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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Declutter your life! How to get rid of stuff.

In the midst of the holiday frenzy, you may be wondering why I'm writing about decluttering. Well, my friends, Christmas, and the gift giving that goes with it, means that a whole new group of items will be making it into your home over the next month. If we don't take steps to fight it, it's very easy to end up with way too much junk filling up our houses. Here are my five rules for keeping a decluttered house.

Rule Number One: Out with the old, in with the new.

I follow this rule with our paper filing system that I blogged about here. When we get a new credit card statement, I throw out the old one. But, it also applies to many other things. We just bought a new artificial Christmas tree in the Black Friday sales, so our old one will be going up in the free section on Craigslist. If I buy new coffee mugs, I'll take a second to inventory our current stash and get rid of one or two old ones we never use.

We all know people whose houses are absolutely stuffed to the rafters with the things they've held onto over the years. If you don't want to be prisoners of your stuff when you're 80, take the time to get rid of stuff now.

Rule Number Two: The Sentimentality Trap

We tend to hold on to the things that are given to us by people we love. However, it is important to remember that it is the person that we love, not the stuff that we were given. Let go of the guilt and get rid of the tchotchkes. Bag it up for Goodwill, sell it in a garage sale, or just throw it away! If you are really struggling with getting rid of the item, take a picture of yourself with it and store the picture, not the item.

Follow this rule with your gift giving too. Don't give people a lot of useless junk that they in turn will just have to store or get rid of. Try to give things they can use or you know they need. Give experiences, like tickets to a show or dinner out together, instead of physical items that will take up room in their house.

Rule Number Three: Picture Perfect

We've come a long way from the time when a family photograph was an heirloom, and a once in a lifetime event. Now we have pictures of every birthday, every holiday, every vacation, the list goes on and on. We have hundreds of pictures from our weddings, our childhoods, and our own photographic adventures. How can we find order in this madness?

First of all, if you take or develop a bad picture, throw it away immediately. There's no reason to store a blurry picture of your son's soccer game. Allow only the best to make its way into the photo box or folder on your computer.

Next, create something with the pictures. If you're a scrapbooker, make pages commemorating your adventures as a family. Create a photo book online with any of the great sites that offer books. Choose your favorites and display them in a creative way. If you're not creative, choose your favorites and put them into albums.

Lastly, throw away or delete the photos that didn't make it into the scrapbook or album. If they're not important enough to include in your special book, they're not important. Period.

Rule Number Four: Schedule time for Organizing and Decluttering

I schedule time at the end of spring and the beginning of fall to go through all of the dressers, closets, bins and boxes in my home and do some major decluttering. Schedule time for this on your calendar, and go through every room in the house. Sort through your clothes, your jewelry, your shoes, keeping only things in good condition that fit you well. Go through papers, cards and photos, following the guidelines above. Take fifteen minutes a day (or even a week) to go through your house and sort through the things that begin accumulating.

Rule Number Five: Surround yourself with things you love.

My number one rule for things I keep is that it must make me smile. It is how I decide if I like a lamp or not, if I'll keep a book or not, and if I need to replace my comforter. I love the one I have, and it is still in good condition, so why would I buy another? Your goal should be that every item in your home has a purpose, and it should make you happy. If you're holding onto that blanket that you hate because Aunt Mabel gave it to you, give it away! Someone else will appreciate it much more than you, and you won't have to cringe every time you see it.

I hope my five rules for a decluttered home help you find some sanity in the midst of the busy holiday season. What rules do you have for keeping junk out of your home?


Emily December 2, 2009 at 4:58 AM  

You're a woman after my own heart. Thank you! Totally agree with all of your rules and employ them in my house!

kermiefrg December 4, 2009 at 4:43 AM  

These are great ideas! Now that we moved, I'm slowly starting to do these things. Here's one of my tips: I get nervous that I might change my mind about throwing something out or donating it. So I boxed everything up and put it in the basement. If I haven't gone to look for it in the next few months, I don't need it and will get rid of it. There's a few things I went back for, but most of it is going to a better place : )

Jenny @ Words on Wendhurst December 4, 2009 at 5:03 AM  


That is another one of my favorite tips! Thanks for mentioning it. :-)

Gloria January 26, 2010 at 11:51 PM  

Hello there! Thanks for your ideas on getting rid of stuff. I have so many nice new things in boxes, that I haven't taken out or set up because I dread de-cluttering and getting rid of my old stuff first. But I am going to use your idea that if it doesn't make me smile, it's OUT! And I also liked your idea of taking a picture of it as a remembrance. Thanks for the tips!
Best regards,

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