Final Destination: Decluttering Edition

Something about the new year always makes me want to de-clutter. After all the Christmas decorations come down, I’m ready for clean spaces and fresh rooms!

Last year, I did the “Declutter like a Mother” challenge (see my posts here, here, here, and here) and did a huge overhaul of the house. The thing I’ve found is, you’re never really done decluttering. Clutter has a way of continuing to creep into our homes, but I’ve found that staying consistent and going through rooms periodically keeps things at a good, manageable level for me. This year, I’m just doing a sweep of each room and getting rid of items we don’t need, don’t use, or that are just taking up space unnecessarily.

If you’re like me, sometimes it can be hard to get rid of perfectly good items. My #1 tip for decluttering is: know the ‘final destinations’ for your items. In other words, where are you taking them once they leave your home? Sounds simple, but just deciding this helps tremendously! It’s so much easier for me to get rid of something if I know exactly where I’m going to take it. It’s like once I have a purpose for the item beyond the walls of my house, it becomes a much simpler task to accept that it doesn’t belong here anymore and I can move on.

It takes some initial research, but I think it’s really beneficial to find local places to take specific things. Rather than just throw everything in one big bag and drop it off at the Salvation Army or Goodwill (which, I’ll admit, I have done in the past too), these large stores are often overwhelmed with donations this time of year. According to many articles I’ve read, like this one from HuffPost and  this one from ABC News: “In most cases, a small amount of the items, the best quality castoffs — less than 10 percent of donations — are kept by the charitable institutions and sold in their thrift shops to other Americans looking for a bargain.” (source) I used to volunteer in a thrift store in high school and can personally attest that it’s overwhelming to just receive heaps of stuff, particularly when it’s obvious that the person donating just threw whatever they didn’t want in a box. Sometimes it’s quality items, but sometimes it’s just junk. So the first order of business is: recognize when something truly does need to be trashed (like something broken beyond repair). The second item is: figure out where your items will be best used or most needed and then take them there!

For things that still have value, I have five tried and true destinations to take things.  When I do a major de-cluttering sweep, I’ll designate boxes for each destination and add things to the boxes as I go through my rooms. Keeps things simple and organized and when I’m done, I just have to load them in my car and drop them off at the right place!

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My five favorite places to take things to are:

1 – ReStores

ReStore (a Habitat for Humanity store) is a great place to take donations to be used for home improvement. They will accept everything from used furniture to home decor items to the kitchen cabinets, countertops, sinks, baseboards, etc that are taken out of houses during a renovation. I just keep a box in my garage so every time we have a home improvement item we don’t want or need anymore, I put it in the box and when it gets full, I drop it off at the local ReStore. I would show you a picture of the box, but I just dropped off our donations (of curtain rods, door handles, and light fixtures from our guest suite renovation) last week.

2- Local thrift stores with a mission

We have one thrift store in my area that is part of a broader ministry of raising funds, creating training opportunities, and providing clothing and goods to help local people overcome homelessness. I take clothing, toys, books, etc. there, (and it’s also a thrift store that I’ll frequently shop and support!) My mom’s church also runs a program where gently used formal wear is collected for teens to come and purchase items for prom. Everything is sold by pay-what-you-can donations (and can be taken for free as well) and the proceeds go to local ministries. I love taking cocktail dresses, heels, and Justin’s suit coats or ties to donate there knowing my items will not only get new life, but it contributes to the greater good. Every area is going to offer different options, but I encourage you to find local organizations with missions you support to donate your quality items to!

3 + 4 – Consignment Stores

Every time I declutter, some items stand out as ones that I could sell and make a decent profit off of. When we lived in a subdivision, it was easy to corral items and sell them during our association garage sales. We don’t live in a subdivision anymore so a garage sale feels like a lot of work for very little profit, which leaves two options: sell the items online or take them to a consignment shop. I typically only sell something online if its value is over $50. It’s just not worth it to post pictures, write a description, field questions, designate a meeting spot with the buyer, and then travel to that spot to exchange the item, only to make $5. I’m trying to simplify here, not make a ton of extra work for a couple bucks.

Consignment stores are the best option for me right now and I have two that I take items to: one for my clothing/purses/shoes/home decor and then another one for kids’ items. I keep a box of my stuff and a box of kids stuff (making sure all the clothes are washed and in good wearable condition) and once I’m done de-cluttering, I drop them off and make a little money. What doesn’t get sold will get donated to my local thrift store.

