Tidy Up for the New Year

Time for a spring clean?

A whopping 1.2 million Australians are compulsive hoarders. Send and Shred CEO, Jo Clay, has personal experience with this. She's cleared hoarder houses in the past.

'It's hard work but a valuable experience,' Jo said. 'It's made me think about what I do and don't need.'

While most of us aren't hoarders, we still acquire too much stuff. One filmmaker put everything he owned into storage for a year, including all his clothes. He removed one item per day to see what he could live without. Don't watch his movie unless you want to see a naked Finn run through the snow!

There's a whole industry built on helping people declutter.

'I love Marie Kondo's 'Tidying Up' on Netflix because it's not about hoarding,' Jo said. 'It's about the regular mess most of us live with every day. But I'm not sure about her KonMari method of throwing out anything that doesn't spark joy. What about my potato peeler and my winter coat? Neither is joyful, but I need them.'

Paperwork often forms a big part of household clutter. Marie Kondo dedicates an entire segment to paper alone.

Before you add more paper to your stockpile, stop and think. Is the document precious for sentimental reasons? Do you need it for legal or tax reasons? Will you read it again? If not, should you get rid of it instead of keeping it?

Paper can be recycled in household recycling bins, but first check what information it contains. The Information Commissioner considers 'personal information' to be anything that might identify you. This includes a name, address, birth date, bank and tax records. Data thieves steal this kind of information to use immediately or to add to an existing profile. 

'Home shredding is one way to destroy personal information,' Jo said. 'Unfortunately, it doesn't recycle. Paper shredded at home usually ends up in landfill because household facilities can't process it. And a lot of people don't have time to shred. An estate clearance business told me that most houses he clears have a paper shredder that's never been used. It won't protect you if it's still in the box.'

Once you've sorted out your paperwork, you might do a full spring clean. If so, think about the environment. Anything you put it in a garbage bin goes to landfill. Reuse options like The Green Shed keep unwanted goods in circulation. Recyclers might accept some of the rest.

Take a moment when clearing out your unwanted stuff. Let the process remind you what you do and don't need so you avoid buying it again in the future.