Spring is here. The days are getting longer and we long to get outside and enjoy some sunshine. Yet, the temperatures don’t always quite cooperate like we would like them to. This is the perfect time to focus extra springtime energy on our living spaces. Believe it or not, clutter is bad for our mental health. It is stressful to live with all those extra papers, clothing you no longer wear, and “stuff” you don’t use. If you have been collecting things for years, are afraid you might need it “someday,” or don’t want to hurt Grandma’s feelings by getting rid of her doll collection, it can feel scary and stressful to even know where to begin. Try these tips, the key is to just get started.
1. Don’t tackle everything at once. Start with one drawer or closet. Each day set a timer for 15 minutes and start sorting.
2. If it’s papers you are afraid you might need, get a file box and stash them in there. When the box is full, go through it and shred and recycle what you don’t need. Or better yet, if you are tech savvy, scan the documents (you can do this right from your phone) and upload it to an electronic file. Most bills, statements, and receipts can already be accessed online — no need to even get them delivered in the mail — it doesn’t arrive on time these days anyway.
3. Are you still holding on to pants that haven’t fit in 5 (…or 10) years? Get rid of them. Whether they are too big or too small, if they don’t fit and don’t make you feel good, don’t let them take up space in your closet or your mind. Spend some time critically looking at your closet — if you don’t love it, let it go. If it is in good shape, donate it or save it for the summer garage sale. If it’s torn, stained, or stretched out, throw it away.
4. But what if that sweater you hate was a gift? You should have returned it when you got it. Donate or sell it like the pants that don’t fit. But, this goes for all gifts. Don’t hold on to things you don’t want, need or will put to good use. The person who got you the gift wants you to be happy. They tried, that’s what matters. Next year, drop stronger hints. For this year’s gift, take a photo to remember the sentiment, and then re-gift (yes, this is ok.), donate or sell it.
5. What about that “stuff” you might need “someday?” Ok, I’ve been there. You get rid of something and then the next day you really need just that thing. Use the one-year rule. Store it for a year. If you haven’t touched it, then it goes.
6. Let go of books. I love books. I always have — holding an actual book to read brings me comfort and joy. However, once I’ve read a book, I will rarely read it again. There is no need to hold on to stacks and stacks of books if you don’t have the space. Pass the good ones on to friends and family. Donate others to Little Free Libraries around the community or to your local town library for their annual book sale fundraiser.
7. Collectors keepers? I’m not much of a collector, but I know some of you are. Maybe it’s your coin collection or the doll collection grandma passed down or your now grown child’s baseball cards. If it has sentimental value to you, then by all means keep it. Find a place to display it or pack it up and store it for safe keeping. However, if it is someone else’s collection that means nothing to you, it is OK to consider other arrangements. Have a discussion with that person or other members of your family to brainstorm what to do. Everyone might be just fine with selling Grandpa’s old records. Or maybe someone else in the family has a sentimental tie to the collection and wants to keep it. It doesn’t have to live in your space.
8. Toys. Kids have so many toys. Find out what your kids or grandkids are really into playing with at the moment and keep those toys front and center. Put the excess away and rotate them in over time. As kids outgrow toys, pass them down to friends, family and neighbors. Toys are also a great thing to donate and/or sell. Finally, consider asking friends and family to contribute to college funds or make charity gifts in your kids’ names if the toy box is already overflowing.
9. I write a lot about food in this column, but believe it or not, food can be clutter. Our cupboards don’t need to be jammed packed — so full that things we didn’t even remember we had expire before we use them. Just because it is on sale does not mean we need to buy it. Take inventory and make a list before you go to the store. Start using what you have on hand to make meals. If you know you are not going to use it, donate it. If it is expired already, throw it out. You will appreciate the extra space.
10. And don’t forget about all of those old electronics. A lot of times we hold on to them because we don’t know what to do with them. Trust me, you aren’t going to use your old cell phone — once you’ve upgraded, you aren’t going back. All of these things can be recycled. Contact your local transfer site to see when and where you can drop off old computers, printers, cell phones, tablets, etc. Be sure to wipe the data off them first.
I’m not advocating for more things in our landfills; quite the opposite. (Recycle, reuse, regift, donate, or sell anything you can.) I’m advocating for fewer things overall. Things are not what make us happy. Relationships, experiences, and interactions are where joy can be found.