Most of us worry about the clutter this entails. But "stuff" also takes a bite out of our budget in more ways than one. First of all, all those things cost money to acquire, which typically adds up to substantial out-of-pocket expenditures over time.
And then there's the fact that many people don't have room to store all their extra stuff in their own homes, so they actually end up having to pay for storage facilities. Sometimes for years at a time.
That's not cheap at all and can end up consuming far too much of household budgets and finances. And that's before you take into account the bother and even the stress of taking care of and dealing with all those things.
So it's generally a good idea to try to break this cycle of accumulation -- even if it doesn't come easy to most of us. Here are some strategies and approaches I've used over the years that have worked in helping me simplify and declutter.
Maybe you'll find them useful, too.
The first step in decluttering and downsizing is to stop accumulating in the first place.
So my first recommendation is to be more mindful in your purchases, and avoid shopping unless you have a specific need and a list in hand.
And I don't just mean the mall or retail stores either.
I'm also including places like Amazon and any other online shopping site, as well as those common haunts of the frugal-minded -- yard sales and thrift stores.
Yes, even those bargain havens.
Because, as we all know, even if you spend less there than you would in a regular retail store, it's still a waste of money unless it's something you specifically need.
Once you stop buying stuff, the next step is to actually start getting rid of stuff.
Start with one closet or a couple of shelves. Set easy, achievable goals for yourself, so you don't feel overwhelmed and can experience a sense of accomplishment right away.
Here's what you do.
Divide the contents of the shelf or closet into 3 piles.
Pile 1 is stuff you're going to keep.
Pile 2 is stuff you're getting rid of that is in good shape and has some useful life left.
And Pile 3 is stuff you're throwing out. That pile will go directly into the trash bag you'll have with you when you start the project.
Pile 1 should be the smallest pile--- if you've done this right.
If not, then give yourself a stern talking-to and go through it again to make it smaller. Be tough. You'll be glad you were.
Remove and Re-Organize
Here's something to keep in mind: once you decide to purge your extra possessions, you will have to be very firm with yourself to actually carry it out.
So, as soon as you've made the decision to get rid of something, follow through right away. Get it out of your house immediately. Put it into the trash can, or take it to the curb for charity or freecycle customer pick up, or put into the trunk of your car for delivery to the thrift shop --- before you can change your mind.
And before you start putting those things you're keeping back onto the shelf or into the closet, try to devise a system to keep them organized, neat, and easily accessible.
Maintaining order is much easier than imposing order, so putting a little thought and time into this will pay dividends in time and effort saved in the future.
It doesn't have to be anything fancy at all - sometimes a couple of hooks or cheap baskets or containers will do the trick - but it's not a good idea to just throw things back in the way they were.
Sell or Donate?
But what about selling stuff, you ask? Why just get rid of everything in Pile 2 when there are so many ways to sell things these days? Those things are still in good shape, so they're surely worth something, right?
Let me say this: obviously if you can get good money for your possessions, then it's a good idea to try to sell them. That's particularly true if you have some big ticket items to get rid of, or in-demand, niche ones.
You can try eBay, or Craigslist. Or check out neighborhood or local town Facebook groups that allow residents to post items for free. Or explore some of the apps out there that are geared to help people sell stuff.
A yard sale is also an option.
What's Involved with Selling
But you also need to be realistic about this. The value of any product is only worth what someone will pay for it. So you might think your goods can fetch a high price, but buyers may feel otherwise.
Be aware of that, whether you're doing a yard sale, using Craigslist, a smartphone app, or selling on eBay.
Now, I've sold many things over the years using just about every means out there, including eBay, Amazon, local Craigslist, and Alibris. And I've also run more than a yard sale or two.
In some instances, I was very pleased with the money I made.
Usually that happened when I had at least an item or two that were in demand and were snapped up quickly for a solid price.
However, for more common, less expensive, or less in-demand goods, the results were not so great.
And when you're selling online, it can be a time-consuming and laborious process that includes taking pictures, creating a listing, posting the listing, regularly monitoring for any inquiries or sales (you're rated on your response rates), and then packaging and shipping the sale item.
Besides that, on platforms like eBay and Amazon, you don't get to keep the entire sales price. Fees are deducted, both by the sales site and by the payment platform, whether it's PayPal, credit card, or some other payment app.
Cumulatively, they can add up.
Additionally, no matter which selling method you're using, it typically takes considerable time for most things to find a buyer, which means you're stuck with them continuing to clutter up your space until they do.
That's not an ideal situation.
When Donating Is the Way to Go
Those are all things to take into consideration when deciding how to get rid of stuff.
And your ultimate goals are important factors, too. Are you out to make money? Then by all means try selling your things.
But if your primary goal is to just get rid of things, the only way to do it quickly is to just donate it, give it away for free, or recycle it.
Local charity thrift shops, Goodwill, the Salvation Army, and St. Vincent de Paul, are all organizations that accept donations of furniture, goods, and clothing.
Our local charity thrift shop also takes electrical cords and scrap metal. They even take stained and ripped clothing to sell as rags.
Be sure to check to see what the stores in your area will welcome for donations so that you don't burden the charities with unwanted items that they then have to pay someone to dispose of.
Sometimes leaving items on the curb with a sign marking it as free for the taking is a way to find your unwanted things a home where they can be used. We found several items of furniture this way when we lived in NYC.
Or you can post it on sites such as your local Freecycle. A Google search will point you in the right direction for the one closest to you.
Keep At It
Whatever you decide about selling or donating your things to get them out of your house and life, it's important to persevere in you de-cluttering
Be prepared to dedicate substantial time to this effort. If it's taken you years to accumulate stuff, getting rid of it is not going to happen in just an hour or two.
But work at it even 15 minutes or a half hour a day, and you will soon see results. As with many lifestyle improvements, steady persistence will pay off.
So, you might start with a shelf or closet, but don't stop there. Tackle a corner of that storage unit you're paying rent on, and keep going until it's cleared out, so you can save yourself that money.
Move on to the next closet or room and start that. Keep going until you're satisfied you're done.
Aside from the money savings you realize if you can stop paying for a storage unit, or the money you can earn from selling your things, or the tax write-off you can get for donating items of value, there are definite psychological benefits to be gained from clearing out the spaces of your home.
There's something very freeing and calming about living in an uncluttered environment.
Your living space will suddenly seem much bigger and roomier.
And it will also be easier to clean. Imagine being able to dust and vacuum without having to remove tons of items first.
It's a good feeling.
But just in case you need more encouragement to stop shopping and start de-cluttering, here's a recent viral article that offers substantial arguments for doing exactly that.
Check it out: Sorry, Nobody Wants Your Parents' Stuff.