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The Art of Getting Rid of Stuff

Updated on May 28, 2015

Minimizing the amount of possessions one has can be rather daunting. For us, my husband and I, the task had its sour moments especially when agreeing on what to keep, but overall it was (and continues to be) a liberating and stress-relieving experience. We knew the process would be a learning, and sometimes overwhelming endeavour in and of itself so we allowed ample time (about 5 months) to stumble through our makeshift steps before officially declaring our lives free of unnecessary clutter. Only then, we decided, would it be an optimal time to sell our home and move into our rig to begin full-time RVing.

Set down some ground rules.

Before opening up closets or digging under the beds, we sat down and devised a set of rules for items that stayed and left. The criteria was simple: if the item had been used within the last 12 months and was useful or held sentimental value, it stayed. Everything else, based on its condition and market value, was either trashed, donated, or sold. Plastic tubs were labeled as such to help separate and organize items.

It’s all psychological.

The idea of getting rid of our stuff was initially difficult; we underwent bouts of guilt and betrayal. After all, my husband and I grew up in households that had extra sets of extra sets in case one broke or was misplaced. We saved every trinket and piece of clothing as shrines to our past lives. Many of these memories were crammed into boxes and piled ceiling high into closets, only to be dug out once every few years or completely forgotten. It took talking to and learning about others who decided to clear out their living spaces to gain the confidence and reassurance we needed to begin. We learned that materials tied us down, were expensive to keep (especially when moving and storing), and that there were many creative ways to save memories that could fit in places as small as the palm of your hand.

Online selling beats yard sales.

We hosted yard sales in the past, a number of times, either on our own or with friends or family members. The entire process was burdensome, from lugging items to and from the front yard to haggling with potential buyers. I was bound and determined to find another way, minus the hauling and haggling.

Online yard sales were my solution, more so through Facebook. I searched online sales in my city and nearby. There were pages specific to items being sold in my community: Items under $10, Furniture only, and even Holiday Sales. Each Facebook page was a closed group that I had to join and once in, there were a set of simple rules to follow when buying and selling. The rules were pretty cut and dry: when posting an item, declare the price, a brief description, and major cross streets of its location. If someone was interested in purchasing the item, simply respond with “interested” for the seller to contact you.

The seller and I would agree on a public location like a grocery parking lot nearby. My husband and I would include that as a pit stop in a day of errands (typically the weekends) so traveling to the location wasn’t an out of the way chore and we also weren’t going straight home afterwards, a safety precaution. (Disclaimer: If you choose to sell your items online, always be careful of who you are meeting and where you are meeting for your safety.)

Make storing functional and practical.

For the most part, much of our sentimental possessions were stored in boxes that sat undisturbed and collected dust. These were items like old photographs, cards, trinkets from vacations, old awards from grade school, or uniforms from jobs or groups we were once involved in.

What could be a better way to make these items more readily accessible for our enjoyment than make them a part of our daily lives, we learned. Photographs and cards can be scanned and organized on a hard drive for later, more convenient viewing. They can also be displayed on digital picture frames. Furniture, more specifically table tops, can be repurposed with memorable photos and trinkets using resin or other gel coats. Old baby clothes, boy scout uniforms, and tattered college shirts can be patches making up a warm, comfy quilt.

There were some items that we passed to family members and friends in hopes that they would be useful to others. My sister took a few pieces of wood furnishings that my dad made to use in her new apartment. My husband’s magic set with videos and books went to the nieces and nephews. Cumbersome outdoor tools went to friends that regularly maintained their yards and built all sorts of household goods. My wedding dress, one of the more difficult items to part with, went to a prom and wedding dress consignment shop.

Repurpose Furniture with Keepsakes

Decluttering is a continual process.

I must confess, there are about half a dozen tubs and furniture pieces sitting in another sibling's garage that we haven’t parted with yet. They hold emotional attachment but can be whittled down to a small keepsake shoebox of memories. We can always take pictures of that childhood stuffed toy or create a collage of the countless concert tickets we saved. We can sort through heirlooms, selecting up to 3 of the most noteworthy objects to display in a shadow box or use around our space. Completing this task with our leftover tubs is pending on our “To Do List.”

Within the confines of our little RV, we see the importance and necessity of minimizing our possessions and being proactive about the entire process. We do a total spring cleaning of the RV and end up donating, selling, or trashing every 3-6 months, especially if we have been stationary for sometime. We have adopted a new way of thinking with material items. Before going shopping, we make a list of what we need and aim to stick to it. If we are in need of an item in the RV, for example, a fan for better air circulation, we consider size, efficiency, and storage availability.

In a nutshell, what started off as a seemingly impossible task became a fun, engaging challenge. We came to the conclusion that the more stuff we were able to let got of the more fulfilling our lives became. The dusty boxes of happy memories that we held onto so tightly are now firmly planted in our heads (and hard drives) or being used by others to create their own memories.


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    • NatNat34 profile image

      Natalie Flores-Henley 2 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

      Thank you guys for all of your responses to the hub! Looks like this is something many people encounter in their lives as we accumulate and collect momentos and gadgets throughout our lives!

    • profile image

      Tamara14 2 years ago

      Sounds so simple when there's a system and a strong will, yet it's not always so even for the most organized among us :) I enjoy organizing and moving things around, in and out etc. but more than once I felt reluctant about actually starting, simply because sentimental items were included. The feeling of satisfaction and relief at the end is what motivates me, but I know so many people who simply haven't got that kind of will power and are unable to get rid of their clutter without help. Thank you for sharing your personal examples to help others; nice hub :)

    • Julie K Henderson profile image

      Julie K Henderson 2 years ago

      This is a wonderful hub. I like the idea of using old items--such as old pictures and clothing you no longer wear--in new ways. Well done.

    • jackclee lm profile image

      Jack Lee 2 years ago from Yorktown NY

      Very good advice. We can all use some of it.

    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      We have helped enough people go through possessions following the death of a loved one to know that we can't take it with us! This has lead us to look at what we have and consider what we really need. We have been getting rid of things a little at a time, and are more careful what we decide to keep. It has helped make our living space much more enjoyable!