Last week, I wrote about how Mr. Wonderful and I got rid of 400 sq ft worth of stuff. It was definitely not an overnight process. There are plenty of websites that suggest “5-Minute Decluttering Tips” and “Fill a Trash Bag with Items to Donate” but in all honesty, I can fill up a garbage bag simply by opening a few cupboards. A real purge takes a true commitment, and you won’t achieve it by “only” spending 5 minutes a day.
Trying to set aside an entire weekend never happened for us (who wants to clean when the sun is taunting?), so we committed to decluttering a few weekday nights a week. This meant turning down double dates and fun events so we could clean. It meant “working” after a long day at work. Not fun. But commitment is the first step, and the ultimate goal of having a more simplified home kept us going. It took us about a month, but we did it!
Here are our tips:
1. Stop hoarding hotel shampoo/bath gel.
If you stayed at an expensive hotel and took home the cute bottles of shampoo, then use them once you get home. Yes, I know they’re great to have on hand “in case Aunt Jane comes over,” but that doesn’t mean you need to have ten sets lying around ready to go. Shampoos do go bad. Mr. Wonderful and I had accumulated so many miniature toiletries that we now have several full-size bottles worth of product. We’re finally using them ourselves.
2. Donate hobby items you haven’t used in more than 5 years.
Even though I haven’t touched my art easel in ages, I was convinced that as a college art major I would one day get back into it. And maybe I still will. But when that time comes, I can buy another art easel. Meanwhile, it was taking up valuable real estate and contributing to the clutter.
As for the expensive items you bought and never used? You’re not going to get the money back by keeping it. Donate it for a tax deduction, or try selling it on eBay or Craig’s List.
3. Upgrade your VHS/cassette tapes.
If you still have all the Disney movies on VHS, it’s time to buy your favorites on DVD. Or better yet, get an upgraded Netflix subscription so your kid can watch Frozen twice a day and you can still watch Robert Downey Jr’s latest movie. When your child is finally sick of Elsa throwing icicles, you won’t be stuck with a useless rainbow disc and its plastic case.
As for the stack of home videos, it’s time to convert them to digital before it becomes so antiquated that businesses stop offering those services.
4. Take a photo of unwanted gifts. Then toss.
There are some gifts you just can’t get rid of, not even at white elephant parties. I have a very sweet aunt who also gives extremely ostentatious gifts, which are simply not my style. One year, she gave my family a very expensive, very ugly vase. We banished it to a dark corner of our storage closet. After many years, we finally got rid of it. If you’re feeling some guilt over the decision, take a photo of it as a respectful memory.
Note: Don’t donate anything personalized. The person who gave you the gift may eventually find out. If it’s a book, rip out the handwritten note. Otherwise, play it safe and throw it away. It’s ok. It doesn’t mean you don’t love them.
5. Let go of old love letters.
It was kind of hilarious to read letters from high school crushes who claimed “they would never live” if we never ever got together. Ah, teenage romance. I’m pretty sure they’re living now, and doing well. After having one last chuckle, it’s time to let those go (especially if you’re happily married).
6. Limit your items to a certain number of boxes or shelves.
The best way to stop the overflow of items is to limit yourself to an allotted space. Mr. Wonderful and I have two shelves for cookbooks, one shelf for board games, and one shelf for music books. When we do buy a new board game, another one has to go.
7. Allow yourself one (or two) boxes of miscellaneous items.
We all have some random knickknacks or childhood toys that make us smile every time we look at them but are completely useless. Mr. Wonderful and I each have a couple of boxes under the bed where we store these items. I don’t know why his McDonald toys are worth keeping, but as long as they all fit in his box, I’m not going to judge (and he doesn’t comment on my 29-year old stuffed bunny that has filling coming out of its butt).
What decluttering tips have worked for you? I’d love to hear!