Storage is Stealth Clutter: Is It Time To Declutter Your Life?


I used to think that once I owned a house it would be okay to have clutter because my stuff wouldn’t be going anywhere (not I thought of it as clutter at the time). Although the reality was that storage is stealth clutter. Is it time to declutter your life?

Unlike in my nomadic life at the time when I would cart all my stuff around whenever I moved house (which was quite often) or paid for it be stored if there wasn’t room for it in the new place.

Real wealth, security, and contentment come not from the trinkets we amass, but from how we spend the one life we’ve been given. [The Minimalists]

Three out of the five properties we’ve lived in during the past eight years have been rented. In every instance, we paid over the odds (to the tune of hundreds each year) to store our clutter. Despite this, each time we took our stuff back out of storage, most of the items we had forgotten we owned. But we never learned from this. The irony is that now we own a house (a sizeable one at that), most of the belongings we stored for all those years we no longer have. With the exception of items of furniture, white goods, camping gear, etc.

I’ve now tackled the lovely storage boxes gathering dust on our shelves, reducing their contents and donating the boxes to charity. As they contained photos, school mementos, wedding & honeymoon paraphernalia, and other sentimental belongings, it was one of the last bastions of clutter.

Wedding Mementos & School Memorabilia: Stealth Clutter

When it came to our wedding memorabilia I was definitely stealth hoarding. Instead of going through everything, keeping one of each item and getting rid of the duplicates I would just buy another pretty storage box (which are by no means small and take up quite a bit of space on the bookshelf) and complain that we didn’t have enough storage and a nice sideboard would take care of this.

But if I was to take a step back, I guess it’s taken three years and a significant decluttering journey to be ready. Which brings me neatly on to school reports, newsletters, certificates of education, photos, letters to/from friends, etc. These are my oldest possessions and the hardest to take an objective and honest look at.

School’s Out: Stealth Clutter

I must have kept 80% of the postcards friends have sent me over the past two decades. They evoked the same emotions as the storage boxes and school paraphernalia, probably because I haven’t looked at them in so long. They caused me to think about the decades that have gone by, years of being in debt and not being able to join friends on holidays and make more memories and so on. Those invoking fond memories have been kept.

Photographs: Stealth Clutter

I’ve recently realized I don’t actually like photo albums. I’ve donated the (20+ year-old) albums I did own to charity. These days I much prefer photos to be on display around the house. A select few wedding photos are in frames on the wall and shelves. But I’ve always wanted to frame the best ones of our guests from the wedding photo booth in a big aperture frame. We’ve just celebrated our third wedding anniversary and they’re still languishing in a folder on the computer. So, there’s no time like the present.

In her book Spark Joy: An Illustrated Guide to the Japanese Art of Tidying, Marie Kondo suggests categorizing your photos, picking the best ones and getting rid of duplicates. So I got curating, sorting them into these categories:

    • Dave, Darakht and I as a fur family
    • Our families
    • Friends
    • Holidays
    • Wedding
    • Honeymoon

Shred those:

  • of random buildings; it’s all about people and animals
  • which evoke negative memories or emotions featuring places or scenery I can’t recall
  • I’ve kept out of a sense of obligation or of myself which I hate
  • which evoke no nice memory and stir no positive emotions whatsoever
  • I wouldn’t display in a picture frame
  • featuring people I never liked

I am now in the process of choosing some aperture frames but it takes time. In the meantime, they are all in one storage box, alongside Dave’s photos from before we met which. This is a decluttering project in itself, but not something I would ever force him to do. Although I suspect he will be quite keen to once we downsize to the extension!

The Freeprints App is a really affordable way of printing lots of photos as each person with the App gets 45 free prints every month, so 90 for us. Now to tackle all the photos we’ve never printed off….


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