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Creating Space for Things That Matter: A Guide to Decluttering

Creating Space for Things that Matter: A Guide to Decluttering


Posted on April 12, 2016 by Angela Weisser


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My husband and I are planning to move, and recently I found myself evaluating all of our stuff. I didn’t want to drag everything to a new home because the truth is, not everything we own is treasured or useful. So how should we decide what stays and what goes? To answer that question, I had to tackle our clutter.

Start with the fridge (you know, the little things)

Whether you’re clearing out your own space or helping a family member do the same, it can be overwhelming to think about decluttering an entire house. So start with something small and in plain sight. You’ll make a big difference quickly, and be motivated to keep going.

As simple as it sounds, I started with the refrigerator doors. Over the years, the front of the fridge had grown from a place to display a few family photos to an awkward assortment of stuff: dozens of mismatched magnets I had never liked, a messy collection of expired coupons and to-do lists on sticky notes – all of which were easy to toss. But then I ran across a small, barely legible restaurant receipt from the night my husband and I got engaged.

Suddenly I realized why decluttering can stall: it’s easy to get hung up on the emotional ties to keepsakes, even if they contribute to our clutter. I knew the fridge wasn’t the right place for it, but I couldn’t bear to let it go.

Put a frame on it

The good news is, you don’t have to toss the mementos you truly love. After some consideration, I decided to give the receipt a space of its own. I slipped the receipt inside a small frame and hung it on the wall, which not only preserved the fragile piece of paper, but also allowed it to be displayed where my husband and I could actually enjoy it.

We all have our own special keepsakes: old postcards, teacups, vintage dolls, model trains. Consider using frames, shadow boxes, shelving or curio cabinets to organize them so you can see and enjoy the things you love every day. Check out Pinterest for some creative ways to show off your knick-knacks. You can also read more about downsizing your sentimental clutter.

Give your lidless jars a new home

We all have those items we hang on to “just in case.” For me it was a collection of mason jars missing their lids. If you’re holding on to something because you think you’ll find a use for it, it might eventually fit or one day be valuable, ask yourself a few questions:

  • Have you needed it since stashing it away?
  • Are you saving the item for someone? See if they’ll take it now.
  • Do you have a clear intention for the item?
  • Is it worth schlepping to a new home?

A quote from TheMinimalists.com says it best: “If you can replace an object for less than $20, in less than twenty minutes, then you don’t need to be storing it inside your house.”

Toss the “just in case” items or consider donating – someone else might have the perfect use for the stuff you’ll likely never need.

Don’t abandon ship – send out an S.O.S.

My husband and I had attachments to a lot of the same stuff, which resulted in a large “can’t decide” pile. That’s when I asked for a friend’s help. A third party can be a big help in decluttering. Since they aren’t emotionally attached to your stuff, they can better help you decide if something is worth keeping.

If you’d rather leave it to the pros, there are specialty organizations that help sort and declutter your belongings, but also pack, unpack and coordinate a move.

When you are ready to sell items, services such as Everything But The House transform estate sales into online shopping experiences for you. Their knowledgeable staff handles everything from cataloguing items to managing payment, pickup, shipping and delivery.

For items that still have a little life left in them, consider donating to the charity of your choice. Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore will haul away your gently used furniture, fixtures, appliances and home accessories at no cost. Wherever you choose to take your donations, be sure to get a receipt for tax deductions, and check out the IRS website for tips on deducting your charitable donations.

Take Five (and other helpful suggestions)

  • Label your boxes Keep, Sell, Donate, Trash and Recycle to so everything stays organized and easy to transport
  • Keep your boxes handy after you’ve decluttered and continue to sort items as they come into the house
  • Set a realistic timeline (i.e. don’t try to declutter your whole house in one weekend)
  • Tackle one room at a time
  • Work in small chunks of time and take regular breaks
  • Finish each task completely (i.e. don’t move on to a new project before finishing the last)
  • Don’t make decisions when you’re tired, hungry or overwhelmed
  • Don’t shuffle items from one room to another
  • Remember that decluttering is a gift to your future self – one you’ll be glad to receive when it’s time to move

Cleaning out your home can create excitement as you prepare for the next phase in life, and keeping only the things that you love and tell your story is the best way to start.


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