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How To Declutter Quickly & Effectively

Updated on February 28, 2018
sparkleyfinger profile image

Lynsey is naturally well organised and can be easily described as a clean freak. She enjoys cleaning & organising and sharing tips.

A clean environment makes for a clear mind. In my opinion, at least.

I always find it difficult to function or work efficiently in a room or area that is untidy. I can handle purposeful clutter, but not useless mess. If my working area or living area is untidy or unclean, I need to clear and organise it before I can get on with other tasks. Some call it procrastination, but I honestly need everything to be tidy before I can complete a task- I find that physical clutter becomes mental clutter quite easily...

Despite our best efforts, clutter builds up quickly. We hold onto things we no longer need, and avoid getting rid of things, just incase they come in handy. I find this is typical with clothes that no longer fit.

When I have a de-clutter, I ask myself a series of questions to determine an item's fate.

The answers to each question allow me to determine what to keep, what to sell or donate and what to bin or recycle.

I have added a handy flowchart at the bottom of this hub to allow you to practice with a few items. Before beginning, I would recommend getting 3 bins or large boxes and label one as Selling, one as Donating (if applicable) and one as Bin / Recycling.

Let's look at the questions that we ask of each item in more detail:

1- Do I use it regularly?

This should be easy enough to answer. Yes or No. Be honest and be brutal- try not to hold onto something purely for sentimental value. I understand the temptation, and by all means you can exhibit some discretion, but try to be strong with your decisions. The kids don't want to look at their yoghurt pot decorations in 10 years time, but they may want you to keep their baby blankets to pass on.

Bear in mind that seasonal items can have limited usage (eg Christmas decorations), so then we ask...

2- Have I used it within 1 year?

Chances are, if you haven't used it in a year, you're not going to use it. For example- think about old seasonal items- when did you actually use them? Last Christmas? The one before? If your taste has changed it is unlikely that you will reuse old decorations or seasonal items, so I would consider getting rid of them. Someone else may benefit from them!

What about your old clothes that are in the attic? Neglected because they don't fit anymore? Get rid of them. This pains me to say, but I had a whole wardrobe in every size from a size 12 to a size 22 stored in my loft. As I began to lose weight, I dug out some of the old clothes, only to find that they didn't suit my style any more. I had outgrown them. This will only be more true when i get to the skinny sizes- the last time I fit into these I was in my teens, so its unlikely that I would wear them in my 30s! It is kinder to pass them onto someone who will wear them.

Obviously there are a few exceptions with clothes- wedding dresses and maybe maternity clothes if you plan on having more children, but that should be it. Again, be honest with yourself and have a no nonsense approach to decluttering.

You then need to think...

3- Is it in sellable condition?

You could earn some money on ebay or gumtree by selling some old clothes, shoes and electricals. But before you do so, look at the item in detail. Is it in good condition? Would you be happy to buy it as it is? If you can honestly answer yes to these questions, then proceed to list it online or arrange a car boot same. Or, if you are feeling generous, donate it to a charity shop.

However, if you answer no, then you should look at how to dispose of the item. Please do not give substandard items to charity shops, as they will not sell, therefore will not benefit the charity. The same rules apply to donating as selling- if you would be happy to buy it, feel free to donate it.

Can you make money from your junk?

So if your items are not in a sellable condition, you may be tempted to bin them. There are other ways to dispose of items that are more environmentally friendly and also a few ways to make some money from them.

1- Electrical items

Some electrical items can be sold for spare parts, so it may be worth checking if there is anything similar selling on ebay, and for how much. A few pounds is better than nothing!

You can also recycle old phones and other electronic items. They don't necessarily need to be in working order, but the better the condition, the more you make. You can also opt to donate the proceedings to charity if you choose- BHF is one charity that I know of that does this. They also take empty printer cartridges.

2- Old Jewellery

Pieces of jewellery, even if they are broken beyond repair may be worth some money. Most pawn shops will buy gold by the gram, as it can be melted down. You can also sell other precious metals like this, so it is worth enquiring. Im sure you can also sell metals online, so it may be worth looking up if you don't have any pawn shops in your area.

3- Old Clothes & Shoes

You can sell old clothes by the kilo- pretty good if you have a lot to get rid of! This is particularly useful for any clothes that were not of a sellable quality, as the material is often broken down into rags and sold.

