When I first started, I just took one closet at a time. I decided what I wanted to keep in that closet and only those things were allowed to stay. First I got rid of all the clothing that my husband and I just didn’t like, then we decided on things that we would probably never wear again. Yes, I took my wedding dress to the Goodwill! It was a good one too. Someone probably snatched it up and has gotten married in it by now! We decided to keep a variety of clothes that were too small. We planned to be smaller versions of ourselves, so keeping this clothing was important to us. Today we now fit most of it! And all of our too large clothing is gone. We now have an average size bedroom closet with one rod and shelf above. All of our clothing fits in it and one dresser. On the floor of the closet we have a small shelf for shoes and two bins for seasonal clothing. I also got rid of most of my shoes. I just didn’t care about them anymore!
I generally kept things picked up in my house, but if there were things sitting out, I started there too. What was in that bowl sitting on my kitchen counter? Things kept going in and never coming out. Everyday I would pick something like that to sort and clean out. I threw out or donated what I didn’t need and found a home for the rest. And then I put the bowl away in the cupboard. The hard part is finding homes for the things you use, homes that make sense. My policy now is that I don’t have anything sitting out on a surface that is not decorative and/or gets used frequently.
I worked like this around my house. Little by little, I went through each space. The bathroom was one of the spaces that was particularly freeing to me. I had so many bottles of half used things: hair products, lotions, makeup, fancy smelling soaps that I had been given, etc. I got rid of most of it because I don’t use all that stuff anymore. I only have what I use. Why should I keep a bottle of lotion that I will never use just because it was given to me as a door prize to some event I went to? I may have spent $10 on that tube of lipstick, but I never liked the color and makeup is not even me anymore. I threw all this stuff away without feeling guilty!
Now in my much smaller new home, I look around and know exactly where things are. Our bedroom has clothing, extra blankets, and my craft supplies. My boys’ room has their clothing (including bins of bigger sizes for the future under the bed), toys and games. At the end of the hallway, I have a desk with a bookshelf. This holds all our office supplies and books. Under it I have a bin for sheets and one for towels. The bathroom has extra toiletry items, first aid items, and toilet paper. It also has my laundry table, so I keep my laundry supplies there too. In the kitchen, I have a cupboard designated for homeschool where we have all our books and supplies. Underneath it, I have a cupboard for tools (screwdriver, hammer, knife sharpener, pliers, etc.). These things may seem out of place in a kitchen, but they work for me here. I use them everyday. Why not keep them close to where I usually am? Everything we own has a “home” that makes sense, so we know where to find things and put things away.
Getting rid of stuff can be a daunting task. How would I recommend getting started?
- Just pick something. Maybe it has been forever since you have actually been able to sit in the chair in your bedroom. Decide today to clean that off. If it has been very long since you have seen the items at the bottom of the pile, you probably don’t need them! Or maybe it’s your dresser or the bathroom counter. Whatever it is, pick something! Something that will make a difference for you today and will help you feel successful when you are first starting. Don’t say that you are going to clean out the garage when you first start. That is too big of a task. Pick something that you can completely finish in an hour or less. Do a little bit every day. You will start to see lots of progress!
- Throw away your trash: takeout menus, magazines, broken toys, used rolls of wrapping paper. Do you really need these? I even threw out old art projects that my son had done. Before, you get too judgmental, I saved the best ones! I have a folder in my homeschool cupboard of all of his best work up to now. We are able to look through it and reminisce together of how far he has come because I have not saved piles and piles of every drawing or project that he has done.
- Put items to donate in your car. Don’t let them sit in another pile in your house. The next time you leave the house, drive by a donation site. When we lived in the city, there was usually a Goodwill truck in the parking lot of a grocery store near us. I pulled up, opened the back of my van, and the friendly man unloaded it all for me. Sometimes, I would load the van and my husband would take it on his way to work. My point is: Get it out of your house and then out of your car!
- Put away the things that you plan to keep, in a place that makes sense. Don’t let your bedroom be a catchall for everything! The kids’ stuff should go in their room. If there is not enough room, then they will have to get rid of stuff too. When you start, just put an item away somewhere that makes sense. Don’t try to worry about cleaning that place out too. Just put the item in its spot and decide to focus on that drawer, closet, or cupboard another day. (Maybe you need to set the item close by because the drawer is too packed already.) The point is to clean off the ONE space you have chosen. Don’t get distracted. You will become overwhelmed.
- If something is worth money, put it on Ebay or Craigslist, or have an online garage sale. Facebook has these for different areas. (We never had much success with real garage sales. Maybe some people do, depending on the area.) Post single items today! Don’t let them sit around anymore. If you are getting together a number of things for a yard sale, designate an area to put them. But have the yard sale. If they are still there after a month or so, just save yourself time and donate them.
- Don’t be afraid to get rid of something that was given to you. Things are just things. We attach so much emotional value to them. Don’t let yourself feel guilty about getting rid of something, no matter how you acquired it.
- Don’t be afraid to sell something that may be important to you. My husband and I both got rid of things that we once loved, things that still had sentimental value. But they had to go because we were no longer using them and they had no room in our life. One of those things for my husband was a very expensive Star Wars Storm Trooper costume. It was exactly like the one worn on the set of the movie. He loved it, but he knew that he didn’t need it and we did not have a place to store it. Among many other things, I got rid of crystal bowls that I had been given at my wedding, and a pair of silver strappy sandals that were so pretty! But I don’t wear high heels anymore. They had to go. I don’t miss these things. They were just taking up room.
- Decide that the spot you cleaned is now a clutter free zone. Don’t put things back on it that don’t belong!
- If you can’t find a “home” for something, you probably don’t need it because it is not something you use regularly. If it is something you love, put it somewhere where you can enjoy it. I have a shelf in my kitchen/dining room with my Grandma’s teacups. She used to let me pick one to use every time we shared “tea” together. She is gone now and they are so special to me. They are displayed out of reach of little hands, but still where I can see them and enjoy them. Ask yourself: How important is something to me, if I haven’t used it or displayed it to be enjoyed?
When you are committed to getting rid of things and stick with it, you will begin to see huge progress! I am so thankful that I took the time and hard work to do this. It has paid off so much.