• Phyllis Prestamo


Updated: Jul 31, 2019

5 Steps to Clearing the Clutter

Living in a house for 30 years is certainly plenty of time to gather quite a lot of “stuff”, especially when that house has an attic, basement and shed. A few years ago when our thoughts started to turn to selling our home and downsizing, we knew that we had much work to do. It is not something you try to do in a few weekends; for us it took almost 18 months. I searched Pinterest and even read Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing before beginning the task. The following link, is a great synopsis of her methods: Marie Kondo Method. Another help came from a post by Amy in her blog Deliberately Here. My husband and I then got to work. We divided our “stuff” into four categories:

  • Keep

  • Sell

  • Donate

  • Garbage

Here are five helpful tips for tackling this monumental job:

1. We followed Marie Kondo’s advice and worked in categories. For example, one weekend we sorted through our books, and then each weekend we sorted another category: clothes, Christmas and other holiday decorations, kitchen supplies, garden tools, office and craft supplies, paints, toys, games and puzzles and just kept at it. Does any good cook really need 5 colanders or 6 exact same size casserole dishes? Working in this way made the task manageable. We then concentrated on each section of the house; attic, basement and the main living areas to see what was left to purge or would not be needed in a smaller space.

2. Fortunately, our church holds a rummage sale every 6 months and we had a place for our “stuff”, but there are many other places to donate good condition clothing and household goods; one only needs to Google to find places to find a home for your excess. We also donated some large items to the Habitat for Humanity, Restore, a warehouse where people can purchase used furniture and household goods. Habitat requires that a picture of what you would like to donate be sent to them, and when approved, they arrange for a pick up. We donated an oak dining room set in this way. Here is a link to the national website: Habitat for Humanity Restore

3. We sold many of our better belongings and did this in several ways. Craft supplies and equipment were posted on Ebay and furniture and other large items were posted on neighborhood Facebook groups. Facebook worked out well and purchasers private messaged me to make arrangements for pick up. We saved the money earned from these sales for items for our new home. It is important that pictures posted online are clear and descriptions are accurate. You should include measurements and list any damages or wear. We also posted “curb alerts” on Facebook for items that we were giving away. I posted something at 10:00 one night and it was picked up before dawn. You need to check with your town though to see if this is allowed.

4. We held two garage sales. The trick for garage sales is to plan ahead and organize your stuff into categories. We cleaned anything we put out for sale, packaged or hung it and labeled all with prices. We scheduled these sales at the same time we posted on Facebook. This gave many people the opportunity to purchase specific items and were prepared to pay the price listed in the posting. We were able to sell a very large patio set with six chairs, cushions and umbrella to a couple who were in the market for such a set at an affordable price.

5. Hazardous Materials – Households all seem to accumulate paint, gardening chemicals, cleaning supplies that we no longer use. When going through our accumulation, I found paint that I couldn’t even remember using. All these items need to be disposed of properly. Calling your town or trash provider can direct you to the proper facility. Gather all of these things in one place and make an appointment to dispose of them. Latex paint can be put in the regular garbage after it is solid. You can open the cans and let them air dry but we were advised to buy some inexpensive clay kitty litter and add an equal amount to the paint cans and stir. Amazing stuff –it took about 10 minutes for the paint to harden. We left the cans open and then placed them with our regular trash. All full and newer paint was labeled and left for the new owners. This came in handy in our new home when we needed to touch up in areas that got marred when moving in.

All of this was of course work, but was well worth the time and energy. It really was amazing what we had held onto over the years and much of it we never used or remembered that we had. We also met many wonderful people along the way that found what we had to offer just what they needed.

My favorite sale was our McPhail of Boston, fully restored, 1920’s piano. It was just too large for our new townhome. The buyers were a young family with three little boys who were taking piano lessons. Mom was looking for something old but restored which fit her farmhouse decorating style. She traveled two hours to see it in person and it was love at first sight. Such sales made me feel good about our downsizing journey; it was time to move on.

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