Updated: Jul 9
Some people don't seem to be bothered by a messy, cluttered environment. They are the exception. Whether for your sanity or because you plan on downsizing or staging your home for sale, getting a handle on your stuff can be challenging. If you have lived in a house for a long time, raised children, and gone through a few hobbies, chances are your home has more things than you need or want. If you’ve moved a lot, perhaps your clutter is mostly in unpacked boxes that you have moved from home to home. That’s a different kind of clutter but needs to be addressed.
Organizing your family to tackle the problem could be a good solution, particularly if much of the clutter belongs to adult children who have moved out. If you can't get their cooperation or they aren't available, make lists of their things and let them know they need to collect them, arrange other storage, or lose them. If you had a spouse like I did, who went through a hobby every few months, hold them responsible for the sports equipment, collectibles, and hobby supplies they no longer use. If most of the clutter belongs to you or there is lots left after others have done their share, you must either create a plan of action or hire a professional.
Making decisions about what to keep and what to do with unwanted items slows everyone down unless they make a plan. Establish categories like clothing, décor items, collectibles, kitchen and dining pieces, books, games, etc. Set keep or discard parameters for each. If you are planning life changes like retirement or downsizing, your rules should reflect them.
With clothing, for example, you might eliminate anything you haven't worn in the past year. Some experts tell you only to keep clothes that make you feel great wearing them. Either way, make a rule and follow it. For décor items, dishware and collectibles, you might want to keep only things that you love and get rid of the rest. If you have 15 different vases and don’t use them often, keep one from each size, giving preference to the ones you love or have sentimental value. When I recently did a book cleanout, I decided to keep only books I knew I would read again. That condensed my collection into a single bookcase. Starting your project with a list of categories and decision rules will make things easier and faster.
What to Do with the Discards
After offering friends and family their choice, you can either sell or donate the rest. If you have the time, you can make money by selling items you no longer want. Setting up an eBay site is easy, and you might be surprised what people buy. Start by doing a few searches and see what others are selling. When I sold my old books, I only listed books when there wasn't a lot available for sale. You may even find you have some rare books or first editions that bring serious money. Clothing reselling websites are popping up all the time. Check for local selling sites and Facebook groups. Cashing in on your clutter and adding to your savings could help you when you apply for a VA Home Loan or if you want to improve your credit score.