The Pack Rat’s Guide to Getting Rid of Stuff

By , October 5, 2010 12:02 pm

Yes I am still here on planet Earth!

What a long blog break I took! Actually I have been way too busy to write lately. I, a confirmed pack rat, have been organizing, sorting, and “de-junking” my house.

I wish I had taken before and after photos. Clutter and mess was creeping in and threatening my sanity. So far two whole pickup truck loads of stuff have left my life and it feels GREAT!

I am not done yet. I have a big house and lots of things pack ratted away, but I am nearly done with the downstairs and then I will move on to the upstairs.

It took me a whole year of sitting around and procrastinating to finally get going with this enormous undertaking!

If you are feeling bogged down by stuff and need some tips to get moving to eliminate it, here is what I have learned:

  • Start small. Don’t think about your whole house or you will just want to curl up and take a nap instead. Be sure to make each goal achievable in a short time, preferably a day or two.
  • Pick a closet, drawer, cupboard or something easy for your first tidying session. Once you see how great it looks, you’ll be inspired to tackle the bigger jobs.
  • Make a deal with a friend to help each other sort and organize. When you have someone else there to help you work, you can’t just go take a nap instead! Plus, it is way more fun to do it with some pleasant company.
  • If you don’t have a friend available to work with and you can afford it, hire someone to help you.  This might sound extreme, but that is what I did.  Hiring a helper is the only reason I have been able to accomplish all that I have accomplished so far.  My helper is a friend of a friend who needed a part-time job.  It is a definite win-win for us both.  She has a job, I have help and motivation, and we both have found new friends in each other (never having met before).
  • Set a schedule and stick to it. For example, Every Monday 9AM to 3PM at your friend’s house. Every Thursday 9AM to 3PM at your house. If you are not strict about your schedule, you’ll find a way to procrastinate. Trust me. I KNOW.
  • Be ruthless, it will feel good in the end.  Do you really need five pie plates?  If you haven’t worn your out-of-style, navy blue interview suit in ten years why are you keeping it?  What about that tacky porcelain cow that your aunt gave you for Christmas twelve years ago and that you keep only because you like your aunt (not the cow).   Someone out there will find that cow in a thrift store and think it is the most wonderful piece of art and you (and, indirectly, your aunt) will make their day if you only just give it away!
  • Unless you are a regular Ebay seller, don’t hang on to things thinking that one day you will sell them on Ebay and make a fortune.  Ebay takes time to do right and if you tend to procrastinate about sorting your house,  you will almost certainly procrastinate about listing your things on Ebay.  Just get it all out of there and let a “real” Ebayer find it in the thrift store.  The good feeling of letting go is probably worth more than you would have made anyhow!
  • If you have sentimental feelings about any of your give-aways, don’t put them in your own yard sale.  Seeing strangers handling your precious belongings and haggling with you over prices will be distressing.  Either give them away to a thrift store, or find a good friend who will sell them for you.
  • Once you decide what to toss out and what to donate be sure to get all of it out of your house right away. This avoids second thoughts, nosy children, and clutter simply moving to a new location such as a garage or attic. Plus, you need the immediate reward of feeling the positive energy that moves in to replace the stuff that leaves.

For more inspiration as well as some ideas for where to donate your cast-offs,  read my old post Sort, Junk, Donate.  Good luck!

(Thrift shop photo courtesy of Wikipedia – license information here)

12 Responses to “The Pack Rat’s Guide to Getting Rid of Stuff”

  1. andrea says:

    I SO want to do this! I am inspired. I do it a little at a time over the year but there are certain areas of the house that I never get to!!! I also have a fellow pack rat and can’t really go through his stuff ;o)… well, I guess I could but it might not turn out very well ;o).

    What an amazing undertaking. I bet you feel more free and open to be.


  2. Lynn says:

    Congratulations on decluttering!! We have moved a few times in the past couple of years, and that definitely helps, but I still feel surrounded by STUFF we don’t need. We’re expecting a baby soon, so I feel the need to simplify again. Thanks for your tips. :)

  3. Mom Unplugged says:

    Hi Andrea, thanks so much for the comment!

