How To Clean House and Prepare For A New Year: The Physical

One of my resolutions for 2011 is to declutter my life in every way possible. I’ve got physical junk piling up in my home and digital junk piling up on my computer as well as being pushed at me all the time in the world of fast-paced digital consumption that we live in. It’s a bit too much to handle all in one go, so I’ll take these three things one step at a time…

Let’s Get Physical!

To combat the clutter-creep in my physical world I plan to make heavy use of the guide called Sell Your Crap (Affiliate link) created by Baker of ManVsDebt that I reviewed earlier in the year. The material in the guide makes decluttering physical junk far easier and a lot less confusing than I tend to make things on my own. Baker lays out exactly how to sell your crap, what criteria you should consider when choosing a sales platform and what price thresholds to think about when deciding between selling and donating.

The most important part of this guide for me is the section detailing at what point you should throw away things or donate them; when does the effort of selling outweigh any benefit of simply decluttering by donating or even trashing your junk. I tend to hold onto things far too long because I personally see value in the stuff but when I get right down to it and am honest with myself, no one in their right mind would pay for some of the junk I have kept and while I thought I may have a use for it eventually, it’s been years and whatever it is hasn’t been touched.

After reading through the guide and getting some inspiration from other minimalist figures around the web, I am starting to see how funny some of my actions have been and I’m actually realizing when something around my home will no longer be useful so I can then part myself with it. It’s kind of a liberating feeling and I’m excited to really clean house during January.

Another idea from Baker is to simply take pictures of your physical possessions that are sentimental but not useful. With most things like that you can still get the same nostalgic feeling when you look at a picture of something that you do when you look at a physical thing itself. Not only do I think this is a great idea in terms of decluttering but I also get more use out of things when they are in digital format. I can post the pictures of old school projects on Facebook to share with family or just archive them for later viewing and they don’t take up precious space in my home.

For the kitchen, I plan on using the “cardboard box test” as described on by Peter Walsh (yes, I am aware of Oprah). Put all your kitchen utensils into a cardboard box and when you need one of them, reinstate it back into its proper place in the kitchen. If after four weeks, you haven’t taken a utensil out of the cardboard box, you don’t need it.

As for the rest of the house, I’ll use a system similar to what law enforcement use for abandoned roadside vehicles; when I discover something that I haven’t used within a time frame that my memory can span, I’ll slap a sticky note on it with the date. If I use the thing, I’ll remove the sticky but if the sticky has been there for more than two weeks, I’ll put the item in the discard box and get rid of it in one way or another.

And lastly, I plan to create a system to stop the clutter from accumulating. I know I’m a pack-rat and that’s something I have to live with but unless I plan ahead and kill the rat in me before he takes over, things will get just as bad as they are now. I will not be appearing on Hoarders, thank you very much.

Do you have any tips for combating clutter in your physical life?

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10 People have left comments on this post

» MoneyConeNo Gravatar said: { Dec 28, 2010 - 01:12:50 }

Here’s one that’s worked wonders for me. Have a place for everything.

I used to keep my documents all piled up and really didn’t follow a system and would spend hours looking for documents when I needed them. Finally decided to read up on everything I can on organizing and now have a very neat system in place! (some pictures :

Book occupy a lot of space. I didn’t see a point hanging on to Harry Potter series. Sure they are great books, but I’m not going to read it everyday! Decided to sell it. I can always buy used if I need them again!

Same goes for old gadgets, sell them if you don’t use them.

Jesse MichelsenNo Gravatar Reply:

Awesome filing system write up. Honestly, the stuff cluttering the house is mostly gadgets and old IT junk like full on computers, servers, monitors and outdated technology. I just need to dump them.

I feel the same way about some books. In that way, eBooks are awesome. They don’t take up any space!

MoneyConeNo Gravatar Reply:

Thanks Jesse! I totally understand your frustration with IT junk! You can’t sell ’em you don’t want to throw them away! I held on to my old dell for I don’t know how long!

Scrub all the data and just get rid of it! Take a backup if you are anxious and discard them (Maybe one gadget a week!).

Jesse MichelsenNo Gravatar Reply:

Funny thing, most of the computers aren’t even mine so I have no data on them. They were hand-me-downs from others, or discarded computers from work. I always want to “do something” with them, but there just isn’t enough time! I’m doing one ROOM per week 😉 (testimony to how much IT junk I have…)

» Everyday TipsNo Gravatar said: { Dec 28, 2010 - 01:12:12 }

My kids are getting older, and I realized I still had all their toddler toys in the basement. One day, I tried to part with them, but i just couldn’t. A year or so later, I tried to do it again, and I was ready. So for me, I had to be able to handle letting go of a lot of the stuff.

Actually, I have found that as I have gotten older, I have less trouble parting with things and seeing them for what they are. I wasn’t so ‘mature’ when I was younger though.

The kitchen is probably my achilles heel in terms of accumulating stuff though. The putting the utensils in a box is an interesting idea. I know I have some items from Pampered Chef that I have never, ever used.

Jesse MichelsenNo Gravatar Reply:

I agree it’s really hard to part with some things, at least the first go-around. I think the sticky-note system I’m trying will help alleviate that. I will have solid evidence that I haven’t touched something in ages, I can take a picture for my sentimental heart, and move on 🙂

The kitchen gets me too. We have 30 pots and pans, all hand-me-downs from when we had nothing, and I use a singe pan and single pot on a regular basis. The rest are just taking up space! Your getting me psyched to get this stuff outa my life!

» krantcentsNo Gravatar said: { Dec 29, 2010 - 12:12:43 }

This time of year, I clean out files to get ready for next year. I am also working on closets, getting rid of clothes and other stuff I have not worn or used in years. I want to start fresh next year.

Jesse MichelsenNo Gravatar Reply:

This will be a first for me starting somewhat fresh. I usually just let things keep on piling up because I’m blind to it. I have seen the light…

» ScottNo Gravatar said: { Dec 29, 2010 - 12:12:55 }

That isn’t your office. In your office you can’t see the chair.

Jesse MichelsenNo Gravatar Reply:

*zing* 😉 but you’re close to right…I haven’t been able to sit in my desk chair in ages.

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