Clutter: What to Purge, Sell or Donate

Clutter. That very word raises our stress levels enough to some people panic attacks.

The HGTV Hoarders show, makes this organized designer get the heebie jeebies!

Ironic and funny, right? Well, yes and no.

How many times a day do you walk by THAT room and feel the stress? You cannot use it as it has become storage for everything that has no place. Or maybe the case is that you cannot even park your two cars in the garage because it’s filled with a mix of stuff from your previous move, that never migrated into the house, or filled to the brim with bikes, sports gear, unfinished projects, and well, CLUTTER!

Most days, I’d say, “Don’t even get me started on this!” but the reality is, there IS help on the horizon.

You can clear your house and garage (And that BASEMENT!!!) so you can actually move those cars in the garage, use all the rooms in your house and live comfortably with less stress.

Sound good to you? Sure sounds GREAT to me – and here is why

Life in this 24×7 world is crazy. Add in the always-on Social Media that takes our attention spans down to almost zero and what happens? You don’t deal with your environment. You step back from this and take a step forward into the mess that has resulted.

In my life, between being a military brat and married, I’ve moved 21 times so far – and the hubs and I are still not finished with that. Even in the last 5 years, we’ve moved twice. So we found that we had to pay for offsite storage for our clutter – because I am an anti-hoarder.

Last year, I first told Mr. B that we should not pay over $1,000.00 a year for storing our stuff. We went out to take a look and he shrugged his shoulders, telling me we were not storing THAT much.

(I'll add I have a friend who paid for storage of her parents stuff for TEN years - and the yearly price was much higher than ours!)

This year, I tried a different tactic, now that we’d paid $2500 over 2 years.

“Mr. B, I need to ask you a question about our storage. “Okay…” he said. I replied, “I’ve been thinking hard about what we pay to store all that stuff. I’ve forgotten what is even in some of the boxes. So do you think it’s smart to pay to move all this stuff again for a third time?”

That was all it took to get Mr. B to agree. Whoopee!!

So we moved the empty appliance boxes, my wedding dress from 1982, 3 large boxes of kitchen items – including Waterford and antique crystal glasses, Mr. B’s bar items, my daughter’s sewing machine, and so on back to the house. We moved two tall, heavy-duty wire shelving units into our garage. These hold plastic storage boxes full of holiday décor and my genealogy family records and other items we still need, but not all the time.

 Our Garage all tidy now. Those Wire rack shelves are on wheel with locks. Best idea for easy pulling out of what you need. Much better support than heavy duty plastic Shelving.

Our Garage all tidy now. Those Wire rack shelves are on wheel with locks. Best idea for easy pulling out of what you need. Much better support than heavy duty plastic Shelving.

Since we are renting a townhouse while we try on houses for downsizing, our master bedroom is huge. Because we will only be here one more year, we chose to keep the empty appliance boxes in our bedroom in an area that gets no use. I’m not paying for a moving box that won’t really fit the microwave or TV. You get the idea. (Some of you would toss these – and that’s okay – but please recycle them, if you can.)

Here are my best strategies to pare down all that clutter:

– First, emotionally detach from the items you think you want to keep.

-There will be family pieces you’ve inherited that your siblings want the right to, before you donate. Consider asking people if they want them before renting the extra large dumpster.

– Recognize that there will be items that no longer serve where your life is now. What changes as we grow is often that we prefer things to be more simple, with clear sight lines, with a few pieces that add warmth.

– Photos can accumulate, but they don’t have to. I used to have a pretty dress box. It was filled with photos from 1987 – 2001, before digital cameras and cell phones came out. Yes, fourteen YEARS of photos – crammed into a box. Sit down when family is in town and everyone picks out the best. And with the leftovers, BE daring and get rid of photos. Put them in the shredding box, and go here to get the photos you’ve kept digitized. I did this and phew! No more monkey sitting on my back. I just kept throwing photos and other remembrances from my kids in there, but I realized I’d carried that particular heavy box around for too long. Yes, it really is OK to get rid of photos. Especially the bad ones.

– Don’t trash what you can donate. Clothing and all sorts of stuff, including rugs, lamps and such, can be picked up by Lupus, Vets, or some can be donated to your local Salvation Army. I prefer items to be picked up. IF you like to donate, keep a tally of what you donated for taxes, along with the receipt from pickup for taxes.

Now, let’s get to my Wedding Dress.

 My father and I on my big day! He sure looked dapper, while I was trying not to cry Tears of Joy.

My father and I on my big day! He sure looked dapper, while I was trying not to cry Tears of Joy.

It was a very hot and humid July day in Virginia when Mr. B and I got married. Our reception was held under a tent in my parent’s backyard. The bartender’s shirt was so soaked thru you could see the tattoos on his back! All that people remember from our wedding is how hot it was!

29 years later, I looked at this box that had moved with us. My daughter is 4 inches taller than me and built totally differently. I knew she’d never wear it. She was home, shortly before she graduated from college. We opened the box. She was excited, because she’d never seen it close up. It was a pretty special moment, and once we shared it, I was ready to move on.

Ultimately, I donated my dress to Women Giving Back (a local charity), for their Boutique. My daughter liked the triple veil, so we kept that. I used two plastic cleaner bags to cover it from top and bottom, closed with staples. It’s now hanging in her closet in this house. I had purchased an extra yard of the lace, which has pearls and glittery sequins sewn on to the bodice.
She will use this lace on whatever dress she says YES to when the time comes, so we’ll still have our special connection without hanging onto a garment we hadn’t looked at in thirty years.

Of course, now I can’t remember which box we still have that lace in, though I do remember it was wrapped in tissue so it could be used to cushion another piece in the box… Surely we’ll find it when we can finally unpack my kitchen and the 4 other boxes that are now against the wall in our first floor family room – on our next move in a year…Le Sigh.

You see – decluttering truly is a process!

The point is, though – if I can declutter photos, a wedding dress and countless other things, and save THOUSANDS on storage fees, you can do it, too! And you’ll be happier for it!

If you are in Northern Virginia, contact Lisa Rigoni of the Organizing Mentors here.  Mention my name when you call her for special pricing. Lisa will help you sort through all your clutter so you can breathe again as the stress falls away.

Heather Bates