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Stuffed animals, My Little Pony figures, and every Paw Patrol toy known to man have littered our house as if they own it.
Our dining room table became so overrun with toys that I found myself hunched over my plate while piles of Hatchimals, Polly Pockets, and Disney Princesses threatened to fall into my food at any moment.
The toys were a significant problem. And while I would love to blame the kids for the claustrophobia of our shrinking living space, my wife and I were to blame as well.
My closet was full of clothes that don't fit, our laundry room had piles of clean clothes the girls outgrew, and my desk drawers were stuffed to the brim with junk from the last time I “cleaned” my office.
The sheer amount of “stuff” we had was overwhelming. We simply couldn't live like that anymore.
Decide to Declutter Your Home
To lighten our mental burden and reduce the load of crap that surrounds us, we began on a journey to end the chaos. We needed to free up space, clear our minds, and add a few dollars to our wallet.
If you also find yourself drowning in stuff, here are some tips from what we learned on how to declutter your home, retain your sanity, and add a little to your bank account.
Donate Your Clothes
Over the last eight years, my weight has fluctuated by approximately the size of a large dog. It was as if an elf sewed my clothes tighter every night.
As I graduated to new sizes and added X's to all my clothes, I was forced to expand my wardrobe.
Rarely getting rid of old clothes, my dresser began to fill, and my closet was gradually packed beyond capacity.
Then I started to lose weight (YAY!), and my newest clothes began to droop and hang.
My closet had the rare situation of containing items that were both too loose and too tight.
It was time to clean out the closet!
An Unflattering Fashion Show
To reduce the bulk of clothes, I decided to get rid of anything that didn't fit.
I spent the next two hours trying on every clothing item I owned.
It was a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. Every item I tried on that was too small was deflating. Every pair of pants that wouldn't stay up without a crane operator (or suspenders, which I don't own) made me jump for joy… leaving the oversized pants in a puddle on the floor.
Clothes were divided into three piles, clothes that fit, favorite items that were close to fitting, and ones that had to go.
After my unsightly fashion show, I had successfully decluttered my closet and donated 60% of my ill-fitted clothing to charity.
Important note: When donating clothes, keep track for tax purposes.
Pro tip: take pictures of the items you donate and make sure to write the date on the donation receipt. Come tax time you will have an evidential record of your donations.
To prevent my closet from overflowing again, I implemented a simple clothing maintenance strategy.
Place all the hangers facing in. As you wear clothes throughout the year, place the hangers pointing out.
At the end of the year (or season if you are ambitious) you can easily see which items you didn't wear.
If you didn't wear something, it should be a prime candidate for donation.
An alternative to donating clothes is selling them on consignment. Since the quality of my clothing is similar to that of mountain bandits, I have zero experience with consignment. If you are interested in learning more, here's an article with some tips: How to Make Money Selling on Consignment
Sell Your Old Electronics
Electronics have the same shelf life as bananas.
Previous generation video game consoles, outdated phones, and ancient DVDs hid in boxes and drawers throughout the house.
Obsolete electronics occupied valuable storage space when they could have been turned into cold hard cash!
Sorting through my boxes, I found 3 old phones, 2 video game consoles, and mountains of games and DVDs. (Since the invent of Netflix and iTunes, we don't even watch DVDs anymore.)
Everything could have been sold via eBay or Amazon, but I didn't have the time to deal with listing and shipping.
I sold my electronics with Decluttr instead. I probably didn't get quite as much money as I would have on the other platforms, but Decluttr made it insanely easy to exchange my crap for cash.
Using the app, I scanned my items, and Decluttr shipped them for free. They checked for damage (there wasn't any) and then credited money in my account!
It was effortless to declutter my home using Decluttr… pun intended.
Yard Sale Your Junk
If you don't want to sell your stuff online, you can sell it in person.
Every summer our area holds a neighborhood yard sale. My wife and I participated in it for several years, sometimes with zero planning.
We would collect all the things that we wanted to get rid of, place them on our driveway, and see what sold.
There was only one rule: No items were allowed to come back into the house.
Leftover items were immediately transported to Goodwill or the junkyard.
The yard sale worked very well. Every year we earned around $200 to $300 and managed to clean our home at the same time.
Unfortunately, the last few years we were on vacation during the neighborhood sale, hence the reason our house began to overflow with stuff.
I highly recommend taking advantage if your community has a group yard sale. If it doesn't, or you live in a remote area, consider participating in a local flea market as an alternative.
Train Your Kids
Having children is the biggest hurdle to living a clutter-free life. Children are natural hoarders.
My kids beg for toys at every store we visit and request gifts after every trip I take.
The worst part is that they are so cute that I have little self-control.
It takes a significant effort to attempt to raise financially responsible kids.
Teach Children Through Giving
One strategy to declutter your home of toys and teach charity to children at the same time is to require them to give a toy away for every new one that they receive.
The idea is to stress the importance of giving and let the child have the responsibility of picking which toy to give away.
I think this sounds great, but admittedly I haven't tried it yet. If you have, I'd love to hear your results in the comments.
Reward Kids with Experiences Versus Toys
I have started rewarding my kids with experiences instead of toys.
My girls live for going to the playground, park, or those bouncy trampoline places. Even playing in the backyard can be a reward.
Kids value spending time with their parents far more than getting additional stuff.
Teach Children About Owning Businesses
I have also started buying stock for my children. Whenever there is a toy that they want to buy, we look at the company behind it.
For each purchase, we set aside money for the toy and money to buy the stock. While I have just started to do this recently, it's been a valuable learning experience for my girls.
One word of caution, my eight-year-old has figured out a loophole to manipulate me.
A couple weeks ago she requested to buy some Hatchimals (the eggs that have hidden cute creatures inside). After my initial no, she turned on the puppy dog eyes and said, “But dad, we can buy stock in the company too!”.
I'm such a sucker.
The main point is that kids are packrats and toys rivaling Richie Rich's collection will begin to take over unless you take action.
Get Rid of One Thing a Day for the Next 30 Days
One of the best strategies to declutter your home comes from J Money at Budgets Are Sexy.
J Money, a blogger, and devoted minimalist came up with a challenge:
Get rid of one item every day for 30 days!
I love this idea!
Some of the main categories of stuff he purged are:
- Memory disks/CDs
- Things that belonged to other people
Items were sold, donated, given away, gifted, and trashed.
At the end of the 30 days, his experience decluttering was so valuable that he decided to continue the challenge and now makes it part of his daily habits.
You can read more about the challenge of getting rid of 1 thing every day here.
I plan on taking up the challenge this month. Will you?