Let’s get the nasty surprises out of the way first: some of the most common surprises I come across have to do with neglect. And those tend to be the most horrifying ones at the same time.
Any kind of infestation will do to make decluttering worse: silverfish and spiders can be surprising, but hardly worth more than the initial shock. Then there are all kinds of beetles and roaches, running around quickly and hiding in places you cannot reach. These days, bedbugs have made a reappearance in many households and those things are even tougher to get rid of. If I come across any of the above, I go into abort mode straight away as the only way to get rid of them is to call in an exterminator.
The same goes for rodents: in case of a rat or mouse infestations, it’s best to call an exterminator sooner rather than later. Rats can also bring their own kind of additional horrors: flea infestations are often associated with rats nearby, but in many cases can simply be attributed to pets.
Mould and water damage
If clutter is held for long periods of time, maybe under rather bad conditions in sheds, lofts, garages, and the recesses of wardrobes and storage cupboards, your belongings are then subject to all kinds of physical damage. The main culprit here is damp that damage stuff, but also lack of circulation leading to mould accumulation in the space AND on the clutter stored in it.
In my experience, anything found in those spaces should really be let go. However, it usually takes a long time before that fact becomes obvious. Sentimental attachment to things overrides the practical sense that something is ruined beyond repair. It can take a while before this becomes clear, but ultimately most of such damaged goods are being let go.
After these horrifying unexpected finds, let’s look at the nice surprises!
It’s amazing how much money is lost in our homes: I rarely end a session without having found lots of coins and often also bills, sometimes lost for ages. We seem to have a knack to let those things slide out of our pockets and into cracks and crevices where they reside until a huge cleanse is taking place. Coins also end up in the aforementioned ‘just for a moment so it’s out of the way for now’ drawer and accumulate there. We tend to deposit those coins we find somewhere rather than putting them back into our wallets: maybe it’s time to change that particular habit?
Most of the other surprises are of a practical, physical nature, but memories have a way of creeping in when we least expect them. These are also times when decluttering becomes more involved as it’s not just any old item, but one that may hold more meaning than a kitchen strainer or a binder with old invoices.
Memorabilia are often found in lofts, garages and forgotten corners of wardrobes: it’s a rare session that does not involve a number of times of me saying “you’ll have time to look at that when we have finished this job”. Usually, it’s photo albums, children’s artwork, picture frames, and stuff brought back from afar that suddenly leads to emotional moments! This is where I have to be even more observant and careful to look out for signs of any kind of emotional distress.
There is always paperwork in strange places, representing the whole spectrum from unopened mail, unpaid bills, certificates, flyers, ripped out articles, to last wills or important tax information. It amazes me each time how people cannot be more careful about their papers, and at the same time complaining that they pay fines, being late with administration or losing track of their necessary documents.
There are three simple truths to paperwork: don’t neglect incoming papers, take action right away, and file papers properly. Once things get out of hand it becomes very difficult and time-consuming to get back on track, so you better not let things pile up in the first place.
Which of these surprises have YOU come across when clearing or cleaning your home? What can you do to avoid them from happening?
Ask the ClutterMeister
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