Clutter Control: Simple Steps to Rid Your Home of Unused Items

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Clutter Control—As part of this clutter control series, we'll be discussing ways to free yourself from a cluttered home and uncover simple organization tips that you can follow to live in a more organized and functional home. Today's rule is all about ridding yourself of unused items. How many drawers and closets in your home are packed full of items that you have not used or worn in years? How many junk drawers do you have in your home? How often do you feel stressed when you have to dig through a closet full of boxes to find one item?

Clutter Control Rule #1: When in Doubt, Throw it Out

Guidelines for Keeping and Tossing Items

Here are some guidelines for deciding what should be tossed and what should be kept. (When we say "tossed," we are including giving it away or selling it, of course.) If you aren't actually using something, why allow it to complicate your home? I have a section of my desk drawer that is reserved just for pens. It's always overflowing. The problem is, if my favorite pen isn't there, I will turn the house upside down looking for it rather than use any of the pens that are stuffed into this drawer.

Solutions for Managing the "Throw Out" Process

The solution is to save the favorite pen plus three or four spares and toss the rest. Now there's room for adding something to the drawer should the occasion arise. And the drawer even closes easily, for the first time in years. The following are simple steps you can take to manage the "throw out" process:

  • Give items away to those who are in need. If you have several pairs of eyeglasses with outdated prescriptions, give them away. The best part is that several charities solicit them. However, if you use an item occasionally, for example holiday decorations, this is a completely different situation.
  • Give your grown kids' things back to them. If you do, maybe they'll learn to deal with clutter a couple of decades earlier than you did. The same goes for your friends, neighbors, or other relatives for whom you are storing things.
  • Assign purposes for items. If an item is broken, fix it or toss it. If it's ripped, have it mended. If it doesn't fit, have it altered. Don't put it anywhere just "for now" and keep it in a perpetual holding pattern.
  • Rid your home of extra boxes and wasted space. When making purchases, many people end up saving the boxes. My suggestion is to save the stereo box for thirty days. If the stereo hasn't broken by then, discard the box. If you bought it by mail order, save it for the full warranty period. Unless you're planning on moving (have the date set, etc.) don't keep the box "because you'll need it when you move." That's true, but it may be years away. You or the moving company can use another box when the time comes.

Rule #1 still counts if you don't know what an item is. My mother will save something even though she's not at all sure what it is. She'll convince herself that it fell out of her refrigerator or something else vital and that if she throws it away, she will only then discover where it should have gone. If she weren't my mother, I would point out to her that she has lived for over sixty years. If she hasn't learned what something is by now, there is no particular likelihood she will do so in the next sixty years.

What’s the one item you know you should throw out, but just can’t bring yourself to do it?

Debbie Sardone

Debbie Sardone is the founder of Cleaning For a Reason which provides free cleaning services to women who are touched by cancer.  She also owns a Dallas cleaning service.

Her long-time passion for teaching cleaning and organizational has lead her to continue the legacy of Speed Cleaning and the use of green cleaning products.

She can be followed as @DebbieSardone on Twitter.

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