Unclutter Your Way to Freedom and be better prepared for adverse circumstances

guest post is by E. Evans

Stuff accumulates over time. Through inheritance or hand-me-downs, by impulse shopping or survival preparation, the material possessions we acquire seems to always grow to match available space unless steps are taken to guard against becoming a packrat.

An oversupply of things can become a liability, not an asset. While each person is unique and has different needs, the packrat mentality, if left unchecked, hinders efficiency and mobility in addition to becoming a health hazard.

During my efforts to become more self-sufficient and better prepared, reducing clutter has been the best survival preparation practice I have ever performed. Here are thoughts from my personal experience.

–[The Story]

It was a defining moment. Totally unexpected but life-changing.

I looked at my junk.

Yes, I had seen it all before. In shelves. On the floor. Boxed away. I saw it everyday and navigated through it like a lab mouse in a maze. Stubbed toes. Near-dangerous falls from tripping over boxes that had magically fallen down.

Certainly, I knew my things were there, but this day was different because I actually paused to contemplate over my hoarding habits. I looked at the material possessions I had accumulated over the years and asked myself this important question:

“If this country entered another great depression tomorrow and our system collapsed, how would any of this help me?”

Naturally, that question, as reflective questions of this nature are prone to do, lead to more questions.

“Would I be able to sell any of it to buy food and water?”

“Could I drink it? Could I eat it? Would it provide warmth? Is it any good after 20 years stored away in a box where spiders and mice have made their nests?”

“What truly useful things would fill the space instead?”

“Could I generate some cash from this to create an emergency fund?”

After scrounging through mountains of boxes of moth-ridden clothes and other items saved, stored, and forgotten about, I was answering “No” to most questions I posed. Despite the quantity of my possessions occupying several rooms, storage sheds, and the garage, very little would help me in a moment of crisis. Why keep it then?

It had to go.

The more questions I asked, the more I found myself questioning my living habits. I believe in having extra supplies on hand for emergencies, but this was too much.

The more I looked at my junk, the more cluttered my mind felt. Life felt suffocating by things that were practically useless and served no real value. Something had to be done. I then asked, “How can I turn this junk into something beneficial to my well-being and survival preparation?”

The answer to this question led to a change in thinking, which produced a change in habits and lifestyle for a freer, cleaner, uncluttered life.

–[What Is Junk?]

Before moving on, let’s describe junk. Junk is not essential stuff like soap, first aid supplies, food, and water. We need these things to survive and live in good hygiene. Junk refers to the excess clutter in our lives that has little useful value and we could easily live without. Often, it’s stuff we hold onto thinking it might be useful “someday.”

The broken Tonka toy in the closet. The ugly, bunny pajama set from Aunt Edna that was shoved in the closet where it was forgotten for several years. The golf clubs no longer used. The cracked, dry garden hose. The termite-infested scraps of wood under the workbench. The list goes on. All of these things accumulate almost imperceptibly over time until our lives feel cluttered.

–[Why Do We Collect So Many Things?]

No doubt, you, the reader, are thinking something along the lines of, “You pitiful thing. How could you allow yourself to accumulate so much needless stuff? I have things too, but they are all important. I have no junk. Why can’t you be like me?”

One man’s junk is another man’s treasure. One reason why we allow things to accumulate over time is that we fail to recognize the junk. In our eyes, everything we own or purchase has a purpose that can be rationalized. Therefore, in our eyes, it’s not junk.

So, it’s easy to condemn a man for packing a garage full of things we would never buy for ourselves yet justify filling three storage sheds full of our most cherished possessions that the garage packrat would never purchase.

Since everything we acquire is so important in our eyes, we hold onto it. Left unchecked, this added stuff creeps into our lives. Whether it be a new HDTV, extra cases of canned beans, a new sleeping bag, or that old tintype made of Uncle Doofus when he was outrunning the law during the Civil War, it’s easy to develop a hoarding habit.

Our things can possess us, and when that happens, it clouds our judgment and we become over-possessive and tend to hoard even more. Things become our sense of security, and we allow material possessions to define our identities.

–[Waking Up]

The key to reducing clutter is to change how you evaluate your possessions. There eventually comes a time when you wake up one day, look at how cluttered your physical living space has become, and think, “Do I really need to hold onto all of this stuff? How is it helping me now? Could I be more efficient?”

–[The Strategy]

Sifting through my clutter, I categorized my junk and developed a five-step plan.

