10 Decluttering Principles to Help Anyone Clear the Clutter

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Colleen Madsen of 365 Less Things.


“Declutter. Organize. Live.”

I have never considered myself a natural organizer. But in 2007, my family moved to Australia from the USA. Because we were moving into a smaller home, I found myself needing to declutter a large number of items. Fortunately, we were able to accomplish the task…but mostly, because I had no other choice.

Shortly after the move, a new stage of life surfaced. My husband was about to begin semi-retirement. And to prepare for our new life together, I set a personal goal to again reduce our possessions. Coincidentally, on January 3rd, a segment aired on morning television about people abandoning their New Year resolutions. Turns out, on average, most people only stick to their resolution for three days. Even though I had never been one to take on resolutions, I found great motivation in beating those narrow odds… in fact, the challenge was nearly irresistible to me

I decided at that moment to set a new resolution to minimize our possessions. I determined to remove one item each day for the next 365 days. I started with three items to make up for the missed days, and promptly began decluttering one thing a day for the rest of the year. I am happy to say I not only completed my resolution successfully but it was so simple and satisfying that I continued decluttering in my slow and steady pace (an average of five items per week) for an additional two years!

Over these last three years of decluttering, I have removed over a thousand things from our home. Also, through the process and through my writing, I have had opportunity to help many people realize their own decluttering goals as well. These conversations have sharpened my desire for simplicity and taught me important insight about clearing clutter. I have learned that understanding just a few key principles can help anyone clear their clutter.

The 10 Most Important Decluttering Principles I Have Learned to Help Anyone Clear The Clutter:

1. Stop the Flow of Stuff Coming In. Decluttering is a waste of time if you simply replace the old stuff with new. You’ll need to begin by slowing the flow of things entering your home. Determine today to buy less. Trust me, you won’t regret it. The freedom from desire to acquire is a beautiful thing.

2. Declutter at Least One Item a Day. Decluttering does not have to be a mad frenzy that disrupts your entire household. Over the years, my home has become quite minimalist by simply choosing one item a day to declutter. This gradual process began to change the way I think about stuff. Eventually, it became a way of life rather than just a crash diet of stuff.

3. Declutter the Easy Stuff First. There is no need to make things difficult by trying to declutter the hardest things first. Most likely, it will simply deter you from the task altogether. Instead, start with the easy stuff and then as you strengthen your will to reduce, the harder decisions will become easier.

4. Put a Disposal Plan in Place. Before you begin, investigate selling, recycling, donating and give away options for the items you choose to declutter. The more prepared you are for the task, the simpler it will be… and the more likely you will be to follow through. Ebay, Freecycle, and our local thrift store became my favorite disposal options. However there are endless others to explore.

5. Decide to Not Keep Things out of Guilt or Obligation. Your home should only contain the things you love or use. Don’t let incorrect thinking or other people dictate what you should keep or give away. Remember, if the items are yours, it is your choice to decide what to do with them.

6. Do Not Be Afraid to Let Go. The urge to hold on to items you think you might need someday can be eliminated simply by being realistic about what need really is. Many items in our homes may be useful, but they are not particularly necessary to our happiness, well-being, or the functionality of our homes. Seek to understand the difference.

7. Gifts Do Not Have to be Material. There are so many ways to honor loved ones without giving gifts that end up as clutter. Encourage people to follow this concept when buying gifts for you. Some alternative gifts are gifts of experience or adventure, a gift of time spent together, even cash gifts are appropriate in some instances. I have two clutter-free gift guides at my blog if you are looking for ideas.

8. Do Not Over-Equip Your Home. A home does not need enough linen, crockery, cutlery, or pantry supplies to serve as a hotel. Be realistic about your true needs. In the rare event an unusually large number of guests arrive on your doorstep, you can always borrow from friends, family or neighbors.

9. Do Not Declutter Things that are not Yours Without the Owner’s Permission. Everyone should have a choice about their own belongings, even small children. Honor them by allowing them to choose. You can encourage hoarding tendencies in others by ripping things away from them before they are ready to let go.

