Before we move into our new homes, most of us will need to declutter. And if we have the time, we should consider decluttering gradually, over several months to a year. This can decrease any potential overwhelm that can come with decluttering an entire house. So even if you’re just at the beginning your homebuilding journey, it’s not too early to start sifting through your belongings to decide what things are worthy of a spot in your new build. In this week’s episode, I’ll give you a list of some common sources of clutter and tell you how long you should keep certain items like tax documents and spices. In my next episode, I'll give you a decluttering plan that you can use before your move.
Decluttering over several months is less stressful than trying to do it all the last couple of weeks before you move, and it also help you develop a decluttering habit that you can take into your new house. It’s amazing how much stuff we keep in our homes even if we no longer need, like or use it. What we definitely don’t want to do is transfer all that useless junk to our fresh, clean-slate-of-a-new-home. That clutter can be heavy, both literally and figuratively.
Transporting useless clutter from one house to another means packing and moving a heavier load than you need to. Packing and moving more and heavier boxes translates into extra time and effort both when you’re packing and unpacking. It can even mean more money for packing materials, or in fees that a packing and moving company would charge.
Moving clutter into your new house could also mean you’re tainting your fresh space with that almost claustrophobic heaviness that comes with having too much stuff.
You don’t have to significantly contribute to the landfill by throwing tons of stuff away. Nope, much of what is underutilized by you might be exactly what someone else is looking for. Instead of throwing everything away, sell your stuff on online marketplaces or at yard sales. Or donate items to friends and family and to donation centers like Goodwill and Habitat for Humanity’s Restore. Finally, try to recycle whatever you can’t sell or donate.
Here is a long list of common sources of clutter:
1. Clothes that you don’t wear because they are: the wrong size, unflattering, stained, torn, worn or faded (this is probably the biggest source of clutter for most of us).
2. Shoes that are worn out or too uncomfortable to wear. Even if the shoes are beautiful, if they hurt your feet, you won’t wear them and if you do, you’ll be miserable. Sell or donate those beautiful shoes so they can go to someone with a different foot size or shape who will love the way they look and feel.
3. Outdated electronics like flip phones and broken curling irons.
4. Old schools players. And I’m not talking about 55 year old men at the club. I mean boom boxes, cassette players, VHS players, CD players and even DVD players. The only thing that might be worth keeping in this category is a record player and vinyl record collection that goes with it.
But with online music options like Pandora and Apple Music, and video options like fire sticks, smart tvs and streaming services, you’ll have access to thousands of songs, movies, shows, and documentaries. You don’t need to move 20 of 30 year old electronics or physical collections of movies and music into your new home to be entertained. Entertainment clutter is one of the easiest types of clutter to get rid of. Recycle wherever possible. Call the waste management organization in your area about a pick up day for those things, or ask them about a recycling drop off area in your community.
5. Extra electrical cords and outdated chargers.
6. Posters and artwork that you or your kids no longer love. As we evolve, our style, tastes, and interests change and that’s ok.
7. Expired food and medications.
8. Old make up and toiletries. How old is too old? Well, most websites say to get rid of most opened makeup and toiletries after 6 months to a year. Unopened products may last longer. But honestly, I have opened makeup that’s older than a year old that and I think it’s fine. Use your best judgment, but If you have sensitive or acne-prone skin, you may want to abide by the 6 months to a year recommendation. And if something smells funny, toss it.
9. Worn, pilly and discolored sheets, towels, and blankets. Donate those linens to an animal shelter.
10. Old, gross curtains and shower curtains.
11. Instruction manuals, especially those that you have never referenced. Now days, most manufacturers have instruction manuals online. Alternatively, you can scan or photograph the. most pertinent pages, then save the digital images. You can also just search for You Tube videos that can help you troubleshoot almost anything, sometimes better than a manual can.
Get rid of multiples. Packing and moving is a great time to take note of what you have and what you have too many of. Like…
12. Dishes, glasses, cups and cutlery. If you have your grandmother's china, but never have, and never will use it, give it to a family member or friend who loves vintage china. And donate mismatched dinnerware and cutlery to shelters, food kitchens or donation centers.
13. Cookware and cooking utensils. Do you really need 8 different spatulas and 6 different non-stick pans? Get rid of those non-stick pans that have become increasingly sticky over the years. And only save the kitchen utensils you use regularly.
14. Stained, misshapen and unpaired lids and containers.
15. Old or duplicate spices. Most spices and dried herbs are best if they are 3 years old or less. Maybe you can stretch that to 5 years if they don’t smell foul, but beyond that, it’s probably best to toss them. And please combine those 3 different containers of cinnamon into just one.
16. Extra vases and knickknacks. If you don’t love them, they’re just dust collectors. I’ll repeat... it’s ok if your tastes, interests and style have changed.