1. Separate everything into groups for evaluation.

2. Throw the immediate garbage.

3. Sell all immediate impersonal items.

4. Reuse or sell the “Later” impersonal items.

5. Dispose of the personal items that I truly do not need to keep by giving or selling (if possible). Keep only the truly valuable, irreplaceable possessions.

6. As more junk is discovered, repeat the process.

Some things had value, even if not to me, so I decided to sell what I could and then throw away or give away the rest.

“That’s obvious. Everyone knows to do that.”

True, but knowing and doing are two different things. I have seen scores of packrat people who agree that their deteriorating possessions are in the way and pose a health hazard, but they cannot bear the thought of parting with any of it.

I recall one man who perspired at the thought of parting with any of his things. He became angry and defensive when someone made an offer to buy a few items from him at a reasonable price. People are obsessed with their things without realizing it.

So, yes, parting with items to reduce clutter is something “everyone knows,” but few can do it. It requires discipline, commitment, a new outlook, and the willingness to change our thinking and habits. Unfortunately, people naturally resist any form of change, so reducing clutter is easier said than done.

–[Classifying Junk]

At first, I was so disgusted with having so many things, that I was tempted to throw everything away that had not been used in the past year, but this method was inadequate. Some items, such as photographs, held immense personal value even if they were not useful, so I had to devise a better strategy to avoid tossing the items I truly needed or wished to keep.

I found that my junk could be grouped into three categories: Personal items, Impersonal items, and Garbage.

—-[Personal]

Personal things are those that have personal, sentimental value only to the owner. Photos of family members, golfing trophies, and gold stickers awarded for Junior’s drawing of a rabbit in kindergarten hold meaning only to the owner (or to the lonesome mother pining away for days gone by). Chances are, these items cannot be sold because nobody else cares about them. They go into one pile for careful evaluation later.

—-[Impersonal]

The second type of junk, impersonal junk, offers better chances of generating a profit. Things like outdated electronics, video games, movies, furniture, books, and a host of other commodities still have value to other people, so you stand a good change of selling these for cash. Impersonal junk goes into a separate pile.

—-[Garbage]

This is exactly what it sounds like. Garbage. It is junk that holds absolutely no value to you or anyone else. The three-day-old banana peeling in the corner of the room. Empty cans of spray paint. Bent, rusty nails salvaged from an old house twenty years ago and stored in a rusty coffee can. Clothes that resemble a rat’s nest more than clothes. Scraps of wood ruined by moisture and termites.

Garbage is easy to spot, and it needs to go. Of course, little of this was garbage when I originally obtained it, but it deteriorated over time and I failed to keep track of its condition. I stored it for the long term thinking it would “come in handy someday.” Years later, “someday” never arrived. The leaky batteries, leaky cans, and moth-ridden protections eventually collapsed, and nature took over.

Donning gloves, a mask, and garbage bags, I sifted through my things and immediately discarded all of the garbage I could find. Whew! With much of the garbage out of the way, it was easier to sort through and find salable items.

–[Handling Impersonal Items]

Personal items require more thought since they often hold emotional attachment, so I saved those for last. Impersonal items are easier to distinguish, so focused on them first by dividing them into two groups: Immediate and Later.

—-[Immediate Impersonal Items – The Marble Chess Set]

These are things I can dispose of now since I have not used them in over a year and I will likely never use them again. Neither will they be of any use during a crisis. On the good side, they often have a monetary value, so they can be sold.

One example is a marble chess set. The glossy chess pieces are carefully crafted, and the pure marble board is arranged in shiny black and white marble tiles. It’s a beautiful work of art, but I have not used it in over two decades. It just sits there, in the way, occupying space, and useless during a time of crisis. A chess collector would probably love to have this in his collection, so I know I can sell it quickly for a profit.

—-[Later Impersonal Items – Books]

“To hold or to throw?” that is the question. Impersonal items I hesitate to part with immediately go into the “Later” group. These items need better inspection for quality and condition to determine whether or not they can be sold or given away.

Some Later items involve books that I am unsure of selling just yet. I might want to have one more look through them before selling. The Later group gives me a chance to be absolutely sure that I want to part with something in order to avoid rash regret. I ask the questions like, “When did I last use this?” “Would I use this again?” “If so, when?”

If I have not used something in over a year, then I sell it, but if I know I must use it again within a year, I keep it. Honest appraisal and an evaluation of my habits showed that very few items meet the “Keep” requirement, so I ended up parting with most of the Later items in the end.

