Decades of Accumulation

I’m trying to get rid of the stuff I’ve dragged around for years and years and stuck into drawers and closets and garages. Never looked at, never used. Just kept.

Clearing out this clutter is mainly a mental task. I make a plan. Set my guidelines. Follow them ruthlessly. I start with the three sorting piles = trash it, sell it, give it away.

Trashing is the easiest. Get a big bag and start filling it up. I set a dollar amount that it would take to replace the item if I ever did need it again. If I can easily replace a stored item for $20 or less, I trash it. Why let it take up precious space because I speculate that I might—some day—in the future—maybe—want this item.

Selling it is hardest for me, so I don’t do it. It seems like a lot of effort for not a lot of money in return.

Giving my stuff away makes me feel good. But, I had to decide where to donate it.

I now send almost all my things to a thrift shop that supports a free medical clinic in my community. I’m helping support the medical clinic as well as people who like to find bargains in the thrift shop. I load a bag of stuff in my car and drop it off on the way to the grocery. Monthly.

My best tip: decide THIS WEEK where you want to take all the stuff that no one in the family wants. If you have one place that’s quick and easy to donate to, you are less likely to procrastinate.

It’s your turn. Tell us your best tip for clearing those garages and storage units. Don’t be shy. Click on the comment button and write in the box.


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9 responses to “Decades of Accumulation

  1. Interesting topic. I’ve given a lot of stuff to young workmen at our place. They are just starting out and have the energy to use many of the kitchen things I don’t use anymore. I gave all my “professional clothes” to a younger friend and donated what didn’t fit her.

  2. Pam Kingsley

    I just went through this a few months ago, Alice! And found out that the best thing to help you rid yourself of decades of “stuff” is a quick sale and downsizing. After years of home ownership, accompanied by constant accumulation, I had three weeks to clean out a lifetime of collections–some loved, some little-used and some literally forgotten. By collections, I mean everything I owned: furniture, clothes, heirlooms, junk, etc. The new owners of my cottage wanted to take possession pronto; I had no choice but to get to it. Being unable to procrastinate is a great motivator! First I asked the new owners what they might want to buy from me–I was surprised they wanted quite a few things. Next, I got rid of all the junk–that seemed the easiest way to see what I really had. I bought contractor bags and started at it–went from room to room until I’d reached every nook and cranny. Of course, there are those moments when you sit down and get lost in memories, but with the clock ticking that cannot last long. And that’s the key! Then, I called “Junkyard Dogs” (local guys) to come clean out the shed and garage as well as take all the old, really unusable furniture and appliances. They recycled as much as possible and got rid of the rest. I had already removed those few things I was going to donate. I called up all my girlfriends for a wine and cheese party and during the fun brought out all the tchotkes, kitchenware, clothes, hats, shoes that I still loved but never used or wore anymore…voila! Nearly all of it went home with my friends–for their use, or for friends/family or for their church bazaar. Finally, things in my storage unit–heirlooms I just never had room to display–were given to my family members. I no longer had to worry about putting tags on each piece or revising a will indicating “who got what,” In addition, for an hour or two each day, I took care of years of old paperwork with a handy little shredder from Staples. At the end of two and a half weeks, I was down to just those things I needed or couldn’t part with. It all fit in a relatively small moving POD. I was able to leave my beloved cottage feeling much lighter in spirit and lode. I also left with a determination to make “shedding” part of my life from here on out.

  3. Millie Lill

    Just the other day a friend of mine said she heard a good hint about cleaning out your closet. Instead of looking at all those clothes to go through, pick five colors. On day one, take out everything that’s, let’s say, red. Go through and decide which of these items you don’t want/need and get rid of them. The next day (or week, if necessary) choose another color and repeat. That way it is not so overwhelming. I haven’t yet tried it, but I think it’s a good idea.

  4. Faye

    That idea for cleaning my closet sounds great. I am going to start tomorrow. Itis already late so I really can’t start tonight Another idea that i have used is this. Turn all of your hangers backwards or opposite the way you usually hand them. When you wear them hang your normal way. Any hangers that are still turned in the opposite direction after, say, six months to a year, donate them. I have found that this works.

  5. Susan

    Dear, dear Alice…
    I can’t believe that you are still getting rid of stuff. I love to tell friends in the process of downsizing about my wonderful friends who started the process when they moved from a very large home, perfect for entertaining, into a 2 bedroom apartment and finally into a motorhome for the ultimate adventure.

    While I am not quite ready to downsize, I do work on clearing the clutter. Sometimes I mentally walk through the house thinking about what I would take and what would go if/when I were to move. There is a lot that I can do without.

    I really like your $20 rule and will apply it the next time I go on a cleaning/decluttering binge. I also like Millie’s color method of cleaning out the closet. As the weather warms and I move my winter clothes to another closet, I will try her suggestion. Much like Pam, I really need a strict deadline to motivate me into action. dmnewman reminds me that it is time to give some of my horse riding gear to a younger friend.

    So happy to a a part of your circle of friends.

    BTW, we still enjoy the patio table and the Japanese vase that we ” inherited” from you. Let me know if you would like the vase back.

  6. Wanda Smith

    Alice, my dear friend, is there a virus going around that people “our age” have that requires us to at least think of dejunking. Everyone I know seems to be going through the same thing.
    Unfortunately, I love my “stuff” and find it very difficult to let go. However, I am semi-motivated to begin removing some things. I think I can emotionally sever the ties that have made me hold on to the handmade Cinderella decorations for our daughter’s sixth birthday, (she’s 48 now); likewise the pin-the-eye-patch on the pirate for our son who is 50. But memories are hard to toss, and I find I need visual reminders now days to remind me of special events in the past.
    This is a delightful idea, and I am pleased to be included. Could this be the instigator I need to get moving? Let’s all hope so before the next version of tv’s Hoarders features me.
    I do love the ideas presented by others and am eager to try them. Perhaps I will come up with something clever on my own, but just getting rid of some unused, unwanted items will be satisfying for now.


  7. Shirley Jetzke

    The only sure way to rid of all clutter is to experience an horrific tornado, a terrible flood, or die. Living without too much clutter is a different matter. I keep a box of “give-aways” in my clothing closet. When it is full I try to take it to a used clothing store. The problem is, in sorting through it one last time, I find items that I can still use so———–

    • Lynn Manusos

      I have walked many a thrift shops, Habitat, Goodwill, etc. and watched the
      faces of the people who find joy in their little new found treasures. This
      alone is reason to run home and begin the cleansing of my little stored
      treasures that I have not uncovered for literally years all the while
      imagining that someone will find joy in them.

  8. Mona

    I was sort of forced into shedding a ton of stuff about 5 years ago when I left behind a home in Arizona and move to North Carolina with only my clothes in a box and suitcase! My home in Arizona sold a couple of months later, but by then, I had furnished a much smaller condo in North Carolina with new — and less or smaller — things. Now what? I called my sister in Arizona and told her to hold the biggest yard sale the neighborhood had ever seen, and I shed almost everything that I left behind. I now find, 5 years later, that I don’t miss anything that was sold and don’t accumulate anything new that takes up too much space. My closet will only hold so many clothes, and I have 2 shoe racks only. If I buy a new pair of shoes, I must get rid of one pair that I don’t wear, because I only have so many shoe slots! It’s a very freeing experience, and I feel lighter for not having to continuously carry that load of “stuff.” It was not only a practical experience but a spiritual experience as well.

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