It has to go… getting rid of the clutter

Over the last few months I have become strangely aware of how we have managed to fill our home with “stuff”.  When we moved into our current home about 9 years ago, it was much larger than our previous place.  We managed to move in with only a couple of trailer loads of homewares and that included furniture.

In the intervening years, we have managed to fill all 3 bedrooms, 2 living rooms and the numerous built-in wardrobes with stuff.

Many of these items were second-hand or pre-loved, that’s my Scottish heritage coming through, but I am starting to question how much stuff we really need?

My Dad and his parents were hoarders.  I have written about the cotton buds and the practically worthless coin collection in the past.  I feel a certain sense of guilt about how much stuff we have, when so many have so little.

My grandparents are now long gone and following my Gran’s passing, 80% of their stuff was donated to charity or thrown out.  The sheer quantity of items was overwhelming.  No doubt many priceless items or family heirlooms were sent to charity.

However a good 20% of it went to Dad’s place, to fill his garage to overflowing – there is no getting a car in there too.  When he goes, the cycle will repeat and we will find ourselves going through the same process of throwing away or donating masses of “stuff”.

He has occasionally offered the odd items to myself and my brother, the rule is, if he offers, take whatever it is.  That is one less item to deal with later.

The problem is, then that we end up with this stuff at our homes, in our garages, baffled by what to do with it?   Often with promises to “keep it” as its “good stuff” and as much as I agree to keep it at the time, I confess it’s a lie…

Looking around our home, we aren’t in the same league by any stretch of the imagination but some of it has to go.

Baby BathRecently we have been looking at the “good stuff” that my Dad has passed along.  We have had it long enough to know that we do not want most of it.
As a childfree couple, we do not need a 1950s baby bath.  So that had to go – we sold that for $NZ40.

Agee JarsOr the vintage Agee preserving jars “don’t get rid of them, they are worth something”.  There is more chance of me being on the first Mars mission than preserving produce.

Also the “worth something” is relative to finding someone who wants to buy them.  Thus far I haven’t been able to get $NZ25 for 5 large jars.

But what do I do with my grandparents holiday photos? These are on slides, sitting in the garage, along with the slide carousel.  The screen that came with these has been put in the rubbish, the plastic had perished.  I doubt I will ever look at the slides themselves again, they are meaningless.  I very much doubt my cousins or brother will want them.   It doesn’t seem right to throw away someone’s lifetime of treasured memories, but I don’t want them either.

My brother is already making mutterings of too much stuff in his shed, that he has likewise been given from the overflowing garage at Dad’s, and I can’t blame him.

So I am doing something about our home and garage, to stop the clutter.

I am actively going through each draw, cupboard, shelf or box and making a decision about each and every item.   The objects typically fall into two types – decorative (vases, ornaments, collections) or functional (appliances, linen, clothing).

For decorative objects I ask myself the following to decide to keep or get rid of it.

  1. Do I love it?  If the answer is yes, it stays – at least for now.
  2. Do I have an emotional connection to it?    Sometimes if the answer to #1 is “no” but the answer to this question is “yes“, I really need to ask myself the next question.  Depending on the answers, sometimes stuff stays and sometimes it goes.
  3. Can I live without it?

For functional items, the following seems to help make decisions.

  1. Is it useful AND do I actually use it regularly?   If the answer is no, then it has to go.
  2. Do I need more than one (or two or…) of it?  I seem to ask this frighteningly often… but who really needs 5 small plastic funnels?
  3. Again, can I live without it?  (How many slightly chewed plastic serving spoons are too many?)

The last rule is, stop bringing in the clutter!  If something new comes in, something else has to leave.  I’m sick of maintaining, homing, storing and sorting all this crap.  It has to go.

One more thing I have learnt, this is a rinse and repeat process.  One sweep isn’t enough, this is a continual process so returning to the same drawers and cupboards helps catch items that slipped through the net last time.  Next stop the linen cupboard…

What are your tips for decluttering?




  1. How to declutter. It can’t be done alone. Get someone else to do it for you. That is, of course, if you have any cold hearted and ruthless friends.that will work for a bottle of wine while you go and see the latest Star Wars movie.

  2. I agree with the gentleman above. Declutter with a friend. When my mom passed, my sister and I worked as a team. I was her sounding board, giving her permission to part with things. Me, I’m ruthless when it comes to purging so she sometimes had to rein me in before I tossed useful or valuable items. Can you brother help? Good luck!

  3. If I left my brother to do it, I’d be left with an empty house. 🙂 I am actually finding it pretty easy for the most part. I don’t want a stark house that looks like no one lives here and throw all my memories away but for the most part its just excess items – like linen. Also I don’t want to throw away perfectly serviceable items that someone could use – I hate waste more than the clutter 🙂 So finding new homes is also a priority too – that is if I can’t sell it 🙂

  4. Too often it seems that the clutter is nothing but remnants of life passed by. I have too much of that and it gets worse as you grow older. To declutter, I think the question to ask is “Does this have a use in my future life.” If the answer is “no”, toss it.

  5. I have a friend visiting shortly, I am very much hoping she will take our jigsaws and some older towels (since she has a dog walking business and likely needs to dry off dogs in wet weather).

  6. Having moved 36 times, I should be a pro at de-cluttering. I do go through each room every 4 months and eliminate unloved or unused items. If it has not been used in the last year, it is gone. Sometimes other family members are resistant to my efforts and much of the work is to convince them of the need to purge. That being said, I am finding it more difficult to get rid of things as I get older. I find myself procrastinating and getting distracted. A new year and a new start as I just emptied the entire storage room, cleaned it and put back only those things that matter. The library was quite happy to receive cast-off holiday decorations, art supplies and books. It’s a beginning. Good luck on downsizing your stuff.

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