—-[Salvaging – Tuna Cans]

Later items are often reusable for other things. Asking, “What can I use this for now?” breathes new life into items otherwise thrown or sold. One example is the lowly tuna can. I found several used tuna cans I was saving for “someday.” Tuna cans with the lid pulled back make excellent candle holders. Having found a few lone candles laying around, I made a few impromptu candle fixtures (something useful during a blackout) from a few tuna cans. I threw the rest away.

The key is the word “Now.” If you cannot salvage something now, then dispose of it. If you think, “I can think of ten uses for this…someday, so I guess I’ll hold onto it a little longer,” then you will never throw anything away. Once you get started making excuses, it’s possible to rationalize a reason to keep everything. Avoid this trap. Keep only what you need and dispose of the rest. I only kept a few tuna cans and candles, which, based upon my habits, is all I need.

Thinking of unorthodox ways to recycle stuff can save money, but excess creativity for “someday” leads to clutter. Maintain a balance.

–[Selling Impersonal Junk – Psst. Wanna Buy A Watch?]

This is much easier than disposing of personal items. Mainly because these are things that become outdated and replaced by something else, unlike personal items, which cannot be replaced.

Electronics, the VCR in an age of Blu-ray players, VHS movies, unwatched DVDs, the pool table nobody uses, the book shelf you never liked in the first place, the vase from Greece that you are afraid to place in the living room because somebody might bump it over and break it — these are salable items because other people value them. They hold little emotional value, so you can part with them easily.

Auctions, garage sales, classified ads, and word of mouth are a few means of selling your unneeded items.

Of course, you will not know exactly how much your treasure is worth until after you sell it. The market value will often surprise you. A book you thought was worth only 25 cents might fetch $50 or more due to its printing and condition.

Other times, you may find yourself disappointed that the doodad you originally purchased brand new for $50 is only worth $8 today. This led to the discovery of a truth that no advertisement or high-powered salesman dares mention: The price you sell will be far less than the price you paid.

Nonetheless, selling things adds up. If you are tempted to think, “Why bother selling this? It’s only worth five dollars,” then look at it as five dollars on the shelf. Would you leave the stinky federal reserve note where it is or would you tuck it away in with the rest of the cash?

Sell insignificant items first and work your way up to the more valuable items you are reluctant to part with. This helps you get a feel for the marketplace and its selling system to avoid loosing money on truly valuable items. Also, once you develop the habit of parting with your lesser-valued stuff, it becomes easier to part with your higher-valued items.

—-[Sell Now]

If you decide to sell, sell quickly. Sell now. Non-survival-related items, such as a marble chess set, will be worth more money when times are good than during a crisis when people are scared and hungry. People care nothing about a marble chess set, a DVD player, or a plastic potted plant for the living room when they are worried where their next meal will come from or when flood waters force them to evacuate their homes, for example. Besides, even if you do manage to sell items like this during an emergency, chances are you will receive far less than you would during good times.

—-[Selling Furniture]

In short: Be patient.

Furniture is the hardest item to sell because people buy furniture based on their personal tastes, and everyone has different tastes. The couch that looks good in my living room with my color scheme might repulse somebody else.

So, if you decide to sell your furniture, be patient. The right buyer will eventually appear, but it might take several months or even years. If you need to dispose of your furniture quickly, you would be better off giving it away to charity.

Because of its disposal difficulty, I now think twice before buying any furniture.

–[Personal Items – I Would Never Sell My Wedding Dress!]

Some items hold immense personal value, so they are nearly impossible to part with for two reasons: 1) Refusal to part with them, and 2) Nobody else wants them.

One example is a wedding dress. Even though she might be 220 pounds obese and never wear it again, almost every married female relative I have encountered still has her wedding dress tucked away somewhere, and not a one would dream of parting with it under any circumstance.

We all have items like this and they warrant careful thought. I found many personal items that I was reluctant to dispose of but were were also impossible to sell. After all, who wants a trophy containing somebody else’s name on the plate? Unless you are a famous legend, your personal artifacts are junk to the rest of the world.

When it comes to items like this, keep your most cherished possessions just to ease your mind, but consider giving the rest to relatives in order to keep the items in the family. An example is a dining room table over 100 years old. It was ugly, too large, cumbersome, creaky, smelly, and matched nothing. It was in the way. However, it was a family heirloom, so instead of throwing it away or turning it into firewood, it was given to relatives who were delighted to have it.