10. Do Not Waste Your Life on Clutter. Every item you own takes time out of your life: time to manage it, clean it, repair it, and maintain it; time to choose between objects of a similar category; time spent shopping for it… and that doesn’t even mention the time spent earning the money to pay for it in the first space. Decide to sacrifice less of your precious life on the pursuit and ownership of stuff.

These ten principles have kept me resolute for the past three years. I had no idea when I began this mission how much stuff I would relinquish over the next three years. What I originally thought was going to be an arduous task quickly became a way of life… so much so, we have just put a deposit on a beautiful, even smaller, apartment with fabulous views of our coastal city, a swimming pool, and gym all within walking distance of everything we want. Semi-retirement is becoming a beautiful thing. Decluttering made it possible.


Colleen Madsen blogs regularly at 365 Less Things where she inspires others to reduce their stuff one day at a time. You can find her on Twitter.

Image: Yorick…

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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  1. nan says

    Just returned from overseas 2 days ago.
    Have spent 5 wks with my sister to “de-personalize” my childhood home, BEFORE all the “keen helpers” are able to come in to shift furniture etc… after my mom’s death recently. (She has lived in the same house for 60 yrs.)
    People offering to help are great,….but dear mom lived through the depression after the war, and as a result was a saver and collector, (you never know when something might come in handy…) like her mother before her! …. so we as her daughters, needed to do one room at a time and methodically sort through. Personal and private things, the sort of thing other people can not really help with.
    We were shocked how few people, and institutions, schools and libraries were interested in having donated any books, whether encyclopedias, good fiction, non-fiction, travel and reference books, etc etc…..
    My parents had a huge library,and hundreds of excellent hard cover books on history, countries around the world, many subjects, as well as atlases etc ….
    We have donated a lot to Thrift Shops, and charity places, but so many good magazines, ie National Geographic, etc…just went to recycling…. The libraries are not interested in anything older than 5 yrs! (When we were all at school, we never had to go to a library, all projects and assignments were able to be done from home! much to the envy of our classmates!)
    So we DID appreciate their library….but today, everything is ONLINE, and so eliminates the need people seem to have for books. :(
    As a result we have vowed to “de-clutter” our own houses after this! My sister forwarded me this link….which is excellent, and which enforces our vow to commit to this!
    Starting the “de-clutter” this week! Thanks for the encouragement and comments of others as they have travelled this journey!

    • Dana says

      People still want books. Don’t believe everything the media says. You could have sold the National Geographics singly or in lots on eBay, and the books probably would have sold on Amazon (and eBay if they didn’t have ISBN numbers). Yes, it takes longer, but they would have gone to someone who’d really love them instead of being trashed in a thrift shop. (Sorry, I’ve been to too many thrift shops.) Just an FYI for anyone else coming along.

    • ren says

      Its sad that someone else may enjoy those treasures but the time and energy to list and DEAL with people is generally overwhelming while trying to sort through a lifetime of possessions. However if you think of libraries limited resources of time and space and how countless other families are in same predicament, it is understandable.
      I am bound and determined to not live the clutter legacy to my children. When I pass, I hope everything will be already divvied up at least on paper. And since no one knows when their time on Earth is done, I have started process of decluttering.

    • Hedda Schupak says

      We went through the same thing when we moved my parents to assisted living. We went to several schools, colleges, and libraries to try and unload my dad’s collection of books and magazines; not one institution wanted them. That was very hard for my dad to understand, as I’m sure it is for many to understand. But it’s not personal–the reality is that the information is available online and for every one library, school, or college, there are hundreds of people trying to donate books and magazines. Those institutions, like everything else, are trying to do more with less and have no resources in either personnel or space to absorb the donations.

