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What Decluttering Means

When we hear the word “declutter” a lot of us immediately get anxious, right? I know I do. I immediately get defensive over my things because I have tendencies to “hoard”, in a sense and I have for as long as I can remember. Decluttering means throwing all of my extra things away and only keeping what I “need”, right?

So the idea of decluttering sends me into defense mode because I feel like I need all of my things and I have to protect them. Otherwise I would have trashed them already, right?


What decluttering means and where to begin.

What Decluttering Actually Means

Decluttering doesn’t mean throwing all of your things away. It doesn’t mean throwing away all of your memories or the extra items you have for an emergency. Decluttering means removing unwanted, unnecessary and useless things from an untidy or overcrowded space.

Read that again.

Decluttering means removing unwanted, unnecessary and useless things from an untidy or overcrowded space.

Decluttering doesn’t mean throwing out your prized and favorite possessions. It literally means removing trash.

It took me a long time to realize that. When I thought of decluttering, I thought I was supposed to, say, go to my coffee mug cabinet and get rid of all but three or four mugs. Since, technically, I don’t need 12 mugs. But I didn’t want to do that because I collect mugs. I love picking up dog mugs and chicken mugs. Every time I find a new one it goes into my collection.

On top of that, when Leslie and I moved in together and were sorting our things out, she also had coffee mugs that she wasn’t ready to get rid of. I refuse to throw them out. So, decluttering wasn’t going to happen.

But that isn’t what decluttering means. It means throwing out the coffee mug with the broken handle that fell off the shelf. I put it behind my coffee pot with the handle in the cup and I planned to fix it. 9 months later, it was still sitting there.

That is what we are decluttering. That is what we are throwing out.

Where do My Decluttered Items Go?

When you decide it is time to declutter, there are a couple of things to do before you start.

First, grab four boxes or bags. Label each as “Trash”, “Donations”, “Sell”, and “Rehome”.

Wait, “Rehome”? I thought that’s what we are doing with donations and selling.

Nope. In this instance, rehoming something means finding a new home for it inside your home. For example- If you can get pretty unorganized, like me, you might have things that are just tossed into cabinets and drawers that don’t belong there. Maybe it is some pens that are on the book shelf or nail clippers on the kitchen counter. Or maybe the item doesn’t have a home at all and just gets tossed from area to area. These items go in the rehome box and we are going to take that box and walk around “rehoming” the things we have found.

Where are you going to dispose of things that are trash?

Make sure you are disposing of things properly. Items like medications and batteries need to be disposed of in a specific way. EPA has specific guidelines and handling procedures for battery disposal. Check with your local pharmacy for medication disposal options.

Where are you going to dispose of things that are still useful but unwanted?

Donations and selling of course! This is helpful for me because if I know I can donate an item I loved but no longer need and can bring some joy to someone else, then I know that item is still serving it’s purpose. Whereas, if it were sitting in my cabinet and being unused, it is not.

The same kind of goes with selling things. If I can make some money back on this item, then it served it purpose. That makes it easier to let things go.

The thing I struggle with is actually bringing those items to the donation center and actually listing my sellable items for sale.

I may or may not be driving around with a trunk full of donations that I decluttered a month ago..

Don’t be like me. Instead, find a donation center near you or on your way to/from work and drop those dang things off. Put them in your front seat if you have to. Institute a “Do it now” policy and go the same day you declutter. Do something that will force you to drop off those donations.

For sellable items, LIST THEM. List them and then set a time limit. If they don’t sell in a week, for example, then they get donated. They are better off serving a purpose at a donation center than sitting in your closet waiting to be sold for the next ten years.

Easy spaces to Declutter First

It is hard to declutter your home for the first time. The thoughts can be overwhelming.

What am I supposed to declutter first?

What room do I start in?

The truth is, there is no right answer. You could start in the room that brings you the most anxiety, like me. I started in my kitchen. In the junk drawer. That junk drawer was the most embarrassing space I had that guests could see. When I got that one under control I had the confidence and will power to continue on.

You can start with the smallest space and work your way up that way you wont feel so overwhelmed with the amount of things you are having to go through.

You have to find the area that you feel you could tackle completely and correctly. Some places I would start would be:

Guest bathroom- if you have one

I am not meaning your giant master bath with two sinks and more counter space than my whole kitchen has. I just mean your little bathroom that your guests use when they are over. A lot of us tend to keep extra shampoo and conditioner in there if it has a tub or shower, extra lotions, maybe some cleaning supplies.

Open up that storage space in the area and start with the things you see first. Examples of things we are checking for:

  • Expiration dates. If its expired, toss it. That decision is made for you. One less thing to ponder over. This goes for soaps, shampoos, creams, lotions, cleaning supplies, etc.
  • Empty boxes. In my house people like to refill something, like soap or QTips and then leave the empty box in the cabinet. Grab the empty boxes and trash it.
  • Ripped hand towels. I know they are useful in cleaning up messes, but if they are in your guest bathroom and aren’t with your cleaning supplies and being used for that purpose, they can go.

As you run into things, decide where the item belongs. If we are keeping it, lets place it in it’s proper home. Right now. Don’t put it off.

