How to Get Rid of Your Junk
Ed's post about moving and getting rid of stuff got me thinking about my clutter. Are you barely able to breathe in your cluttered household? Have tons of stuff that you need to get rid of?
A few weeks ago, I took a seminar called "Commanding Your Clutter" at a local community college. Here's what I learned about collecting, hoarding, shopping, and finally, letting go of all that junk.
Why people hold onto things
I paid so much for it! Yes, but are you getting your money's worth from it? No? Sell it.
I have sentimental attachment to it. This is my biggest problem. See step 4 below.
Someone else will be angry if I sell it/give it away. Our teacher told us that the best way to do this is to contact people by letter or by phone and let them know that although you love them, and appreciate the thought that went into the gift that they gave you, you simply don't have room for it anymore. You ask if they would like it back, or if they have any input as to what you should do with it. This can be a difficult proposition, but many people appreciate the honesty. The other option is to get rid of it and just tell them that you broke it if they ever ask.
My children will eventually want it. ASK your children if they will eventually want it, and keep asking them. See if they want it now. I have this monstrous set of big, fake plastic grapes glued to a piece of driftwood that I LOVED as a child. They were my grandmother's. I used to think that they were magic. Now, I can't think of anything to do with them, short of launching them into the ocean using a homemade trebuchet.
But this is an heirloom! Sez you. If you think you have something of heirloom quality, get it appraised and store it properly. Many of the things that you consider heirloom quality might not be. This is (again) where taking a picture of the object, labeling it, and storing it in an album would be appropriate.
It'll be worth so much money some day! This might be true. But if you're like the 40 Year Old Virgin, consider paring down. If collectibles are getting in the way of your everyday living, selling some of them off now will save you years of annoyance, which is worth a bit of money. You can invest that money and watch it grow, and it will grow faster than the value of the baseball card/action figure/porcelain doll, without a doubt.
Tactics for getting rid of stuff
1. Start small, with one closet or one corner of a room. Our teacher told us to use an egg timer and to work in 15 minute intervals, but that doesn't work for me — I'm better off tackling everything at one go. However, if you are looking at a huge project that can take days, our teacher suggested that organizing for 45 minutes (with 15 minutes of cleanup), one day a week was the only way to get it done while maintaining your sanity.
2. Procure three empty boxes, and label them Keep, Undecided, and Toss. Divide your junk into these boxes, and empty them frequently (in the garbage or at Goodwill, or in your Yard Sale pile). I actually use Keep, Donate, and Toss, because I like to make my decisions straight away.
3. Resist the urge to look through the photo albums and year books during the first round. If you think that the info contained therein will be valuable down the road, put them in the Keep box and deal with them at a later date.
4. Deciding what to get rid of is hard, but it must be done. Our teacher told us the story of a man she had helped on a big cleaning project. He was hanging on to things like a plastic bag from a bookstore in Paris that he felt reminded him of his college travels. The bag, he said, had a special place in his memory.
Fine, she said. Let's get a nice frame for it and hang it on the wall. The man looked at her like she was nuts. You don't frame and hang a plastic bag.
No? Well, let's take a picture of it, then frame that picture. Again, the man stared at her like she had lost it. It finally dawned on him that the bag wasn't the source of his memories, but merely a souvenir, and a junky one at that. Toss it, he said.
Our teacher recommended that we use this rule for each item that we hem and haw over:
1. Would you want to frame and display it?
- Yes = Keep.
- No = See step 2.
2. Would you want to take a picture of it?
- Yes = Take picture, get rid of item.
- No = Get rid of item.
If you can take a picture of something that you want to remember, but can't use, do so. Put it in an album with a label. But let it go if it's taking up too much space.
But what should I do with it?
You don't have too many choices, but there are a few to consider:
- Throw it in the garbage.
- Put it outside with a FREE sign. Better yet, put a $50 sign on it and watch how fast it gets stolen.
- Give it away to a friend or family member, or to a complete stranger through Freecycle.
- Recycle it (computers, TVs).
- Call a junk tower to take it away.
- Sell it online.
- Trade it online.
- Sell it in the newspaper.
- Take it to Goodwill or similar charity.
Me, I've stopped trying to sell stuff. Donation is the key to getting rid of what I don't need. The amount of money I can make for selling my junk on eBay or Craigslist rarely makes up for the amount of time that goes into arranging the sale.
You'll probably be surprised how much stress is relieved by parting with your junk. I was really taken aback this morning when I was able to walk from my bedroom to the bathroom without looking like I was doing the Filipino tinikling all the way there.
It can be hard to part with things, but in the long run, it's worth letting go. When they say that you can't take it with you, they aren't kidding.
Of course, part of the trick to maintaining a clutter-free zone in your home and life is not to accumulate MORE crap. I'll be blogging more about that tomorrow.