  2. Conni Haynes says

    I really need and want to do this. I am a senior citizen and I want to make things easier for my children when I pass away Any pointers would be very much appreciated. I have read your notes and they are awesome. THANK YOU VERY MUCH

    • Carol Woodson says

      Hi Conni, My mother passed away last September. (My dad had died a few years previous.) Things were way easier than I would have imagined. She gave things to each of her six children well before hear death. We delayed taking possession of most of the items until after her memorial service. No squabbles. :) We just haven’t gone through the photos yet, but duplicating and scanning old photos is so much easier with today’s high technology. I suggest you start asking your family and friends in a nice and appropriate way which items are meaningful to them and/or which things they would like to have. You may want to delay any giving commitments until you’ve considered the responses from several people. Then you can start giving to them well before you have even an inkling of passing away. Peace to you, Carol

    • ren says

      The biggest and nicest thing you can do for yourself is already done…you understand that it needs to be done.
      Secondly, make it loud and clear to family that you are not going to guilt them into taking anything that they don’t want. No one wants that burden.
      I think a good way to start is to go one room at a time and make lists of everything in that room, one list of what you can’t live without. Say to yourself, would I take this with me if I had to move. Next list should be things you want to get rid of immediately. Third should be of the treasures you want to pass down. Let family see the lists, spark the conversation of who would like what.

  3. says

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  4. Glenn D. Hudson says

    In the process. My friend and I are doing the “date” declutter. Sept 1-1 thing, Sept 2 -2 things and so on. If we make it to the end of the month more than 500 items will be out of the house. Sept 1 was 1 bag of trash, Sept 2 was 2 bags of stuff. Toss, give away, donate, recycle, sell. Committed to finding homes for 90% of the stuff. Our local town has Facebook pages for finding home for good stuff and curbside treasures. Next is the 40 hanger closet.

    • ren says

      I live in a town where if you set it on curb, someone will take it usually within hours. Then twice a year you can put junk of all sorts on curb and city will pick it up. We all drive around checking out treasures, ha. But I have picked up several small items. Like dressers, chairs, wicker Love seat, most I clean up and use to decorate outside areas with my flowers, when they get too bad I set them on curb and someone else takes them. I even got rid of my carpet, stove, coffee table, olld decorations. Lots more has left than has been picked up.

  5. Deb says

    ok, so how do you deal with stuff that is not yours but is still in your space, the owner does not want to part with it, but does not have room to store it?

    • says

      I would tell them what you are doing and offer a deadline to re-home it. They can find someone else to store it or rent a storage unit. You can be super nice about it.

      • Kelly says

        Super nice – but FIRM. This person is already taking advantage of your kindness by burdening you with their precious possessions. Time to take control of the situation.

      • ren says

        Trust me, someone else’s treasures won’t be near as precious to them once THEY have to go thru the work of hauling it to a new home…set the deadline, give advanced notice and a monthly reminder. It’s bad enough to have to live amongst my own clutter, but others clutter, when they have the way and means, that crazy town.

    • Jane says

      Haha, Mum – it that you?

      My brother likes to use my parent’s garage as a storage facility while he travels.

    • Hedda Schupak says

      Pretty simple: tell the owner that if the stuff is that important to them, they need to find a place to store it that isn’t your house. Give them a date that it must be out or it goes in the trash–and if that date passes, stick to your word and throw it out.

      There is no shortage of storage facilities in the United States; if the owner of the stuff wants to keep it that badly, he or she can rent a storage unit. Obviously, if there’s an extenuating circumstance like they’ve lost their job and their home or they are on active military duty overseas, by all means do help out, whether it’s by keeping their stuff or paying to have it in storage. But if they’re just using you as a free storage facility because they’re too lazy or cheap to take responsibility for their own belongings, then stop enabling the behavior. The only way it will stop is when you stop allowing it.

  6. says

    These are very useful examples of proper decluttering principles. Whether you can optimise them in a quick emergency clutte clean-up it’d be even better because it may’ve happen to anyone – an unexpected visitor with little notification makes you sweat about whether your home is in at least an avarage condition. In the link in my name you will find my latest post about clutter clearance tips before a guest arrives.

