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clearing out stuff
Old 03-08-2015, 02:36 PM   #1
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clearing out stuff

Today I cleaned out a large drawer in a dresser that has moved with me allof my adult life (I had this dresser in a college apartment). Here are a few things that I found: my hospital bracelet from my 30 year old son's birth, 4 first aid kits, maps of rural roads from a town that I lived in 27 years ago, some fabric I bought in France (I kept that), 2 point and shoot film cameras, tons of tissue paper to be reused for wrapping gifts, some old dot-matrix paper that I must have been saving for scratch paper, 2 5 year old sized children's t-shirts, three pairs of swim goggles ... Admittedly, this drawer was a rarity - it was more of a "junk drawer" and so kept lots of weird stuff. It is now 3/4 empty!

I know there have been discussions on this before but I'm ready to face it right now so hoping for some ideas on strategies.

We have a medium sized home and a medium amount of stuff but I'm ready to clear out all the stuff we don't use anymore and are unlikely to. I've been hitting a drawer, a closet, or a bookshelf a week but it is slow going. I want to be able to move should we chose to - or simply to be able to find what we have if we want to use it.

My goal is to be able to move if we decide to someday, to be able to more easily face projects like repainting a room, just to move stuff that we don't want on to either the trash, recycling, or a new home.

How do people approach this task when there isn't a specific deadline? A bit at a time? Any great strategies beyond the obvious 4 piles (keep, recycle, sell, give away)? I suspect I'm just making a first pass - getting rid of the obvious stuff but retaining some stuff that will go later.

Look forward to people's experiences.
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Old 03-08-2015, 02:44 PM   #2
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I personally like to do a bit at a time - the task can sometimes seem so overwhelming but if you do a little each week, you'd be amazed how much progress you can make over time.

Also, over the years, I have gotten much better at not accumulating as much "stuff" in the first place.

One specific thing that has helped - whenever I buy a new article of clothing, I donate an existing article of clothing to Goodwill. This keeps things flowing.
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Old 03-08-2015, 02:59 PM   #3
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cleaned out my home office today. 40 pounds of research report binders from the past 17 years. a few dozen business books. I still have a cabinent of old computers, cables, etc. that I have to deal with but will leave that for another week.
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Old 03-08-2015, 03:06 PM   #4
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A little bit at a time for me.
I've taken a box of books (usually about 30 pounds worth) to the library every day for the last couple of weeks. I'm actually noticing now that I'm making a serious dent in the bookshelves!
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Old 03-08-2015, 04:02 PM   #5
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I've been doing one closet, shelf, dresser at a time in preparation for downsizing in two years. I am finding it so nice to actually be able to see and find the things I actually use. It's liberating to lighten one's load!
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Old 03-08-2015, 04:22 PM   #6
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I did a serious cleaning 3 years ago when I moved to this apartment. Gave a bunch of old stuff that belonged to Grandparents to my cousins here. Have decided to move back to my home town and my house so will go through stuff one more time. I hope this is the last time.
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Old 03-08-2015, 04:23 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bikeknit View Post
How do people approach this task when there isn't a specific deadline? A bit at a time? Any great strategies beyond the obvious 4 piles (keep, recycle, sell, give away)? I suspect I'm just making a first pass - getting rid of the obvious stuff but retaining some stuff that will go later.

Look forward to people's experiences.
I need to start doing this again, too.

The way I do it, is to attack one dresser, cabinet, or closet or whatever at a time. I make the obvious 4 piles like you do. I require myself to meet certain goals each week. My goals are to

(1) accumulate at least one extra bag of trash for each trash pickup (we have two pickups per week), and more is fine.

(2) make at least one donation run each week.

(3) work at this for at least an hour or two each day.

Here's the crucial part - - once I have ruthlessly cleaned out all the closets, dressers, and cabinets in this way, I *start over* in about the same order. By that time it's been a month or two. It's amazing, but what seemed like a keeper the first time doesn't look so necessary when it is not surrounded by quite so much trash. It takes me 2-3 iterations before I feel I am done.

