The Decluttering Stuff post

Oh man, I’m really bad at this.

But I figure everyone’s got one, so we ought to have a decluttering stuff post too.

#1:  My method of decluttering is to not buy stuff to begin with (except books, but I declutter books by buying bookcases…and sending stuff to the relative who is a reader).  And to move every few years… when I move stuff gets taken to goodwill or tossed.  About once or twice a year I gear up for a big Goodwill trip and allow DH to remove perfectly nice clothing that he looks nice in but just never wears.  He jettisons as much stuff as he can at those points as my natural tendency is pack-rat.  Throughout the year as we get gifts we don’t want and so on, we keep a big former TV cabinet as the goodwill cabinet and stash stuff there.

I feel most comfortable with a few papers or books lying around where they don’t belong.  It reminds me of home.  When I was growing up, I sorted things by strata– newer stuff was on top, older stuff closer to the carpet.

#2:  I sometimes read stuff like Unclutterer, not that it really helps, but at least it makes me keep thinking about decluttering and keep that in mind.  I too have a particular place where I store stuff to go to Goodwill, and take it over there on a regular basis.  (Infrequent, but it happens.)   Clothes are the thing I turn over most, because of my changing size and/or taste and/or context of life.  You can find some excellent name-brand items to buy at Goodwill.  I am working on a better way to store them, too.  For books, I try to use Bookins, which my MIL also loves.  If a book sits around for a while and it’s not moving on Bookins, I might throw it in the Goodwill bag.  I cull books rarely but also regularly.


organized baby bats


organized baby bats

(images from Things Organized Neatly)


Is this the ending of Indiana Jones? No, but it's not my garage, either.

For some things, often including paper and other types of mementos, I have what I call “the emotional statute of limitations”.  If I feel like something has emotional value to me and I would miss it, I stick it in a box or file cabinet and keep it.  Example: Some of the writing I did in high school.  Every once in a while I go through these areas looking for things I no longer need or want.  (Example: Some of the writing I did in high school.)  For a long time I kept Playbills from shows I saw downtown with my family.  They made me feel sophisticated and cultured when I was young, and they brought back good memories.  I recently went through several dozen of them and recycled almost all of them.  I still have the memories and I no longer need the items.


swiss abbey library

Full of things and beautiful (from The Great Geek Manual; click picture for source)

On the other hand, there is something to be said for clutter.  I keep things in front of me to remind me they’re there.  My desk at work is cluttered and I use it all the time; the “clutter” is usually made of things I am working on at the time or need to work on soon.  My home desk is like this too, but less organized.  I sort of like un-organized stuff, as long as you know where it is, but I don’t want to have so much of things that they overwhelm me.  Let’s not hate on clutter.  Clutter is not the same as disorganized.  I find uncluttered places (especially minimalist ones!) to be a little restricting and sterile.  They make me feel uncomfortable.

Ok, blog readers, it’s question time.  Clutter: do you or don’t you?

28 Responses to “The Decluttering Stuff post”

  1. Jacq @ Single Mom Rich Mom Says:

    Yes and yes.
    I’m still getting rid of stuff I bought years and years ago. It makes it easy because I know if I haven’t used it in 5 years, it’s gone. Nothing really recent though since not a lot comes in that doesn’t get used.

  2. First Gen American Says:

    My desk is almost always a disaster. I know it’s time to organize when my desk clutter starts spilling over onto the bed and floor.

    I never seem to be able to declutter toys and books. Thank God for the attic. It’s where my excess toys and clothes are for the kids.

    I have a hard time getting rid of old sports equipment. I have neon skis from 1989. I need a new pair, but I just can’t seem to get rid of the old ones.

  3. Molly On Money Says:

    My Mom holds on to everything. It’s all packed up neatly in her basement. Every once in a while she brings me a bag or box of mementos from my childhood. Right now I have a Snoopy doll with all his clothes from 1976. I checked ebay and could sell him for $20 (maybe). Until I decide what to do he just sits there on top of a bag of his clothes staring at me.
    I wish she would just get rid of these things without telling me. I’ve got hording tendencies, I need ‘stuff’ to go away without me making the decisions!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Every Christmas my parents bring a bunch of my old junk and a bunch of their old junk. I keep telling them they don’t have to transport everything several states over to go to our Goodwill… they can take it to their Goodwill more easily.

  4. Everyday Tips Says:

    I love those little bats. I want some.

    I am not nearly as organized as I could be. Back when I worked in an office, I would have computer programs all over the place. I always knew where things were that I needed, but I always felt great once I purged it all and pulled out the windex. Promises of keeping it neat would follow, followed by more purging and windexing a month later.

  5. Linda Says:

    I am a clutterer. I can’t seem to help it. And I have trouble getting rid of stuff so it tends to accumulate in the basement. I do have a big box down there in which I collect items that I’m sure I can get rid of and try to fill it/take it to Goodwill about every 6 months. I am slowly making progress getting rid of stuff.