  7. Tami Kenward says

    What to do with purposeful items? Contact local mental health and community service organizations who often assist individuals with “setting up a home.” Household items in good condition are a blessing to many individuals who most likely live on a very limited income. Ask for the housing program staff to get your items in the right hands. As for books, magazines, craft supplies, fabrics, etc., most of these organizations have day treatment programs for all ages that would welcome free resources. And, there’s always teachers who could use “free” anything. Many spend their own money on items produced in the de-clutter process and I’m sure they would greatly appreciate your items…or know someone who would. Think outside the box and network through friends, churches, non-profits, local support groups. You’ll be amazed at where and how you can help others.

    • Andria says

      Thank you! super helpful as I begin my own decluttering process, which I’ve decided I’m going to photo-document! Also, I want to keep a track record of how many and maybe what items were sold, given to various charity organizations, given to close friends family or neighbors etc. I’ve been able to get some great ideas from some of the responses! I’m feeling pretty jazzed about this now!

    • Anne-Marie says

      I was able to donate to a local theater group when I had some vintage clothing from the 40s and 50s that was in mint condition. They had meant a lot to my mom but when she was gone there was no use for them.

  8. says

    We recently lost our son (35 years old) to leukemia (AML) . Things I could have let go of before his death seem impossible to part with now. He worked for FEMA, traveled to all disasters, and in the process has lots of things from everywhere. We have loads of his kid stuff stored in the attic, basement and barn loft. Don’t say pick out your favorite 10-20-30 things and get rid of the rest. It’s just not that simple now. How do I even start removing his things?

    • says

      I am so sorry for your loss, and I can empathize with your dilemma. We also lost our son, two years ago, although he was an infant. I don’t think I’ve thrown away a single thing. We bought, painted, and stenciled his name on a cedar chest for gifts given to him, medical records, hospital blankets, etc. It is a beautiful piece of furniture that houses precious memories. If your son’s belongings are truly too numerous to fit in your home, give yourself plenty of time to go through them. It was months before we could even clear our dining room table of our son’s things, and we had to eat on it! I hope you can find peace and comfort.

      • Nancy Wright says

        Give yourself time! We lost two teenaged children in a car accident 9 years ago. We have slowly but surely pared down the things we kept. Work at it when you feel up to it. Also, we took pictures of things that could be of use to someone – saved the picture and donated the goods!
        I still smile at the picture of our daughter’s full sized bed covered in her shoes!

    • almost minimal says

      After recent loss in my family and prior loss,I have read a lot to this subject.
      Much of the literature suggests not getting rid of anything that you are unsure of for at least a year. There maybe a few special items that you know without doubt that you will want to keep forever and ever, you might choose to display those items or put them in a drawer where you can easily access them. Pack as many other items away into storage as you can. A year later you may start your process with going through just 1 or 2 boxes. Try the de-clutter method of making piles to keep, donate, relocate, or throw away. Set a timer for an amount of time that feels safe to you for the process of going through the box (ex:an hour, a weekend,etc., but no more than a week), at the end of that time put it away. A few months later try another box. This is a delicate process, take your time, and be gentle to yourself, but don’t let possessions take over your life.
      See if you can find other ways to honor your loved ones memory such as planting a garden and having a stone with their name or an angel that symbolizes them. As you heal, letting go of anything related to them will still be intense as it might feel like some of your memory of that person is slipping away.
      Eventually the deep love you feel in your heart and the smile or tears that come with thoughts of that person will be enough if you are willing to let it be. Be patient with yourself and know that every day is different and we work towards healing every single day, it is not something that we acquire and then we are done. Everyday brings new battles related and unrelated to our loss. I am convinced that this life is not about attaining a constant state of happiness but, about deeply connecting, sharing and appreciating our lives while we still have them.

      • Diane Peterson says

        This is so true. When my mom passed her things were thrown into 92 boxes by the men working on the house. They have been in my spare apartment for 7 years. Furniture boxes overwhelming. Finally was able to tackle a little here a little there. Asked my son for 45 minutes to help. He held bag and I threw or donated or moved to go they later. He got into it and sometimes 2 hours went by before he asked how long have we been doing this? Health issues caused me to step away for a while but almost well enough to start again. In 7 weeks we were down to 30 boxes and no more clothes! Need to finish so I can rent the apartment! Thank you for this..

