Are you a collector? Could be anything – stamps might be something we started collections of as youngsters, sending off for packets of used stamps and painstakingly gluing them with those tricky little sticky flaps into an exercise book where you had designated a page for each country or had an official-looking loose leafed folder with plastic wallets.

Coins, baseball cards, rubber bands (weirdly added to an enormous ball by some), comic books, toys – all things that can be collected, but there comes a point where you might get overwhelmed by the sheer number of items – or collections, if you are a compulsive collector! – and need to plan the next step. But when these ‘collections’ start to take over your closets, garages and maybe basements, perhaps it has now become clutter, and the space it took up could be more worthwhile used for something else.

The difference

Collections could be items that hold a significant monetary or sentimental value, whereas clutter is characterised as miscellaneous items in an unorganised space, but sometimes the edges become so blurred, it can be hard to distinguish if it’s clutter or a collection, and you get clutter blindness!

Take a step back and evaluate what you have to determine if it’s a collection or just clutter. Ask yourself these questions: Did you start this collection? Do you like it? Would you be proud to display it? Depending on how you answer these questions will help you determine the next steps. If you’ve answered ‘no’ to the questions, maybe it’s clutter and you should take steps to either donate it or pass it on to someone else.

Evaluate

Evaluate each item at a time. Take a moment to think about why you bought it, why you should keep it, and if there are any memories attached to it. Next, ask if you can live without it. Would you want to show it off to your family or friends or just to reminisce with? If it’s been put away for a while or you forgot it existed, you’re better off getting rid of it.

We all have clutter, a drawer somewhere you certainly wouldn’t like to be on display, because it’s all probably, well, junk, but a collection of good stuff needs displaying, and if there are some good items in there that need displaying, get them out, then decide what to do with the rest. If there is just too much, you could try circulating it, a few pieces on display for a while, then rotate with others or take the drastic step of maybe donating, selling or junking some pieces to keep some control. Take the time to sort out your treasure from your trash!

Do you spend time caring for your collection? If yes, then it is worth saving. If no, if it’s - say - a random collection of bottle tops shoved into a drawer, then maybe it's time to think about either making a display of the best or rarest and ditching the rest. Set yourself boundaries to help you - get rid of duplicates or damaged pieces. If you decide to display some of it, take stock of where this could be: a collection of small items, say shells - might look good in glass displays on your wall or in a huge glass jar on a windowsill, or a large item, maybe a beautifully weathered piece of driftwood, would be a lovely statement piece on its own. Think also of how these items might fit in with your décor.

And if you really can’t bear to get rid of anything, store it somewhere in boxes, clearly labelled. A stack of boxes is much tidier than a collection of carrier bags at the bottom of your closet. I have a friend who ‘collected’ old electrical equipment in his shed because he couldn’t bear to get rid of something that still worked, even though he no longer wanted it or it had become outdated (think of old VCRs, cassette players, satellite receivers, etc). Eventually moving house forced him to junk it all – much to his wife’s relief!