When we first moved to this house we were coming from a very minimal 615 SF apartment. Our new home is considerably larger, and as you can imagine, we didn’t have enough stuff to fill the house; 1 couch, 1 bed, 1 table with 4 chairs, and some bookshelves and dressers. For a while now my brain has been telling me to collect things for the house, and that is just what I have done. We are now in our 4th year here and I think I did a good job of filling the space… too good, even. You might say I was enjoying the hunt for house stuff too much. Honestly, now there is shit everywhere and I’m freaking out.
Enter springtime and the annual purge as we re-emerge from our winter hidey-holes and shed all that winter crap. The house has felt really cluttered to me lately and so for our spring cleaning I purged a ton of stuff we no longer needed. Where does it all come from?
I ended up clearing out half of my wardrobe and donating 3 garbage bags full of clothes, plus another few shopping bags of shoes, to GIRO, the local recycling centre and thrift shop. Plus I kind of went bananas and pulled everything out of the storage area and donated most of that including a mattress with sheets and pillows, a huge chunk of unused brewing equipment and bottles, cardboard, and all my old design catalogues and samples for work. No sense in holding on to stuff you don’t use. Anyone else ditching old junk for the springtime??
I’ve been working in social housing for nearly a decade and have spent a lot of time working with hoarders/collectors. I’ve learned a lot and it has really helped me to get rid of things in my home as well. Here are some tips for decluttering your home:
1. Organize What You Have
When I’m feeling overwhelmed by the amount of stuff around me, the first thing I do is look at what is actually there in front of me and start grouping things. I do this at work as well; assess what you are working with and start by dividing what is there into groups: stuff that is obviously garbage, and stuff that is still functional and clean and not to be thrown away.
Getting obvious garbage out of the way makes it easier to group what is left. When I cleaned my closet the first thing I did was go through each item and remove anything I didn’t want. Stuff that was the wrong size, stuff that was damaged, items that I hadn’t worn in months and/or items I didn’t see myself wearing again anytime soon. Once all those items were bagged and ready for donation they were out of the way so I could work with what was left.
I then grouped the things I wanted to keep into like-items; shirts, pants, sweaters, t-shirts, etc. By grouping them together I could see I had actually collected a whole bunch of the same kind of denim shirt. Did I need 5 of the same thing? No, so I got rid of three and kept the two I liked best.
2. Only Keep the Essentials
“Essentials” is a pretty broad term, and I’m not saying you should get rid of everything but your matches and axe, but try to only keep the stuff you really, really love. If you have multiples of the same thing, like I did with my shirts, pick the few you like best and ditch the rest. If you have items you haven’t used in a while (be it pants you haven’t worn, food that you haven’t eaten, or kitchen gadgets you haven’t used) just get rid of it. No sense in storing expired food items and pants that don’t fit anymore!
If you haven’t used the item in a while think about whether you would use it again in the next few months. We stored the mattress thinking we could use it to go camping in the suburban. Well, the suburban died and now the likelihood of us using the mattress for camping is pretty low. Yes, we could keep storing it “just in case,” but did I reeeeally see myself going camping (the kind of serious camping where you haul a double mattress to your destination) anytime soon? Nope, so byeeee!
I also find it helpful to remind myself that if the need should ever arise, it’s easy to get that item again. If I give away the mattress but then a camping opportunity does come around, mattresses are, in fact, plentiful and I can just go find another one for cheap or freecycle! It’s not the end of the world to have to replace something occasionally, and in the meantime you don’t have to work around the item in question or have it taking up your space.
If you are really stuck, try putting the item into storage or pack it up and put it out of sight for a while and see if you ever need to track it back down. I had a few pairs of jeans that were too small but I still really liked them (and there’s always that “what if I lose weight to fit back into them!” idea when it comes to clothes) so instead of donating them I packed them into a box with some other items I wasn’t ready to let go of, then left it. A long time later I pulled them out and they still didn’t fit so I gave up and donated them. Purging in stages is ok too.
Do this often! Whether we realize it or not, we are regularly bringing things into our homes and it is important to also take things out (and not just trash, recycling, and compost). It’s important to keep on top of clutter to keep things from building up and to only surround yourself with stuff you really like or that has a lot of sentimental meaning.
I’ve found the process gets easier over time and I am regularly checking in to see if I really need this or that thing. It feels really nice to clear out all that junk and reduce the amount of “stuff” that is around the house. Plus it’s really great to give your unused items to other people that could use them instead. ❤️