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How To Declutter Quickly & Effectively

Updated on February 28, 2018
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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 Hart


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