While there are many benefits to downsizing, there is one important question you must ask yourself before you begin: “What should I do do with all my stuff?”
That’s where remediation comes in.
Simply put, decluttering is the methodical method of removing all unused, unwanted or unnecessary items (ie “clutter”) in your home. And while it’s a useful practice for those looking to downsize and streamline the moving process, it can also benefit homeowners and renters—at any stage—who remain in their home.
Make a plan to deal with the stuff in your home, once and for all. Keep reading for our top cleanup tips.
The unexpected benefits of cleansing
Sure, decluttering will be helpful as you begin the process of downsizing. But there are some surprising added benefits to jumping on the bandwagon:
- It can put a little extra money in your pocket. Between garage sales and websites like Craigslist, eBay, and Facebook Marketplace, there are many avenues available to offload your unused items. Another way you can reap a financial benefit from decluttering is by eliminating the need for a storage unit that can average between $60 and $180 a month (possibly even more if it’s temperature controlled). While it may not be an option for everyone, getting rid of that storage space can save you hundreds of dollars each year. And that’s extra money you can put towards moving costs or improving your home.
- It can help improve your mental health and overall well-being. An article in Psychology today highlights six benefits of decluttering, including helping to reduce anxiety and rediscovering “lost” items.
- It can help ease any future burdens. If downsizing has to happen unexpectedly and quickly, it can be a huge relief to your family and loved ones to know that you’ve already gone through your home and thrown away the things you didn’t want, need or use.
How should I declutter?
It’s natural to feel overwhelmed at the thought of sorting and purging items that have accumulated in your home for years.
But fear not. It’s all about having the right plan in place before tackling your first project. To get you started, AARP recommends these eight easy ways to declutter every space in your home.
- Remove trash. Bring a trash bag to a room and dispose of all legal trash, especially items that are broken.
- Start small. Start your decluttering journey by focusing on an area that’s easy to manage, like your linen closet or kitchen junk drawer.
- Get sorted. As you work your way through the area you’re clearing, organize your items into three piles: keep, donate, and throw away.
- Give everything a home. Find a specific place to store or display items you plan to keep. For example, designate a drawer for your phone’s power cords or a basket for your TV remotes.
- Store like with like. Group similar items together so you always know where to find them. For example, keep the screwdriver out of the junk drawer and stow it away in your toolbox where it belongs.
- Enforce the “one in, one out” rule. If you buy something new, find something to either donate or throw away to keep the number of items in your home to a minimum.
- Ask before continuing to store anything. You may have some favorite items that you plan to pass on to the next generation. But does your grandchild even like your wedding china? Now is the time to ask your heirs about them will the items you hold on to for them. And be prepared if they say no.
- Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Calm down. Trying to do everything at once can set you up for failure. Instead, you should set aside small chunks of time dedicated to cleaning and organizing your home, and commit to tackling it on a consistent basis.
These steps are a good starting point for your entire cleanup process. Just make sure you consider sticking to the items that every home needs.
Do a home inventory
And as you go room by room to sort through your belongings, it’s a good time to start taking stock of your home.
This way, you’ll have a comprehensive list of all your personal possessions, along with their estimated values, to help protect the contents of your home should you ever need to file a home insurance claim after a fire or other major disaster.
Considerations room by room
- Organize your paperwork. One of the most important things that accumulate in any office is paperwork. Do you know what to keep and what to shred? You should always keep important items such as birth certificates, death certificates, marriage licenses, Social Security cards, military service records, retirement and estate planning documents, and life insurance policies. Personal health and vehicle records, loan documents, savings bonds and more should be saved but reviewed annually to ensure they are up to date. Other items such as receipts, bank statements and credit card bills can be kept for a year (or less).
- Get rid of unused electronics. Maybe it’s an old laptop or a digital camera with a missing power cord. Explore your local options for recycling unused electronics; Just make sure you’ve removed all your personal data from these devices before getting rid of them.
- When it comes to children’s art, keep your favorites. Every piece of art your children (or grandchildren) give you is special. But give it time and you’ll soon have a museum-sized collection shoved into your office closet. Instead, take out your favorite items and create an art wall in your home, or put together your own themes.
- Protect precious memories. As much as we cherish our photo collections, let’s be honest: most of us do little to organize them. You may have boxes of physical photos tucked away in a closet, or thousands of digital files stored on a hard drive. Consider putting physical photos into a new album and storing them in a cool, dark, dry place.
- Get your things off the floor. Storage solutions like angled brackets, bungee cords, mason jars, large baskets and magnetic strips attached to the walls can help you find a home for anything you decide to keep in your garage.
- Organize for safety. Since you’re probably in and out of your garage almost daily, it’s easy to have a blind spot for potential hazards like sharp tools and electrical hazards. So after you’ve sorted through the items in your garage, make sure you organize and store them safely. Lock up your tools, eliminate tripping hazards, store ladder items safely and ensure you have safety features such as fire extinguishers and smoke detectors.
- Check the expiration dates. Check “last” and “best before” dates as you work your way through your pantry, spice cabinet, fridge and freezer. Get rid of anything that has expired. You might be surprised how much space this creates.
- Reevaluate your duplicates. Sure, it’s nice to have some extra spatulas, mixing spoons, or measuring cups handy. But are your duplicates so out of control that you have trouble closing your drawers or putting another ladle into a pot on the counter? Go through all your gear and take an objective look at what you need, what is nice to have and what can be given away.
- Match your storage containers and lids. How many of us are guilty of having a random lid that doesn’t have a partner but is still tucked away in a cupboard somewhere? Take the time to go through your containers and make sure each one has a lid. Throw them away without matches, or find a new use for them.
- Free up your fridge. On the outside, that is. Go through everything that appears on it and remove any outdated messages or old artwork from your children. Keep only what you feel comfortable with and toss or store what you are willing to let go.
- Get creative. You can reorganize or reconfigure your current space to make room for something practical that you’ll actually use, like more pantry space.
- Thin your wardrobe. Are your dressers and closets overflowing with clothes you never wear? Go through your closet and clear out any items that haven’t seen the light of day in years. And remember to be honest with yourself about what you’ll realistically use – or fit in. You can generate some extra cash by selling your best items to a thrift store (or online marketplace) and then donating the rest.
- Empty the nightstands. Sometimes we use bedside tables, end tables, drawers and storage containers under the bed to store things that will be forgotten later. Go through all of these hidden stashes and decide what’s really worth keeping. The rest can go.
- Prioritize rest. According to SleepFoundation.org, visual clutter can create stress and affect the quality of sleep we get. So taking a moment to assess what you have in your bedroom and following general guidelines for decluttering can help you get a better night’s sleep. And if you have a TV in your room, it may need to find a new “home” too, as watching TV before bed can have a negative impact on a good night’s sleep.
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