August decluttering challenge

5 August 2013
Decluttering is a difficult task for most of us. If you've gone through your life with little money, then it is a real challenge giving away, or selling, items you've saved for. If you've had a lot of money to spend over the years, you'll probably be struggling under the weight of all those shopping trips, and again challenged by the choice of what should go. A reader emailed recently and said she struggles with decluttering items that are unused or no longer needed because it conflicts with the frugal principle of using everything up. Almost all of us have things in our lives we have emotional attachments to. The aim when you declutter is to know what you own, understand why you have an attachment to certain items and to decide if it enriches your life and keep it, or whether it should go.

We have different styles in our homes too. Some of us love the clean uncluttered lines of the minimalist home while others, even after they've decluttered, want certain mementoes around them. It suits their style and there is a certain comfort in seeing the things you love. If I have a style, my guess it would be Swedish mixed with crazy book lady. I'm playing it safe there because that could cover anything. But let's not make light of this topic, because many people really suffer by surrounding themselves with "stuff" and feel they have no option but to keep it.

I can't tell you what you need to get rid of. You are the only one who knows what is clutter and what isn't but there are a few stumbling blocks we all have to manoeuvre around and in the end it might just come down to your answer of the question: Can I live without this? I should tell you though that everything I kept in previous decluttering sessions because "I might need this in the future.", I didn't.

My mum's coffee cups, bought by me as a gift to her in the 1960s. One saucer missing.

But let's start at the beginning. Why declutter in the first place?  If you do it, and not everyone does, I think you do it for different reasons, depending on your age. At my age, many people want to clear out an accumulation of years of shopping, misguided purchases, gifts received, inherited items, children's possessions left behind when they move out and if there has been the death of a spouse, clearing the psychological hurdle of giving away their clothes, shoes and books. But no matter what your reason, decluttering clears your home of the possessions you no longer need or want so you have less to look after. It lets new life into your home and removes the weight of all those unwanted possessions.

One of the most practical reasons for decluttering is to know what you own. If you go through your possessions and know what is in boxes at the back of the cupboard, you won't double up on your buying or buy too many of one thing. There are only so many glasses or coffee cups you need, even if you see them on at a sale "too good to miss". So decluttering to remind yourself of what you have is something that can save you money. But in the end, nothing is compulsory and if you like your home the way it is, maybe now is not the time for you to declutter.

If you do need more space, focus on one small area at a time. When you go through your items there will be some that you can't get into the giveaway box fast enough and others that you're not sure about. Maybe it was a gift or an inheritance and you feel disloyal getting rid of it. Maybe you bought it and paid a lot of money for it. When you come across one of those items, ask yourself: "Do I really need this?", "Do I love this?", "Do I use this or is it in the cupboard most of the time?". If you're really stuck and don't know, honestly ask yourself: "If the house was on fire, would I grab this as I ran out the door?"

Over at the forum we have a section that deals with this topic. Everyone will have to deal with it at some point and many of us declutter frequently. If you need help or advice, please go to the forum and Becci and Alison, or the other members, will help you based on their own considerable experience. Becci is currently leading members through home zones, decluttering as they go. There is a post on how to declutter and many other threads full of advice from people who have decluttered, and survived.

I don't think you can go past the forum for good advice and the support of people who are decluttering along side you but I am doing a month long declutter here in my home, it's not too drastic but it will force you to think about it every day of the month.  My aim is to find five items today and put them in one of two boxes:
  • Op Shop bin
  • Family
I don't want to sell anything, I just want these items gone. If you do want to sell what you want to get rid of, it might be wiser to go to the forum and ask for advice about doing a deep declutter. My decluttering challenge is for those who may not have done anything like this before, or who have already decluttered and want to keep on top of it. The beauty of this method, although it is relentless, is that you have time to pick and choose, and then think about your choices as you go. My boxes will stay in the garage till the end of the month, and then leave my life for good.

If you want to join in and don't have a blog, I've started a forum thread about this (click to go there). You can ask advice there or tell us all about what you're getting rid of.  If you do have a blog and want to join this challenge and show your own photos, add a link to your comment below and we can travel over to read about what you're doing. Don't forget to leave a link to your own blog in the comments if you're joining the challenge.

A bag containing clothes that is on its way to the op shop bin out to the garage.

To do this, each Monday during August, select five items to declutter and place them in your boxes. Then, on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, select one item on each day and add it to your boxes. Continue in the same way until the last day 31 August. The next day - the weekend - you can take your boxes to the op shop bin or wherever they have to go, and come home with empty bins.

These are my first five items:
  1. An Old Timer pen knife I bought 30 years ago for Hanno - I'll ask Kerry if he wants it. Hanno is currently cleaning some rust off it.
  2. Coffee cups I bought for my mother in the 1960s - I'll ask Sunny if she would like to have them. (Tick, Sunny took them last night and was very happy to have them.)
  3. Small bag of old clothes - to the op shop bin.
  4. Stack of old magazines - to the op shop bin.
  5. Sorted through my seeds and have thrown the old ones into the compost.
Every day during the week, I'll be adding one item to my bins. Next weekend, I'll find five more items to add to the bins on Monday, then continue with one item a day during the week after that. Those bins will sit in the garage until the end of the month and then I'll take one bin to the op shop and I'll find out who wants what in the family bin. At the end of the month I will have 40 items I will have severed all ties with and they will leave here never to return.  Are you joining me?