It’s that time of the year again: Halloween is upon us and this means that the kids want a costume to hit the streets and ‘scare’ the neighbours. For Tilo Flache – the ClutterMeister – it’s also a reminder of the decisions we should be making regularly about our possessions.
I live in Brighton, and around here Halloween is by no means limited to the kids: everyone and their dog is dressing up big time for Halloween evening. Large parts of the city centre will be teeming with big production movie level makeup and outfits, not just on the day itself, but a couple of days before and after as well!
While there is obviously nothing wrong with that, quite the contrary, I find myself wondering what happens to all those costumes once the party is over. Of course, some will be recycled or thrown away afterwards, but I suspect many are going to end up in a box at the back of a cupboard, never to resurface again.
Let’s face it: next year around the kids will want a new costume which aligns with their latest heroes on the telly or whatever is popular that year. As for the adults, they’ll find themselves torn between finding themselves invited to a party with a different theme, or not wanting to be seen in the same costume again. Any way you look at it, costumes tend to be throwaway items, often made of low-quality materials and unlikely to be reused.
And now we think of it, isn’t a good part of your regular wardrobe likely to be very similar to fancy dress in some respect? You disagree? Think again. Some of your clothes serve one purpose only. Think about that black dress (or suit) you only wear to formal events, or those flowery clothes and footwear reserved for vacations (the ones you would never dream of wearing at home and can never find when you pack your bags for the next trip). Then there are all the items you bought as emergency replacements but are clearly below-par for daily use: that straw hat from the Spanish coast or the ugly mittens from the slopes of France. There are certainly clothes in your wardrobe which could be classified as dressing up in some way, we simply don’t call it ‘dressing up’.
Of course, some of those things may have cost you a pretty penny, and that makes you feel that they should be cherished and kept. The sad truth is that almost everything that we subject to this kind of reasoning will NEVER resurface again, and if it does it will be truly out of fashion, mouldy, undesirable, broken or just generally useless. The only effect they have is to make us regret buying and keeping them, and make us feel guilty for making bad decisions… Yet we find that we hang on to them rather than dispose of them until we are so overwhelmed with stuff that we are forced to declutter sometime in the future.
In terms of that Halloween costume, the best thing is to spend a moment the morning after the party to take a good look at whatever is left from the previous evening and make a decision there and then. If you are really lucky, this is when realisation strikes:
“Wow! This is what I should do at every turn in the road, and for every single item I own, isn’t it?”
Sadly, in the real world we postpone these kinds of decision by inventing all sorts of superficial reasons which allow us to hang on to those things: “it cost me money”, “it could be made into something new, someday”, “I’ll keep it for now and decide later”, “I could use this as a [fill in missing word here]”, or as many fake reasons as you can shake a stick at.
Most people feel that the process takes too much time so they end up procrastinating. Unfortunately, we are also very good at putting on blinkers and believing whatever story we come up with which will make the decisions go away.
Best practice: take those decisions sooner rather than later and get into the habit of doing this at every turn of the road!
If Tilo’s post has struck a nerve this Halloween, and you would like some help decluttering your home,
you can find your nearest professional organiser here.