Medicine Cabinet

Ya’ll, my medicine cabinet is a house of horrors. I’ve mentioned before I have hoarding tendencies. I am so scared to not have something if I need it. Being that we have so many special needs beings in our house, ranging from animals to people, I keep a lot of things in my medicine cabinet. It is honestly the biggest cabinet I have in the kitchen and the most packed.

When I decided to declutter the medicine cabinet, I had to set aside a good deal of time. It took me around 2 hours to deal with everything that I had stuffed in there.

So, where do we start

  • Expired meds. Trash. We don’t need them, we don’t want them.
  • Empty RX bottles. As I’ve said before, my family loves to put empty things back in cabinets. So I always throw out like four or five bottles at a time.
  • Near empty medicinal creams. Like Neosporin, hydrocortisone, etc. Toss them. You don’t need to save that last little bit in there.
  • Combine bandages. I couldn’t believe how many boxes of bandages I had. Character, water proof, large, small, colorful… I had so many. I grabbed a ziplock bag and they all went in it. That way when I need a bandage I just grab the bag and dig through it. All those boxes got tossed.
  • Liquid medicine bottles. Syrups that don’t have enough medicine in them for a full dose can get going. We don’t need it. It’s useless.

I bet after going through most of that stuff, you already have much more room in the space and a bag full of trash. Take a good look at it and breathe easy. You did that and you won’t miss any of the things you tossed.

Linen Closet

I don’t know why, but I have so many blankets. My mom was famous for saving baby blankets and passing them onto my sister and me to use for our children.

The problem here was that babies only use baby blankets for so long. After that, the blankets sit there untouched and unused. So I had SO MANY blankets in this closet.

I had extra sheet sets for each bed “that way I can replace the sheets with new ones and wash the old ones”- something I never do because I always just wash them all and put them back on the bed the same day. I’ve still got ripped and stained sheets that can be used as a floor cover or for the animals- which honestly, is not a bad idea. I did, however, decrease the amount I had.

So. Many. Pillow cases. Because for some reason we need pillowcases to match each sheet set and comforter, right?

I had extra comforters, duvet covers, and then just a load of random homeless stuff that we just threw in there to get out of the living room.

It was a total mess.

To get this decluttered a bit, I took the baby blankets and kept the ones that meant a lot to us, like ones that were handmade or had Ember’s name on it, and I donated the rest. (consider donating old blankets, sheets, and towels to local animal shelters and animal rescues.)

I tossed lumpy and smelly pillows that we didn’t really need. Every time someone gets a new pillow here, the old one is put in the linen closet. For no reason because we have enough guest pillows. Off they went.

Putting the linen closet back together was easy enough. It is still a bit crowded, but that was all I could take for the day.

Junk Drawer

We all have one. It’s the drawer that every little thing that doesn’t have a home and gets tossed on the kitchen counter, goes into. Mine has pens and papers, a Ziplock bag of feathers from my chickens that I plan to make a wreath out of one day (maybe), hand tools that didn’t go back into tool boxes, tape, batteries…

I mean, you name it, it was in there.

So I emptied that bad boy out and sorted every single item in that drawer. I then added containers to the drawer to separate things like notepads, envelopes, stamps, pens, etc. Then everything else was rehomed. It is mind blowing to me how clean this drawer is staying now that I have the containers in it.

So I emptied that bad boy out and sorted every single item in that drawer. I then added containers to the drawer to separate things like notepads, envelopes, stamps, pens, etc. Then everything else was rehomed. It is mind blowing to me how clean this drawer is staying now that I have the containers in it.

It’s almost as if containers were meant to contain things… Hmm.

Decluttering Means Tossing Your Trash, Not Your Sanity

This is a lot. I know it is. Deciding what items were worth keeping and what items deserved to take up valuable space in our home is hard work. It’s emotionally exhausting especially for those of us who are attached to items.

I don’t want you to dive in head first and declutter the entire house. Take it a space at a time. When you are finished with one space and have the mental capacity to take on another space, go for it, but don’t overwhelm yourself.

An important thing to remember is that if you can only throw out trash, today, and not unused items, you’ve decluttered. You did what you went in to do and you succeeded.

You don’t have to get rid of everything. Get rid of the things that you are mentally ready to let go of. For me, I will do so much and then put the rest of the items back until another day because sometimes my anxiety takes over and I can’t do what I need to do.

It’s okay to take it a little at a time. One item gone is one less item in your home and one less thing causing you stress. You can always go back and do it again.

Decluttering Means Giving Yourself Freedom

When you finish, I want you to take a look around at what you’ve accomplished. Less things in your home means more room for you to breathe. It means less stuff everywhere causing you to become overstimulated and overwhelmed with things that need to get done or things that need to be cleaned.

Decluttering means loving yourself and your home enough to do what seems hard and impossible, but necessary.

What are the hardest things for you to declutter? I would love to hear from you.

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  1. Great post! Decluttering can be such a HUGE process that is so very time-consuming. I always held on to way too much stuff. However, after moving a few times in the past three years, I learned to just let stuff go a lot easier. This has really helped keep clutter under control at my current house.

    1. candace.credeur says:

      That’s awesome, Debbie! Moving is stressful. Even with all the work I’ve put into decluttering at this point I don’t think I’d have the mental load to move again lol. Good luck to you!

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