    Yes, I feel much freer now, and will feel even more so when the whole house is done. I understand what you mean about the fellow pack rat. I have my pack rat children to deal with!

    What I did for them, was put everything of theirs that I wanted to get rid of into big plastic laundry baskets. When they got home from school, I had them go through the baskets and take out what they wanted to keep. They really surprised me by agreeing with most of my choices. When they were reluctant to part with certain things that I knew they had no real attachment to, I was sometimes actually able to talk them into giving them away.

    Now they seem very pleased to have eliminated many unwanted toys and books. They say that it is nice to actually now be able to SEE what they have, and I find that they are putting things away more than before too.

    You might try the laundry basket trick with your pack rat too! Good luck!

  4. Mom Unplugged says:

    Congratulations on your new little one! How exciting! You are right that moving helps, although when I move, I always leave sorting and packing until too late and simply end up moving many things I don’t need. Oh well. Good luck with your simplifying. If you have the energy, now is probably a great time to do it!

  5. Before we moved, we had a yard sale – making over $300! Now that we’ve moved we are not bringing anything into the house that we don’t love or that doesn’t have a space (including furniture). We’re setting up for yard sale number 2 (hopefully soon… and hopefully another $300 or more!)

    It’s nice being in a home with space. I wouldn’t recommend moving, though, just to get that space. ;)

  6. Oh I definitely feel a decluttering coming on. Trouble is I’m always decluttering but we have so much stuff (and so much keeps coming in) that I’m not sure it ever gets to look much different.

    I find it hard to declutter because we home educate and absolutely EVERYTHING has the potential to be educational. And of course it would be foolish to get rid of any books…

  7. Audrey says:

    What do you do if you are a clutter bug and your DH is even worse? I mean, I have done the decluttering room by room and tossed and gave away and donated so much it was not even funny – and more than once I was left wondering “Why on earth was I keeping this?”

    So I got myself in the habit of tossing items into buckets and as soon as the basket was full, it would go the garbage bin or the truck for next day delivery to the thrift store.

    Wouldn’t you know it?

    A few weeks later Hubby came home with the very same blender I had donated! He was so proud of his gift to me that he only paid $5 for! (A blender I had used once in over 20 years of marriage I might add!) Along with several toys that Kiddo had “donated” (unbeknownst to him – because he’s just like Dad)

    Honestly, I didn’t know weather to laugh…or cry…or just throw up my hands in defeat.

    PS…I told him he is now forbidden from ever ever ever setting foot into a thrift store again…

  8. Mom Unplugged says:

    Oh no! Too bad about re-buying your own stuff!

    I think banning DH from the thrift store (and yard sales) is the answer. Or make it mandatory that he only shop with you? How would he feel about that?

    Thanks for the comment and good luck!

  9. Mom Unplugged says:

    Oh I am SO in agreement with you here. Everything could have an educational purpose, I agree. I don’t home educate (which would make it umpteen times worse), but I STILL think that things might be “useful” one day. I have been that way since childhood. I am just trying to do my best by organizing all our odd craft findings (my weakness) into different bins.

    I agree about the books, but since I have three children and books can be passed down of course (plus I saved many of my own books from when I was a child), I am forced to triage. We have too many to fill our shelves and the kids can’t find anything any more!

    I am giving some good ones that we have in duplicate, to the schools. And any my children don’t really like, I am donating to the thrift store. In fact, how to downsize on books might make a good future blog post.

    Thanks so much for the comment!

  10. Mom Unplugged says:

    Hooray for you! Thanks for sharing your tips. The bringing things into the house attitude is key I believe. I have read that for every toy or clothing item that comes in…one must also go out. I like that philosophy, but I am not there yet.

  11. […] have been so busy sorting and de-junking my house, that I have had little time to blog and my Monthly Unplugged Project has fallen a bit by the […]

  12. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Ready for Ten, Debbie Webber. Debbie Webber said: Need to sort the family's clutter before more toys enter the home? Here's a few tips (@readyforten) […]

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