Hoarders are great subjects for cartoons. “We laugh because we have some of those tendencies ourselves. It’s hard getting rid of all the ‘stuff’ we have accumulated,” says Karen Peterlin who together with Joyce Jed set up the first Good Neighbors Clutter Group about three years ago and now co-leads the group with her.
Everyone has different priorities about what to keep and what to throw out, Karen notes. “Some people want to save their wedding dress even though their daughter has said she wants to choose her own. But they’re willing to part with grandma’s china tea set which, like thousands of others, has gold paint on the rims so can’t be put in the dishwasher nor into the microwave, and therefore isn’t used. Some will sort through the piles of photographs that they’ve kept for years and throw out the ones in which they no longer recognize the people or where the photographs were taken.”
“The things that are hardest to say goodbye to are those we’re personally attached to, those that bring back memories of what we’ve accomplished in our lives and the people we have met,” Karen says.
You can find professionals who will take items of value and sell them for you but what we need at this stage in our lives, Karen says, is help making decisions about all those things we’ve collected over time that have little or no market value.
“Most of us know what we have to do and there are lots of tips online,” Karen says, “but doing it on your own is much harder than doing it with the help of a group.
Karen started the Clutter Group, she says, because she heard a lot of people who were moving say how difficult it was to decide what to take with them when the place they were moving to was so much smaller. And she knew she had some of the same problems, wanting to keep everything that reminded her of the people she had worked with as a social worker all over the world, from Kenya and Tanzania to Cambodia.
“One of the most important aspects of belonging to the group is that you commit to accomplishing something. Then at the next meeting you’ll report on your progress. Members will give you tips such as ‘don’t try to clear up more than you can handle’ so you don’t become discouraged. You also get a sense of accomplishment and avoid the embarrassment of admitting how much you fell short.
“You can’t get rid of everything all at once,” Karen says. “You should tackle only what you know you can do in the time between meetings. A good tip is to give yourself a time frame: set a timer and give yourself an hour. Leave the rest for the next time. The group will help you be honest with yourself. Do you need all those table settings and dressy outfits now that we mostly don’t give big parties and everything is casual. They’ll help you assess what you need to keep, and suggest strategies for getting rid of other things you no longer need such as old documents, books and kids’ report cards.”
There are many ways of running a clutter group but they work best when membership is limited to 10 members. If the group is too large, some people won’t get a chance to report on what they’ve accomplished since the last meeting and so one of the key elements --reporting progress --is lost.
“I get a great deal of satisfaction from seeing other people’s success,” Karen says, smiling. “Most people enjoy some sense of order and I like to share their journey to get to that point.”
Do you want to be part of a Clutter Group? Karen’s group is full. Why not solve your clutter problem by organizing a new group?