Winter is still holding on, but Spring is very close. Around here that brings a lot of work in the vineyard, sheep shearing, lambs being born, and switching out seasonal items in our house.
Over the years I have got in the habit of using the change of the seasons as a time to declutter and get rid of items that we don’t use anymore.
Moving back to NC from Alaska I learned about getting rid of a lot of stuff living on an island that is isolated meant that people would leave a lot of stuff behind. We had people give us way too many things we didn’t use. We had an apartment that is bigger than the house we built and live in now. It took two truckloads and countless trips to the thrift stores to rid ourselves of the excess. We mailed a few basics back to NC and left with nothing but a carry on bag. It was a fresh start, and it set a standard for not having a bunch of stuff we don’t use.
Now when we change from the colder parts of the year to the warmer and vice versa, I always ask myself if it is worth storing something to use the next time the seasons change. This avoids storing things that you won’t use, and it makes it easier to keep things decluttered every year.
It is hard to get started and it can seem totally overwhelming!
If you have a lot of stuff then it can seem like you just don’t know where to start. Start with a single room or space and then go from there
Get others involved so it is not just on you.
Kids and teens can help and they will probably like it a lot more if you give them some choice in what items need to go to charity, in the trash, or sold. I know that some of you may have kids that are hard to get to clean their rooms and such and you may have had moments where you considered tossing items yourself. Maybe you have even done this. I am not trying to judge you personally but I do think that cleaning things out will go a lot better and you will avoid nasty after effects and feelings if you try to give older kids and teens some control in the matter. In short, don’t just go in there room and start tossing while they are at school as tempting as it may be.
Have a reward at the end
All work is no fun. A reward helps motivate and get things done sooner. Decluttering may take days or even a week depending on how long the build-up has been going on.
Things that are most commonly hoarded and should go.
These are the items that I have found people hoard up the most. This is not just me. I have helped a lot of relatives get rid of clutter.
Clothing that is too small or large for you
There are so many clothes out there. Second-hand shops are full of them. If you have clothes that you cannot physically wear, then it is time to donate or toss them depending on the condition. If you know someone that may be interested, then you can mention that you have extra clothes if they are interested. If they don’t jump on the deal, don’t bring it up again. People are often too polite to simply say they are not interested in your old clothes.
Clothes from your kid’s childhood
Even if someone is done having kids, there is a tendency for people to hold on to old baby clothes. I realize there are memories attached, but those clothes are better off in the hands of a new mother or a needy one that can actually use them so long as they are in wearable condition. Keeping an item or two is one thing but if you have a ton of kid clothes hoarded, donate them.
Too many knick knacks and memory triggers
I understand having some family heirlooms and memories but do you need a cup from every theme park you have ever been too? It is very easy to get in the habit of holding on to little things like this and before you know it, you have a lot of space or storage taken up by items of little use and that may not actually mean that much to you when you really start thinking about it.
Athletic and fitness equipment
I wish I had $1 for every old treadmill and exercise bike that is being stored and never used. Even if you bought the latest and greatest fitness machine off TV 5 years ago and it is basically new, there is a good chance you won’t get much for it. Those machines are really big and not in demand so much so donating them is probably the way to go.
Sports equipment that is still useful may be sold or donated to community groups, churches, schools, etc.
Decluttering will make it easier to maintain cleanliness and get started on Spring cleaning for a nicer and more organized summer.
Even if something is just sitting there, it gathers dust and grime that has to be removed, or it gets gross. Having less in your home will make it easier to keep clean and nice during a busy work week.
Piles of stuff give vermin a place to hide.
The more stuff you have piled up and largely left undisturbed, the easier it is for rodents and bugs to take up residence in your home or storage buildings.
Have a throwaway and a donation pile
Don’t waste the time of charity groups by donating items that are not in good enough condition.
Clothing or linens with stains and holes that you don’t want doesn’t have any business going into the donation bin. Workers have to sort through that stuff and throw it away. It wastes the time of charitable groups when you dump off bags and boxes of unusable and unsaleable items.
Some places like Goodwill have started to refuse some items due to so many people cleaning out older homes. If you have older electronics or furniture you may want to ask before you haul it over to them. If not you need to allow time to go to the dump.
The Generation Difference Connection
This is a hard subject to talk about but it is coming up more and more. I had to clean out my grandmother’s excess and then had to help other family members with major clean outs. Times have changed and the next generation does not have space or the desire to take all the stuff that was accumulated over the years.
This is harsh sounding and I don’t mean to trivialize the feelings of the older generation but those that come after often are renters or they live in smaller homes. Some cherished items are dated and simply don’t have the usefulness that once did.
Does the question become how to delicately handle this situation? How do you do this without hurting feelings?
There is no easy way.
In our situation, my grandmother was in her 90s and had not been able to keep up with taking care of her stuff, and her house developed a mouse issue. We had to clean out a ton of decor and old clothing. Many of her other family members insisted that the house stay like it was. The problem is that when you are trying to keep your grandma from being forced into a rest home, you got to keep things tidy and follow some basic cleanliness rules.
I have handled this a few ways. I am not saying it is ideal but this is what I have done, and I really hated to have to make these decisions.
If it is something that is actually not a family heirloom and just nick nacks or other basic household items that you won’t use, a lot of those will probably have to be donated. Sometimes it is best to just take something like that and then quietly donate, so you don’t just hurt someone
If it is something special and meaningful, then make room for it if you can.