    • says

      Re: DJK Davis

      When my daughter was killed in a car accident many years ago, she left behind many earthly treasures. I was, of course, devastated and had no idea how to proceed with life – much less organizing her “estate.” Beth was 15 and lived with me, so bits and pieces of her were everywhere. I was fortunate enough to have a friend come to visit me. Her son (my close friend) had also been killed in a car accident when we were both teenagers. I asked her how she had “gone on” without him. She gave me the most solid advice on everything from dealing with the material possessions to finding a counselor. “Number one,” Margie told me, “decide nothing right away about how to handle Beth’s things. Get someone you trust to pack up everything in nice sturdy containers that are moth proof, rodent proof, and water proof. Keep a master list of what is in each lidded container.” She also said that the containers not being see through was even better. I had the list if I wanted to know what was in there. “Number two,” she told me,”put the packed containers in an area where you don’t have to look at them.” I stacked mine in my attic. “Number three,” Margie said,”is to wait one year. At that time, look at the list – not in the containers – and evaluate what you would like to keep, donate, share with loved ones, etc. Do not open the boxes at all if there is nothing on the list you personally wish to keep. Give it away unopened, or donate it or whatever. It will not serve you well to take another trip down memory lane.” She also said that as I found mementos of Beth all over the house that I should bag those items. Perhaps even make a note as to where I discovered the item. Set aside a nice decorated container to place the bags in. “Put the box on a shelf that is easily accessible so when you find another “memory” you can add it to the box.” THIS was the best piece of advice she gave me! Years later, I still visited that box from time to time. It was, indeed, the little things that meant the most to me. Those “bagged” and “tagged” items in that hand-painted box were truly my treasures chest. I kept hardly anything of Beth’s from those packed containers except a few precious items. Coincidentally, I lost everything in a house fire a few years ago – including the memory box. I made a discovery at that time. It saddened me that the box was gone forever, but I’m happy to report that the “memories” are still alive and well. I wish you strength and peace during this difficult time in your life.

      • ren says

        I live in a town where if you set it on curb, someone will take it usually within hours. Then twice a year you can put junk of all sorts on curb and city will pick it up. We all drive around checking out treasures, ha. But I have picked up several small items. Like dressers, chairs, wicker Love seat, most I clean up and use to decorate outside areas with my flowers, when they get too bad I set them on curb and someone else takes them. I even got rid of my carpet, stove, coffee table, olld decorations. Lots more has left than has been picked up.

    • Wendy says

      I’m so sorry about your son. It’s hard to decide what to do with a loved one’s belongings. My Dad passed away when I was 19. At first, I wanted (our family) to keep everything of his (he didn’t have a lot of possessions). But as time went on, we’ve slowly gone through them… Only keeping the items that bring back the happiest memories, or that are useful in some way. Another difficult task has been going through things he gave me (as I try to declutter my space in general). I try to remind myself that he wouldn’t want me to be burdened by things, and he definitely wouldn’t want me to feel guilty.
      Something else that has helped me in the healing process – giving away anything that has a negative association of any kind… If seeing an item brings up a bad memory, or deep sadness, let it go. Try to keep the things that bring you peace, or make you smile because of the good memories associated with it. This has made a big difference in my journey.
      May God bless you and your family…

  9. serenda jordan says

    Since my husband died 2 years ago. I have declutered several things but thanks to you maybe it won’t be so hard now.I feel a lot of guilt hitting did of some of this. I don’t want someone thinking I’m giving up on life .just want some space and peace

  10. Nacnud Nosmoht says

    Number 9 is a tough one for me. Would appreciate some advice for those of us that are uncomfortable around clutter, but live with someone who loves to acquire and keep lots of stuff. It’s a serious problem that I’m sure a lot of couples and families suffer from. When I start feeling totally overwhelmed with the clutter I’m tempted to just bring in a big trash can and sweep it all away. Needless to say, that doesn’t result in a good outcome… But what can I do, other than break up?

