Living with unnecessary clutter can really be hazardous to your overall health and well-being. It can affect your quality of life physically, mentally, and emotionally. The clutter builds up and can cause stress, tension, frustration, guilt, or even depression as you try to figure out a way to stop allowing your stuff to run your daily life.
Whether it’s due to a move across the country, a natural disaster, a kid leaving for college, downsizing, the recruiting team from Hoarders that keeps calling, or you’re just sick of picking up the clutter – everybody needs to go through a good purge now and then.
Clearing out the clutter can be quick, painless, and rewarding. Even if you aren’t moving, think of decluttering as if you were moving in the next 30 days. Do you want to spend the time and effort packing these things? Do you want to have to rent an extra big truck to move it all? Do you want to unpack all. the. things. and find the space to store them again?
Set up six large boxes (or black trash bags) labeled “Sell“, “Yard Sale“, “Gift“, “Donate“, “Recycle“, and “Trash“. As you go through your house, garage, classroom, or storage unit, ask yourself these kinds of questions:
- “Do I have multiples of this thing?”
- “Have I actually used this thing in the last three months?”
- “Do I really need this thing in my life?”
- “Does this thing add value to my life?”
- “Has this thing increased simplicity in my life?”
- “Do I absolutely love this thing?”
- “Can I borrow this thing from a friend if I need it some day?”
- “Can I replace this thing easily in the future if I should need it again?”
- “Do I know somebody that would appreciate this thing more than I have?”
Your thinking process during the initial purge must be quick – Think long, think wrong! Pick up an item, look at it, and make the decision on which box it goes in quickly (maybe 5 seconds or so). If you get hung up on every last little item, you will be stuck shuffling those things around for years.
This box gets filled with items that are brand new or that are in excellent reusable condition. If you’ve got brand name shoes or clothing, antiques, or collectibles it may be worth the effort to find the right buyer. You can list items online on sites like Facebook, ebay, Craigslist, etsy, or Amazon or try brick and mortar places like home consignment stores, pawnshops, used book stores, music stores, vintage clothing shops, or antique shops.
PURGE TIP: Make a commitment to getting these things sold in a timely manner. Take the time to clean up, organize, and photograph items as you purge. List items for sale as soon as possible to avoid having another box of clutter to shuffle around.
These boxes get filled with things that I am pretty sure I can set out in a Yard Sale and get 25¢ or $1. Some of the clutter may seem so insignificant, but it really adds up and can be profitable at a Yard Sale. And what remains after the sale can easily be added to the donation boxes.
PURGE TIP: Price items as you place them in the boxes. Then, when you are ready for the sale, all you have to do is unpack the boxes in the morning and set it all up!
Do you have things that will bless others in your family, your friends, neighbors, co-workers? These items might not be best presented wrapped up at Christmas, but if you know Sally So-and-So loves to knit and you have a supply of yarn collecting dust, why not gift it all to her? If you’ve got family heirlooms that you’ve inherited and no longer want, consider asking other family members if they’d like the treasure before you sell or donate it.
PURGE TIP: When you receive an item as a gift that just doesn’t suit you, add a Post-It note with the name of the giver (to avoid an embarrassing situation) and add the item to your gift closet for future regifting. New toys can be donated to Toys for Tots.
Many donation centers (thrift stores, shelters, churches, charities) are limited, for whatever reason, as to what they can accept for donation. Some places will not take things like children’s toys or gear (cribs, car seats, etc.), electrical items, major appliances, mattresses, automobile parts, or cleaning supplies. Be sure to check before you donate.
- Toss in items that haven’t been used in the past 3 months. I know the general rule of thumb is 6 months to a year, but to me, that’s an awful long time to be holding on to something not being used. Of course, holiday items would be the exception here.
- Items that could not easily be sold at a yard sale. Mismatched Tupperware, old shoes, “play” condition clothes, etc., anything somebody may be able to use, resell, recycle, or appreciate in its current condition.
- Make sure items are clean and in good working order with all necessary parts included.
- Remember, thrift centers are not a dumping ground for trash. Be mindful of what you’re donating.
PURGE TIP: As soon as one box fills up, immediately replace it with another empty box. Take donation boxes directly to the car and set a reminder on your phone to remember to stop by the donation center the next time you’re out running errands.
The recycle box is going to contain your standard recyclables (plastics, glass, soda cans, etc.) but it will probably have a few subcategories as well.
- E-waste (discarded electronics like cell phones, computers, radios, televisions, appliances, etc.) should not be trashed. Check with your city or local office supply stores for free electronics recycling.
- Old cell phones can be turned in for cash (look for kiosk machines at the grocery store).
- Drop old eye glasses at the optometrists office.
- Shred paper for the compost pile, the hamster cage, or as padding in moving boxes.
- You can list items on sites like Freecycle.
PURGE TIP: Check with your city or county waste management and recycling department to see if they’ll take any containers of cleaning products, paint, motor oil, etc. or ask how you can safely dispose of these items.
This is pretty straight forward here: If it’s trash, toss it in the box! Things that cannot be sold or gifted, items that are broken beyond repair, crap that cannot be repurposed, junk that is no good to anybody else, and stuff that can’t be recycled. Cracked dishes, clothes with holes or stains, mildewed items, opened toiletries, expired makeup, etc.
PURGE TIP: Plan your purge sessions around trash collection days to avoid being overloaded with huge boxes of trash piling up or schedule an appointment for bulk-trash pickup.
Done. Now you can sit back and enjoy your clean living space!
Let me know what tips you have for clearing out clutter! Would love to hear some fresh ideas for tackling this undesirable task.