Our Decluttering Box And Other Tips

Decluttering and minimalism is all the rage these days. But with our three and a half bookshelf stacked high with the written word, I suppose we wouldn’t really fit that bill.

Still, we like to surround ourselves with stuff we actually value. If we replace something, the old item should leave. If we’re gifted something we don’t like, weeeeell. It used to take me over two years to work up the courage to donate it, but these days I’m more callous (and these days we don’t receive many gifts, on account of our gifting attitude).

Our cosy apartment with a view is by no means minimalist, but we try to ensure every item has a place. That way, cleaning is less of a “where does it go?” and more of a “put everything back where it belongs” quest.

Most of the time. You’ve caught on by now that we’re not perfect, right? Good.

The Decluttering Box

In our hallway, being childfree as we are, there is a half-full cardboard box. Right now, it holds an insert cupboard for an Ikea shelf that we got for free and removed. Some clothes I was happy to let go of, some movies we don’t watch and some plastic plates that were part of the deal when my grandmother sent us a whole slew of cups and plates for our new place.

All this stuff is destined to be donated to a charity shop at next possible convenience. It is all useful and whole, no using the charity organisations as trash cans.

Being lazy buggers and the nearest charity shop being 45 minutes walk away, that box has been sitting there for months, slowly growing every time we find something we realise we do not and will not use in the foreseeable future.

In London, we had a similar decluttering bag. And with a charity shop just down the street on my way to work, it was so easy to just bring it along on the way.

The Decluttering Paradox

The weird thing always was though, as soon as you take the bag to give it away, you almost always find a new item worthy of donation the moment you step back inside your home.

It is the decluttering bag/box paradox. You can never be done decluttering, so just accept that there will always be one container in your house, dedicated to stuff you no longer need. We have just resigned ourselves to this fact.

Don’t fall for the trick of thinking you’ll remember that you’re giving it away the next time you gather stuff around the house. Take it out of its shelf/drawer/storage location and into a dedicated donation box, or I’ll guarantee you’ll forget most of it.

For people with children or nosy pets, I have heard wardrobes and cupboards are good places to store it.

Tag Your Darlings

If you have one room in particular you really want to declutter, like a kitchen, bathroom or closet (or the entire house in theory, but one step at a time), you could try out the dot tag method I learned while decluttering 40 years worth of science teaching equipment in a London college.

Year One

What you do, is you buy a stack or tiny coloured dots, all in the same colour.

Every time you use an item, it gets a dot. You could also write a list, especially for things that would loose dots in, say, the dishwasher. For clothes I know some people clean our a particular place in their closet, and move the things they use over to an empty space.

Anyway, it gets a coloured dot or whatever equivalent you chose to employ. Continue this for one whole year.

Year Two

The next year, you go out and… you buy a new stack of coloured dots. The crux here is to make sure they are a different colour from last year’s dots.

Start afresh and tag everything you use.

After the end of your second year, you should have a fairly good idea of what you use somewhat regularly (should have two dots, different colours), and what is more sporadic (only one dot, either colour).

For all the items with no dots, take a real hard look at them. Do you love them? Is there a reason they are in your home? Do they bring you joy?

No? Destined for the donation box.

Just Don’t Buy It

Our last trick to avoid spending lots of money on clutter is to just not buy it.

When we identify a want, we write it down. If we keep thinking about wanting it after a few days, we start researching online if we can get it used for free.

No? Still really want it?

Can we get it used for much cheaper than new?

Very often, yes.

Is it worth the hassle of taking the bus halfway across the city and/or carrying it a long way?

Very often, no.

As I said, we are lazy people. I’ve been wanting a watering can since we moved in, the angle is easier to aim, but an empty bottle does the job amiably.

Mr. E. is distracted by the ticking of a clock I was given years ago. But a silent analog clock is not easily found used, and we are lazy and cheap, sooo… maybe later.

Little Reminders

I recently came across a tip for avoiding impulse spending that I really liked. It can be found as the first comment on this post about grocery shopping.

In short, add your goals in big, bold letters to your grocery shopping list (you do shop with a list, right?). If you put “Pay Off Student Loan Debt!” In red, right between oats and tomatoes, mayhaps you’ll be less tempted to grab some snacks that were not on the list?

We haven’t tested this one ourselves yet, but we LOVE the idea!

Share Your Best Decluttering Ideas!

We realise that it is a privilege to have so much stuff that we even feel a need to declutter. But here we are, trying to live a more meaningful existence where we own our things, not the other way around.

Do you have some rockin’ tactics for keeping a home that brings you joy and isn’t drowning in stuff? Please let us know, we’d love to hear it!

11 Comments on “Our Decluttering Box And Other Tips

  1. Love this post. I find that keeping less clutter around the house actually encourages me to be more frugal, too. When my living space is organized, with a place for everything and no extra useless stuff, I think much more carefully about what I add to it. A cluttered home attracts more stuff; an organized home demands that new additions justify themselves.

    In addition to scrutinizing new purchases to avoid buying unwanted stuff, I like to do a decluttering sweep once or twice per year. I choose a room and review everything in it. If I can’t remember the last time I used something and can’t easily imagine the next time I will use it, it’s gone unless it has some special purpose or sentimental significance.

    One thing to consider for the carless: in some countries, various charities will actually come to your house to pick up unwanted household items and clothing. Something to investigate for those who don’t want to schlep a box full of desk lamps and old t-shirts to the nearest charity shop.

    • We’ve found that a less cluttered home makes it easier to be frugal too, but also happier and more relaxed!

      I love your delivery tip. Here some of the charity shops place donations spots in strategic places around the city. Decidedly something to look into!

  2. This is great advice! We have been busy decluttering and I’m pretty shocked by how much stuff is in my house. Last night, while cleaning out my nightstand I found my old eyemask I’d been missing. Having too much stuff has buried some things that I enjoy using, so I’m glad we are going through this neverending decluttering exercise.

    • Neverending is exactly right! I keep thinking we have to reach a finish line soon, but there is always something else!

    • Ours have been sitting in the hallway for months, so I feel your pain. 😂

      I was really bad with giving away unwanted gifts as a child, but as I grew older, I realised that it’s better if someone elsecan appreciate it.

  3. I live the idea of a declutter box (no kids here either).

    Also love the idea of writing key objectives on the shopping list to keep the focus, that’s brilliant .

    Giving away unwanted gifts is hard for me too, but I am getting a bit better at it with age.

    • The biggest win we managed was managing to reduce the amount of gifts we receive in the first place. It’s amazing how much they would pile up!

  4. When I had a house, I would declutter twice a year (spring/fall). It would never fail that it was a whole weekend job, and I’m not one for trinkets or buying all sorts of things. That said, I’m a minimalist not in the way of very few possessions, but I don’t like things to be crowded. I like negative space in my living space and paintings.

    • Wow, I think a twice a year job would be too overwhelming for me. There is always so much more stuff than we imagine!

      I like your attitude towards minimalism. A crowded home can be a really stressful place to live!

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