Tips to Declutter Clothes, Toys, and Books

Oy. Getting ready to move has made it abundantly clear that we have way too much stuff. In inviting realtors over and trying to show them my home to its best advantage, I realized that some (a lot) of the stuff had to go. Piles and heaping storage bins weren’t going to impress anyone. (The fact that we’re hoping to move into a larger house, however, makes it a bit harder to get rid of any of it, since I’m sure that it—whatever it is—will have a place in the new house. I’m so bad at this!) So I started looking at tips to declutter. Or more properly, to purge. I’ll worry about the “everything it its place” part of decluttering when we get to the new place. Anyway, let me share some newly discovered wisdom about decluttering three of my home’s trouble areas.

Decluttering your wardrobe.

  • If you haven’t worn it in a year, it’s time to let it go. Consign it, donate it, give it to a friend who will love it, upcycle or refashion it, or recycle it if it’s in disrepair. PS: that goes for shoes and accessories, too.
  • If it doesn’t fit, alter it or get rid of it. Don’t spend your mornings looking at your overflowing closet while you’re near tears because you have so many clothes, but they don’t fit. I just did this and it was hard because some of the things were beautiful clothes that I love, but I’ve been waiting, ahem, a while for them to fit. Not going to happen. If the item is something you love, and the fit problem is easy to fix (hemming a pair of pants, or having a garment let out or taken in a bit, get thee to a tailor.
  • Consider a capsule wardrobe. Check out details here.
  • Get your kids (if they’re old enough) and spouse involved in decluttering their wardrobes, too.
  • This isn’t professional advice, but that’s okay. Allow yourself a small box or hanging space for sentimental crap. Bonus points if you can find a way to display some or all of the stuff (framing a favorite concert t-shirt, turning old clothes into quilts, throws, or pillows, etc.). Seriously, I can’t even imagine a scenario where I’m going to wear my academic hood, the gold cheerleader necklace my coach gave the squad at the end of my senior season, or the vintage 75-year-old fur coat my grandmother gave me, but I just can’t give them up.

Declutter toys.

  • So, I could share a list of tips, but I’d basically be repeating Becoming Minimalist’s awesome advice. Check out this post, which covers everything from thinning an unmanageable toy collection to keeping the toys from taking over your house again. I do want to highlight one of their tips, which is involving your kids in the process of purging toys. It can be tough (I just lost the most recent battle with my four-year-old over a set of Bitty Twins), but it’s worth it to help them understand that other people might be able to use the things they aren’t using.

Declutter books.

  • This is even hard than clothes. As with any decluttering task, start with the things you don’t use. I started with undergrad textbooks I’d kept (you know, in case I want to practice my French grammar) and then moved on the textbooks from my master’s program that I know I won’t use again—mostly stuff from required courses. And if it’s a book you planned to read, but haven’t, or have tried to read but can’t get through, let it go. Trust me: War and Peace (unabridged!) is not worth it.
  • Did you buy a cheap paperback copy of a book you ended up reading so many times it’s fallen apart? Bye-bye falling apart book! If it is a book you love to read over and over again, consider an electronic copy. If it’s a reference book you use often, consider a higher-quality replacement.
  • Don’t keep books that are on your shelves just to make you look smart. Even if you have read them. See War and Peace.
  • Remember that each book you give to a friend or donate is a story or knowledge that you’re passing on to someone else. (I like to donate to my local library, which might add donated items to the collection, but will most likely sell them as a fundraiser to pay for all the free programs I love to take my daughter to.) My husband and I have one book that we found ourselves giving to people so regularly that we now keep an extra copy on hand at all times so we can pass it on. Kind of antithetical to the whole “decluttering thing,” but giving the gift of a book is so amazing!

Have you read The Life-Changing Art of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo? I haven’t. (Although one of our other Baby Gizmo editors has; you should check out her review.) Anyway, from reading about the book, I understand that one of the methods of decluttering suggested by Kondo is this: “[T]he best way to choose what to keep and what to throw away is to take each item in one’s hand and ask: “Does this spark joy?” If it does, keep it. If not, dispose of it.” Well then. That seems simple enough, right? It also seemed a bit silly. However, I did try it when I realized that the entire five-foot-long top shelf of my closet was filled with tchotchkes that, while loaded with sentimental value, had not seen the light of day in at least ten years. And even if I thought they would complement my home’s décor, I detest dusting, making knick-knacks one of my arch-enemies. Definitely not joyful. So, I showed them all to my daughter and we oohed and ahhed over them, and then I passed them on to my niece to consign. My mom is going to be so pissed when she finds out. Here’s hoping she’s forgotten I write blog posts.

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Christina lives in Northern Virginia with her husband, daughter, and two English Springer Spaniels. Before becoming a reluctant stay-at-home mom, she worked in a variety of customer-service-oriented jobs while dreaming of living in the lap of luxury as a housewife. Unfortunately, having a child threw a wrench in Christina's plan to do nothing but eat bonbons while lounging in the Jacuzzi reading all day. Now, she spends her time looking for fun activities and crafts for her daughter and easy-to-prepare meals for her family, while trying not to land the kid in therapy when she grows up. Christina volunteers at several different places, and her particular passion is for her role as a sexuality educator. She loves to read, and to learn about--and share--new products and resources.

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