The following is a guest post by CollegeMom, who is a staff writer at ConsumerFu.com She has a background in commercial banking and is an expert at raising children on a budget. She and her husband live on four acres of old farmland with their two dogs, one cat and enough gardens to feed them year round.
Have you anchored yourself to a pile of belongings – most of which hold no meaning beyond once being something you didn’t own? It’s no secret most Americans own way too much stuff. We’re lured in by the newest technology and we buy gadgets that are outdated often within months of their purchase. We cave to our desire to own the newest and the best of everything.
In February, Melissa addressed this in her post, Do You Really Need that Stuff? Think Twice Before You Spend. We aren’t just sabotaging our monthly budgets. We are weighing ourselves down, stressing ourselves out and limiting our ability to take advantage of new opportunities.
If you have a stash of broken items that you’re convinced might come in handy, a closet full of clothes that no longer fit or collections of “valuable” things stored in every nook and corner; it is time to take action. New opportunities won’t wait while you clean out your house.
Use These Tricks to Declutter Your Life and Keep Your Accumulation Habits in Check.
First, curb your spending. It will be difficult to get your belongings in order if there is a constant flow of stuff coming into the house. Make shopping lists to avoid impulse buys and stay off of sites like Ebay, Etsy and Fab. When your paycheck arrives, sweep what you don’t need for survival into a savings account. If you still need some help, follow these 11 Tips on Smarter Spending.
Next, it is time to get rid of the clutter. A good place to start is your bedroom. Tackle the rooms where you spend the most time because if they are free from clutter you will feel better and be more inclined to take on the rooms that are a bit more of a challenge.
Tricks to Declutter: Use these guidelines to stay on track
- Go through your clothes. If something doesn’t fit or you haven’t worn it in a year, get rid of it. Go through your jewelry, shoes, pocketbooks, hats, belts and other personal items and get rid of everything that is broken, worn, torn or too small/too large.
- As the bags fill with your donations, take them directly to your car. Once your car is full, take a trip to your charity of choice. The important thing is to get it out of your house or apartment.
- Get an accordion file folder or file box to carry from room to room. Sort papers, bills, receipts and other documents into files that mirror your main filing system. As the files fill up, carry them to your home office or wherever you keep your files and transfer the papers to the correct file. Go room by room and in no time your filing is up to date.
- Get rid of instruction manuals for appliances you no longer own. Throw away receipts you do not need. Do not shove them in a junk drawer.
- Books can be donated to libraries, community centers or nursing homes / assisted living facilities. Video games, CDs and DVDs can be sold or traded to certain stores for credit.
- As you complete the decluttering of each room, take inventory. Video and photo inventories are excellent for insurance claims.
- Tackle storage rooms, the attic and the basement last. These areas tend to be overwhelming, so it is best to get the rest of the house in good shape first.
- Be brutal. You do not want to take those boxes back up the attic stairs. Don’t save 6 boxes of your children’s school work, just save a few important items from each year. Don’t save every baby outfit they looked cute in, save their Christening gown or the outfit they wore home from the hospital. Make good use of your scanner and digital camera. Sometimes it is easier to get rid of something with sentimental value if we know we have a photograph of it stored on our computer. (Next we declutter the hard drive!)
- Enlist your children’s help to go through their old toys and mementos. They should have a say in what stays and goes. I’ve found it easier to go through their things every few years. Each time they seem to get rid of more stuff as it loses its sentimental meaning.
- When you are ready to put things back in the attic or storage room, make sure to store them properly. Cardboard boxes attract silverfish and cockroaches. Now that you have so little stuff to store in the attic you can afford to buy storage bins that will seal out the bugs and moisture. These are also much easier to move or store when you get that exciting job offer or other new opportunity in another state or country.
- Make sure each box has an inventory list placed inside the box and a list taped to the outside of the box. This is another step that makes it easier to pack up and go.
- If you plan to have a garage sale or to sell anything on eBay, do it as quickly as possible. Set a deadline so if the items haven’t sold you know it is time to get them out of the house.
Some of us have more of a problem than others simply because we’ve been accumulating for decades instead of years. Take the time now to stop the flow of new stuff and get rid of all the old stuff. Next time opportunity knocks, make sure it isn’t buried under an avalanche when you open the door.