Unfortunately, some items from the past can be rather large, and this may simply not be possible with the modern lifestyle. People are more mobile than they used to be. Staying in one place for decades doesn’t happen as often as it used too. Perhaps splitting up the most meaningful items with a larger group of family members is an option worth pursuing?
If at all possible be honest about things but use some tact. Your parents or grandparents have a lot of cherished memories and the last thing you want to do is act disrespectful or inconsiderate.
This is a hard subject, and honestly, I could write a whole book on how to deal with trying to do what is best for your elders while respecting and valuing them.
I hope that different age groups reading this will think about where they are at with this type of thing, so it is easier for everyone and results in less hurt feelings and misunderstanding. It is not that people think your stuff is worthless. Remember that younger generations are building their own memories too and filling a home with mostly your stuff can make it seem like the space is not theirs just like if they crammed their stuff in your space.
On relatives not coming to get things
It is very awkward to be in the position of distributing items to relatives that say they want this or that and everything is agreed on. Then two weeks later they still have not come to get them. There reaches a point where you just have to give it to someone else, donate it to Goodwill, throw it away, or maybe take to the person that said they wanted it. If you are at a point where you are required to have things gone, then that sets a deadline that others may grumble about, but everyone has to stick too.
Some items that you don’t use may be worth something. I advise checking eBay and Craigslist for similar items to see if it is worth selling.
A lot of things don’t have a lot of value if they are more than a few years old. I am in my 30s and still have a hard time realizing that computers and tablets are made to use and throw out when they are not easily repaired.
In the early 90s, a computer was a lot of money, now you can get a Samsung Chromebook for $180 or less. Computers that are more than a few years old and still operational are best given to Goodwill who will refurbish and sell them. There are exceptions but don’t think you are going to get a lot of the new value out of electronics that are older.
The Case Of the “Perfectly Good” Recliner
When people are trying to rid themselves of clutter it is easy to look over just how worn items really are.
I remember one time my Dad got talked into getting a recliner from his brother. Honestly, we got tired of hearing about it and were not anxious to get it because my Dad didn’t want it and we knew that despite all the assurances that it was a perfectly good recliner, that is was a third-hand piece of junk. The idea was that we would get it, let me Dad see it to prove it to him, and then take it to Goodwill. Well, Goodwill refused it, and it had to go to the dump. What is “perfectly good to some” is junk to Goodwill. We reported back and explained to my Dad who after that, made sure to not listen to claims of “perfectly good”. The brother never found out that it was taken to the dump.
It is hard to say if it is worth it to do a yard sale. In my experience, unless you live in an easy to access place with a decent population, you tend to set there all day and not make much. This is why some people just set hours like 8-noon when they have a sale so that encourages people to get in and out and they don’t set there all day as I used to when I was a kid and my Grandma decided to have a yard sale to sell all the things that probably came from a yard sale to begin with. I am not kidding. I remember when she made an offer for all that was left at a yard sale and bought the whole thing. I had fun going through it as a little girl but looking back that was a really ridiculous thing to do, buying a whole yard sale.
Getting in the habit of decluttering every season saves a lot of space and work. If you don’t put stuff away at the end of a season and store it, then you don’t have to find out it needs thrown out or donated later. Just get rid of it then and you have less to deal with later. At this point, my seasonal cleanout results in a single box per year to Goodwill because I donate or share books throughout the year, so I don’t hoard those either. I wouldn’t have this much to donate, but this time we had more clothing to donate than usual.
It can feel good to get a fresh start on the season. Decluttering is also a good start to major spring cleaning, another thing that is good to be in the habit of after a winter spent staying inside more. Life is messy and pets, kids, and just being inside more can add up. Oh, and keeping up with decluttering makes it easier each year to get your Spring cleaning done. This means more time to do the things you really like while maintaining a nice clean home. Another effect is that you will have more room for preps that can actually benefit you and your family rather than items that just sit and take up space. I hear a lot of people talk about not having space for preps and things they want to do but I bet that a lot of them have more space than they think if they got rid of the clutter. That is without even thinking about all the space that is underutilized in a small or medium sized living space.
Moving on to actual spring cleaning
This is often done in steps too, but sometimes we just do it all at once.
Remove as much dust and dirt as possible through sweeping and vacuuming
We have a house with all wood walls and floors. There is a little bit of granite around the hearth and entry but that is easy to clean. Matt and I have a small house so we can get a lot of scrubbing done when we are both dedicated to it. We use a Shop Vac and upholstery attachment to vacuum the walls and ceiling.
The wipe down
We use Murphy’s Oil Soap dilute in a spray bottle and be scrub all the spots that hands touch a lot or where dogs might have slung some dirt. Oil soap seems to work well for most of the cleaning. For stubborn spots, Oxi-clean or a light bleach solution is a good bet. Just remember to test a small area first when using any harsher cleaners or a new one you are not sure about.
Airing out the house
Indoor air quality can be very bad in a lot of homes. Every chance we get we air the house out. It is good to do this while you are cleaning if you can because then any dust that is stirred up or smells from cleaners are not so overwhelming.
Old food can sometimes be cooked into dog food. If you changed your diet and have food that is not useful to you, then I suggest donating it to someone you know or a charity group. Check for bugs and spoilage at the same time. This is a good time to rearrange things entirely if you have ideas for making workflow easier in your kitchen.
Wipe down walls and cabinets well and clean out the exhaust fan above your stove.
What is your decluttering and spring cleaning routine? Do you have trouble getting rid of things? What helps you decide what to keep and what not to keep?
Samantha Biggers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.