–[Avoid Going Overboard]

It has been well over a year since I began clearing out my junk, and it shows no signs of stopping. The more I find, the more I can sell. It’s amazing. I never realized how much junk I had until I stopped to look at what I had collected over the years thinking, “I might need it someday.”

It’s also refreshing. Physical clutter leads to visual clutter, which leads to mental clutter. As I remove clutter from my life, my mind feels cleaner, fresher, and free. With less to keep track of in my mind, I can think more clearly now.

However, once you gain momentum, tossing things becomes an addictive pastime. There is the danger of going overboard by disposing of useful items you truly need. How do I know when it is time to throw something away or sell it? One general rule is to ask when I last used something. If I have not used something in over a year, chances are good that I will never use it again. So, I sell, throw, or give it away. After observing my own habits and recording them in a notebook, I find this to be the most common scenario.

The items I need most are used on a daily basis. Experience tells us what we need and use. Whether it be movies, electronics, vehicles, food, pencils, toys, or whatever, if it has not been used in over a year, I refuse to allow it to clutter my living space.

Keep in mind that this does not apply rainy day supplies and survival goods. Recall the definition of junk earlier to avoid selling emergency supplies.

–[Keep the Fun Things]

As you experience the joys of uncluttering and collect a profit in the process, you may become tempted to sell everything in sight. Once you break away from the cherished possessions, everything else becomes fair game, including the wedding dress.

Keep in mind that you still live in a home (hopefully). Some people need the touches that give a home its warmth. Does a certain painting provide satisfaction in your heart and put a smile on your face every time you see it? Then, keep it. Hang it on the wall prominently for frequent viewing.

While preparing for the future, never forget about the joys of everyday living. The psychological morale derived from a calming painting may be just what you need to provide a sense of stability when times are bad. However, avoid plastering your walls with every single work of art that comes your way. Only keep what you like the best and sell the rest, or give them away and put smiles on other people’s faces.

Keep some games on hand. Retain books. Stock some drawing supplies if you enjoy drawing. Have some toys. Again, experience shows what you use most of the time. Keep notes about your daily patterns and observe your life. Is there a certain board game you play often? Then, that is probably the one you will pick to play when the electricity goes out. Sell the lesser used games nobody likes.

–[Reducing Redundancy]

Sometimes you may find situations where you have two ways to solve the same problem. Rather than keeping both, select one and sell the other for greater efficiency and less clutter. Here’s an example:

Years ago, I purchased a high-end theater system because I like music. Speakers. Powered subwoofer. HDMI receiver. The works. It was brand new and expensive, but it sounded good. It still does. The problem? I rarely use it. Yes, it’s there and it functions perfectly, but it has seen only a few hours of use in the years that I have had it.

I also purchased a portable music player around the same time that plays the same music though earphones. I cannot carry a home theater system with me, but I can carry this, and I use it all of the time. The music might not be as crystal clear or as thundering as the home theater system, but it sounds good to me and does its job well.

I use the portable player 99% of the time and the elaborate theater system only 1% of the time. The theater system is large, bulky, gets in the way since it has needs of its own (furniture to store everything neatly), and consumes more electricity than my solar system can handle, so it’s dependent upon the grid.

By contrast, my portable music player sounds almost as good through earphones, it’s small, lightweight, extremely convenient, and runs on batteries that are rechargeable with solar. If a power outage occurs, I can continue playing music with my portable player while the theater system continues to collect dust.

Always ask, “What is the problem I am trying to solve?” before rushing to purchase something. In this case, the problem was a way to listen to music. Both items solve the same problem, but the portable player meets the same need for less.

After reviewing my music habits, I decided to sell the home theater system and keep the portable music player. This frees up much space and reduces dust-collecting clutter. I can enjoy music without $5000 Polk speakers and do so independent of the electric company. My life becomes more efficient.

“I could never sell my home theater system because I might invite guests over to my house.”

Here is that “it might be useful someday” thinking. Stop that. It’s dangerous, and it leads to packrat habits and overconsumption. I thought the same thing at first, but in the years of owning a home theater system I have never once invited others over to see it. The reason? I do not want people snooping through my home. It’s private.

So, if you have two items that perform the same function, consider selling one and keeping the other. Not sure which to sell? Look at both items and ask yourself, “How often do I use this, and how will this help me during an emergency?” My home theater system can’t do squat during a crisis, but my portable player can.

–[Changed Habits and a Changed Life]

My thinking has changed. When something comes my way, I no longer pack it away in a box and save it for a rainy day. I immediately decide to keep it, throw it, or use it. It doesn’t matter if Aunt Edna spent the past year knitting it. I refuse to collect clutter again because I am the one who must live with it. Aunt Edna will just have to get over it.

