For many of us, our parents or grandparents grew up in the Depression Era and they saved everything. When the time came to clean out their homes the amount of memorabilia, furniture, collectibles, and other items that had been accumulated for decades became a huge project for their loved ones. I have experienced this within my own family and maybe this explains why I’m a bit of a purger today. It’s a big job to go through a house and figure out what to keep and what to donate or sell.
When our kids were little, I cleaned out the clutter at least twice a year to make room for the abundance of new birthday and Christmas gifts. If I didn’t stay on top of the inventory of items the kids still used and get rid of those things they outgrew, we could quickly start feeling like hoarders. While I am far from being a minimalist, I have learned to slowly simplify my surroundings as I get older. I’ve been accused of being a neat-freak - and that’s ok - I wasn’t always one, especially as a teenager. I was a complete slob. Once I was living on my own, I began to take more pride in my home and keep it tidier than I did as a teenager. So, there is hope for those of us with messy teens! Lol
When we sold our home and downsized, this forced us to get rid of items we no longer used. We quickly realized we have way too much stuff laying around and we didn’t want it moving with us or going into storage, paying monthly to only change its location. Somehow we still have too much but a lot less than we did! I have another purging project coming up soon!
I think we all have a collection of some unwanted items laying around the house as well as closets with clothing that hasn’t been worn in years, and drawers containing lots of unidentified parts and manuals to appliances we no longer own. Sometimes the thought of getting rid of personal items or organizing the house can seem like an overwhelming project. The best way to start organizing is to tackle it a little at a time. Once you begin the purge process it can feel liberating! When you see the results of one area you will want to keep it going! However, getting started is the hardest part.
Here are few suggestions to get rid of unwanted and unused items:
Donate clothes, shoes, belts, accessories or jewelry you have not worn in over a year! Clean out sock drawers. Toss single socks and ones with holes! Toss underwear with rotting elastic! Toss broken or damaged items.
Send gently used items to Goodwill, Salvation Army, church groups, homeless and women’s shelters, schools, refugee organizations, prisons, nursing homes, foster care programs, disaster relief families and communities, or other groups who are in need of clothing or other items you no longer use.
Take books to schools, libraries, literacy groups, veterans groups, retirement homes, books for soldiers such as Operation Paperback, prisons, or international and local book projects.
Items to not donate (many organizations have restrictions on what they accept): under garments, items with holes and stains, broken electronics, damaged shoes, mattresses, medication, damaged furniture, used cosmetics, etc. As for outdated electronics there may be some organizations in your area that will dispose of those items.
You can also sell better quality designer items online on platforms such as Poshmark, Mercari or The Real Real. Another option is to sell designer items at consignment shops.
Donate towels, sheets, gently used pet items to animal rescue organizations.
For larger items such as furniture, appliances, sports or recreational equipment, etc., consider selling on Facebook Marketplace to recover some cost. There may also be some local Facebook selling groups in your area where you can post items. You’d be surprised how that money adds up. The silver lining is that someone is basically paying you to haul it off!!
Evaluate how many like or similar items you really need such as the number of same size pots and pans, cooking utensils, tools, etc.
Take Tupperware that doesn’t have matching bottoms and tops to a recycling center. Or repurpose bottom containers for drawer organizers!
Collect other recyclable items such as newspapers, magazines, plastic, and glass that can be taken to a recycling center.
Clean out the pantry and refrigerator of old spices and condiments. Remove food from freezer that has been in there for over a year. Donate any unexpired canned goods or box food to a food pantry or those in need of food items.
Get rid of the cosmetics and toiletries you never use.
Dispose of expired medication. There might be some drug take back programs in your area which is the optimal solution. If a drug take back program is not available to you, some items may be flushed but you need to check the FDA site for a list of those items to make sure the water supply is not contaminated, especially if you are on well water. Send empty plastic pill bottles to recycling.
Eliminate junk drawers of old manuals and unidentified parts. Those drawers can become a vault for outdated papers and parts!
Shred old bills and other documents that are no longer needed. Check IRS recommendations for holding on to tax documents in case of an audit.
Re-organize the garage and purge the junk. Shelving and storage bins are useful for organizing and stacking when cabinets are not available in the attic. There are some retrofit shelves available to go above the garage door if you have the space.
Clean out the attic – get rid of old suitcases and holiday decorations that are broken or you no longer need. Shred old documents you might find hidden up there, too. If it's too hot or cold to work in the attic bring everything down. When it's facing you every day, you will be motivated to go through it and get it out of the way!
Go through old photos and only save the best ones that are most sentimental. Get rid of duplicates. Organize photos in a scrap book, box or baggies and label them by categories or events.
Discard duplicate Cloud photos and ones that are no longer needed. Organize remaining Cloud photos or those stored on the hard drive into folders identified by year, event, etc. This will free up some storage space.
When it comes to saving your child’s memorabilia (or adult child), you can be selective about what you keep for them. Involve them in the decision process about what to keep. It is a fun experience going down memory lane together with them. I tried to limit memorabilia to one large box each. You can set your own limits when considering what to keep.
When going through all of your items, consider what is valuable to you, if it’s of value to someone else in your family, or if you should just donate or sell it!
The Silver Lining: More organized space and a lot less of the clutter! In addition, you may be helping someone else with your donated items!