17. Extra water bottles.
18. Pens and office and school supplies. Most homes only need a small stack of office supplies. Donate the extras to schools and teachers.
19. Excess or mismatched luggage. If you can afford to build a house, respectfully, you can afford to have matching luggage. You only need about 3 matching pieces of luggage per person. Give your extra suitcases to homeless shelters, college students or to foster homes. I once read that many foster children have to put their clothes in garbage bags when going to new homes because they don’t have proper luggage. Giving this stuff away is not just good for you, it’s good for the recipients too.
Get rid stuff you haven’t looked at, thought about, used or worn in more than a year. How much do you need or love it if it hasn’t crossed your mind in a whole year? If you’ve lived without it for a year, you’ve proven you can live without it. Get rid of things like:
20. Greeting cards. Go through greeting cards that have been sent to you. Keep only the most sentimental ones. Take photos of the others and store them in a digital file that you can access from your phone or computer whenever you're feeling unappreciated or a little down.
21. Books and old magazines. Donate books to libraries, shelters and donation centers. Magazines can be recycled or go to hospital waiting rooms, doctors offices or shelters.
22. Holiday decorations that stay in storage—even when the holidays come around.
23. Children's clothes and items, toys and games that your kids have outgrown.
24. Broken stuff that can’t easily be fixed.
25. Gifts you hate but are keeping out of guilt. Donate those things and let them serve someone who really needs them.
26. Non-essential paperwork, like old bills, receipts, and taxes documents. According to the IRS, the vast majority of people need to keep old tax documents for only 3 years. There are a few special circumstances where you need to hold on to them for longer. Here's the link to the IRS webpage that tells you about those circumstances. Shred and recycle old paperwork and keep electronic copies of anything you deem important in the cloud or a flash drive.
27. Tools that you have hardly ever used. In fact, anything that you have hardly ever used. You can borrow or rent many tools that you may only need every blue moon.
28. Most of what’s in your junk drawer. Dispose of, or relocate loose screws, nails and coins. Throw away pens that don’t work, condiment packets and recycle restaurant menus. Almost all menus are online now. Shred old bills and file digital images of important papers.
Dispose of anything in your junk drawer and in your current house in gerneral that isn’t a good fit for your new place. Either because you have no space for it, or because those things don’t fit the style or vibe of your dream home. It’s ok to remove things from your space that are not a good fit for you anymore, even it they are in good shape.
For example, Instead of saving used, empty food containers that you get when you buy things like potato salad and pickles, I’ve started recycling them. I want my pantry and refrigerator to be visually pleasing and well-organized, so I’d rather not store my left overs in an old sour cream container. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I’ve been doing it for years, but I just want to do something different now. Remember, It’s perfectly ok if you and I evolve and our tastes, interests. and style change.
What if you don't know whether to get rid of something?
Your new home will probably be different from your current place and some items that work well in your current house just won’t fit or be needed in a newly designed space. If you’re having trouble deciding if something should go, ask yourself these 5 questions:
- Do I love it? (not like, but love)
- Do I need it?
- Does it fit who I am today?
- Will it fit in my new house?
- Does it serve me by making my life better or easier or would it serve someone else better?
Here’s an example: I have a TV cabinet in my current living room. It’s still in good shape and it made fairly well. So should I keep it? Let’s go through the questions...
Do I love it? No, I don’t love it anymore. I still like it okay, but it’s kind of dated.
Will/Do l I need it? No, I definitely don’t need it because most, if not all of my TVs in my new house, will be wall mounted.
Does it fit who I am today? No, that cabinet is a reflection of the needs, style and financial status of the me from 15 years ago.
Will it fit in my new house? No. Although I’d have the space for it, it won’t fit the vibe or style of my new house.
Does it serve me by making my life better or easier or would it serve someone else better? No, it doesn’t serve me or solve a problem for me anymore. It will take up space and be visual clutter. That TV cabinet would serve someone else much better. So I’m gonna sell it or give it away.
For some items you won’t have to go down that list of questions because you’ll have no doubt about whether you want to keep them or get rid of them. But use the questions for things you are unsure about. Those questions again are…
-Do I love it (not like, but love)?
-Do I need it?
-Does it fit who I am today?
-Will it fit in my new house?
-Does it serve me by making my life better or easier or would it serve someone else better?
So that’s Part 1 of our decluttering mini lesson. In a couple of weeks, I’ll give you a decluttering plan that you can use months before you move. Make sure you subscribe to the show so that episode will automatically be download to your device when it's released.
Please remember that the purpose of this podcast is simply to educate and inform. It is not a substitute for professional advice. The information that you hear is based the only on the opinions, research and experiences of my guests and myself. That information might be incomplete and it’s subject to change, so it may not apply to your project. In addition, building codes and requirements vary from region to region, so always consult a professional about specific recommendations for your home.
Thanks for stopping by. I hope this information helps you.
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