Oddly enough, the more I am resolved to guard against letting junk back into my life, the more opportunities appear that test my resolve. It’s as if Life is saying, “Let’s see how serious you are. Here’s a pink bunny suit. Take it! You don’t want to hurt Aunt Edna’s feelings, do you?”

We can always be tactful regarding situations like this, but never lose focus on the goal of a clutter-free life. I am still on the journey, and the best way to manage clutter is to prevent it from appearing in the first place. It’s (usually) much harder to dispose of something that it is to acquire it.

This is much like weight-loss programs. It’s easier to gain weight than it is to lose it. I have seen many people take diets, lose weight, and then gain it all back plus more. Why? They have not changed their thinking that lead to obesity in the first place, and thus, they returned to their old habits when the diet was over and regained their weight. Nothing changed.

Now, instead of buying something when I think I need it, I write it on a list and wait. Usually, after a few months, I find that I no longer need what I thought I did. The problem somehow disappeared or I found a better way to cope with it. If I still need the item after all that time and the situation is worse, then I buy it.

Evaluations of this nature help curb impulse shopping and buyer’s remorse in addition to reducing acquired things. It’s not exactly what advertisers want to hear, but it works for me, and I save my money.

–[The Dangers of Junk]

Before closing, let’s look at the potential danger and expense clutter can cause.

Junk and other things improperly stored are a danger to your well-being and could cost you money in the form of expensive medical bills. One incident that taught me this lesson years ago involved an elderly woman in her eighties.

She was not an excessive packrat, but what she did have she refused to part with and always kept in the most poorly-chosen locations throughout her house. Almost everything consisted of old doodads from thirty years ago and more. Never used, and only laying in the way. Her home was a maze of paths and trails. Visiting her house felt like taking an indoor nature walk — You never knew what would scurry across your path, and you had to watch your step lest you trip over something and fall.

Relatives and neighbors warned her about the dangers her possessions posed, and even offered to help her organize and move things out of the way, but she refused.

Then, one day, it happened. While walking through her home as usual, she tripped over something that relatives had warned her about. Being over 80, she broke her hip when she fell and had to be hospitalized for several months. She needed surgery, but, due to her age, this led to more health complications.

Many months and many bills later, she was finally released from the hospital and allowed to return home. She never fully recuperated from that fall and found that she needed a walker, forcing her to clean up her junk anyway in order to move about.

Junk is dangerous. Of course, in her eyes, her possessions were most certainly not junk. However, the fact remains that she still tripped and fell over them resulting in a worse physical condition and with less money.

–[The Psychology of Clutter]

“If a cluttered desk signifies a cluttered mind, then what does an empty desk signify?”

My answer? A clean, efficient, neat, tidy, well-organized mind. From what I have observed, people with cluttered spaces and cluttered desks waste time trying to find things. “Oh, no! The lights went out. I know I had a tactical flashlight around here somewhere…”

Clutter is exhausting on the mind. When we view excess junk, clutter, and lots of things, it give the brain more things to process. Living in clutter creates the habit of dealing with clutter. Moving things around. Hunting for pencils buried under moldy papers. This wastes time. Besides that, if a disaster occurred at night and Packrat Pete needed his flashlight, how would he possibly find it? Clutter obstructs survival preparedness.

The point is, the less you have around you, the less you have on your mind. The fewer worries. The less clutter and unneeded items you possess, the easier it is to inventory and rotate the essential items.

There is nothing wrong with having things. The danger lies in when things have us. Are you afraid to leave your house and take a vacation because you possess too many valuables? Do you resist the idea of moving to a better location because you have too many things to move? What if you need to evacuate at a moment’s notice due to a natural disaster? What? You can’t find your bugout bag?

This is not freedom, it’s bondage. Things are now limiting your life and your actions. This is when things have taken over, but until you stop to think, look, and ask some questions about your possessions and habits like I did, you will only acquire more things and erect a taller mountain of clutter.

–[Final Thoughts]

Had I known years ago what I know now, I would never have acquired so many things. The consumer machine knows how to brainwash people into buying, so half the task of uncluttering involves deprogramming ourselves.

However, this is a learning process, and clearing my life of needless clutter has taught me much about myself and caused me to change my thinking and habits. There is still plenty to do, but the reward is a life that feels more free, efficient, and better prepared for adverse circumstances.

