Spring Cleaning: More Painful Than Watching Reality TV

It’s spring cleaning time. On top of the usual build-up, we are moving in a few months to a place where there (gasp!) probably won’t be a basement! I’m not the best at organization, but here’s what we’ve done so far:

Made two big boxes labeled Sell and Donate. If it has a chance of selling for $10 or more, I’ll eBay it. Hard-to-ship stuff will go on Craigslist. For clothes, we’ll do a run at Buffalo Exchange (used clothing store). Everything else will be donated. I might try FreeCycle, but to be honest I will probably just follow my neighborhood’s common practice of leaving a box outside labeled Free Stuff and let people go at it. We get a decent amount of foot traffic. Now that’s recycling locally ;)

Implemented the one-year rule for clothes. If you haven’t worn it in a year and it isn’t formalwear, it’s gone. That means you’ve gone through all four seasons, cold, hot, wet, dry, and not found a reason to wear it. This can be pretty painful for my wife, but she gets dibs on the clothing credit at Buffalo’s so maybe it’ll work out. If I could fit all my clothes besides winter coats into two large suitcases, that would be awesome.

As a certified pack rat, I really need to let go of certain things. I just have to accept that it’s okay to once in a while buy something again that I already owned once 15 years ago… Sure, keeping 500 ft of old ethernet cable might come in handy someday, but really, it probably won’t. I’m not the only one with 300 blank 4x CD-Rs that I got free after rebate ten years ago… am I?

I really want to simplify and de-clutter my life. Any other tips, if only psychological, to help me do so?

Comments

  1. It’s helpful to have somebody (not spouse) watch you sort. They can let you know if you’re being absurdly attached to “stuff.”

    A friend of mine had an all-day party (come whenever you want) where they gave stuff away. It was lots of fun.

  2. “I?m not the only one with 300 blank 4x CD-Rs that I got free after rebate ten years ago? am I?”

    No, you’re not.

  3. I still have a package of blank CD-Rs that I bought on a Black Friday so many years ago that I forgot if they were free or cheap after rebate.

  4. I like the TV show where they actually take everything out of the house and then sort through it to see what would be allowed back in.

    I know you are moving, so what about enforcing the rule as you move into the new house?

    Have fun, and I hope that a basement IS part of the next house!

  5. The one-year rule is hardcore – seriously, that’s dedication to minimalism! As you noted, sometimes it’s so hard to let go. However, once you clear the clutter out of your life, you feel SO much better. My wife and I have a ton of work to do in this area.

  6. Speaking of ebay, they’re having a promotion where the listing fees for items in all price brackets is 20 cents, which is usually this listing fee for $.01 to $.99 items. If you’ve been putting off listing anything, now would be a good time.

  7. You’re a man. Turn it into a challenge/competition.

    How big can you make the “throw away” pile?

    How big a tax writeoff can you get from the “donate” pile?

  8. Pack all the ‘not sure about this’ stuff together in boxes. After moving, don’t open these unless you need something. After a year these boxes will be unopened (I guarantee)!. If you still can’t bear the thought to throw the whole box out, write down their contents from memory.

    Give your wife the list, let her unpack and throw out everything that’s not on it. Be sure to leave the house before she starts, and have the items actually leave your house before you return, whether it’s recycled or dumped.

    Good luck ;-)

  9. As someone who also saves things compulsively, it helps if you allow yourself to remain sentimentally attached to some things. It seems easier to get rid of ethernet cords when you allow yourself to save things like birthday cards or nice letters. And stuff like that is easy to sort and store, so not too much damage is done to the de-cluttering project.

  10. Until recently I had 100 floppies I got free after rebate

  11. To quote Bob Dylan:

    Funny, how the things you have the hardest time parting with
    Are the things you need the least

  12. I’m actually moving next month from california to NY and I took my old used clothes to Buffalo Exchange. I took in four large bags and got back about $15. yep.

    Maybe it would be worth your while to actually watch them go through each item and see if they accept or reject them. I dropped my clothes off and left the store to come back and get the cash. Funny thing is that I have a friend who received exactly the same amount I got on his last trip… so, don’t settle for $15!!

  13. You can also sell gently used clothes and accessories at Plato’s Closet if you have one. I have the same rule as you as far as the clothes in the closet, if I haven’t worn it in a year, I’m not going to, so OUT with it!

  14. Nony-mouse says:

    funny u should mention ur CD-R’s……I kept collecting these thinking there could never ever be such thing as having too little of these……i guess HD have become so cheap tat backing em up on CD’s is so yesterday. [and also the introduction of thumb drives]

    Remember, this was one of the only way at one point to transfer stuff from one computer to another.

  15. I also don’t want to pay for moving all this stuff. We are getting some relocation funds, but still. I really do want to lead a less cluttered life.

    The horrible thing is most of my clutter is virtual now. With digital photos, pdfs, multiple e-mail addresses….

