Too Much Stuff: Clearing Out
Ready to lighten your load? It may seem overwhelming, so rather than tackling too much, getting discouraged and feeling like you’ll never finish, let’s look at ways to make the project manageable.
Start now. Because you’re starting before it’s crunch time, you don’t have to spend every day on this project. It’s a good idea to set aside a few hours every week, perhaps even at the same time each week, so that clearing out becomes routine, not overwhelming. If all you can spare are two hours, then make the most of them. Stay focused on the task and try not to be distracted by reading your high school report cards (we are as proud of that A in Biology as you are).
One room at a time. One room may take several days, but think of the sense of achievement when you finish a room. A closet counts as a room. It’s a small room, but it may be the most densely packed room, so when you clear out a closet, you’ll have accomplished a great deal. Some organizers suggest starting with the kitchen, where you may find a treasure trove of little-used gadgets, expired spices and worn out utensils. Imagine the pleasure of cooking when you can find what you need without moving jars of lavender salt and celebrity salsa.
The rule of three. Organize by three categories: (1) Keep, (2) Sell/Donate/Recycle, and (3) Throw Away. Create a space for each category and keep moving things out of your home. Gather a reasonable amount of trash and take it away so you can see progress. Separate the sell/donate/recycle items and take them to the appropriate destinations. Then look at the “keep” pile again and be sure you really want those items. Repeat until you have cleared every room in your home, including the garage, basement, attic, and storage shed, if you have them.
A true story. 25 years ago, I had to clear out an elderly relative’s home after she passed away. It was a big house with a separate guesthouse and three garages. It took two of us six weeks, spread over 3 months, to complete the task. (There were countless things that should have been thrown away years earlier, but our favorite was a faded note to a handyman. We assume he completed the list of chores before he died – 10 years earlier.) We lost track of the number of giant black bags full of trash after about 60. We can’t remember how many trips we made to the local packing/mailing store to send boxes to relatives and friends.
Once we distributed everything that was going to family, friends and charitable organizations, and we’d moved the things we were keeping, we had an auction house come and clear the house. Even that experienced team underestimated the size of truck they needed. They left with patio furniture strapped to the back of the truck and still had to return the next day. It was a huge relief to see them disappear down the driveway for the last time.
Did I make mistakes about what I kept, gave away or trashed? 25 years later I have only two regrets: I wish I had kept a small blue arts and crafts vase that sat in the kitchen window, and I wish I hadn’t kept about 75 percent of the items that we moved. I need to take my own advice and clear out my home.
It’s a journey for everyone, but we know you can enjoy a clutter-less (or at least a less-cluttered) life!