5 – Recycling

I love donating to textile recycling programs rather than just throwing away old socks, a shirt with holes, or a frayed and worn towel. I use the H&M program because they will accept any textile in any condition and for every bag you donate, they’ll give you a coupon to use in their store. What can’t be re-worn or re-used in its original condition gets broken down into textile fibers, or is used to manufacture products such as damping and insulating materials for the auto industry.  I keep a bag in my laundry room to collect things and once it gets full, I take it in to my local H&M store.

Like I said earlier, it takes a little work on the front end to research local options and decide where to take everything, but once you do that one time, you don’t have to do it again. Now that I know where to take things, it’s super easy to just designate a box, fill it up, and drop it off!

Do you declutter this time of year too? Where do you like to take your items to?

#DeclutterLikeAMother Week Two

Good morning friends!

I hope you all had a great weekend! LJ stayed with my parents from Friday-Sunday (it was the first time I’ve spent more than one night away from him!) so that Justin and I could attend several of his work functions. It was so great to have a chance to sleep in, recharge, and enjoy staying out late with friends but we were pretty darn excited to be reunited Sunday. 🙂

Declutter Like a Mother – Week Two

I explained in a previous post that I’m participating in the #DeclutterLikeAMother challenge (read more about it here) in January. You can read about my week one experience with decluttering bathrooms and closets here. Last week was all about: the kitchen!

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So I have to first admit that I strayed from 30 minutes a day goal. In fact, I really only spent maybe a total of an hour over the whole week going through cabinets in my kitchen. I decided not to stress about doing things perfectly, because the spirit of the challenge is progress over perfection, so I just focused on doing what I could. That being said, I feel like the work I did still made a huge impact!

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Over the years, I have done a pretty good job of weeding out small kitchen items. I don’t keep a million spatulas, I get rid of items that don’t work well, and if I bring something new into the kitchen, it has to be something I know I’ll use frequently or for multiple things. For this reason, what I have is mostly what I use. I only got rid of a few items from my drawers (a cookie frosting decorator I got as a hand-me-down years ago and always “thought I’d use someday”, an old round cake pan that has seen better days, etc). The big change happened in two main cabinets.

Cabinet one was my appliance cabinet. I don’t like clogging up my counter top with lots of appliances, so I use a large cabinet as storage to store everything (crockpot, toaster, blender, stand mixer, etc) except our coffeemaker. This cabinet had two really huge items that take up a ton of space and don’t get used: my juicer and my Instant Pot. Now, I’m not getting rid of my Instant Pot, I just need to actually spend some time figuring it out (people who love theirs, tell me your tips! I have made one soup and it had so much prep work that I’m not sure it was actually faster for me than just dumping things in a crockpot? Help!) This challenge was a great reminder for me to get it out of the cabinet and spend time learning it. Use it or lose it, right?

While the Instant Pot remains, it’s time for the juicer to go. I love a yummy juice, but I just don’t take the time to buy all the ingredients, prepare it all to go in the juicer, clean all the parts afterwards, etc. It’s too much work for me and I haven’t used it in over a year. It is going to find its way onto Facebook marketplace this week so someone who will actually enjoy it can put it to use.

The other HUGE change happened in a large pantry cabinet off the kitchen. You guys. This space was so. bad. It had become a catch-all cabinet for mostly serving items but also things that just didn’t have a place anywhere else. And it was a disaster area. I literally had to try to keep things from falling down on me.

Why oh why did I have the things I most frequently use on the bottom of the top shelf? This basically guaranteed an avalanche every time. See the nice eye-level shelf full of things I rarely or never use (a growler and an old coffeemaker!?) – why didn’t that house the things I most often reach for? I’m honestly baffled.

Check out this before and after.

I’m ridiculously excited about this change. I can easily access the things I most often need, and even the things I use less frequently are now very easy to get without causing a landslide.

The biggest thing that was reinforced to me from decluttering the kitchen was to let go of my “someday” items. It is so tempting to fall into the trap of keeping something that is in decent condition and could be used “someday.” Take all those big plastic food storage containers. I don’t use them now because they don’t fit in my cabinet. They’ve been in storage almost three years because maybe “someday” I’ll … what? Move and have a bigger pantry? Will I even want to use them at that point? Or would I prefer to get a matching set? Or by that time will I just prefer to leave things in the original container? Why would I hold on to something I haven’t used in several years and have no clear idea of when I would want to use it again? Same with my Brita water pitcher. This was great at a previous house, but then we moved and now have a fridge with a filter. I don’t take up space inside the fridge with a pitcher that provides water we can easily get from the outside. Again, haven’t used it for several years and have no goal to use it again. WHY AM I KEEPING IT!? If any of these items cost hundreds of dollars, maybe I could make the case for keeping them. But these are things that if “someday” comes and I really do wish I had them, I can get them again pretty easily. And you know what else? When I asked my sisters if they wanted anything, my younger sister jumped on the coffee maker and food storage containers. These are things she wants now. They can fulfill a purpose for her now. Why on earth did I want to keep these things in storage for “someday” when someone else can put them to use now? 