A comment on a thread here a while back reminded me that I still have my IRON!! I haven't ironed anything in years and years. So, that's got to go.

Also, all those gifts that I didn't like and put on the top shelf of the closet? They need to go, too.

I bought my document scanner but haven't used it yet; I need to scan everything so that I can sell my file cabinet. Recently I restored and gave away my desktop computer to a trusted friend because I hadn't used it in years.

And clothes! When I buy new clothes, the old ones just get pushed to the back of the closet or stuffed in drawers because they are "perfectly good". But I never wear them, so I need to take the decent items to Good Will and toss the rest.

Yard equipment - - I still have my weedeater, edger, rake, shovel, and so on, but I don't like yardwork so I hire almost all of it out these days. I sold my lawnmower and I need to sell or donate the rest. I'll keep just a few.

Mementos - - I still have a ton of stuff that I kept due to nostalgia, when I retired. This is worthless stuff like nametags from memorable conferences, trade show gimmes, programs, and so on. I never look at any of it and I don't feel the need for it any more. It's got to go! I can also get rid of years and years worth of paycheck stub information which I kept to prove that I qualified to get the measly pension that I now have.

Wow, now you're getting me into it! Frank was mentioning today that he wants to make a Goodwill run with his extra coats so if I get started, I will have some things to take at the same time.
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Old 03-08-2015, 04:43 PM   #8
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I started decluttering last year. Started with the attic. Tossed out a lot of construction materials I stored there after I built the house 20 years ago. Then attacked filing cabinets, scanning in all documents and burning the hard copies. Then I built some closets and cabinets in our garage for storing yard stuff, car care stuff, etc. Next I cleaned, decluttered, and organized my "studio" for camera supplies, etc.

I generally have only one decluttering project going at a time. Each project takes about a month. I throw away about 2 garbage cans of junk a week, and recycle, donate, and sell via eBay or Craig's list as needed.

This year I will attack my workshop, bedroom closets, and mud room closet.


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Old 03-08-2015, 05:23 PM   #9
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I prefer to work an entire day at it & make a big dent. Do whatever works for you. It will feel good.
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Old 03-08-2015, 06:37 PM   #10
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I did a clean out last January and this one, too. We are planning a move in 3 years. I would love to get rid of a couple of large furniture pieces but we use them. I go room by room and spend an hour or two. Ratty towels go the animal shelter. Canned and boxed food we will not eat go to the food bank. Make a GoodWill trip. It has been cold this winter, so DH went through old unis and we sent those and warm coats to a Denver mission.
Used to be Every time I visit my MIL and see her closet of butter tubs I come home and attack a room or cupboard or whatever. I do not want to be the old hoarder down the street.
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Old 03-08-2015, 06:52 PM   #11
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I'm cleaning out my knickknack shelves - tired of dusting this stuff! So far I've gotten rid of three model steam engines, a Stirling cycle model engine and some antique toys.

Next up - my erector sets, air guns, model trains and a few more collectibles.
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Old 03-08-2015, 07:07 PM   #12
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I also did it a little at a time. My stuff was sold on eBay, given to friends/family, donated locally or thrown out.

I did the easy/obvious stuff first, and then went room by room opening every closet, drawer, shelf and box. And then going back through again, considering each item, 'when was the last time I used this.' The answer was 10-20 years ago too often. Though I might find a dozen things to get rid of on a given day, I just moved it to the dining room and dealt with it steadily. The dining room also gave DW a chance to veto my choices, though she only did so a few times.

Selling on eBay helped throttle me back to, carefully packing things to ship takes some time so I concluded I didn't want to deal with too many buyers at once. So I only sold 2-3 items a week, but sold almost 70 items all told worth nearly $3000. Much of it was stuff I would have just thrown away (and got $0) before eBay, the buyers thru local classifieds are too scarce even in big cities. eBay was kinda fun, and they make the whole process easy. Sure the money was nice, but it was rewarding to donate or give away stuff too, knowing someone would get good use out of things I no longer needed. Even pitching things in the trash helped, as we found we had more room, and fewer things to care for. Decluttering turned out to be unexpectedly liberating, I've heard others voice the same.

