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How to Declutter Your House

Posted By Jim On 03/17/2011 @ 7:15 am In Personal Finance | 20 Comments

I always find it extremely creepy when I read stories about hoarders. It even creepier because most of the news stories you read are often right after they’ve died in their self-made tombs (this one [3] is illustrative of exactly what I mean).

The reality is that we are all living somewhere on the spectrum between completely untethered and certified hoarder. You could argue for days on where you “should” be, chances are most people aren’t where they want to be. I personally believe I have too much stuff. Much like how a gas will expand to fill up the container it’s in, the amount of stuff we own has grown to fit the size of our house.

So today I’m going to share my strategy, one I’ve been implementing over the last year, for decluttering our lives.

Room by Room, Easy Stuff First

The strategy is this – I’m going to first go room by room and pick off all the easy stuff first. Things that I know I don’t need and that I really need to get rid off. These are things that I’ve been putting off for too long and I know it. We all have things like this in the house and we all know it. It’s the old computer in the corner that hasn’t been turned on in years. It’s the books that we’ve read, will never read, and now have a fine layer of dust on the cover. It’s low hanging fruit that takes seconds to deal with it.

After the easy stuff, I go with the larger stuff. The stuff that may take some time but give me the most bang for my time. This includes the never ending stack of personal finance books (some that I put up for auction [4]), most of the time I just donate them to my local library.

As I wrote before, I’ve been doing this over the last year in a way that opens up space but doesn’t commit me to a big time constraint. Every so often I go into a room, identify a few things, and categorize them according to what I intend to do (more on that below). It’s maybe ten minutes a day to clear out a few things. I group them by what I intend to do and then take care of that in batches.

What To Do With It?

There are three choices – sell it [5], donate it (or give it away), trash it. As I go through each of our rooms, I collect things for selling, donation/giveaway, or trash and then I do that in batches. The Goodwill pile grows until I’m tired of seeing it, then I take it to the drop off (a nice tax deduction [6]!). The electronics recycling accumulates until I make my next trip to Best Buy.

With large items that still have a useful life, I generally post it on Craigslist for free or for a modest sum. I sold my old 30″ Sony TV for $40 on Craigslist and the buyer lugged it out of the house for me. I find that you can get rid of something very quickly for free on Craigslist but if you want to filter out some of the noise, putting it up for just a few dollars will only bring out the truly serious people who won’t stand you up and won’t waste your time.

Ultimately, I’ve found that decluttering is more about putting in the time and less about the system. If you’ve embarked on a quest to simplify your life and declutter a bit, what effective strategies have you used?

(Photo: andidigress [7])


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[1] Tweet: http://twitter.com/share

[2] Email: mailto:?subject=http://www.bargaineering.com/articles/declutter-house.html

[3] this one: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/03/08/ap/strange/main20040706.shtml

[4] auction: http://www.bargaineering.com/articles/bargaineering-bucks-store

[5] sell it: http://www.bargaineering.com/articles/best-site-to-sell-your-stuff.html

[6] tax deduction: http://www.bargaineering.com/articles/tax-credit-vs-tax-deduction.html

[7] andidigress: http://www.flickr.com/photos/andidigress/4471100232/sizes/m/

Thank you for reading!