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Getting rid of clutter

Updated on July 3, 2011

De-cluttering your life


Every now and then it’s good to have a big general clean-up. It’s amazing how quickly we accumulate clutter. Clutter makes our lives chaotic and causes mega-stress. Clutter can exist from bad relationships, a crappy job or piles of junk stacked in the corner of every room. If you have an abusive partner or friends who do nothing but bring you down, get rid of them. Spring-clean your life. You hate your career? Look into ways you can change it. Clutter is just an unnecessary burden we can do without.

Don’t start with the hardest first, start with something tangible, concrete. Like the bedside cabinet, dresser or coffee table. Anywhere you dump stuff until you can no longer see the surface. Reserve the surface exclusively for things you need. To start the de-cluttering process, get four boxes. This is the T.R.A.M. approach.

T – Trash

R – Repair

A – Assign

M – Move

Collect all the items from the dumping zone and place them on the floor. Get some furniture polish and thoroughly clean the now-bare surface. Turn your attention to the pile of stuff on the floor. This is the time to evaluate and then allocate. Anything of no use to anyone, trash it. If it needs to be fixed then put it in the repair box. Things you no longer want but can be used by someone else, or belong to someone else and you just forgot to return them, put in the assign box. Anything you still want but is in the wrong place, put in the move box.

This little bit of organising will make you feel so much more in control of your life. Of course, don’t just stack the boxes in the corner of your room or hide them away in the basement or garage. You have to follow through. Dump the trash in well, the trash. Put the items in the move box in their correct places. Give the items in the assign box to the people you’ve earmarked them for, or if they have to be recycled make sure it goes with the recycling. Items to be repaired must be delivered to whoever is going to fix them. If you are little Miss Fix-it, then put that box in your workspace.

My Uncle Ivor always used to say, “If in doubt, throw it out.” If you haven’t used it in the last 6 months then chuck it.

Ditching digital junk

It’s not only your coffee table or closet that can be cluttered. Computers, laptops, macbooks, even cellphones, cameras and ipods can be one overflowing cluttered mess.

1. Defrag your computer on a regular basis.

2. Delete temporary internet files each week.

3. Uninstall unwanted ‘add-ons’ which sneak into your browser when you surf certain webpages.

4. Invest in a portable hard drive to store movies, photos from your camera and music from your ipod so that you release space on your hardware.

5. Remove software you no longer need and photos and music you have backed up. It might also be a good idea to remove his favourite songs you put on your ipod if they bring back too many memories.

6. Clean up your inbox by deleting all unwanted emails and text messages on your cellphone. Become even more organised by sorting emails, photos and music into folders.

Sell your clutter online

It always amazes me how one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. This was really brought home to me when I lived in New Zealand. I was impressed by the people who would get up at the crack of dawn to roam the streets sifting through other people’s discarded rubbish on inorganic collection days. These special days were organised for each suburb by the city council. They’re held every four months and the householders get to dump their unwanted goods on the sidewalk to be collected by the city’s refuse trucks. I myself scored a couple of beds, an old washing machine in working order and a lounge suite in that way.

Instead of putting your unwanted items on the sidewalk, you can put them up for sale on an online site like e-bay. Many countries have their own online auction or selling sites. There is an art to selling your stuff successfully online.

1. Research. Check out what other people are charging for items similar to yours before you set the price.

2. Photos. Always include a clear photo of whatever it is you are trying to sell.

3. Description. Provide a short detailed description of the item. Don’t be tempted to lie about the condition. You will get caught out when the buyer receives the item and you’ll most likely be blacklisted.

4. Delivery. If an item is sold, send it straight away. Don’t dilly-dally and forget about it.

Before you get too excited about the money you are going to make, think carefully about how you got to be a clutter-nutter in the first place. Do you buy stuff for the sake of buying it, or do you only buy something when you really need it? If your shopping experiences consist of mostly impulse buying, then you might need to change the way you shop.

Another option is to use the online services many countries have. In the UK they have something called Freecycle, where you list anything you do not want and someone who does can come along and collect it. Good for you, good for the other guy, and good for the borough who does not have to dispose of it! There are other services which do the same thing.

Perpetual Paperwork

Papers of any kind are the bane of my life. They amass themselves surreptitiously on every shelf, counter, surface in my house. Stacks of them build up slowly over time until they lie there, gathering dust, looking at me. For some reason I never throw anything away. You just never know when you might need that old cash slip. Every now and then the paper clutter gets to me and I have a big clean-out.

It’s boring going through paperwork that is months or even years old. That’s why you keep putting it off. What you need to do is gather a stack of it and sort through it while you’re watching a movie or sitcom on TV. Throw away anything that is of no value to you. Have that rubbish bin handy. Get yourself a couple of binders and file away important papers. You need to set up a filing system for yourself; it could be by having an in-tray on your desk and a shelf of files. Whatever you decide to do, it has to be a system that works for you and isn’t so daunting that you find it easier to build up a pile of paper clutter again. Remember, every document should have a home.

