Ok, you know by now that I have waaay to much stuff. But, don’t we all? Look around you. How much stuff do you have locked away in drawers, sequestered under beds, stuffed in closets and stowed in your basement. Now, how much of that stuff do you go through day-to-day life living without. If you’re like me, its a lot. Papers, mementos, collections of things I don’t really need (need I remind you of the bath and body works debacle).
So when I really started to look around, I started to get inspired, and when I get a whim to start pitching/donating/selling my collection of stuff, I have to move before it goes away.
So you’re here too, wanting to clear the clutter. Congrats! You’ve made it to the first step. When clearing clutter I always ask myself the following:
- Do I need it?
- Do I use it? (Have I used it in the past year?)
- Why am I keeping it?
- Do I want to haul this down 3 flights of stairs, into a moving van and possibly cross-country the next time I move?
- In the case of clothes: Have I worn this in the past year?
Here’s what I need you to do first: Designate 4 piles.
- Go through pile- my husband hates this one. Its for things that shouldn’t be in the place you found them but need to be put away in an organized fashion. Just make sure you actually go through this pile at the end.
- Sell pile- some things you can make a buck or two off of. Chris got 4 helicopters one year for Christmas because thats all he told people he wanted. One has been sitting in his “toy drawer” for over a year still in the box. This is a candidate for sale. Curtains, pillows, books, purses- all can be sold. Ebay them, sell them on craigslist, or do a garage sale.
- Trash pile- I have a problem throwing paper away. I’m a writer so every scrap has to be gone through to make sure I didn’t jot something profound down on it. Some odds and ends like batteries you don’t know are good or not, old birthday cards, broken things just need to be thrown away. If you need someone to hold your hand while you do it- I’ll be there virtually to do so. I promise it gets easier as you go on.
- Donate pile- here’s the pile that I love to put gently-used things into. I love giving things to people. One year when I first painfully went through my collection of sprays, lotions and beauty products I called over my friends and had them sift through. A part of me wanted to push the stuff on them, tell them to take it all. One of my best friends was kind enough to say she’d take the rest (I know she probably pawned it off on someone else or threw some of the stuff away, but I didn’t have to see it so it was ok). You may think I’m joking- but seriously, I’m not. Other things can go to your local Salvation Army or Goodwill. Some woman this year is getting a worn, but still nice coach purse, and another is going to have a nice pair of Ryka tennis shoes.
So where does clutter hide? Everywhere in our house. We build shelves for clutter, put it in our basement in an ever-growing mountain of brown boxes of things we “have to keep” but never look at. Weird, huh? If you have no clue as to where to look I suggest looking in the following places:
Drawers- Junk drawers, clothing drawers, kitchen drawers, medicine drawers, EVERY DRAWER!
Lets talk clothing for a moment- I collect t-shirts. You may collect ratty jeans. The point is that 50 t-shirts from college (and high school) is too many tshirts for someone who only wears them to work out or sleep in. Go through your drawers, get rid of the clothes you no longer wear often. Do you really need 15 black t-shirts from your sorority? I’ll answer that for you: no. If it has a hole, if its worn or has a stain, pitch it or use it for rags (but actually use it). If its in good shape, put it in the donate pile.
Junk drawer(s)- we have many. One for Chris, one for me, one for the kitchen and another one in the guest room/office. Everything ends up in these drawers- receipts, 3-year old gum (seriously), keys to who-knows-what, batteries etc. so every once in awhile I go through them. If there’s stuff that needs to go somewhere else (paperclips, gift cards, tools, etc.), put it in the to-go-through pile.
That extra dresser- We have an extra dresser that sits in the entry way to our flat. It used to hold Chris’ overflow of clothes, mementos, etc. We’ve now downsized that into his “toy drawer” where he keeps his nerf guns, helicopters, legos etc. (Shaking my head and chuckling as I write). It does sound a little silly, but everyone has those recreational games, toys etc. Its ok to have an extra dresser, just make sure its not filled with clutter, but the things you actually use.
Closets- This one could take all day depending on the amount of stuff in your closets. Chris’ closet took him around an hour. Mine- 2 hours (with distractions). I keep more in my closet besides clothes since we are limited to 3 tiny closets in this 1930′s house and mine is the largest. I’ve got a craft drawer, boxes of family mementos, recreational things like frisbees, linens that didn’t fit in the linen drawer, etc. Not to mention a collection of shoes and clothes. I use the same tactic for clothes in the closet as I did above for the drawers. Lately I’ve been pretty good about organizing my clothes too by color with the dresses pushed off to one side.
How many pairs of shoes can one girl have? The masses are split on this. I love flats, but at one time I went through a high-heel phase (it didn’t last very long, I was meant to be this close to the ground). I ended up donating 6 pairs of shoes this year, and quite a few tops, pairs of pants, etc. There is only so much you can wear. It’s kind of….liberating to tell you the truth.
Don’t be afraid to go through everything or make an extra pile to think about. Chances are if you don’t use it now, you probably won’t later.
TV Stand- When short on space, we often have to display things, exhibit 1, our TV stand which is actually a shelf from Ikea. It held all of our games, tv equipment, and boxes full of random stuff. I got tired of looking at all that stuff, so we relocated our games, dusted everything off and rearranged to show our pictures and show pieces instead. Use your spring cleaning to switch up your “display areas”. It’s really refreshing.
Before we could even get to the rearranging we had to deal with the tangled web of cords. Use twisty ties or Velcro to tie all your cords together neatly, and bread clasps with the name of what the cord is are great for labeling cords so you’re not dealing with a puzzle later.
The Basement/Storage- cue dramatic music. There’s a mountain of boxes down there. Things we never use. An old coffee maker, microwave, snow tires, clothes that I’m “keeping” for now. Ugh, the terror just comes over me thinking about it. While we have yet to tackle this area, we do have a plan. Separate into designated piles and pitch anything that s not necessary. Its amazing what collects down there while you’re not looking- like a colony of mice that have gone out of control.
Office Storage- cords, cords and more cords! We use a cord bag to wrangle all of our extra cords. Then there’s the oh, 3-5 computer devices (not to mention the things we don’t even use anymore). We’re wiping clean and selling the old laptops for some $$, sorting through cords, old CDs, and office equipment. You would not believe how many pens we have (I don’t think we’ll have to buy any for the next lifetime). My advice is to stick to the essentials. You control what goes back into the desk and what doesn’t. Don’t feel like you need to keep anything (unless its important, like a backup disk for your computer).
Under the bed- There’s that sock! I’ve been looking for it for ages. We find all sorts of things under the bed. To risk sounding like a broken record- organize it into the piles.
Medicine Cabinet- With just the 2 of us, we’ve collected lots of cold medicine, vapor rub, aspirin, etc. Use this time to go through the medicine cabinet and get rid of anything expired. Don’t mess around, the chemicals in those medicines can alter and won’t be as effective and could be hazardous after too long. Even sunscreen does expire, so don’t be like me and keep it for years because you’re too cheap to buy a new one.
The Kitchen- Use this time to also go through your fridge, pantry, cupboards etc. Clear out the expired things, the tupperware with no lid mates or vice versa. It’s amazing how many granola bars, bags with single croutons and different types of rice you may find hiding in the cupboards.
And there you have it- leave no drawer, no closet, or storage area untouched! Take no prisoners! And remember, if you’ve lived without it for this long, you probably won’t miss it. Take a picture of your pile and put it somewhere special to remind yourself of all the stuff you collected, but didn’t need. And give yourself a pat on the back, you have now completed project 1 of your EPIC cleaning list.