    • Andria says

      Yes, this is a tricky one and also one that will be different in every situation depending on who they people are, their relationship and personalities etc. My mom is a bit of a hoarder and a lot of a hoarder and my sister’s and I along with several other family members have tried over the years to help her declutter and most importantly help her maintain the state of declutteredness. The latter is the most difficult. My sister’s and other family members basically take turns organizing her clutter, getting rid of completely unnecessary items (like a bed spread from 1985 for example) and then lightly and delicately encouraging her to get rid of some other various things, a lot of which is able to be sold in some way. She’s gotten better over the years in terms of acknowledging her hoarder tendencies and we see her trying. The biggest hinderance to the process is she continues to bring stuff in almost as fast as it goes out. So recently, I’ve been working on encouraging her to declutter the stuff she’s bringing in. For example my older sister helped her declutter the area just as you come in the door of her home and all the stuff that also trickled over into the living room and dining room. I never curse in front of my mother but I think when I saw it for the first time, I said smthg to the effect of “Holy f***ing sh**! It’s so clean and clear now!” Anyway, that lasted a couple of weeks. Then boxes from QVC and bags from shopping centers etc started piling up and she brought down a bin (again) for her to “store” her new stuff. I told her, putting everything in a giant bin doesn’t equal decluttering. So I’ve been lightly and sometimes not so lightly, depending on her mood, to open those boxes, put stuff away and if or rather, when she realizes she doesn’t have a space or place for most of what she purchases, I can utilize this opportunity to help her get rid of some old stuff so she can put her new stuff there. I know she won’t take most anything back or get rid of anything new. Lastly, in my mother’s case, she has recently made a vow to declutter and get rid of a lot of stuff, this was after she had a very bad accident and fall that landed her in the hospital to have complex knee surgery and months of physical therapy to recover. Now that some time has passed and the shock of the accident and the perspective it had given her, has faded. So I find myself reminding her of the goal she set and why she set it. That’s helped.

  11. Catherine Blumberg says

    What do you do with old encyclopedias? After I finally made the decision to remove them from my bookshelves, nobody seemed to want them. Now they sit in my garage.

    • Jessica says

      I am a mother of small children who are beginning to read and would love a set of encyclopedias for them, but can’t afford a brand new one. There may be someone in your area who is in the same situation.

    • Upstate NYer says

      Using sites like Craigslist.org or Facebook (many local towns have Garage Sale FB sites now) Place an ad (free of charge). Offer to give the encyclopedias away for FREE. It will be much easier to get rid of them that way. Be sure to state your location and times/day available for pick up. I also recommend listing it coming from a smoke free/pet free home (if that is the case).
      Place them in an area for pick up that is safe and NOT inside your home (like a porch or garage). You don’t want strangers in your private area. Or box them up, put them in your trunk and meet at a favorite public place, store or eatery for pick up. I have used the local park under a pavillion. Good luck!
      Also some schools, scouting groups and senior residences may take your magazines,craft items, VCR/DVD’s for instructional activities. Call ahead and ask before dropping off.

    • Sue v says

      Recycle them. I finally realized “they had served their purpose” and now days all the information plus more is available on line. It is a necessary step and you have to just admit that times have changed. Even the libraries that have an annual book sale do not take them anymore. They are a thing of the past and just need to let them go.

    • Liza says

      This is a great question. My husband will eventually become keeper of his dad’s family archives (200 years of maps, images, diaries…about a closet’s worth) and other fascinating, valued family things including monogrammed silverware and artwork designed and created by great-grandma. NO idea how we will deal with the volume of stuff, nor the responsibility, and would love to hear how others have handled it.

      • Wayne says

        Yes, an absolutely wonderful observation. I thought about the same thing. Logically, would go to my youngest brother, but he likes a clean, uncluttered home. Will definitely need to think more about this issue.

      • Upstate NYer says

        @ Liza – I would contact Local Historic Organizations in your area. Many would love pictures/postcards/maps/paraphernalia dealing with the region during a different time of the century for research or display. Or certainly know where you could send it to. Some areas have local museums and you could donate it in honor of your loved ones.