  16. Man, reality TV is WAY better than cleaning your house.

    I really like having deadlines and goals. I would do one room at a time; say, your bedroom by this weekend, the garage by next week, and the basement by the end of the month. That way, it doesn’t seem so overwhelming, and after finishing a room, you feel like you accomplished something.

  17. Jonathan,

    I totally understand. I’ve been doing that myself. You’d be surprised at how much your stuff is worth. I know I certainly was. My IRA contribution this past year was entirely funded by me selling things from my closets and storage boxes.

    I doubt I’ll do as well this year but it certainly is going to help when I have to move to my new place in 2 months. Now I don’t have to pay someone to lug that crap to my new place.

  18. Gates (not Bill) says:

    I just moved recently, so I’ve been through the “I have too much stuff” phase. Right now, I’m living in my father’s spare bedroom waiting for my fiance and my stuff to arrive.

    What helped me clean out was the impending thought of having to move again. I had to think of everything being important enough to be worth packing up again. Psychologically, this shifted me to a much simpler head space.

    I looked at clothes that fit me back when I was 170 (and 20 years old). Now I’m 26 and back down to 185 (205 in October). I’m on my way to 165, but I don’t really want to lug those clothes around with me, so they’re gone. When hit 165 (in a few months), I’ll just go out and buy new stuff that fits and looks good.

    I crammed burned DVDs into a big binder and I’m looking to rip all of my CDs / DVDs so that I can just leave them boxed up somewhere. And many of my books will likely remain in boxes in my apartment storage. I’m also working on some options to help digitize my receipts/statements/invoices and I’m moving all of my bills to on-line. It just seems so much easier to store a 500GB backup drive with my stuff on it than to lug the last 7 years worth of paperwork.

    Really, having 90% of my stuff up in storage (while I squat) has been a great lesson in understanding what I truly need/use. One poster suggested leaving stuff boxed up for a year. His method is harsh but fair, but it does mean that you have to move everything with you. And really, you want to move less things with you.

    I know that you’ll have this concept of “what if I need another one of these”, but really, how much will it cost you? And how much are you going to waste on extra space in a house for all of the extra stuff. Personally, a big move like mine, just served to remind how proud I am of all of the quality things that I own. I don’t seem to mind moving my quality stuff around :)

  19. You’ll be shocked at how much things are worth. I just checked, and I sold $1600 on Amazon alone last year, and over $5000 since I began a few years ago. That’s some mad cheddah, yo.

  20. I always find going quickly makes things easier. If I’m not going fast enough, I find thing x that I haven’t seen in 2 years and I forgot I had. How cool, I’ve gotta go set this up/keep it somewhere. Going fast helps me get through things without being sidetracked.

  21. I’ve got a whole website (www.confessionsofahoarder.blogspot.com) devoted to decluttering, so I’ve thought a lot about this. Less stuff means….less to care for, to haul around, to insure, to clean around. I’ve been working hard since August 2006 at decluttering my house, not in preparation for a move or new family member, but rather to move toward a simpler lifestyle. I am just plain tired of so much stuff. A good book on the subject, with lots of ideas, is Apartment Therapy.

  22. Being a packrat is usually a psychological thing more than anything. I used to be the same way!

    I’d HIGHLY recommend checking out http://www.flylady.net. I’ve implemented some of the stuff she teaches and it’s helped tremendously.

    She says to ask yourself these three questions when deciding whether or not to keep something (or buy it if it’s new): 1) Do I love it? 2) Do I have to have it? 3) Can I live without it? So now, I ask myself those questions all the time. There’s nothing wrong with having stuff, but life is too short to clutter it up with junk. Even if it’s FREE!!

    Offloading stuff around you and clearing it out frees your mind to think and gives you the freedom to accomplish tasks. The less stuff you have, the less likely you are to have to waste time tidying up. The FLYlady routines help so much. I hope you look into it and let us know how you like it. I’ve recommended her to many people and they have all loved her.

  23. Some people’s clutter is a symptom of obsessive compulsive disorder, go Google “obsessive compulsive disorder hoarding” to check out the details. The saddest cases are the little old folks who die when a stack of their personal clutter collapses on them and smothers the life out of them. One case I read about involved a cadaver sniffing dog who was unable to find the victim under all their junk. There are a lot of emotional issues on this, and (now that I think about it) on many other aspects of Jonathan’s blog. Money & possessions do strange things to us.

  24. When I decluttered my own life, I sorted things by two categories…things I love, and things I don’t love. That doesn’t mean I dont LIKE them, just that I don’t LOVE them. I made the decision (after my husband left me on my birthday…which, in hindsight was the best birthday gift he EVER gave me) that I would surround myself with ONLY thing things and people I love.

    I also realized that keeping things I don’t love deprives other people from having things they might love.

    Simplicity is freedom!

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