Cleaning House

Goodwill Pile

Last week’s donation pile

Lately I’ve been on a cleaning kick, and not just because I don’t like how a messy house looks. Ever since my grandmother passed away last year, clutter has been on my mind. It took over a month to go through everything in her house—partially because it was such an emotional experience, but also because there was just SO MUCH STUFF. It made me realize how much I don’t want that. I don’t want things around that don’t serve a purpose or that don’t make me happy when I see them. I don’t want piles and bags of things that I “plan to do something with later,” because the odds are, if I haven’t done anything with that stuff yet, I probably won’t.

It can be overwhelming to pare down your life, though. Before I started cleaning out, I had to get clear about my personal guidelines for sorting through the clutter. Here’s what I decided to get rid of:

  • Clothes, shoes, and accessories that I either don’t wear, don’t enjoy wearing but still wear sometimes, and clothes that are just plain worn out
  • Books that I don’t have an interest in re-reading, or that I’ve read partially and don’t want to finish
  • Misc. items that aren’t being used, but I was hanging onto them for any number of reasons (i.e. they were gifts, I thought I’d use them at some point, etc.)
  • Paperwork/receipts that I don’t need to keep

There’s something about walking into a room and knowing that everything in it serves a purpose, and that anything unnecessary has been removed that is so calming to me (and a good metaphor for how to live life, no?) It allows me to focus more on the things I want to do—cooking, working on projects, writing, spending time with friends and family, or relaxing.

Want to join in on getting rid of the stuff? Here are a few tips:

  • Focus on one space at a time. If an entire room is too overwhelming, try a closet or a drawer. If you’re anything like me, once you start in one area, you’ll feel more motivated to keep going.
  • Make three piles: trash, donate, and relocate.   Don’t run from room to room relocating, or try to make several different donation piles. It’s too distracting, and you’re less likely to finish cleaning out that area. Sort things in greater detail later.
  • Make multiple donation trips. This one is key. If I have a pile of donations that sits in my house for any amount of time, I’ll start going through items and re-thinking their necessity. Multiple donation trips remove that temptation.
  • Ask for receipts. If at all possible when you donate items, make sure you get a receipt. You can use it as a write-off for taxes!

What about you? Do you have any great home organization tips?

**If you are REALLY motivated to simplify, check out Dave Bruno’s TedX talk about his 100 Things Challenge (disclaimer: I have not done this challenge, but more power to you if you try!)**

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