When your wardrobe starts fighting back...it is time to do battle with the clutter

Ellen and her son

Ellen and her son - Credit: Archant

Ellen Widdup’s 2.4 Children

I have a “tendency towards accumulation”.

Other people might say I am a hoarder. But this seems a little unfair.

I only keep things that I might, one day, have a use for.

“You could apply that theory to anything,” my husband complained, watching me sift through my lipstick box. “You really need to do something about all this junk.”

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My son joined in.

“Why do you need so many lipsticks when you’ve only got one mouth?” he asked smirking.

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Men. They just don’t get it.

That said, my inability to chuck out old make up is probably symbolic of the extent of my problem.

After all, we could redecorate the bathroom in nail polish if we had the inclination.

And I had to admit, after a box of long-forgotten winter boots came crashing down on my head from the top of the wardrobe leaving me with mild concussion, something needed to be done.

I mean, when your wardrobe starts fighting back, a tube of Arnica will only mend so much.

So this week I attempted a major clear out.

Now I have to point out, I am not a messy person. But anyone who has been to my house would not believe the chaos that reigns beneath the surface of serenity.

Let’s start with my clothes. My drawers bear witness to almost two decades of attempts to be trendy.

There is no such thing as the elusive “capsule wardrobe” for me. I have clothes which range in size from 8 to 18. I keep the smaller ones in the vain hope that I may one day squeeze back into them. The big ones just in case I ever get pregnant again.

Endless black trousers and cheap handbags jostle for space alongside Primark pants, Top-Shop T-shirts and a Chanel chemise I got at a sample sale and would really only fit someone unnaturally small.

I began the cull tentatively. Jeans, baggy on the bum, holes in the knees. Bin. White shirt, shapeless and unworn. Charity shop.

Before I knew it I had a vast mountain of garments to get rid of and a pleasing quantity of empty hangers.

So what if I couldn’t afford to replenish them? I’d rather ride naked down the high street than continue to live amid this clutter.

I started to work my way through the rest of the house. I even branched out – binning items which didn’t belong to me.

An old electric guitar missing the strings – that could go. My husband’s Smiths t-shirt with holes in the armpits – goodbye!

I went through his CD collection and got rid of half. I emptied his chest of drawers of odd socks, moth-eaten boxer shorts, jumpers with frayed cuffs, ties with food stains down them, his box of mismatched cufflinks.

It was even more satisfying binning his stuff than it was binning mine.

But I justified it because we are drowning in unneeded possessions. It should be called stuffocation. We can’t breathe for junk.

Broken tennis rackets, battered shoes, unwanted Christmas presents, an old coffee-maker, board games missing vital components and an array of paint samples I felt compelled to keep, just in case, in a future house, I suddenly love them.

A Swiss ball, bought when pregnant with my first, used once, impossible to store and never deflated. To pop it would be an admission of my weak core so it’s been rolling around the spare room ever since.

Then I started on paperwork. I went through boxes of university essays written not just in long hand, but in fountain pen.

Old letters, photographs and memorabilia relating to ex-boyfriends. A handwritten name badge I wore on my first day of school.

I shredded bills dating back to 2005. Ripped up bank statements I can now access online and trawled through a pile as tall as my son of old newspapers from the Noughties containing my articles. Read, laugh, chuck.

Next books. Now books have been a big thing in my life. Part of the furniture.

But they are also the biggest component of our mega-clutter and I recently purchased a Kindle so some needed to go.

So long. Farewell. Good riddance to thrillers, romances, biographies, autobiographies, artbooks, history texts, guides, manuals.

Five hours later my living room was starting to resemble the pavements during a binman strike, just less smelly.

But goodness, it was satisfying.

And I recommend it. I know many of you need to do it too. After all, according to a recent survey, Britain is a nation of hoarders. One in four households have a designated “clutter room” and British women in particular, are the worst culprits for hanging on to things.

And there is a new minimalism movement out there for people like me to aspire to thanks to two bloggers who decided to downsized their lives.

They set themselves a challenge to get rid of pretty much everything they owned and document how it changed their lives.

It might sound extreme, but a quick look on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter reveals there is a growing shift towards measuring our life by our experiences, rather than physical things.

It took me two car trips to the dump to get rid of my excess baggage.

But when my husband returned home I was sitting in my empty living room enjoying a glass of wine.

“You de-junked,” he said in wonder. “Well done.”

Then he went upstairs to change.

“I can’t find anything,” he called downstairs two minutes later.

“What are you looking for?” I shouted back.

“My comfy Smiths T-shirt,” he said. “You know, the one with the holes.”

“Hmmm,” I replied. “No idea I’m afraid. Maybe it’s time you sorted out your own wardrobe.”

Find me on Twitter @EllenWiddupRead more from Ellen here

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