4- Old Furniture

As long as there are no infestations such as woodworm, you can let your creative side come out on any old furniture. Up-cycling is really popular nowadays. not only is it eco friendly, it is also purse friendly as a new chair can be expensive, but an up-cycle can take as little as a lick of paint! You can sell your item on various selling sites including gumtree, ebay or even etsy as it is now hand finished. or, you may just fall in love with it again and decide to keep it!

5- Other items

Remember that one man's junk is another man's treasure. Before chucking something in the bin, have a quick search to see if anyone wants it. I have seen people selling empty sauce jars- and getting buyers for them! So keep in mind that you could maybe make some cash from your pile of junk.

It isn't always possible to find a new home for things, so I would always recommend setting a time limit for finding a new home or selling and if you reach that limit, then send it to recycling or to the bin. You have done your best to make the decision on getting rid of it, so it is better to follow the plan through quickly incase you change your mind.

If you follow these simple steps, one room at a time, you will be able to de-clutter your environment, and possibly make some cash in the meantime. Just think of how much treasure you have buried in cupboards and basements!

You will also be able to find things easier as there is less to look through, therefore simplifying your life.

Overall, the visual result of a tidier home, coupled with the ability to find things easily will help you to clear your mind and start on the proper tasks!

© 2012 Lynsey Harte


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    • sparkleyfinger profile image

      Lynsey Harte 4 years ago from Glasgow

      Thanks Rebecca! I hope these simple steps will help you on your way to an easy spring clean! :) Let me know how you get on!

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Very helpful! I am just getting ready to do some decluttering and spring cleaning. I like your ideas!

    • sparkleyfinger profile image

      Lynsey Harte 4 years ago from Glasgow

      Wow, thanks susi! I agree, I totally believe that clutter can bring you down! Thanks for your comment! :-)

    • susi10 profile image

      Susan W 4 years ago from The British Isles, Europe

      A great hub, sparkley! I enjoyed reading this and I love getting rid of all the clutter because you feel so much more relieved and slightly happier when all that extra stuff that was weighing you down is gone. I will be trying out your tips soon, shared.

    • sparkleyfinger profile image

      Lynsey Harte 4 years ago from Glasgow

      I totally understand that! I like to use old clothes as cloths for cleaning? Old shoes can be recycled by getting the heels and soles redone by a cobbler... But sometimes, they have just met the end of the cycle I'm afraid!

    • profile image

      anon 4 years ago

      I love clearing out but struggle to let things go to landfill I'm sure most things I need to get rid of could be recycled in some way, it seems a shame to put old worn out clothes and shoes in the bin.

    • sparkleyfinger profile image

      Lynsey Harte 4 years ago from Glasgow

      I think everyone should make a point of doing it, perhaps on a rainy weekend. It definitely makes you feel better when everything is cleared out. :)

    • wjlambert profile image

      Wes Lambert 4 years ago from Sunnyvale

      This used to be a ritual at the company I worked for last. Every year we had a mandatory clean up day. Some of the rules that you've listed above were included. Whether it was salable was not part of it, since we weren't allowed to sell company property.

      It was good for me, because it forced me to clean my cube and discard stuff I didn't use

    • sparkleyfinger profile image

      Lynsey Harte 5 years ago from Glasgow

      Your welcome, glad I could be of help! Good luck!

    • Rhelena profile image

      Rhelena 5 years ago

      Nice tips! Sometimes it's hard to let go, but it's so much easier once you do. I'll definitely keep the 1-year thing in mind. Thanks!

    • sparkleyfinger profile image

      Lynsey Harte 5 years ago from Glasgow

      Im so glad that this has done some good!!!! I actually get made fun of because i am super organised... think its the OCD in me!!!! then again, i must say i do have 4 vacuum pack bags of size 12-14 clothes that haven't been near me for over 5 years... but i LIKE THEMMM!!! lollol

      Thanks so much for your comments!

    • profile image

      lovedoctor926 5 years ago

      A cluttered life leads to a cluttered mind. Anything that you haven't worn in two years get rid of it. I know you mentioned one year, but there are fashion trends that go out of style and come back. Your hub just reminded me... I need to go shopping for a bookcase and get rid of some of the books that I no longer use.

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 5 years ago from California

      I am with btrbell! Can you come by and fix it for me? Sharing!

    • btrbell profile image

      Randi Benlulu 5 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Please, please come to my house! These are great ideas. All I have to do is start! Thank you for sharing! up+ and sharing!