I may not have spent a ton of time decluttering the kitchen last week, but I’m super pleased with what I was able to accomplish. It feels so much lighter to just have what I need and know the things I’m not using will now be able to be used by someone else.

Is there one spot of your house that baffles you like my pantry baffled me?

 

#DeclutterLikeAMother Week One

What is it about January that always makes me want to clean? It’s like the Christmas decorations come down and I’m immediately ready to simplify my space and start fresh.

I’ve mentioned before that I enjoy listening to the podcast The Purpose Show and #DeclutterLikeAMother was created as a free, month-long challenge by the host, Allie Casazza. What I most like about this challenge is its simplicity: each week she gives you a focus area for de-cluttering and for 30 minutes each day, you zone in on whatever that area is and clear out any unneeded/unwanted/unused items. There are a few emails and live streams sent out with tips and strategies each week but it’s not overly structured. There is a big emphasis on progress, not perfection. The goal isn’t to have your house completely and perfectly de-cluttered by February 1, but to just focus on doing a little bit each day and over time these little things will add up to a big change in the way your home looks and feels.

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Week One: Bathrooms & Closets

The first week of the challenge was spent on bathrooms and closets. To be honest, I didn’t expect to get rid of much in our bathroom because it didn’t feel very cluttered to begin with. Boy, was I wrong. Once I got started, I was shocked by how much excess we had there. I really tried to focus on being ruthless with keeping the items that get used and not items that I “maybe would use someday in the future.” For example, I never felt like I had an overabundance of nail polish (I had over 20 bottles), but when I really looked at the ones I use, I realized I always end up rotating between the same 7-8 colors with maybe an oddball color thrown in every once in a while. Just eliminating the excess allowed me to store other things in that drawer and keep it nice and organized!

organized bathroom drawer

Besides nail polish, some of the items I got rid of include old makeup (one cosmetic item I had bought for my high school prom – over ten years ago!), toiletry samples, teeth whitening kits from 6+ years ago, extra makeup brushes, products we bought and then never fully used up because we didn’t like them/they didn’t work/we didn’t need the whole amount, and so. many. contact. cases. (It feels like every box of contact solution now comes with a contact case and I cleared out at least 15 cases).

I have to admit, it feels good to open a drawer in the bathroom now and know it’s only going to contain items I need. I also cleaned out the linen closet in our master bath and even just the little changes, like consolidating two open band-aid boxes into one box, really did make a big difference.

When I moved on to closets, I decided not to focus on clothes this time but instead chose to clean out other closets. Our under-the-stairs utility closet got a refresh, with me tossing some old cleaning products I never use or empty bottles I kept for one reason or another. Extra gear (scarves, hats, gloves) that we don’t use anymore got taken out of the coat closet. Puzzles and games we no longer play, Christmas decor I don’t use anymore, old candles I didn’t actually like the smell of, all got put in boxes. It’s really amazing how refreshing it is to see these spaces now that they only have what we need and use.

Of course, after decluttering, there’s always the question of “what do I do with all this stuff now?” I do one of four things: donate, sell, recycle, or trash. Honestly, nothing about this system is revolutionary but it feels good to have a plan with where things are going to go.

1. Donate locally

I know sometimes large organizations get so many donations that they’re unable to keep everything, but there are many smaller local organizations to consider. I found a local non-profit that helps women and children experiencing a homeless crisis and dropped off a bag of donations yesterday – they were so happy to receive hats, scarves, gloves, contact cases, and the unused sample toiletry items I had from hotels. I’m so happy that items I wasn’t using can now be used by someone else in my community!

2. Sell items

I already sold one game on Facebook marketplace, and other items that still have good value got boxed up for our HOA yard sale. It’s always nice to get a little money for items I no longer want to hold on to!

3. Recycle when possible

Old product bottles got rinsed out and recycled. Cardboard boxes also got put in the recycle bin. Textiles, such as old sheets or worn out clothing, will to my local H&M in their textile recycling program.

4. Trash if needed

If an item can’t be donated, sold, or recycled, it likely needs to get tossed in the trash. It’s always my last resort and so far I’m pretty proud that most items I’ve cleared out during this challenge could go to one of the first three options.

I’m not perfectly following the challenge. Sometimes, I have 30 minutes to spare, some days I have more, and other days I don’t spend a single minute. Just doing what I can is enough for me and it feels good to refresh these spaces throughout my house!

Do you get the urge to purge in January? What spaces may seem little but make a big impact when they’re cleaned out?