The clutter of collections & letting them go

decluttering selling delilvery parcel boxes clutter collections

About 10 days ago I watched a YouTube video that changed everything for me.

I’d been holding on to a childhood collection for years.

Decades.

Well, since my childhood. Which is over thirty years to be precise.

It’s moved house with me countless times. I’ve lugged that collection in-and-out of more vans than I care to remember.

Yet I never unpacked it.

I just kept that collection boxed up. But, importantly, it was with me.

You see, I thought it was a part of me. That the items in the collection made me the person I am. Considering it was a collection from my early formative years, that could very well be true.

But I’d rarely looked at it since becoming a teenager. The collection was boxed up in the loft of our family home. And then it moved to the loft of my own home. And to the next home. And the next.

I didn’t use it.

I didn’t enjoy it.

I didn’t even look at it.

And when I watched a video by Ronald L. Banks last week, I realised something.

I didn’t need it.

The video is titled Minimalism for Collectors. If you have a collection, yet aspire to maintain a minimalist lifestyle, I highly recommend you watch it.

Just because Ron’s video inspired me to clear out my childhood collection, it doesn’t mean you’ll have the same experience. Because, in equal measure, the video validated me in keeping some of my collections. The things that do add value to my life.

But it also allowed me to look at that childhood collection with fresh eyes and motivated me to make a change.

I realised that collection was more of a burden than something I cherished. Worse still – I felt guilty that its condition was deteriorating because I wasn’t taking care of it.

It was time for that 30+-year-old collection to go.

One week later I have an empty cupboard the size of a wardrobe (yes, that’s how much space the collection took up!) and I have made over £1000 selling it off.

I don’t know what happened to me while I was watching Ron’s video, but I no longer felt sentimental about the collection. There was no nostalgia, no memories of happy times playing with it in childhood. I could simply see a stack of stuff that I didn’t even want to touch.

But just because this particular collection was no longer something I wanted, it doesn’t mean I’m against all collections now.

In fact, thank goodness for people with collections, as they are the ones who bought my childhood collection from me.

I picked out the few pieces that meant the most to me – the things that made me smile – and kept those. But all the rest is gone.

I feel so much lighter, happier and at peace, knowing that the collection will continue to be cared for by someone who really wants it.

How Freud’s 5 Stages of Psychosexual Development relate to hoarding

minimalism introducing psychology book hoarding theory science-1

One of my own personal theories is that some people are just ‘born minimalists’. Looking back over my childhood I believe I’m one of those people. During my research I’ve uncovered plenty of examples and psychological theories to support this. And, on the other hand, people can also be born hoarders – well, kind of. According to Freud, the tendency to hoard can be traced back to childhood.

Sigmund Freud came up with the 5 Stages of Psychosexual Development we all go through while growing up. Our experiences during that time will affect our future selves.

STAGES OF PSYCHOSEXUAL DEVELOPMENT BY FREUD

  • Age 0-2 Oral stage
  • Age 2-3 Anal stage
  • Age 3-6 Phallic stage
  • Age 6-11 Latent stage
  • Age 11+ Genital stage

While I’m sure there are lessons to be learnt from the other stages, the phase that relates to minimalism – or, in this case, hoarding – is at the age of 2-3 years: what Freud calls the Anal stage.

This is when a child takes its first steps to independence. It’s while potty training that a child can gain confidence and begin making decisions for itself. At this age children they learn to ‘let things go’. If parents are strict about potty training, the child may be reluctant to give up anything in the future.

You may have heard of the phrase ‘anally retentive’? Well, this second phase of childhood development is when someone begin to exhibit such traits. As such, they may develop hoarding tendencies later in life. A person is simply keeping hold of things because, as adults, they are able to make the decision for themselves. They are no longer being ‘forced’ to give it up.

It’s possible that your experience of potty training from the ages of 2-3 may impact your life as a minimalist. You may find it easy to let things go while decluttering. Or minimising your ‘hoard’ may be a more difficult process for you. Nonetheless, it can be done!

Have a read of our blog posts on the Practice of Minimalism for practical tips.

Benson, N. C., (2007) Introducing Psychology, London, Icon Books Ltd.