Attacking the stack

As part of my ‘Year of Less’, I did a big clear out of unwanted belongings over the holidays. Yes, it was refreshing, but some things were harder to get rid of than others. And not for any rational reason.

One example of this was the reduction in stationery and notebooks in my study at home. I’ve previously written about the advantages of various paper-based planning tools, including the Filofax and the Midori Traveler’s Notebook. Moving between various systems has led to come collateral damage in the form of leftover paper and redundant accessories.

In fact, I had almost an entire drawer full of old and random A5-sized inserts for my (long departed) Filofaxes. But I hadn’t binned them, even though I had no intention of using them. I once again emptied the drawer and looked at them and almost put them back where I found them.

But I was doing the clear-out under the supervision of @TheFrankFlyer and so I felt I had to describe my thinking process about the paper. It boiled down to this: “I spent so much money on these” and “I’m sure I’ll use them someday”.


While the former was definitely (and embarrassingly) true, the latter was nonsense. I actually had some unused diary inserts from 2014 in the drawer – how in the name of all things holy was I going to use them? And those financial planning inserts? Meeting planning inserts? All done with apps on my iPad these days.

I was holding on to these things because the discomfort of hoarding was (I thought) less than the discomfort of getting rid of them.

As a psychologist, the topic of ‘discomfort’ comes up a lot with my clients. Psychological discomfort, not the physical kind. This includes boredom, uncertainty, procrastination etc. Common mental experiences that can drive our behaviour in unhelpful directions.

So I coached myself and asked why I was holding on to something useless, causing myself annoying in the process. The discomfort of binning some belongings was actually finite – the discomfort of stacks of unwanted paper goods was actually going to be unending – unless I did something about it.

So, the unusable stuff went in the recycling, while the paper that could conceivably be used for scrap notes by @TheFrankFlyer went in a little binder for him to take to his office.

We also discovered two unused and unopened Midori Travellers Notebooks, which @TheFrankFlyer was able to sell on eBay for me. I still have one notebook that I’m using for holidays, along with about a year’s supply of inserts. I’m confident these will be used up, so they’re staying where they are. For now. I may have another look in a month and see if anything has changed.

It’s amazing how a subtle shift in our thinking can adjust our perception about how we relate to objects. (I know I shouldn’t be amazed by this!!) In the last week, I’ve shifted my view of several things from being ‘valued possessions’ to ‘junk’ or ‘things to be donated’ – freeing up valuable space in my apartment.

Oh, and that backpack I purchased to replace my old one that’s being ebayed? It arrived yesterday and I looked it over with a steely eye, evaluating its utility to me. I very quickly realised that, while beautiful and well made, it wasn’t for me. Not large enough for my daily commute, for a start.

I think that last month, I might have been tempted to keep it anyway and then look for something ‘better’. But this time it’s different. I packed it back up last night and I’m returning it for a refund later this morning. The thought of accumulating another stack of unused bags is more uncomfortable for me now than the thought that it’s awkward to return goods to the retailer.

I can honestly say this hoarder may have turned a corner!

(Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash)

7 comments on “Attacking the stack

  1. ethnicolor

    Excellent! While I’m not normally too bad for hoarding stuff, I did notice the little constellation of “satellite” items around the base of my desk has slowly increased. Time to do a little decluttering myself!


    • In my experience, clutter attracts clutter, so it’s good to deal with it before it gets annoying. I find piles of paper accumulate so easily unless I’m ruthless. Having a shredder next to my desk at home really helps with this!


      • ethnicolor

        Likewise I have a drawer full of my old beloved Filofax binders and inserts. Your comments about the infinite psychological discomfort of hanging on to these items (Relics of Past Me!) ring very true. Out they’ll go!


  2. Less is always better. I’m always amazed whenever I find something that I had forgotten I owned. Everyone should adopt a clutter-free campaign. Naked hugs!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: A stationery surprise –

  4. Pingback: Turning a corner? –

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