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Comments

  1. mom of three says:

    Whew!!! My gosh this sounds like my family, no one seems to be able to part with thing’s. If I’m not careful my house would be a thrift store, I’ve gotten rid of stuff even having a couple of yard sales, or taking toy’s, clothes to children’s consignment shop’s, but not with out crying and melt down by my kid’s. I probably donate at least three to 5 bag’s every few month’s im just amazed how much we can live with out. Because we have a second property, I try and take my extras to use there but I have to be mindful that I don’t go overboard there either. The only things I bring into my house are product’s we consume, or are using , no more trinkets, I’ve even stopped buying candles, you can have so many before that get out of control. A good buy is only a good buy if your going to use it we’ve even stop going to garage sales, just because you end up getting thing’s that later on I say why??? Thank you, for a GREAT ARTICLE!!! It’s time to go through clothes again today:)

  2. Goatlover says:

    This is one of the best articles I’ve read on this site. I’m not a pack-rat type, but I still have some “stuff” that needs to be eliminated. Thank you for your well-organized approach to de-cluttering!

  3. JP in MT says:

    Many good thoughts here!

    We are doing this here. What can we sell that is “collectable”? What “junk” are do we have taking up space? What needs to “find a new home” or at least a new place here so we can better utilize the space? How can we better organize what we have to be able to find stuff?

    That last is really coming home. We have a fair amount of stuff, the storage of which was not well planned. Specific items are difficult to find. Our inventory sheets help, because we know they are “someplace” – but where.

    Plan your prepping now, or it will double your work load later!

  4. Encourager says:

    Good, timely article. I hate having a garage sale; but I find I MUST change my mind. We can barely walk through our basement and I cannot find what I need to find. Why? Because after downsizing my mother-in-law four times, she was moved to a single room. The only thing she could fit in there was one dresser, her pictures she painted (only some of them), her electric recliner and a hospital bed that she had had so long she now owned it. When she passed away, the nursing home bought the recliner and the bed from us. We had already given all her dining room furniture, living room furniture, bookshelves and end tables and another dresser to a family that was having hard times. They also came by and picked up the last dresser from the nursing home as it matched the other stuff.

    But all the little stuff ended up here. Boxes and boxes of stuff. Her two sets of ‘good’ china (that you cannot use in the microwave as it is gold edged and must be washed by hand…), two sets of silverware (one sterling from her mother), heirlooms from her parents, all her paintings, every recipe…books, knickknacks, boxes of pencils, pens, scissors (why did she need six pair of scissors?!) Some things like her cup and saucer collection I have decided to keep as I, too, collect them…but why keep ALL of them? You see how it goes.

    I dread the garage sale; but I have recruited a friend and her kids to help us and my oldest dh will help, too… Ack!

  5. PatrickM says:

    Great article! We are scanning photo’s and putting them on disc’s to reduce the amount of albums we have accrued. My gosh they take up serious space!!

    I also look at barter potential of an item before I toss it. Extra rakes, shovels, hoes, knives, etc are kept. In the event of a system failure gardening equip (and seed’s) will be at a premium IMO.

    After moving, we had things in storage for a year plus, we really made alot of trips to the dump or thrift store after we emptied it out. The process is ongoing as I get older.

    • Will u be able to enjoy your photo’s on CD after a grid down when elect becomes very limited & precious? I’m keeping my old family photos but tossed most other photos. One can also take them out of the albums, toss the albums & keep them sealed in plastic bags. I also have files of other historical family items.

  6. Thank you. I needed that.

  7. Penrod says:

    Good subject, and just over a week since I bought some shelves, did some weeding out, and re-organizing.

    However, one must be ever aware of the prepper uses for some apparently unneeded items: ““Let’s see how serious you are. Here’s a pink bunny suit. Take it!”

    In a grid down, WROL TEOTWAWKI Cannibal Zombies of the Apocalypse situation,who would mess with a feller hopping down the street in a pink bunny suit with a 12 gauge shotgun?

    • Who would mess with a guy hopping down the street n a pink bunny suit with a 12 gauge shotgun? Now that is just too funny! I have that picture in my head. Thanks for the laugh.

  8. Lilangelsmom says:

    This is a great article!!! Love it!! I too am in the process of decluttering. I have a small house and the little bit of storage I have I want it to be useful.

    • M. Biccum says:

      I also have a small house and it is getting cluttered up. When you have clutter it makes it hard to clean.