This is an excerpt from my new self-help book called 'How to Say No to Sex and other Survival Tips for the Suddenly Single.'


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    • cindyvine profile image

      Cindy Vine 5 years ago from Cape Town

      Jamila I'm thinking I need a spell of decluttering this week!

    • jamila sahar profile image

      jamila sahar 5 years ago

      great hub, i too loathe clutter, i love the minimalist design, i even lost a good friend because we were supposed to share a home and they would not get rid of the junk and clutter it was unbelievably horrible, a lotta junk, so they became very rebellious about getting rid of the junk and clutter, and chose to the junk over me, but now, keep emailing me and apologizing saying they wished they had listened to me :-/ after two years of it i was DONE !!!!! thanks for sharing, i will send the link to their email !

    • cindyvine profile image

      Cindy Vine 6 years ago from Cape Town

      Thanks for your comments, SweetiePie! Swapping junk is great recycling!

    • SweetiePie profile image

      SweetiePie 6 years ago from Southern California, USA

      I like the idea of allow people to swap their junk on the sidewalk. If you live in an apartment complex here in the US, especially one with college students, you can leave unwanted furniture near the dumpster, and someone will usually adopt it pretty quickly. I did that in college with a couple of desks and laps. Also, Craigslist is a good option.

    • Jessi10 profile image

      Jessica Rangel 6 years ago from Lancaster, CA

      Thanks! I'll be needing it!

    • cindyvine profile image

      Cindy Vine 6 years ago from Cape Town

      Lisa, it's some people computer desk tops that get to me, my one brother's one being a prime example. I'm never sure how he manages to find anything on his PC!

      Jessi, good luck with Operation Clutter!

    • Jessi10 profile image

      Jessica Rangel 6 years ago from Lancaster, CA

      This article spoke to me! I'll be doing some rearranging soon!

    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 6 years ago from Massachusetts

      I feel like I can't think (or even breathe) if I'm looking at, or around, clutter. I'm pretty good at not letting it build up (and I'm one of those people who think my desks look like I don't do any work). My "thing" is that tendency to let computer clutter build up, so I think it's great you mentioned it here. :) My PC probably isn't as bad as some I've seen, but I wait far too long before cleaning things up. The world feels like a different place when one's computer files are well organized (and well transferred somewhere else). :)

    • cindyvine profile image

      Cindy Vine 6 years ago from Cape Town

      LeonJane, Gumtree is my brother's favourite site!

      Prasetio, glad you were entertained!

      FP, I have to be so careful as I do have a tendency to amass clutter. I even keep all the ice-cream containers!

      Movingfinger, you are so right. I hang onto things for sentimental reasons!

    • profile image

      movingfinger 6 years ago

      Hmmm....nice hub..lots of useful tips, but the issue is far more than knowing what to do to reduce clutter. Its all in the mind. Throwing out clutter means not being attached to things. Its difficult for people to they attach sentimental value to things (first Suit, first bicycle etc), secondly the economic price paid for the same (old laptop bought for $2000 now worth $100 but still works fine)...its very difficult to let go..:)

    • profile image

      Feline Prophet 6 years ago

      Great advice, cindy! I hate clutter to the extent that people would look at my table at work and wonder if I ever did any work there! :D

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 6 years ago from malang-indonesia

      Nice and I really entertained with this hub. Thanks for share with us. Rated up!

    • LeonJane profile image

      LeonJane 6 years ago from Australia

      Great advice in this hub. I am a bit of a horder and i've come to realize that you don't need to keep stuff because you might need it later, usually later never comes. So i've started to sell stuff through free sites like Gumtree and local Facebook sites set up for selling stuff. I also like your TRAM method, I'd go so far as to saying, Trash, Repair (if you can or Trash/Sell), Assign (to go where it shoud belong) and I probably wouldn't Move as most of the time you just move things from one place to the next. Thanks for a great hub!

    • cindyvine profile image

      Cindy Vine 6 years ago from Cape Town

      Peggy, paper clutter is my worst as well!

      Bobri, one has to try and recycle as much as possible.

      Susie, sounds like you are pretty organised!

    • profile image

      SusieQ42 6 years ago

      I have 1 drawer in my desk for all papers...receipts, etc. that I'll need at income tax time. The only ones on top are the unpaid bills. I hate clutter too, it clutters up my mind!

    • Bobri Dobri profile image

      Bobri Dobri 6 years ago from Oklahoma

      Nice hub - it is a good reminder about cleaning I should do now instead of hubpages. As for me it is always difficult to throw things away because of ecology issues, I just don't want to throw good things or clothes, but at the same time I don't have spare time to find somebody who would need it..

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Ahh...paper clutter. That is the worst as it takes more time to sort through things. Should I keep that old letter or picture? Decisions...decisions! Looking at our desk right now, I should tackle more of that! Useful hub and rated so.