Decluttering: Getting Rid of Excess So You Can Appreciate What's Left

I believe in buying high-quality items that will last, but in this age of consumerism, many of us fall into the trap of buying high-quantity low-quality items. They clutter our homes and can lead to an increase in stress. They can also devalue our other items. If you have five briefcases, you're unlikely to care about any of them. When you simplify your life you may actually find that you are more appreciative of what you have. I like to start one room at a time. Here's my guide to some of the biggest problem rooms!

The Garage

The garage is one place people tend to ignore when decluttering, perhaps because it's not right in their face day after day. Unfortunately, this means that it can grow into a problem area over time.

Go through your tools first. As we grow older we tend to acquire higher-quality tools but may neglect to rid ourselves of tools we are no longer using. Donate anything that has been upgraded over time, and discard anything that is worn out or stripped. Then get organized. A magnetic spice rack can be easily upcycled to hold nails, screws, washers, and bolts, and a proper tool kit can keep you from having your tools out and loose. Or, if you have a pegboard, outline the shape of each of your tools to ensure that you (and anyone who borrows your tools) put them back in the right place every time.

After your tools are in order, scrap anything you've been holding onto "just in case." If it's been in your garage for over a year and you haven't found a use for it, it can go. Also purge yourself of old light bulbs, batteries, and computer parts, which may have found their way into your garage because you didn't know what else to do with them. Old furniture can either be taken to the dump or to Goodwill, depending on the shape that it's in. This site has more tips for getting your yard tools in order.

The Living Room

The living room is the hearth of many homes, and as such it may be in better condition than the rest of the house, but that doesn't mean there's no clutter to purge here. Knick-knacks can take over this space if left alone, so it's important to go through your living room and ask yourself if you need or truly love everything in it.

Coasters can be an easy item to collect without thinking about it. You really only need one coaster per person in your household and a couple extra for guests. Another rule of thumb would be one per seat in your living room. Past that, extra coasters is largely unnecessary.

This is also a good time to go through your books and DVDs. There's no reason to hang onto books you won't read a second time or movies you won't watch again. Similarly, if it's been on your shelf for more than a year and you haven't gotten around to reading it or watching it, you're probably not invested in doing so. Do yourself a favor and get it out of your house instead.

If you're a household that keeps blankets on hand to cuddle under while watching movies, go through those as well. Keep the ones your family members fight over and ditch the rest.

The Kitchen

I always like to start with plastic microwaveable containers because they have an uncanny ability to disappear over time. Match tops to bottoms. Any items that are missing their other half should be thrown away. Also toss containers that are deformed, cracked, or discolored, as they are towards the end of their useable life and may be leeching toxins into your food.

Look to your small handheld appliances next. Analyze whether you still use the objects on hand. Maybe you have a really nice coffee pot but gave up caffeine, or maybe you got an ice cream maker as a wedding gift but haven't used it since. Whatever the case may be, get rid of any small appliances that you don't actually use.

Coffee cups are another item that can accumulate over time. Go through yours and only keep your favorites. The rest can be donated.

Unless you're a gourmet chef, you may also want to go through your spices and get rid of any spice you don't actually know how to use. Now's also a good time to purge your fridge and cupboard of anything past its best-by date.

The Bathroom

The bathroom is one area in the house where a lot of chemicals can be squirreled away. Go through them now. You probably only need a few: Something to clean carpets, something to clean surfaces, a bathroom cleaner, and something for windows and mirrors. Never combine chemicals; just throw away the ones you don't need.

The medicine cabinet is next. You may not use the medicine in your cabinet often, which means there's a good chance that your medicine may be outdated. Medicine isn't something you should chance, so it's best to just get rid of it if it's past its use by date. 

As you can see, there are a lot of easy ways to declutter your home. Decluttering matters, especially if, like me, you want to get maximum value out of the things you purchase. Buy-it-for-life items are a passion of mine. By purchasing quality items once, you can be assured of their longevity and save money over time. But that theory only works if you can get value out of the buy-it-for-life items you've purchased. By organizing and decluttering your home, you can not only reduce your stress, but also learn to enjoy the things you have left.