How to organise your home – hoarding, filing and the art of cutting things neatly out of magazines

I’ve always thought of myself as a reasonably organised type of person. I don’t have years of old newspapers piled in corners, hideously out of date clothes hanging in my wardrobe, or an attic full of faulty televisions and broken Christmas decorations. I’m not hugely sentimental and have never considered myself a hoarder.

Just recently though, I’ve begun to wonder whether this sense of orderliness has less to do with my personality, and more to do with the fact that I have moved house a lot. In my 32 years, I have lived in over 20 different houses. Moving so frequently, you just don’t have the time to build up collections of junk you don’t need. You’re forced to continually sort and review your possessions, and if you know you’re going to probably be packing, moving and unpacking within the next couple of years, it makes you think twice about holding onto things ‘just in case’.

Where we are now is the longest by far that I have ever lived in a house, it will be five years in January, half a decade. How this has happened I don’t know. Maybe it’s just true that time speeds up as you get older.

The other day I thought I should perhaps have a sort out of my filing cabinet. Sorting Things Out is the kind of household chore I enjoy and I regularly empty draws of useful but annoying bits and bobs into the bin and give away Belle’s toys to Oxfam. I find it soothing.

When I opened the top drawer though I was not so soothed. It turns out the last five years have passed just as quickly for my filing cabinet as they have for me. Since 2006 I have been living under the illusion that I run my home and my finances like a well oiled machine, that important documents are filed neatly away in date order. God knows where this idea came from.

I take out a file labelled ‘home’. This really isn’t a very helpful description. It seems to contain everything from five year old car insurance documents to scraps of wall paper and dulux paint sample cards. Another labelled ‘bills’ is completely empty – what? I have no bills? An intriguing file I once optimistically called ‘holidays and outings’ contains an interesting collection of brochures for exhibitions that closed in 2007, and sumptuous looking pictures of holidays I will never be able to afford.

My favourite is ‘Misc Personal’, a confused bundle of passports, old love letters, particularly well drawn pictures by the children (I throw away the rubbish ones that don’t look like things), and old medical information.

Hmm… seems I’m not so well organised after all. It was all a myth…

I stare at the piles of paper for a while but can’t figure out how to solve it other than either just throwing it all away or moving house, so I just shuffle everything into tidier piles and put it all back in the drawer. I wonder how other people make decisions about what to keep and what to throw away without the threat of the limited space in a moving van to motivate them? Looks like I am destined to be one of those crazy hoarding ladies after all, surrounded by cats and bits of paper cut out from magazines.

Now where did I put my scissors??



  1. 19 November, 2010 / 12:31 pm

    As some one who has also moved house a lot I’m with you, last house move was nearly 3 and a half years ago and our first with children and online shop, it was a nightmare, I am now evn more ruthless with my clutter and actively discourage anyone from buying and bringing ‘stuff’ into my home! Next house move is scheduled for approx 6 months time! The gypsy in me has left the building!

    • 23 November, 2010 / 3:25 pm

      I’m terrible about bringing in ‘stuff’ – I tend to think in terms of scales – bring stuff in = give stuff away, otherwise the place would just fill up wouldn’t it??

  2. Ksiu
    19 November, 2010 / 12:51 pm

    I am horrible, i don’t like to throw away anything. I’ve moved 5 times in 5 years and every time i had to get rid of so much useless junk and it made me sad every time. I’m always scared that I might need it in the future. Now and again i reorgonise my file cabinet, and even though i throw away quite a lot, i still have loads of stuff left. I’m afraid that when i’ll settle down in one place it’s gonna look like junk yard.

    • 23 November, 2010 / 3:24 pm

      Five times in five years? You wouldn’t think you would even have TIME to accumulate that much junk in that time – good going!

  3. 19 November, 2010 / 2:58 pm

    Yeah I know what you mean. I love moving house because then you can justify to yourself chucking out stuff. Othewise it is sometimes hard to rid oneself of stuff especially if it has sentimental value.

  4. 19 November, 2010 / 3:24 pm

    Cutting things out is a step forward from me – I’m trying to work out where I’ve accumulated various ripped out pages from so I can then go to work acquiring the presents on them (yup I’m being incredibly productive this afternoon)

  5. 19 November, 2010 / 4:10 pm

    I love ‘sorting things out’ too. It’s a pleasure – but it basically means taking one pile and making lots of other piles: Getting rid (recycling, charity, bin) of some, putting the rest in a corner to ‘make stuff out of’, and the piles of paper in other files until I sort those out too. There was an article in the Times Magazine a few weekends ago about 20-something minimalists living with hardly anything – I wonder if they will change once they have kids…

  6. 19 November, 2010 / 9:49 pm

    I have a Misc Personal folder too! One day I’ll get around to organising it properly but I’ll probably have to move first.

    My rule is that if I can find whatever I need within about 20 minutes I’m not going to waste my free time filing stuff.

  7. 22 November, 2010 / 2:16 pm

    I had (have) the Huge Pile of Stuff sitting in a prominent spot in our playroom/library/music room/den. Most of the Pile is made of up of memorabilia and photos of my life from 2002 through about 2007. Whittling down the Pile has been a 6 month project, and I’m still not finished! Only my husband’s occasional evil glares at the pile keep me going. I’m afraid if I don’t finish working my way through it soon, he’ll do it for me…

    • 23 November, 2010 / 3:23 pm

      Wow! That sounds like a very impressive pile! One of the joys of not having any other adults in the house is that I can create as many piles as I like and no one can glare at me :-)

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