Whether it’s that drawer full of mobile phone cords, the overflowing shelf or bulging wardrobe — sometimes it’s hard to get rid of stuff, even when you want to.
Professional organiser Peter Walsh has built a career on understanding why people hang on to things, and for many it’s personal.
“The idea exists that if we just buy the right stuff we can have the life we want,” Walsh said.
“People think that by buying the right house, the right car and the right furniture, somehow they will acquire the life they want.
“People have for a long time invested a lot of energy, and their soul, into acquiring stuff.”
He said every person had an individual motivation for keeping stuff but generally it was about “fear, failure, abuse, grief or trauma”.
“When life becomes overwhelming, stuff becomes a distraction.”
For those who find it difficult to get rid of things, Walsh says it’s usually for one of two reasons. Firstly, it could remind them of an important person, achievement or event.
“The theory is if you let go of an object, you lose the memory. Unless you separate the memory from the object, it’s almost impossible to declutter,” he said.
Others hold on to things because of a fear of being caught off guard, or not being prepared.
“They are afraid of doing something wrong, unless you help people understand that fear, then they find it difficult to let go.
“Our stuff has incredible power and you have to deal with that power before you can deal with the stuff.”
While there’s been a huge surge in interest about decluttering, partly driven by the KonMari method, it’s been a trend that has been growing for years.
Walsh first started helping people to declutter their homes as an organisational expert on Clean Sweep, a US television show about hoarding in 2003. He went on to become a regular on The Oprah Winfrey Show.
The former Melbourne resident believes many people feel out of control these days, possibly because of what’s going on in the world, the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan and other conflicts.
“We are less in control than we were … and there is awareness of deep divisions and people are feeling very unsure of their future,’ Walsh said.
“As ridiculous as it sounds, people feel if they can control their homes and even their closet, this gives them a sense of calm and control.”
Walsh, who now lives in the US but appears on The Living Room, said people often thought organising was about doing things like colour coding their shirts.
But having an organised space could make people feel more psychologically settled.
“It’s much more about finding peace, calm and motivation in how you live,” he said.
“That sense you have when you are on holidays and you walk into a hotel room that is perfectly organised with straight lines, you get that sense of calm.
“I think that’s what people are looking for in homes now, that’s what organisation does for you.”
Walsh is now partnering with MobileMuster to encourage people to get rid of their old mobile phones. They are running a competition to find Australia’s largest mobile phone hoarder.
“People think it’s a huge job in terms of dealing with that spaghetti of cords, but the fact is it’s 10 minutes work,” Walsh said.
“Just pull out the chargers etc for your current mobile and say goodbye to the rest. Then do a happy dance that you let it go and opened up a bit of space.”
One of the biggest problems with getting rid of mobiles, Walsh said, was that people were afraid of losing their information, especially their photos, or that their data could be misused by something else.
“That’s why this program is fantastic, it encourages people to plug their phones into their computer, download photos or contacts,” he said.
“All data on any mobile in the Muster is guaranteed to be destroyed.”
MobileMuster recycling manager Spyro Kalos told news.com.au that phones received were not switched on to see if they worked, but were sent straight to recycling, so data is destroyed.
Materials including plastic, silver, copper and a tiny bit of gold which acts as an insulator in phones, is recycled.
The materials are shipped to IT recycler TES-AMM to be sold on the commodities market.
While they are not necessarily recycled for use in new mobile phones, recycling them saves them from ending up in landfill.
“With the number of hoarded mobile phones for the first time ever surpassing the Australian population figure, we want people to start thinking about the environmental benefits of recycling their old mobiles, Mr Kalos said.
A MobileMuster survey has estimated there are about 25.5 million old handsets sitting unused in Australian homes. That’s more than the population of the country.
Companies including Samsung, Motorola, Microsoft, HTC, Huawei, Telstra,
Optus, Vodafone, Optus, Virgin and Alcatel OneTouch all pay 42c per handset imported into Australia to pay for the recycling. Apple has its own recycling program but the MobileMuster also accepts iPhones.
Consumers can drop off old phones into bins at all major mobile retailers including Telstra, Optus, Virgin, Officeworks and Batteryworld. You can also pick up a free paid satchel from Australia Post
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