Clutter so easily invades our lives, especially the longer we own or live in a home where closets and extra spaces can be filled up and the task of decluttering becomes overwhelming. So, why does it matter?
- Clutter can be bad for your health (physical and mental). People often feel mentally overwhelmed or exhausted by their clutter. Dust, dander and mold in cluttered spaces are bad for allergies, asthma and respiratory illness.
- Clutter can be a home safety hazard: items stacked up or blocking pathways can contribute to falls, excess items can be a fire hazard.
- Clutter actually impacts your brain, impairing your ability to think creatively.
- Clutter makes it difficult to find what you need (important papers, things you need to use or wish to give to family members, etc.) and can make life more difficult and less enjoyable.
Steps for Getting Rid of Clutter (Especially for Those Helping Older Loved Ones)
- Tackle one space at a time (pick a room, tackle paperwork or clean a closet or two). Remember, your older loved one’s pace may not be the same as yours and be sensitive to the need to “process” items and share stories. If this is too stressful for you, consider hiring an outside party who can patiently wade through the organizational tasks.
- Sort items into donate, sell, trash/recycle, give away to friends/family and keep. See below for our list of resources for selling and donating items. Get your loved one involved/invested by having them pick a favorite charity to donate items and picking out special keepsakes to give to friends or family (what those people choose to do with the items is up to them, but if they graciously accept them it can give the person a good feeling of sharing something).
- Re-sort the “keep” pile. Our team recommends going through that pile again. It’s often difficult to make the initial decision to get rid of things (especially a lot at once) so do a second culling to see if there may be additional items to donate or sell.
- Plan more time than you think you will need (see our note above regarding pace and remember, many items have emotional significance and can be especially hard to part with for those who have experienced many losses–deaths, loss of health/abilities, etc.).
Resources for Getting Rid of Clutter
EBay: the giant online marketplace for buying and selling, especially worthwhile if you have special interest or collector’s items for sale.
Craigslist: the most well-known free online classified ads for the modern era. It may not be the prettiest interface but it’s still a tried and true method for connecting buyers and sellers locally.
Neighborhoods often have online communities for sales and announcements and you might want to post a message to friends/on Facebook if you’re doing a big sale or have big/specialty items to sell or give away.
Estate sale companies are very helpful when getting rid of the majority of items in a home or large collections. Read our interview with one of our local resources, Encore Events. Professional appraisers who specialize in collectibles can be very helpful when you have specialty items (or aren’t sure about antiques, artwork, etc. and don’t want to make a costly mistake). Dale Smrekar of Downsizing Advisory Service is one such resource in our area.
Here is a comprehensive list of thrift stores and charities accepting donations in Pinellas County, FL, with contact information and notes (what they accept, will they pick up or where to drop off). Check if your county offers a similar list, or check with your favorite local charities.
Check around within your network to find out if anyone knows someone in need. Is a young family member getting ready to move out on his/her own who might need some basic items?
EasyLiving is here to help with organizing projects and helping you keep your household free of clutter! Our team can also refer you to services for deep cleaning and other needs, as well as offer care management assistance for home safety evaluations and organizing medical/other records.
Get our newsletter or follow us on Facebook for the latest tips! You can sign up for Linda’s Journal to get notified of workshops on organizing medical records and setting up your “exit strategy”/legal needs and helpful articles about topics like what documents to keep v. shred (coming up soon!).
*Hoarding is different than collecting or typical clutter, and requires a special approach. Please read signs someone is a hoarder and Aging Wisely’s blog for case studies about getting help.