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More on Unintentional Collections

How did I get here – I didn’t intend to be a plastic food tub collector.

Last Thursday I hosted a teleclass on How to Be More Zen in 2010.  We discussed ways we unintentionally collect items that soon become clutter that chokes us out of our free and open spaces.  Before we know it we’re living in a tiny space and the clutter has taken up residence in the rest of the space.

Most everybody collects something, usually without intentionally meaning to collect it.  I call this phenomenon the “accidental collector.”  One day you just ask yourself:  What am I going to do with one too many bottles of hotel shampoo, belts or vases or shoes or Tupperware, pens, t-shirts, pillows, jewelry, ball caps, dishes, pocket knives, packs of greeting cards, National Geographic since 1970, or People Magazine. loose change, purses, keys, CDs, DVDs, books and magazines, makeup, craft supplies, candles, incense, journals, beauty products, perfume, tools, reading glasses, souvenirs, sweaters, fitness equipment, umbrellas, gift bags, grocery bags, plastic containers, remote controls, supplements, take out menus, condiments, pacs-o-catsup, tea, tea pots, tea balls, mugs, phones, rubber bands, twisty ties, plastic bags, software, cards and letters, playing cards, batteries, picture frames, lampshades, spices, salad dressings … pant pant.

If you’re a clutter collector, you probably started out thinking you were doing something good.  But then didn’t put the brakes on your collection.  One example from the teleclass last Thursday was a man who shops sales and unintentionally collected 10 tubes of toothpaste.  Several tubes expired before he was able to use them, so the good idea to shop the sales did a U-turn and the tooth paste was wasted.  Have you noticed that too much of a good thing always has a bad outcome?

Start the clutter cure: 

Take a look at why you’ve collected THAT particular item.  With introspection, you may be able to get clear on what that collection means to you–what need is it fulfilling?  Getting clear on the need you’re trying to fill can help you actually, directly fill that need (instead of indirectly filling it with the clutter collection).  One woman shared after a journal exercise in class that she collects picture frames.  Growing up poor, they didn’t have the money to frame pictures beautifully.  Her unintentional collection of picture frames is trying to fill that need of not having enough when she was a child.  Her new awareness can help her release the picture frame collection.

Ask yourself when and how your harmless accumulation got out of control.

Ask, how much is enough?  Are my collections adding to my life or detracting?  Then, decide to do something different – let go of the excess.  I know that may sound scary.   But it’s  do-able.  I’ve done it and so have many others.

Ways to Let go of Unintentional Collections

  • Attrition (don’t buy more and use up what you have)
  • Gifts (give some of your stash away as gifts)
  • Donate (to your local charitable associations)
  • Sell them (this takes time – consider whether it will be worth it)
  • Freecycling (advertise on that you have these free items)


Join me for the next FREE Teleclass:  Hang It, Dang It:  How to Get Good at Finishing What You Start (Thur, Oct 7).  The title of the class was inspired by my mother who never hung pictures or decorative items on the wall.  She just stacked them near the place she thought she might like to hang them.  At 90 living in a one-room apartment in a nursing facility, she still won’t let us hang pictures – because she hasn’t yet decided the perfect place.  Mom’s challenge has been perfectionism and finishing what she starts.  Seeing the downside of making that choice—and it is a choice-I vowed to become a finisher.  Join me for the teleclass, Thursday, October 7 and I can show you how to become a finisher too.

Info and Registration Here:

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