Decluttering Types – which one are you?

When it comes to decluttering there are three distinct types of behaviour. Which one is most like you? Are you a Chucker, a Collector, or a Curator?

Chuckers and Collectors

Decluttering types

We all know a Chucker. They don’t even check to see if something is of value. The creed they live by is “if it’s not useful to me right now, get rid of it.” They don’t like clutter and they don’t like “stuff”. Life’s too short to hold onto what they consider “useless junk”. When grandma’s estate is being wound up they haven’t got time or energy to go through all that sentimental rubbish. “The past is the past. We have to live in the present.” Chuckers are ruthless and efficient. [pic: Berger and Wyse]

Another decluttering type are the Collectors. They don’t hold onto things because they are useful. They hold onto things because they once WERE useful, and they MIGHT possibly become useful. Collectors are nostalgic. They aren’t sure what they’ve got and probably wouldn’t be able to find it if you asked to have a look, but the point is “They’ve got it”. They’re doing their duty of ‘preserving history’. They collect old photographs, even old cameras that don’t work. They collect Grandma’s first aid certificate when she was 14 and Pop’s train ticket purchased in 1934. You name it. The Collector has kept it.

Now, put a Chucker and a Collector in the same room and you will hear some very interesting conversations:

“What are you throwing that out for….?” 

“WHY???! Because its junk that’s why!!”

“It’s NOT junk. I was going to try and fix it.”

…..and on it goes.

You see, Chuckers and Collectors are different decluttering types but BOTH share the same root problem.

The chucker couldn’t be bothered looking twice at something and NEITHER could the collector. One chucks, one collects – but neither considers the true value of what is before them.

There is a THIRD WAY.

There is a third way, and its not really a decluttering personality type at all. It’s a decluttering style we can all develop. It might take a little more time and thought, but the benefits far exceed the options.

This is the way of the Curator. We are familiar with this term in relation to exhibits or museums but it is an extremely useful way of thinking about home management, and in particular photo management.

3 Features of a Great Curator

  1. Clear Filters. They decide what to let into their life. I recently contacted the Australian War Museum about a number of wartime photos. They have very strict rules around what items they will accept. You or I might think something is of value to them but if it doesn’t pass their criteria they don’t accept it. They have clear filters.
  2. Organised. Having decided what is of value to keep, the Curator sets about organising and categorising items into a meaningful, identifiable system. Items can be easily found and retrieved and the relationship of the items to one another is understood. The “system” is key. If the Curator dies or moves on, the system survives and can be followed.
  3. Exhibit. Imagine if Da Vinci’s works never went on show! Curator’s understand what is of value to others and so they ensure these works are given pride of place.

Vital Steps to becoming a Curator

FILTER. What is your filter for what you keep? Take a room, or a section of a room, or a drawer, or a box of photos and apply your filters to that ONE space. Give yourself a WIN in a small way and then keep going, one bite at a time. Take a year if you need to. I recently applied a filter to all my “leads and cords” and freed up a whole drawer! If you’ve inherited others ‘stuff’ be patient with yourself. But make a start.

ORGANISE. Photos are one obvious area to get organised. I like to sort digital photos by Year, then by Event, then by file number. Electronic tags can be created for year, event, person or place so that any photo can be found in a few clicks. Physical photos can be reduced to a minimum and stored meaningfully in an accessible area. NOTE: you can’t begin to organise if you haven’t filtered first. BUT, you don’t need to filter everything before you begin to organise. So apply ALL three steps (filter-organise-exhibit) in ever expanding circles of curation!

EXHIBIT. If what you have is of value then its worth sharing. If its not worth sharing, its possibly not of value. Photobooks, shared folders on Google Photos, DVD slideshows, and social media are just a few ways that memories can be shared and enjoyed.

>>The art of Curation and getting large collections of photos down to a digestible, coherent system can be painfully difficult. If years of ‘collecting’ has been your default the avalanche of data can seem overwhelming. So find a place to start, dedicate an hour or two, take action, and you will reap the reward.

The fact is, there really isn’t 3 different decluttering “personality types”. There are 3 choices. Choose wisely.

Ian Freestone founder of Scanned and Secure

Ian Freestone is the Business Manager at Scanned and Secure and has helped scores of people to organise their photo collections, historical documents, and memorabilia. He is committed to helping people leave a legacy, not a mess.

For all your scanning needs and photo management visit:

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