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Declutter Now – The Right Way To Get Rid of the Wrong Stuff

Ila lives in the Garden State with her family and four chickens. She has been growing produce and perennials for 20 years, and recommends gardening for food and fun, but not for fortune.
Published: June 18, 2022
declutter-pexels
No one likes the look of clutter, but many people have a hard time letting it go. By taking a slightly different perspective, one can jump into declutter mode and make quick progress. (Image: Gustavo Fring via Pexels)

Would you like to declutter? For various reasons, most of us have more stuff than we need. Due to impulse buying, social customs that call for obligatory—yet unnecessary—gifts, and the phenomenon of items outliving their usefulness, we gradually collect a mass of assorted belongings that could best be described as “clutter.”

While we may feel somehow attached to all these little things, clutter can be a real problem, causing mental stress, frustration, and, in extreme cases, physical danger. Let’s look at how clutter affects our lives, and some thoughtful ways to deal with it.

How clutter impacts your life

Of the many compelling reasons to declutter, the most spiritually important consideration is that an attachment to stuff makes it seem like our identity depends on it, engulfing us in fear of losing it. Be it a connection to the past, or seeing it as some indication of our self worth, bonding with clutter prevents us from growing and living to our full potential.

Psychologically, clutter is a sensory overload that never goes away, making it hard to focus, and causing unnecessary stress. 

Clutter also makes it difficult to clean, resulting in allergy-inducing dust, tripping hazards, and the inability to have guests. In serious cases, clutter may come between a good relationship, or even make it difficult for a first responder to get to you.

If you think clutter is cutting you a raw deal, it’s time to take control and make a clean sweep.

How to declutter without feeling loss

As humans, we have various sentiments that often override our rational thinking. We become attached to one thing after another, and find it painful to let go. If we start to look at things from a different perspective, perhaps we will find that eliminating unnecessary items feels quite liberating, and opens up new opportunities and possibilities. 

Try looking at your stuff as transient beings. After they have served their purpose with you, let them go and fulfill someone else’s needs. Thank them for their service and determine the best way to relocate them. 

Turn clutter into cash

If you have collected valuable things and you are in need of cash, there are many options for selling used items. Ebay, your local Craigslist, and garage sales are all good options, as well as websites like ThredUp and PoshMark—specifically for clothing; but they all require a degree of effort on your part. 

There are also services that will assist you in selling your stuff. They charge a fee, of course, but since they are professionals, they are likely to bring in a decent amount of income.

If you receive gifts that you know you will never use, remember that New With Tags (NWT) or Mint In Sealed Box (MISB) items can fetch a good price and be easy to sell.

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Donating to thrift stores can give other people a chance to enjoy the things that are no longer useful to you. (Image: cottonbro via Pexels)

Make someone else happy 

Many of us just can’t bear to see things go to waste. If this is your main concern, consider gifting your possessions among your acquaintances who could get better use of them; or perhaps a donation to your favorite charity thrift store will give you peace of mind. 

All sorts of people shop at thrift stores—low income moms, treasure hunters, environmentally friendly folks, and more. In any case, your dear friends are sure to find a good home once you release them. You, in turn, will have given up an attachment, and at the same time, gained virtue.

Creative repurposing

Another great way to tackle clutter is to repurpose items that are no longer in use. Furniture and clothing, especially, are amenable to creative repurposing if you have the inspiration and access to shop tools and a sewing machine. This can be a great DIY adventure that will challenge you to new heights.

With a little ingenuity, things that are currently “out of service” can be made useful again, often resulting in uniquely practical pieces. (Image: Paris on Ponce & Le Maison Rouge via Flickr CC BY 2.0)

In the same vein, we can repair broken items and mend clothes when they need it; but do so in a timely manner. If you know that you will never get to the project, let it go and replace the item if necessary, rather than keep a growing pile of stuff that needs work.

How to prevent future clutter

After you’ve managed to find your space and feel the tranquility that comes with it, you will want to maintain it. A few bad habits can put you back in the same boat before long, so be mindful of the following precautions.

Resist impulse buying 

Today, with credit cards, online shopping, and “fast, free delivery” services, it is incredibly easy to buy whatever we want and have immediate gratification. Try taking a more traditional approach to purchases. Even if money is not an object, consider saving it for things that you actually need. 

Remember: Once you buy something, it owns you just as much as you own it. It will need space and maintenance, essentially becoming an added responsibility, however small. Is it worth it?

If you put something in your virtual shopping cart, let it sit there for a month to see whether you can actually do without it. 

“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed.”

Mahatma Gandhi

Choose quality over quantity

It is easy to fall into the trap of purchasing a variety of different merchandise to cover various specific needs. Aim, instead, to buy quality items that will stand the test of time, and have the versatility to serve multiple purposes. 

With clothing, for example, one might be inclined to buy an assortment different colors and styles of each basic item; when, in actuality, a few carefully-considered, quality outfits will suit all our needs. Timeless fashion is a sign of dignity and will earn you a bit of respect as others chase the fads.

The same principle can be applied to all manner of household goods. Select purchases that will have a broad application, and opt to rent or borrow single-use necessities.

The gracious dissuasion

A good deal of clutter is a result of the kindhearted intentions of others. Let your friends know that you are enjoying the liberty of a lightened load, and specify “no gifts,” or “consumables only” when you host parties. 

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Darren Maung contributed to this report.