    One of my problem areas is that I see potential in just about every item: the faded and worn fleece robe could be upcycled into hat liners; the hopelessly out of style and damaged wool sweater could be felted and then sewn into a pillow cover; the torn sheet could be used for patching the duvet the dog chewed up, etc. So I want to hold on to these things, yet I never get around to any of these crafty projects so they just become clutter.

    Clothing is a problem for me, too, since I can’t seem to stay one size for very long. I like to get classic pieces and then don’t want to dump them when I’ve gotten a big larger or smaller a few months later. *sigh* One of these days it would be nice to be able to stay on a regular work out schedule so my weight stabilizes a bit.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I have that problem with shifting sizes too.

      • Debbie M Says:

        You could try limiting yourself to a certain number of these projects, like with the felting. It doesn’t have to be a small number, maybe 30. I have a goal of doing some sort of repair or re-make project every month. When I actually do it, it’s great!

        A friend of mine finds it easier to give up things when she knows someone else can use them. You might want to call your local pet rescue to see what kinds of textile donations they could use.

  6. Invest It Wisely Says:

    You guys do know that I’ve been trying to send you a free book, right? :P

  7. Lindy Mint Says:

    One of my pet peeves is something that doesn’t get used, so I’m constantly piling things up in the garage Goodwill pile, usually things I find as I’m cleaning. I bet if I did an organized decluttering effort I could find a lot more. Like old notes from my college classes – I’m pretty sure I’ll never be referencing those again now that the interweb answers all of my knowledge needs.

    You’re right, there is something to be said for clutter. I always need a little bit of dirty to make me feel better. As long as it’s my own dirt though, if it is a pile that belongs to my husband, it drives me nutso.

  8. Comrade PhysioProf Says:

    I am not bothered by clutter very much.

    BTW, those library photos on that Web site you linked to made me poppe f***en woode! HOLY F***ENOLY!

  9. Debbie M Says:

    To me there can be a difference between piles of stuff and clutter. Clutter is stuff that is of no use and is just getting in the way. Piles of stuff you’re in the middle of using is not clutter. Having a Victorian or country decorating style, dense with things that make you happy, is not clutter.

    But to answer your question(s)–I’m opposed to clutter, but I have it. And I like a fairly rich decorating style: I think it’s great to have books in the living room (a set of two giant bookcases is our “focal point”). But I also like there to be room to spread out and do a space-consuming project when you want to, like sewing, or parties.

    I’m pretty good at keeping down some kinds of clutter, but each type requires its own individual strategies.
    * Mail – Handle it completely when I come home from work. Some people don’t have the energy for that, but it’s become habit with me.
    * Periodicals – Try to read them right away and cut out and file things to keep. After a certain amount of time spent not looking at it, throw it out.
    * Books, movies, music – don’t buy anything I haven’t already read and know that I want to re-read/watch/hear repeatedly and/or share with everyone I know. (I still have a lot of old stuff that doesn’t fit that bill, plus I’m not good at noticing that I no longer love something I used to love.)
    * Clothes – Similar to books (have very high standards–must fit, be washable, go with stuff I have, etc.)
    * Laundry – Try to do a load every day. (I hang dry my clothes and they can take up to 24 hours to dry.)
    * Projects – Put them away when I am completely done or when I have not worked on them for several days or several weekends.
    * Dishes – Sort of like projects – clean them every time I make a big mess cooking stuff (I’m good at this) and every couple of days if I’m only making small messes (preferably every night, but it doesn’t happen).

  10. brokeprofessionals Says:

    I find that “emotional” value may be the biggest culprit in our “cluttering.” We can’t throw out the birthday cards we have given each other over the years…someday we will want to look back and read them (yet we never do). We can’t throw out that vase we never put out, poor old deceased aunt millie gave that to us! Etc. Etc. Etc. The other day my wife brought out dog Sophie’s first collar. It was a tiny little puppy collar and it was neat to see that Sophie once had a head the size of basically a couple of paperclips put together, but when would we ever need that. And when she passes one day, how incredibly depressing would it be to find it? If you start over-thinking things, you can convince yourself never to throw out anything.

  11. Sandy @ Journey To Our Home Says:

    I am surrounded by clutter at work- reminds me of stuff I have to do!
    We are definitely trying to recourses our home- moving to less than half the space has put us with way too much stuff… It’s a hard task with kids!
    And I definitely understand the emotional attachment to things ( from my high school days and even my kids school papers now).

  12. MutantSupermodel Says:

    Like a previous poster: Have it, hate it. You guys know I’m on a purging spree this year and I love it. I have limited time to manage stuff. So, I have to limit the stuff to manage. Funny enough, I’ve been mulling over a post on the lessons I’ve learned from my purging spree so far.

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