  12. says

    After 32 years in our family home we had to rent the house out and move to a flat. We donated a lot of furniture to the local hospice and a friend of ours advised to not throw metal away or drop off at the local dump but take it to a scrap yard. Amongst the lead and aluminium was copper piping and an old copper 200litre hot water cylinder. We cashed in at a scrap yard and were delighted to receive a considerable amount for our ‘junk’.

  13. Ellen Scott Grable says

    I really prefer the rainy day method of clearing entire rooms at a go. Getting rid of an item a day drags out a process which you be done over days not a year i have better things to do so getting clutter free means moving on.

    • Angela says

      I prefer getting a lot out at once too, however doing it that way, I tend to then take a long break and not get the rest out for much longer than if I did just one area (shelf, cabinet, under a bed) a day. So I’m trying to learn to find a middle ground. I guess we still have too much stuff. It should be done by now! :)

  14. Sherrilleee says

    I realized this acquisition & not letting go started when I lost my brother, a dear friend, then my mother & aunt & cheating husband! I have to

  15. Kathryn says

    Excellent article and I found it helpful to take photos of things you are sentimental about. I had my children do that when getting rid of their stuffed animals. By the way I called the American Rescue Workers so often they recognized my phone number. There is something so freeing about getting rid of stuff!

  16. Alan Brown says

    Also very useful to clean one small area completely and then look at it with satisfaction. Then maintain and enlarge the area of order.

  17. Kem Carney says

    i have been cleaning out my moms house. It is hard to get rid of a lot of the stuff but I do have a lot for a yard sale. I am trying to do my house so my kids don’t have to go through all this. My problem, what to do with paperwork. Father day cards, mother day cards, anniversary and a lot of paperwork that I am not quite ready to toss. My question is where do I put this paperwork? Leaving them in boxes is not the answer, because then where do I put the boxes. Please help.

    • Dee Clutter says

      Line up the cards and keep only the MOST meaningful. Limit yourself to one box. Toss cards that are signed only–you know they love you. Review the box every year. Better to have one box that you review than 10 boxes that are untouched for decades and forgotten.

      • Pat Greenhough says

        I found the best way to remove items that are very personal, then photograph them, you’ll always have the photograph to view and remember, then when de-cluttering it’s not quite so painful.

  18. Mad Mindy says

    I have been suffering from excess clutter for a while now. Then recently I devised what I call the secret drawer system. Firstly, imagine every area you wish to declutter is a drawer in a chest. When I say every area I suggest you divide each room into very small areas e.g a mantlepiece, a shelf etc. You should actually plan it on a piece of paper and have a chest for each room with numbers on each drawer (you can save time by reprinting the same basic chest over and over and then have a list showing what each number relates to) . Then SECRET = S elect(a drawer i:e area) E mpty (completely) C lean (whole area) R elocate(all items into 5 boxes /keep here/keep somewhere else/recycle/donate/bin E mpty (ALL items from boxes and put them in their new homes) T ick (drawer as done) . It has changed my life within days of thinking it up. Just remember the 2nd empty is REALLY important. Please try it. I would love to think I have helped others too! With Love x

  19. Joyce says

    When my father moved to a nursing home (my mother was already deceased), I had a hard time letting go of their things. I told my father how difficult I was finding it, and I will always remember what he told me. “It’s just stuff”. It became my mantra when I looked at everything and started waffling over whether or not I should keep it. Now, 5 years later, I remind myself of that whenever I do uncluttering in my own house. It’s still not always easy, though. I’m rather attached to MY stuff! :)

  20. Lauren Jordan says

    When I was selling my old house the real estate agent told me I had to remove everything from all the surfaces, all ornaments, kitchen items etc. I boxed it all up and put it in the shed, not only didn’t I need to use any if those items my house had never looked so good, or felt so restful. I am trying to recreate this feeling in my new house.

