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(3 minute read)

“Death by clutter is the worst. Slowly our lives are suffocated one item at a time until we are buried in our belongings, yet we remain.” –Jamie Cearley, PhD

So many of us recognize we have too much stuff but we get lost in how to get rid of it. Where do we start? How do we get past the emotional hurdles? For others of us, we manage to clean out, and clean out yet again only to find our closets crammed a few months later. How do we stop the reappearance of stuff?

Here are 19 practical tips on how to stop amassing stuff:

  1. Start slow. Start with one drawer, one box, or maybe an area of high traffic like your kitchen countertops. If you go on a rampage of haste and your emotions are not prepared, you will miss your stuff.
  2. Realize things are not memories. As part of emotional preparedness, learn how to manage those sentimental items you just can’t part with.
  3. If you don’t collect anything swell. If you do stop. Let everyone know you no longer collect.
  4. Choose a set number of hangers for each closet. No more clothes than hangers. If you get something new, you must toss something old to open up a hanger for it.
  5. Identify a charity you can embrace. Literacy advocates, churches, and animal rescues are great examples. A charity using your stuff for something you feel is important will make giving easier.
  6. Stop buying more stuff. Here is some help.
  7. Collect stuff into a box you consider is trash, not worthy of giveaway. Set the box in a place where you won’t see it. Set a date on your calendar for the day before the trash pickup day. When the day comes, if you haven’t needed anything in the box throw it away. Do not open the box! The same strategy works for giveaway boxes too.
  8. Don’t cleave to things just because they are useful. For example, don’t keep one glass even though you broke all the others. Sure the glass is still useful in principle but not in practice. Likewise, if you don’t drink coffee you don’t need a bunch of unmatched coffee cups collected over the past 20 years, either.
  9. Junk mail is the enemy. Keep a trash and recycle bin in your garage. Sort mail into each before coming into the house. Make sure when you order online, uncheck any boxes to receive catalogs or email. When ordering online use an independent email you have created for this purpose only. Websites like aol.com and gmail.com offer free email services.
  10. Beware free stuff. It often costs more than you could ever imagine.
  11. Learn how to sell on ebay and/or Craigslist.
  12. Locate a local consignment shop for furniture and accessories. The shop here can often sell items I purchased years ago for more money than I paid for it. Now there’s a way to make you feel good about getting rid of something.
  13. Take jewelry you don’t wear to a local pawn shop. Your aunt’s old turtle ring could line your pocket with unexpected cash.
  14. Get rid of furniture with storage. Coffee tables with drawers, bedside tables with drawers, and excessive shelving are temptations to keep and store more stuff.
  15. If it is living under your bed it needs to go. Scary, scary stuff lives under beds. Crazy amounts of dirt collect under a bed. If you have allergies wouldn’t it be nice to be able to sweep under your bed? If you don’t have allergies wouldn’t it be nice to be sure the boogie man is not generating from the dust beasts under there as the clock strikes midnight?
  16. Determine to get rid of stuff on the floor. I have found having the floor areas clear makes for easier cleaning. I have managed to do this in my laundry room, pantry, and a few closets and it is delightful.
  17. Set a “Buy a new one, ditch and old one policy.” Like clothes hangers, but apply this to anything from underwear to vehicles. If you are not willing to ditch the old one, perhaps a new one isn’t needed or even wanted much after all.
  18. Consider the time and sacrifice an item is requiring. Is it stealing from you? Is this where you want your time, money and energy to go?
  19. Never buy a house with a basement. My gramps used to say, “A basement is a large hole in the ground where you put stuff you should have thrown away.” A wise man he was.

Alas, when you are busy executing these tips take note of the time, energy, and emotional effort getting rid of stuff is demanding of you. Let it sink deep into your consciousness. The next time an item tries to make it into your house, or shopping cart may these thoughts beam bright in your mind and cause you to consider the costs. Is this new bit of stuff still something you want?

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