One huge source of stress in many homes is an overabundance of stuff – or clutter. Below are some specific step-by-step guidelines to help you with this challenging issue. You will not only reduce clutter, but in the process you will be downsizing, which will also help your family financially.
Remember as you downsize that there are many things that hold memories for us and we are hesitant to relinquish those items. Really what we want to hold on to in many cases is the memory rather than the item itself. In other words, you know you’ll never again use that little hobby horse that you got on your second birthday, but you keep it because you remember how special it was to you. With that in mind, let’s get started!
If you are not committed to reducing clutter, or downsizing, it is not going to work. All you’re going to do is get rid of some stuff and then get more.
Once you have decided that you are going to clear out the clutter, pay off some bills and maintain better control over the clutter in your home in the future, it’s time to schedule a family meeting so that you can explain the benefits of de-cluttering to everyone involved. When you remove clutter, you:
– create the appearance of more space.
– will be able to maintain a cleaner home.
– can sell things you plan to discard, enabling you to put the money toward debt, savings or a vacation.
– have taken the important step of being in charge of your life rather than letting your stuff being in charge of you.
Set a start date
After committing and then recruiting the support of your family members, you will have the manpower necessary to do the work ahead of you. At this point it’s a good idea to set a date, pick a room and just start.
Organize as you work
Your downsizing task will be much easier if you sort items as you work. I recommend that people create four piles – trash, donate, gift, sell – and put things in these piles as you go through each room. If you are going to keep something, but it needs to go to a different room, go ahead and take it to the other room immediately. You’ll put it up when you get to that room.
Remember as you go through each room that the goal is to get rid of as much stuff as possible. We are a society driven by materialism and even in poor neighborhoods you can find piles of “stuff” in people’s homes and yards. In many nice homes, the stuff is spread out across 5,000 square feet or packed away in an attic, where it hasn’t been touched in several years. When you decide to downsize, you make a commitment to rid yourself of the excess baggage. You are going to throw away the trash and donate or sell anything in decent condition. If you’re not sure what to get rid of, just keep the following guidelines in mind:
– Donate anything you haven’t worn in three months or more (with the exception of seasonal items).
– Donate items stored in your attic, basement, or cellar. Keep seasonal items or things with sentimental value that you can’t bear to let go to a minimum.
– Donate knick knacks and other items that are just “gathering dust,” but have no special meaning to you.
– Trade or donate books you have no intention of reading again.
– Donate or consign toys your children have outgrown.
– If you have items of sentimental value that might mean more to someone else, then give them a GIFT and let the other person enjoy that item.
– Donate or sell anything you will not have use for within the next year.
– Donate or sell anything you use only sporadically that you could easily borrow from someone else.
– Get rid of stock-piled items that you will never use .
– Sort food that is out of date and use quickly, donate or trash (if it is bad).
As you gather trash, immediately put it in trash bags and discard. This is the easiest part of removing clutter. Trash is usually obvious. However, don’t forget about all the trash that’s not so obvious. This is going to involve going through old paperwork, boxes that should have been thrown out three years ago, things that were broken and you weren’t even aware they were broken, etc. When you de-clutter your home, you truly will be shocked at how much trash you will throw away. If you have a limit on how much trash you’re allowed each week, you may need to plan a trip to the dump, divide the bags over several weeks of downsizing, or ask a neighbor if you can put some of the overflow into his or her trash can.
When you “downsize,” the idea is much more than a thorough cleaning of your home. It’s literally a concentrated effort to rid yourself of unnecessary “baggage” that you have simply because you’ve been collecting it for years and years. You are trying to gain control of your life, your home, your finances, and your time. The donate pile is to be used for items that are still in good condition, but you would rather donate them than sell them. If you are doing a huge estate sale or yard sale, however, you could just combine these items with your sale pile.
When we were downsizing, I noticed several things that I really didn’t want to get rid of, but I knew we no longer had room to keep them. Instead of selling or donating those items, I collected these things in a separate area and gave them to family or friends who had expressed an interest in them. It was even easier to give away sentimental items when I knew they were going to someone who would treasure them.
After you’ve finished de-cluttering, schedule a downsizing sale and put the money toward debt or something special (like a family vacation)! Just make sure everyone knows not to bring things back into the house during the sale.
Avoid the same situation
Once you’ve downsized, it is important not to get in the same situation again. Here are some tips to help you avoid re-cluttering your home.
– Don’t buy anything unless you absolutely need it.
– Don’t buy something just because it’s a good deal.
– When you see something you want that is not a necessity, wait one week and if you still think you can’t live without it and have the money, then purchase the item.
– Teach your children to share their toys.
– Accept hand-me-down clothes from friends and relatives or purchase clothes at a second hand store or thrift store. Keep all clothes to a minimum. Do you really need eight pair of pants, ten pair of shoes, twenty t-shirts, etc. when you can only wear one outfit at a time?
– Learn to live frugally. Sometimes less is more.
– Keep receipts for all your purchases and if you do decide you shouldn’t have purchased something, return it (unopened and unused).
– Don’t use credit cards to purchase anything that you can’t pay off on the next statement.
– Avoid storage containers for anything other than seasonal items – clothes for warm/cold weather, Christmas ornaments, homeschool books you’re saving for a later date, etc.
“Then he said to them, ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.’” Luke 12:15