Clutter’s Last Stand: How to Get Moving to De-Junk Your Life

What would we do if we actually had to use everything we own, including all that stuff in the drawers, cupboards, closets, shelves, and boxes in your kitchen, bedrooms, living room, basement, attic, garage, rafters, driveway, patio, side yard, and cars? Could we do it? It’s not likely.

Instead, we pack it, stack it, and pile it away—even pay rent to store it—and keep accumulating even more. More stuff dilutes the quality of our lives.

Every possession carries two price tags—the original purchase price and the continuing toll. That second amount is paid in upkeep, time, maintenance, and storage. It can charge its toll in anxiety, depression, relationship conflict, financial distress, and even impaired function.

Moving and storing clutter

I’ve done it. Perhaps you have, too. I’ve packed it all up and paid someone to move it to a new place. “I’ll sort it later,” I told myself. Years later, I’m still hounded by unpacked boxes which I’ve moved from one house, one floor, one room, or just one side of the closet to another.

Who could calculate the number of hours we’ve tossed down the drain because of clutter? Simple tasks turn into search-and-rescue missions. Some people in my neighborhood empty the entire contents of the garage onto the front lawn to retrieve holiday decorations. Then, spend the rest of the day cramming it all back before dark.

Judging junk

Ask yourself these questions to determine if it’s clutter or not:

  • Does it work? So much of the clutter in our homes is made up of broken things we plan to fix and clothes that might someday fit.
  • Do I really need it? Determine the impact of this item disappearing from your life.
  • Do I enjoy it? If this item brings beauty and joy to your life, it is not clutter. Sentimental belongings and things that bring true beauty to our lives should be treated with great care and respect—not packed away in the attic to be forgotten.
  • Am I using it now? If it doesn’t fall into the 20 percent of things you use regularly (most Americans use 20% of what they own. The other 80% is made up of items we don’t use, feel we should use, or think we might use someday), it is suspect.
  • Will I use it in the next year? If you are not certain you will use it soon, it’s clutter!


Move it out

Sell it, give it away, or throw it out. One of the best solutions for “good stuff” is to give it to someone who wants or needs it.

The more seriously you take this matter of de-junking, the more significant the positive impact it will have on your life. Important stuff will be easier to find when you don’t have to rifle through piles of worthless clutter.

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  1. Victoria Ficco-Panzer says:

    Working through the clutter issue now(newly married)combining two households,both”savers” of many and varied things…it is a struggle,but if we both are flexible about what we keep and what we toss,it will work!

    • clair maiorano says:

      My parents were brought up in the depression and never threw anything out. I am glad they didn’t, now i am making a fortune selling antiques that they had and boy does it come in handy. Little by little i have been going threw the attic and basement and slowly making a lot of money. I am so glad they never threw anything out, because when you do you are throwing away money. Everything has a dollar value and trust me, go out and buy something today it is a lot of money. Craigs list, antique stores, etc. are great buyers. Do it a little at a time with patience and respect and boy it is like an “annuity” in your old age…

  2. ABC says:

    My problem is, I’ve sold a few things on ebay, gotten a taste of getting a good bit of money for some of it, and want to repeat that! LOL But it takes time and energy that I don’t currently have to do all of that, so I recently gave away two boxes of things I had been saving for ebay (they weren’t going to sell for enough to make up for the time). I’m pretty proud of myself (pats back). But there is still more to go….and this reminded me that there are a few things left to sell that will bring enough to make up for the time! Need to get busy…..

  3. Katybee says:

    Freecycle has been a great friend for me in my de-cluttering journey. I gave away so much stuff when I was moving from a house into an apartment 4 years ago. It was so liberating and receiving the gratitude of people who picked up that crib my son outgrew or the rocking chair or a set of mattresses I no longer needed was great. I know it takes a while to get used to giving away things you paid for at some point in your life, but believe me once you do it, it becomes easier and easier as you are shedding years of clutter off your back

    • SRollins says:

      I agree! Giving it away to someone who actually needs or can use it is soooooo much more rewarding and encouraging to keep de-cluttering. Just try it, you won’t be disappointed!

