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January 2024

Decluttering: Do It Now

By Suzi Hoge
Posted: 01/24/2024
Tags: suzi hoge

Too often decluttering only comes up when someone needs or decides to move into a more supportive living arrangement or when a grieving family is dealing with stuff — lots of stuff.

But how about decluttering while you are still around to enjoy your less-cluttered home? Why do this? To simplify your life, make things easier for your relatives in the future, pass on treasures, and become less bogged down with too many possessions. You are in charge. This is the scary, overwhelming, but empowering part of the process.

There is no single recipe. You need to read over various strategies, procedures, and suggestions and select what might best fit you — or customize them for your circumstances. It is an emotional process, so be prepared for lots of memories and feelings. 

Marie Kondo recommends thinning by looking through each category of items. For example, if you need to thin your clothing, put out all your pants at one time. This gives you the opportunity to see what you have, what multiples you might have, what shape things are in. Then, take a minute to think about how many pairs of pants you need. A couple of dress pairs and many more casual ones? Some for summer and some warmer ones for winter? Which can you put aside to donate? Which are you still thinking about? Which do you need to try on to see if they still fit or if the fashion is too far gone? Put those aside as well. 

My grandmother downsized several times as she moved into smaller and smaller homes. One of the remarkable things she did was to re-gift items she had received as presents. For example, my father had given her the gift of a candy dish many years ago. It was a memorable gift, as he was earning $1 a day at the time.  She presented it to me with the story. A story makes an item so much more valuable. She did this with many items, giving them to her grandchildren with the stories from their parents. You might want to consider presenting family and/or friends with items that you’d like them to have, along with each item’s story. I recently went through some necklaces along with their stories, with my daughter, so she could select and begin wearing some of them now, rather than when I am gone and the stories would be mostly lost.

Another strategy to be considered: Just use it. Many of us have lovely items that we “keep for good.”  We value them very highly so do not use them regularly. You may want to begin using some of those items — that lovely tablecloth, expensive sweater, precious china or crystal.

Fabrics and housewares go out of style too, especially in terms of upkeep. Delicate antique tablecloths usually need special laundering and ironing. If this is not something you plan on doing, get rid of those tablecloths. And that goes for clothing as well. If you don’t plan to iron, get rid of those pieces that demand ironing. The old waffle iron that is now too big for your smaller household needs a new home.  Now that someone gifted you a jazzy new peeler, you can get rid of the old metal one. 

One strategy that I have used with some success is assigning a space to a type of possession. For example, I have a certain footage of bookshelves so I allow myself to keep only the books that will fit into that space. Thin, prioritize, and sort until the books fit into the assigned space and then donate the remainder. I have only so much storage for stationery, so I again thin, prioritize, and sort, until my stationery fits the assigned space and donate the remainder. 

To start out on the road to decluttering, have some boxes or designated containers/areas for the items that need new homes (donations), the items you are considering getting rid of, and a trash spot for items of no use that just need to be dumped. If you have valuable items that you’d like to try to sell or donate, establish an area for that as well. 

Now the pacing is up to you. Work on this one afternoon a week, or several hours each day; invite a friend or family member to help.

If you would like to connect with other Villagers who are working on decluttering, BJ Ledyard and I are forming a new group. We plan to read The Swedish Art of Death Cleaning and meet periodically to inspire each other and share resources.  The organizational meeting was January 12 at the Pasadena Village office. The group opted to meet twice a month on Wednesday mornings. The meetings will be both live at the Village and on Zoom. We brainstormed topics and strategies for future meetings, including sharing resources we’ll need for donations, organizing, and inspiration. If you aren't yet a Villager, but want support in decluttering (and a myriad of other support avenues), learn more about membership here.

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