Your Kids Don’t Want Your Stuff—Here’s How to Start Clearing Clutter

Clearing clutter

By the time you reach a certain age, it’s understandable that along with your life experiences, you’ve accumulated a lot of things. When it comes to downsizing your possessions, it can be overwhelming to know where to start. While it may be tempting to simply start organizing, the first step is clearing out everything you no longer want or need. Whether you’re moving to a smaller space, renovating, or just doing some spring cleaning, these tips will help clear clutter and make your home more organized.

Talk to Your Kids

It’s tempting to save every piece of antique furniture or family heirloom that was passed down from your parents with the belief that your children will one day lovingly place it in their homes. Unfortunately, however, home decor styles change, and these pieces may not suit their taste. Your best bet is simply asking them which items they may one day want. Then, establish if they would be willing to take them off your hands soon or whether you’ll have to continue to store them long-term. It’s also a good idea to involve them at every stage of the clutter-clearing process. You might be hanging onto their fifth-grade report card with the belief that it’s sentimental for them when, in fact, they wouldn’t care less if you tossed it.

5 Clutter Clearing Strategies5 tips for clearing out clutter

Once you’re ready to start the process, consider one of these strategies:

1. Set Goals

Clearing clutter takes a lot of time and energy, so it’s best to set realistic goals to ensure the job gets completed. Commit an entire weekend to the task or do an hour of decluttering a day, based on how you work best.

2. Go Room by Room

If the entire process of decluttering feels intimidating, split the job into smaller tasks. Within each room, feel free to start small with a single drawer or cabinet. This strategy also helps to prevent your entire home from being upended at once.

3. Follow the One-in-One-Out Rule

Rather than clearing clutter all at once, consider simply getting rid of something every time a new item enters the house. Buy a new pair of shoes? That means you have to ditch that pair you haven’t worn in years. Pick up a new lipstick? Toss the one that expired ages ago that was never very flattering anyway.

4. Keep Only Things That are Useful or Beautiful

While some experts may suggest only holding on to possessions that bring you joy, that’s a tough rule to apply to the more practical items in your home. While you may struggle to find joy looking at a cheese grater, it sure does come in handy when prepping dinner.

5. If You Don’t Use It, Toss It

While this concept may seem simplistic, it’s an important one to keep in mind. For example, consider whether you need that stack of DVDs when you now watch everything on Netflix.

Clear Your Closets

Spring Cleaning

There are specific guidelines to follow when sorting through clothing. Many organizational experts recommend removing everything from your closet to evaluate what you have. There are a number of rules to follow when deciding which clothes to keep:

1. Get rid of anything that no longer fits. 

While it’s tempting to keep that pair of jeans that fit perfectly five years ago, it’s better to invest in pieces that fit you at your current size, whatever that may be.

2. Ditch clothing that no longer matches your personal style. 

Trends change every season, and our personal styles evolve over time. If you’ve crafted a new aesthetic for yourself over the years, it’s probably time to let go of any clothing that doesn’t fit your new look.

3. Part with ripped or stained clothing.

While clothing can, of course, be dry cleaned and mended, be sure to get rid of anything that’s irreparably damaged or that you’re not invested in fixing.

4. Sell or donate anything you haven’t worn in the past year.

If you’ve made it through four seasons without ever choosing a particular piece of clothing, it’s not likely you’ll wear it in the future. However, this rule has a couple of exceptions. Keep formalwear and clothing for particular activities for three to five years.

5. Only keep clothes that make you feel confident.

This one is pretty self-explanatory, but make sure that what you keep in your closet helps you feel your best each day. If you have an item of clothing that makes you feel dumpy or outdated, let it go.

Tackle Sentimental Items

Many experts, including organizational guru Marie Kondo, recommend leaving the sentimental stuff for last when clearing clutter. That’s because it’s likely the hardest to part with. First, get some practice tossing out old running shoes and fraying dish towels that you don’t have an emotional connection to.

A number of items in your home may spark happy memories or act as souvenirs of earlier days, but it’s not necessary to keep every single one. Of course, you might want to hang on to your grandchildren’s art projects, your kids’ old toys and baby clothes, and relics from your own school days. One great trick that’s a breeze in the age of digital photography is simply snapping photos of everything you want to remember. Keep one adorable onesie and save photos of the rest of them so that you keep the memories while clearing clutter.

It’s difficult to get rid of items that were received as gifts. Something that was thoughtfully purchased for you may seem rude to discard. You’re under no obligation, however, to hang on to something for years—or even decades—just because it was a gift. Keeping something in your home simply because you feel too guilty about getting rid of it is a recipe for lifelong clutter.

Get Rid of It

Now that you’ve decided what stays and what goes, you’ll need a strategy for clearing out the things you no longer want. Put every item you’ve decided not to keep into one of three piles: trash, sell, and donate.

  • Throw out or recycle stained or broken items or anything that’s in poor condition. This could include clothing, expired cosmetics, non-functional electronics, and paperwork you no longer need. Be sure to shred anything that contains private or sensitive information.
  • Sell anything that is in good shape, be it high-quality clothing, furniture, home goods, or old children’s accessories. These days, there are a number of apps and websites like Craigslist that make it easy to list items. Snap a quick photo on your phone and upload a listing. One major perk of selling larger items is that the buyer will pick them up and take them off your hands, so you don’t have to move them yourself.
  • Donate anything that is in good condition but doesn’t have a high value. Homeless shelters and women’s shelters always need clothing, accessories, and items for children. For large donations, consider contacting local organizations to see if they can schedule a pick-up at your home.

Now that you’ve learned about clearing clutter in your physical space check out our piece on how to get your mind organized

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