  4. LLee says:

    Mary, you may know the book by the same name as your article, Clutter’s Last Stand, by Don Aslett. It is a funny and inspiring book on getting rid of clutter. When reading it, I often wanted to put the book down and go get rid of some things. It will make you think twice about possession.

    • Hugh E. Brennan says:

      Agreed on Don Aslett’s book(s). He is quite the character. Even if you never get rid of anything, his books are a hoot!
      Aslett was a cleaning company owner in Idaho. He actually opened a museum of cleaning that is full of wit and fun as his books.

  5. Maureen Reynolds says:

    Oh, too funny! I laughed out loud at the visual of the Christmas decoration scenario! That would be us!! I am just starting my own personal 31 Day Challenge to de-clutter and organize my life! This was perfect timing 🙂

  6. Mary Rogers says:

    We recently moved (after 13 years) and we found two policies to avoid war. If either of us said “yes” we kept it, if either said “maybe” we put it in a maybe box, if we agreed on “no” it went to charity. Next we went through the maybe boxes and asked if it was better for us to have it or for a veteran or breast cancer awareness thrift shop to have it…..we gave away 90% of the maybe boxes.

  7. Danielle Gates Rush says:

    I sometimes have a hard time giving up my daughter’s outgrown clothes. I’ve started taking pictures of her in favorite outfits, and then passing them on to a friend whose daughter is about a year younger than mine. A lot of the time I get to see pictures of her daughter wearing them on Facebook too.

    • rockytopp says:

      My husband recently passed away, so I have been sorting and de-cluttering. I am just as responsible for part of the clutter, and am sorting through both of our “collections” as I go. Some is hard at first, until you think about it. Things like every birthday, Mother;s(Father’s) day card you have ever received. We have them all. When have we ever looked at them again? Not until now. So they are going. Also going through my file cabinets. I don’t need old bills and receipts and bank statements…anything older than a year is going through the shredder. Dishes….does anyone really need 3 dozen coffee mugs? 6 sets of measuring cups? Every magazine you have received for the last 15 years? I now take magazines to the local hospitals, nursing homes and library book sale room. I am giving away Family Circle magazines from 1972 that were read once and stored. Look like new. Never read by me again. It is hard to get started at this cleansing frenzy, but every day it gets easier, and the extra room in your house is so refreshing.

  8. jan says:

    I am trying to rid myself of excess clutter. I just took a relaxation quiz recently, and I realized the only truly peaceful room in my house is my tub! That is th the only place I can go to get away from all the clutter! Another tip I have read is to pack things you are not sure about into a box or boxes and seal. Store for 1 year, and if you don’t miss them ( or even remember what’s in them), give away, still sealed! I am going to try this with those things I don’t currently use, but am afraid I might need “one day”.

  9. Angie says:

    I like to live clutter free but am married to a man who likes to keep stuff. Its a constant battle! I have to admit I have donated items that he didn’t know about and never missed. LOL!.

    • Emjay says:

      I too am married to a “keeper.” (Yes, to both meanings.) He is also a handyman extraordinaire. Right now, he’s finishing up a bump-out to our family room and replacing old, old single-pane windows there. The entire extra cost of doing so were the windows themselves. He had everything else on hand, including the steel beam he used to replace the old, termite damaged wooden beam that had been across the top. (Termites were treated/gone.) So, he’s now going to insulate the bump-out using insulation he had leftover from a previous project, tape/texture that wall using materials he had on hand, create a two-drawer chest with display top to go into the bump-out using materials he had scavenged from …and so on. Total cost: The cost of the windows. So, I guess my keeper can keep on keeping in his shop.

      • Suzanne says:

        My husband is the same way. I don’t complain about him keeping anything I know will be used again, like his pile of leftover lumber. But he and our sons keep less practical things they haven’t even looked at in 10 years. And they have no motivation to go through them. If someone could give me suggestions to change their minds about that stuff, I’d be ecstatic lol.

  10. Just1Cyndi says:

    I am moving now. I am selling junk on a “yard sale” Facebook group, but I’m pretty sure the effort and annoyance is more than the money I’m making. I am trying to convince myself to just donate it all and be done!

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