  9. I have been decluttering for years as I have kept downsizing. I find that I have over cluttered my 840 square feet and want to down size again. I started dropping by the thrift shop to drop off things I don’t use or need. I take one kitchen trash bag full each week on my way to weekly shopping.
    I have some things I could sell but have not done those yet. I have picked up more things from the thrift store, but they are more suited to my pepper lifestyle. .. like 3 dozen free glass canning jars! I am shifting away from decorative glass and towards stainless mixing bowls and scythe to cut barley.
    As my heating and cooling space gets smaller, I need less decorative stuff and lower utility bills to keep it comfy.

  10. M. Biccum says:

    And I am using up outdated foods before they really get super outdated. 15 bean soup simmering in the crockpot right now. Ashamed to say how old they are! However, they are still viable. Used up two Bottles of catsup instead of tomato sauce in the pot. Taste good. Gonna use up more outdated foodstuffs. Cornmeal looks kind of mealy and will go out to the birds. Waiting to have a yard sale with a friend, but may not wait much longer. Gotta get rid of stuff.

  11. Enzo Pamrona says:

    I have been going through this same process for several months now. My wife of 35 years passed last Fall after several years of declining health coincident with me having to take a job a couple of hours away. Time to move.

    So far, I have filled a 30-yard bin with stuff to throw away. I have moved only what I and my kids will need to the new house, primarily food, water, defense items. It looks as though I could fill another 20-yard bin.

    Funny thing happened, the more I disposed of the more the remaining stuff looked less and less like it was needed. I am even starting to question if I need quite so much ammo in storage or redundant guns. Perish the thought….

    • Enzo Pamrona says:

      Following the same note, I have not been “selling stuff off.” I am donating items that are still good, usable items. For me, I take these items to Deseret Industries but you may not find a DI outlet in smaller communities. Choose one think will do a good job. Giving makes life go smoother.

  12. excellent article.
    about to start the process myself.
    illnesses have halted the process several times but a window is opening and daughter and i are in the planning stages now.
    hope to be clear before snow time.

  13. Chuck Findlay says:

    My clutter problem is stuff I use to do my work, I accumulate supplies to do my work and things from one job to use at some future job. My livelihood is tied to these supplies and I need toe stuff.

    Add to this prepping supplies and suddenly the basement and garage is full.

    It’s all stuff I use (materials on repair jobs and food you eat)

    Add to this the normal mostly useless things we all have and you end up with stuff.

    One problem area it that I really like to hold a book in my hands, the Nook is nice, but it’s not a book. I have more books then a person really needs.

    I did clear out several old tube radios over the last few years, they took up a lot of space and weigh a ton. I still have a few tube caddies full of new/old tubes (some from the 1950’s) that I need to sell but I haven’t found anyone willing to give me even a reasonable price.

    The real downsizing is going to happen when I move to the country after my parents pass on. No one else willing to step up and take care of them so I’m not going anyplace for a few years.

  14. Just US says:

    This article is so timely! We are in the process of weeding through the basement, cupboards, closets, dressers and attic in preparation for an upcoming village-wide yard sale. I love beautiful things, especially things that have memories attached…but not more than I love freedom and there is a lot to be said to defend the “less is more” trend that is inspiring us to follow the “if you love it, let it go” mantra. Parting is such sweet sorrow!

  15. Penny Pincher says:

    I just decluttered my van, that I camp in. I had to remove anything from it that could be construed as a weapon, because of the security in a place I want to go. So I removed every container and went through it and found several box cutters, knives, and the like that I missed when I was just rummaging before. Then I deep cleaned it and put the things back that I wanted.

    This strategy could be used in a house you are decluttering. Instead of subtracting things from a cluttered room, remove all things from that room and then put back only what you need. You would need a place to sort the things though.

    I am sorting my things in anticipation of moving to the country. It would seem I have way too many books and clothes, even though I’ve gotten rid of half in the last year. That and cans of paint.

    • Can’t be too many books! I buy books at the thrift store and give them back after I read them. I keep how-to books.

  16. Chuck Findlay says:

    Want to know why everyone is saying the article is so timely?

    It’s because WE ALL have way too much junk!!!

  17. Sorry, everything discussed could be used for heat, worn for warmth, used for eating with or cooking with, blocking off windows and or doors, used in the garden, used for protection, bartered, boobytraps, on and on. I will keep my junk because when the lights go out or the enemies arrive there ain’t going to be time to accumulate the so called junk you will need to survive. Of course, if you truly don’t believe bad times are coming, then you would ditch the junk pile…but I am pretty sure somethings afoot and near-ready to slap us into the dark ages……good luck with your junk free empty homes……p.s. I don’t keep electronics as I consider them a waste of mind and money in the first place.