  21. Gloria says

    A lot of good ideas. The one question that has concerned me for years is; My father had a military funeral and I am so torn about what to do with the folded flag from his coffin. Any ideas? I confess I have held on to all of his personal property for over 40 years so I guess it is about time to take pictures and clean out that closet.

    • Rochelle says

      Gloria, how wonderful your dear father served his country and that you have the flag. I’ve seen beautiful triangular-shaped boxes made for displaying a folded flag. If you go to Amazon and type in “flag case”, you will see what I mean. Best wishes to you!

    • Kimberly W. says

      I purchased one of the flag cases at Michaels. Dad also had another flag, but I did not know its’ origin. I sent it to my sister, who donated it to the local VFW. Dad will be gone 3 years this August. I am finally able to start letting go of some of the items I could not bear to part with. If your VFW does not want it, perhaps a firehouse, school or library could use it.

  22. says

    My problem is that I have a ton of stuff to get rid of, and I would like to make some money on it, but I don’t have the time! Our local thrift stores throw so much away. I have seen them toss whole bags of stuff without even looking in them! So I don’t want to give there. My neighborhood doesn’t do well for yard sales, either. So I would have to list everything on eBay, which when I do, makes me a bit of money. So my conundrum is: when is it better to just clear the stuff out rather than trying to get a return on it?

    • Antony says

      Hi Christina,
      I’ve managed to collect valuable things from around the world, and not-so-valuable items. In thinning out (which has gone well), I often think “that must be worth something”. I’m self-employed, so it was easy to see that my time spent trying to get value out of something is the equivalent of money: how much is your life’s time worth to you? Are you willing to nickel-and-dime your life? For fun, I decided that my time is worth at least $20 per hour. Anything that is going to take some time to get money out of it will take *at least* an hour (trying to eval the value, prep, selling, moving to temporary holding place, re-handling it, taking it to a store/mailing it, arranging pick-ups, etc.). Will I get at least my $20 back? If not or if I can only answer “maybe”, then it’s not worth it. Having gone through a lot of hassle for $20-30, I’m now up to a $100 limit. Ebay is a good place to check what something might be worth. Turns out it was easy for me to let go of a lot of “nice” items that allowed me to focus on my “great” items while feeling like I was really valuing myself. While I use for items I have decided to give away, over time it has helped me see and understand some of the personal value of items that I am keeping, too.

  23. Rose says

    this is something I have been dreading, but need to do so badly. I have to get over the guilt of parting with things. It’s going to be a Fall/Winter project for me.

  24. SHELLEY says

    i always suggest use pic to recall memories istead of the useless items that lay around…. kep scrap books of those memories

  25. Etta says

    My local AMVETS calls ever 6-8 weeks about scheduled pickups in my area. I have made a commitment to always say yes when they call, and make sure I have at least one box or bag of items for them to collect. Often it is several.

  26. Poppy says

    I have been living in a hotel with my husband and two teenage daughters for 2 months now as our house undergoes a major renovation. I can honestly vouch for this as a great means to declutter! Having access to our possessions still has taught me that I do not need much kitchen wise besides a fry pan and sandwich press – be gone complicated appliances! Also we have only relied on a bare bones wardrobe etc. So much has been thrown out and I am determined to keep this minamalist way of life going even when we return to our house – it is so freeing and life seems easier!

  27. Char says

    I love the idea of 1 item per day, but can you give more suggestions on the logistics of that. I am guessing that you do not literally get rid of 1 item per day, but choose 1 item and place it in a pile of items to get rid of. Do you keep different boxes based on the end location (Salvation Army, library, sell on eBay, etc). Can you give more info on what to do after you have selected the item of the day and getting literally out of the house?


  28. says

    Thank you for this post! I’m planning my parents’ move and decluttering is my great target right now. The house is full of unnecessary items that should be sold or given. My parents understand the idea very well, but it’s hard for them to leave all this stuff just like that. As we have enough time for planning and organizing I suggested the “date” declutter, and it seems fine for them. I’m glad I found your post, because of all the helpful information and tips, I think I’ll do better with these new ideas. Thank you!

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