here anymore.” The knickknacks, memories were all packed up and ready to go. She really didn’t live there anymore.

The longer you’ve been in a home, the more there is and the more overwhelming it is to divest. At what point do you toss your children’s 5th grade art work, once trendy jackets, irresistible bargains now jammed into closets and corners? Your kids don’t want it, your furniture isn’t to their taste, and they aren’t excited about china, or magazine collections. Disappointingly, treasures that you paid retail for are now almost worthless. Consignment stores pay pennies on the dollar, antique dealers cherry pick. There is value in the memories, not in the things.

It’s then that we realize we have to make decisions about the value of space in our lives. In order to move on, we have to give something up. When we look at new homes, the appeal is not only that it’s new, but also the open space and light streaming in through enormous windows. Staged furnishings are Spartan. No knickknacks or clutter to distract from flow of space and light. Why is that so appealing?  Because it’s how we want to live, with room to stretch and grow into a new space.

If you’ve ever watched the TV series Hoarders, you see people buried by their shopping addictions. In some cases it’s impossible to wrench the owners from the overload that they’ve accumulated. They’ll clutch each item as though it’s a precious gift. Even if it isn’t, it has significance to them. I’ve worked with several hoarders, giving up their treasures is an emotional battle. Some get close to a breakdown, most have at least one meltdown and have to be dragged across the finish line. On the morning of a 10AM closing, a seller was still in bed at 9AM when we came to do the walk through. She was just waking up and starting to pack. In that case, the buyer almost had a meltdown. She stuffed her broken heart with things in place of people or relationships that she missed.

When we think about it, is clutter an addiction?  Is it avoidance of divesting the insignificant to keep ourselves from creating a future? When we start a diet, the first thing we do is to purge and scour the fridge and pantry of all the foods we know will sabotage the diet. We clean out before we start over to have clear sight of where we are going. It’s uncomfortable, and takes commitment, but we know that if we hold the commitment we get the result. Moving is a life changing event that doesn’t happen in a day.

The easiest way to divest is to enlist help. Know that other people won’t give emotional value to your possessions. This really is a job you can’t tackle alone. If you have friends or family that you can bribe, you’re in luck. If you are related to college kids, they will take just about anything you don’t want and promise to love it. One of the best ways to get rid of people who you don’t like too much is to ask them to help you move. They will absolutely disappear. 

There are movers who pack it all, but I’m assuming you don’t want to take it all. Decide what you can’t live without, and let the rest go. You can donate, send to consignment, have a garage sale, find an antique dealer, estate sale planner, or gift some of it to the special people in your life. Whatever you do today, you will thank yourself for tomorrow.  Promise. 

Posted by

Mary Jo Quay

“That’s what I do: I move people—H O M E.”

 Phone: (612) 384-1360


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Joyce Marsh, Daytona Beach Florida
Joyce Marsh at Premier Sotheby’s International Realty - Daytona Beach, FL
Proudly Selling Florida Homes and Lifestyles

Decluttering seems to be one of the hardest tasks not just because of the time element but the emotional attachment we have to our “stuff” and keepsakes.

Jan 16, 2018 08:41 AM #1
Dorie Dillard CRS GRI ABR
Coldwell Banker United Realtors® ~ 512.346.1799 - Austin, TX
Serving Buyers & Sellers in NW Austin Real Estate

Good afternoon Mary Jo Quay ,

What a great post with a title so appropriate! You are right "Whatever you do today, you will thank yourself tomorrow."  So often there is value in the memories, not in the things that we accumulate. I've been getting rid of many things over the past 5 years and am so proud to see my attic with next to nothing in it! It's liberating!

Jan 16, 2018 11:15 AM #2
Mary Jo Quay
Remax Results - Edina, MN

Thank you Dorrie!  Purge is the word for 2018!  I don't need all I thought I needed 5 years ago. It does lighten your load.  When working with hoarders, or clutterers, I see a body trapped in an overbearing turtle shell of their own construction.  The are liberated when they can finally crawl out and come back to life. 

Jan 16, 2018 11:35 AM #3
Nina Hollander
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage | Charlotte, NC - Charlotte, NC
Your Charlotte/Ballantyne/Waxhaw/Fort Mill Realtor

I've moved so many time, Mary Jo, one thing I can honestly say is that I'm not a clutter junkie. But I still have lots of things in my home which are meaningful to me.

Jan 16, 2018 12:44 PM #4
Sharon Tara
Sharon Tara Transformations - Portsmouth, NH
New Hampshire Home Stager

I was surprised, very surprised, when I scrolled down and this isn't featured! 

What a great post, Mary Jo!

So well written and such insight into the whole clutter removal process and emotional ties.


Jan 17, 2018 06:56 AM #5
Carol Williams
U.S.: I specialize in helping agents who have been in the business 2 years or less create a thriving business. - Wenatchee, WA
"Customized Mentoring & Marketing Services"

What a wonderful post, Mary Jo Quay .
It made me think of all my "things".  I've been purging for 6 years and I still have too much.  BUT, many of the memories are in those things.  I have a lot of pictures and memorabalia from travels with my husband.  How does one divest themselves of that, especially after the loss of the loved one?  I was telling my brother (who is the executor of my estate) the other day that while I am alive they are invaluable.  When I'm dead they will probably be worthless and that's ok. Give it away, sell it, throw it all away.  Whatever.  That said, I am not a hoarder.  Fortunately, I have a spacious home and it is organized.   Thanks for the post.  It's an issue many folks deal with as they are "forced" to move due to age and care needs.

Jan 17, 2018 07:15 AM #6
Kat Palmiotti
Grand Lux Realty, Monroe NY, 914-419-0270, - Monroe, NY
The House Kat

After having to clean my parents house after they had both deceased, that's exactly what I thought. That we all have too much stuff that really doesn't matter. The photos matter. Some of the mementos matter. But most of it? Nope.


Jan 20, 2018 03:48 AM #7
Dorie Dillard CRS GRI ABR
Coldwell Banker United Realtors® ~ 512.346.1799 - Austin, TX
Serving Buyers & Sellers in NW Austin Real Estate

What a great post, Mary Jo and so glad to see it featured in Carol Williams , Second Chance Saturday series..I thought for sure this would be featured. The AR Gods are snoozing!!

Jan 20, 2018 07:07 PM #8
Jeff Dowler, CRS
Solutions Real Estate - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude - Carlsbad

Hi Mary Jo

What a wonderful post! You handled a tough topic in a very sensitive way, with good suggestions and understanding. I think most seller who have a lot of stuff are not at all prepared for the challenges they face when it's time to move. And the chore of getting rid of this stuff is far from pleasant, and it takes a lot of time.


Jan 21, 2018 10:36 AM #9
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