How to avoid the emotional pain of decluttering

We are as attached to our possessions, be they clothes, household goods, or cars, as we are to people and places. Róisín Burke talks to three people who recently went through the process about the emotional pain of decluttering

THE latest buzz-word for hoarding is stuffocation and decluttering experts are the new life coaches. But what happens when the ‘stuff’ you are supposed to get rid of holds real sentimental value?

One suitcase, a guitar, and teddy bear are all Rebecca Davies has left after selling all her belongings to go travelling. Rebecca, who has been living in Cork for the past ten years, is moving to London to work in a Montessori school.

“My aunt runs a school there, so I’ll go there for a while, and then on to France, where my parents are staying and then, hopefully Asia,” Rebecca says.

This young lady’s nomadic tendencies stem from a childhood scattered across continents. “My parents always say it is their fault I am such a wanderer, because we moved around a lot when I was a kid.

“I am from South Africa and then moved to the Seychelles, which is a group of islands on the Indian Ocean, and then Cork, which was a big culture shock.”

Due to her parents’ constant travelling, there is no place in Ireland for Rebecca to store her stuff, and rather than ship it all to France, she is selling it off or giving it away.

“I have never owned an excessive amount of things, but giving away everything has been very difficult. I almost feel like asking for it back, There are times I want to cry, but, at the same time, I find it refreshing and liberating.”

Rebecca will be missed from the English Market, where she has been working for the past few years. “I don’t get attached to places, so leaving Cork is fine for me, but there are a lot of people, particularly from the market, that I will miss dearly.”

Paul Hurley, from Kinsale, is another soul battling the bonds of sentiment and materialism. “I bought my orange VW camper van in London, after I finished college, on a bit of a whim.”

“I rang my girlfriend, Sally, on a Friday evening. We hadn’t been going out that long and I asked her to fly to London with me the next day to check out a van. She just said ‘okay’ and it was great. She thought I was mad, but she was happy to go mad with me.

“When I saw the van in London, it was love at first sight. I bought it and we drove to Wales for the ferry home, in time for work Monday morning.”

Paul says the day spent in that van was the turning point in his relationship and made him realise he was on to a winner.

“It was the coldest winter in 100 years, there was no heating in the van, and it took us 12 hours to get to the ferry. That was a turning point in our relationship. After surviving that, there was no going back,” he says.

Five years on from that long, cold trip home, both the van and the woman have remained by his side. Now, in the months leading up to his wedding with Sally, Paul is selling the van.

“I’m just too busy now, with work and getting ready for the wedding. I don’t have the time for it and I want it to be used, so I’m hoping it will go to someone who will enjoy it as much as I did,” Paul says.

A third Corkonian experiencing the torment of ending an inanimate love relationship is Clodagh Cavanagh from Douglas, who has to part with the Mini Cooper for which she had yearned since she was a child.

“Ever since I can remember, I had wanted a Mini Cooper. I just love them and my dad, who owns a Ford dealership, said absolutely no way, not a chance,” Clodagh says.

Not easily deterred, Clodagh was determined to get her dream car, and eventually did, after many years of pleading and one perfect plan of cheeky trickery.

“I was on holidays in Manchester, with my two best friends, when I found a perfect Mini Copper for sale in Cork online, so I rang my dad’s dealership and got one of the mechanics to drive over and check it out for me.

“My plan was working perfectly, until the mechanic rang my dad to tell him the car was a bargain, which was a pretty confusing conversation for my dad, who did not know what he was talking about,” Clodagh says.

Clodagh’s father, who had been enjoying a relaxing mountain walk in Killarney, rang Clodagh to quell her traitorous intentions. “He said there was no way I was getting the car, I was sticking with Ford,” she says.

Miraculously, Clodagh charmed her dad into viewing the blue sports Mini Cooper, and she coaxed his reluctant approval for the car. Clodagh has been blissfully happy ever since.

“It just makes me so happy. Every morning, when I come downstairs, I can see it out the window and it makes me so happy,” she says.

Unfortunately, further good news for Clodagh has meant she must give up her Mini Cooper. After five years with boyfriend Darren, she found out, in September, she was pregnant. “It never occurred to me to sell my Mini until my dad mentioned it.”

Clodagh weighed up the practicalities of a Mini Cooper when she will have a range of baby accessories, and realised she would need a more versatile car. “I checked out baby chairs and buggies in it, and it’s not practical. The boot can barely fit a handbag, so it has to go.

“The thought of selling my car is heart-breaking, I keep thinking about the day I have to hand over the keys. It makes me want to cry.”

Although Clodagh must part with her blue baby for her real baby, one man couldn’t be happier. “It’s back to Ford for my next car,” Clodagh says. “Dad is delighted.”

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