    • Jack,
      I am clearing out things that would not help me survive to make room forwhat will help me survive. Junk is what will not move your game forward… preps are stored in better order once junk is removed.

    • laura m. says:

      Jack: We and others we know planned for y2k, nothing happened. Things were sold and donated in 2001 incl silver, grain mills, canned mt. house foods, and dehydrator. We prep for bad weather, that’s it. Back in the early 80’s some people were storing long term foods, grain mills, etc. Many of us are older now, and refuse to stockpile boxes of stuff for things that probably will not happen any time soon.. I unclutter several times a year as stuff can pile up. Decades pass and people who had lots of stuff stashed for the collapse, are in the cemetery, their heirs tossed or sold their stuff, so why keep stuff that someone else will toss. I like my house clean and un cluttered and items were given to relatives or charities. For those who are interested in downsizing see: Marie kondo website.

      • Enzo Pamrona says:

        You are defying the orthodoxy of being a prepper, how dare you! ;=} Could it be that we have all bought way too much stuff that will never get used?

        As stated in my post, I have recently moved. My new location is on a flood plain that has had occasional large floods, two within the last 30 years. The levies have been revised to protect us now. Sure. This has started me thinking about the possibility of permanently losing all of my prep “stock.” What could I stow in the sedan on 10 minutes notice. Something more than a bugout bag but not too much more.

  18. Yup, me too. The other day I went through the closet, too many clothes. Filled a large trash bag with the worn out, tired, stained, too small stuff. Lot of good rags there, dang it. I have plenty of rags already, Chucking stuff isn’t easy, but it feels good afterward.

    • Pj
      I liberated some very pretty buttons from my stained beyond giving away clothes. I am cutting up jeans for a heavy quilt. Eventually I will have enough.

      • Years ago I made an enormous jeans quilt. Now I have enough squares to make a bedroom carpet, lol. Got to get sewing.
        Junk socks are throw away rags for really gross stuff ( poop, dog barf, etc) t shirts are cleaning rags ( big pieces) or bathroom wipes if small (pee rags) when TP is low or out.
        Not very absorbent rags I give to DS for grease rags.

        • Bedroom carpet… hmm may be something to keep my room warmer. I have been contemplating tapestries on the walls like icy cold medieval castles.

  19. Frances says:

    One way you can declutter on a rather frequent basis is to need to move (relocate)! For those of us who work(ed) the temp/contract life, de-stashing is a regular process. It’s not a comfortable procedure. But, we do have a leg up on people who have lived in the same house/location for 5-10-20 plus years. I visited a friend whose cabinets were covered in ROCKS they had collected on their travels over the years, for heaven’s sake! If you think you can put stuff in storage, you can, but after 1-2-3-4 years, what was it all worth?

    Here are a few tips for those who want to face this challenge now rather than later:

    * Forget the furniture. Sell, donate or give it away. The new place probably won’t have room for it anyway. (Hey, try trailer living for a rude awakening!) The few pieces I have all ‘fold up’ to save space.

    * Same for all but the most precious books, magazines. These are heavy, bulky, and can deteriorate due to dampness in storage

    * Clothes, toys, old electronics, weird cooking gear, china service, crystal glassware (all that wedding type stuff), and any ‘collections’ can go.

    What to keep? Aside from the obvious practical implements discussed on this blog:

    * Reading material you find spiritually uplifting (Bible, classics, etc)

    * Specialty tools for your skill set. For example, I to a lot of crafts and many of the tools that save time and last for years are hard to get. Be sure to hang on to those precious items that can’t be replaced. Something as simple as good sewing thread and needles. Many of these are small and can be kept in a special ‘kit’ with everything you need in one place. Same for medical needs, leather crafting, etc.

    * Writing material: diary, pencils/erasers, pens and bulk ink. (Or you can learn how to make your own ink and nibs.) As time goes on, you will feel the need to document history for you and others. What went right. What went wrong. Advice to others. Draw. Compose poems and songs. Express what you are feeling.

    * Remember to keep a few things to educate the young ones. Basic reading, writing, math, geography (maps!). Think of reusable surfaces for practicing. Paper, pens/pencils may be a precious commodity in future.

    Shalom, y’all.
    F

    • this is an important topic and the article and responses are very good. We have WAY too much stuff. And I regret it. Thank you for this article.

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