I am still decluttering after the initial purge (about 18 months), and far less like to buy new stuff. We too hope to relocate some day, the less to move the better. Best of luck...
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Old 03-08-2015, 08:27 PM   #13
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Here's something that worked for me when I wanted to make some progress, and just never could really get motivated:

Instead of attacking a big area, which takes a lot of effort before you can see any real sign of progress, tackle a small, even tiny area, and un-clutter it and make it sparkly clean. It may not seem like much, being a small area, but when you see that little area cleaned, it makes you want to clean the area next to it, and then next to that. The clean area just keeps growing.

It is done in small and manageable chunks of effort, and you are inspired to keep the clean areas clean. You see actual progress, and it gives you intermediate, attainable goals and positive feedback.

I'm a DIY and hobby guy, so I have tons of stuff, and I actually end up using it from time to time. I struggle with that, but I also don't let it bother me. One man's clutter is another man's pile of resources.

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Old 03-08-2015, 09:25 PM   #14
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I do a little bit of both, a big area, then redo, or a small area, depending on the situation.

Example: Last week I decided to free up hangers and start hanging clothes that had ended up in a pile in my walk-in closet. So I removed all the T-shirts, threw some out as too old or too stained from cooking and yardwork. Then rolled them up as suggested on a thread in this forum. Now I needed a drawer. So I dumped all my dresser drawers on the bed and started over. Threw out socks that were so old the elastic fell apart, etc. wiped each drawer. I fit 20 T shirts in a drawer and can recognize each one by the way I rolled it. It took 2-3 days to do. Yes, I moved clothes off the bed to sleep at night for a couple of days, then put them back on in the morning until it was done.

But cleaning off a bookshelf--I do one or two at a time. And dust thoroughly.

Papers are the worst.

I frequently get bored with the process. That's the biggest problem for me.
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Old 03-08-2015, 09:29 PM   #15
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Second post on this topic.

An approach I read suggested treating it like an adventure--you never know what treasure you might find. I found a scrapbook of my mom's, with some watercolors depicting real Bay Area scenes. I'm guessing 1950s. I don't remember SF without skyscrapers but I remember when San Jose was small and surrounded by cherry orchards. The last cherry orchard was destroyed in the 1990s.

So now I have a scanning project, before the pages completely crumble.
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Old 03-08-2015, 09:32 PM   #16
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When we decided to RV full time, we gave ourselves a year to transition, and we got rid of most of our stuff.

I spent an hour daily cleaning out shelves or drawers. I would turn on the "declutter" show (forgot the name) and go to town. One drawer or shelf at a time. Progress was pretty fast even though I'd lived in the house for 20 years.

There is a lot of buyers remorse as your dig out things you never used but remembered buying. And then there were all those gifts that you put away without even using.....

It totally changed our impulse buying habits and we requested our family only give us wine or edibles like chocolate for Xmas. Even better the family pretty much just does gift card now. There is the occasional token gift, but nothing major.
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Old 03-08-2015, 09:37 PM   #17
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This strategy works well for me. If I buy something that is xx pounds, I have to get rid of the same about as the new item. 99% off the time I don't buy the new item.
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Old 03-08-2015, 09:44 PM   #18
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Now that I think back, when I was leaving the States in 2009, the big thing was only owning 100 items. I guess that did not last long. I modified it to my post above, if you buy something that is 20 pounds (example), you have to get rid of 20 pounds of stuff that same day. It really makes you stop and think if you need something.
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Old 03-08-2015, 10:32 PM   #19
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Papers are the worst.

I frequently get bored with the process. That's the biggest problem for me.
Yes! I saved all of these papers for some reason or other. Don't want personal info in the trash or recycling so have to shred a fair amount of it. And it is often boring!

I suppose that's why I do just a bit at a time. Appreciate those that say this eventually does produce results!

I'm thinking I'll mix it up - sometimes spend a whole afternoon and other times just one drawer, closet etc. at a time.

Thanks for all of the suggestions.
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Old 03-08-2015, 10:34 PM   #20
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Those prints are really cool! Thanks for sharing them.
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