31 Days :: How I Decluttered and Got Rid of Stuff I Liked But Didn’t Need

Finally, just this year I stumbled onto a method of getting rid of stuff I don’t need that works for me.

The house we are renting is large for us.  We have four bedrooms, a large bonus room and I even have my own office.  Space is not an issue, and it’s a fun change to have lots of extra space.  But extra space presents its own problems.  You can keep lots of things you don’t need and never have to see those things.  I’m tired of keeping stuff I don’t need.  But, I really liked some of my stuff, I knew decluttering could be hard for me.  So here’s what I did::

1. Decide on a holding area to house the questionable items {a box, your trunk, a room whatever}

I had to create a way for me to experience the benefit of decluttering before feeling the pain of getting rid of things.  So I moved anything in question into the garage.  And since I knew I was having a yard sale, I went ahead and priced stuff knowing that if I decided to keep it I could easily pull the tag off.

Physically removing stuff from our home –even just to the garage, helped me get a sense of the benefit of less.

Not everyone has a garage but most of us can create a dedicated space that can become a holding area.  Ideally, you want your holding area to be a magical, perfect balance.  It should still be noticeable enough that will annoy you if it’s a cluttered mess forever but, out of the way enough that your boys won’t trip over it when they go to the bathroom.

2. Create a deadline.

I had a date for a yard sale.  Deadline.  Maybe you are having company or hosting an event.  A deadline helped me not give up.

3. Purge

Put anything in question in the holding area.  If you are going to have a yard sale, price it. If you are taking it to the Goodwill, box it up.  You can always remove it later if you find you really do need it.

4. Enjoy your decluttered space for a few days.

This is the most important step for people like me.  I had to see that the beauty and ease of a less cluttered space was worth getting rid of whatever it was I had moved to the garage.  Wow, I already forgot what I took to the garage.  It is at this point that you are allowed to go back into the holding area and remove something if you really need it.  I can’t remember taking anything out of my holding area and even now, there is not ONE thing I regret selling at my yard sale.

Have you figured out a system of decluttering that works for you?

PS tomorrow: yard sale photos

Be sure to visit the other 31 dayers::Life With My 3 Boybarians, Reluctant Entertainer, The Inspired Room, Remodeling This Life, Chatting at the Sky, Balancing Beauty and Bedlam, My First Kitchen,  over the next 31 days. Want to read all the Less Messy Nests posts? Click here.


  1. I think money’s a great motivator for getting rid of stuff! I’m excited about tomorrow’s post, I need motivation (It’s still pleasant garage sale weather here).

  2. I totally do this with clothing. I pack up a box of things I haven’t worn in a while, but think I may want to wear and put it in the basement or garage. I’ve only gotten one or two things out of two huge boxes! Now it’s times to haul them away.

    I hope to do this in my spare/guest/craft/sewing room which is currently stuffed so full we aren’t using it for anything except storage. But now I have two shelves and no excuse for not getting it usable.

  3. Such a great idea. I’m putting my “decluttering hat” on and walking through the house. Thanks. P.S. I would love to be at your garage sale. Bet that stuff is amazing!

  4. Kuddoes to you for making such an effort at the de-cluttering job. I do something very similar with staging items, but my space is very limited. What I typically do is have several small such areas ( a small box or large shopping bag) around our home. I have a shopping bag inside my closet for any clothing items that I discover are of no benefit to me any more. I keep another such bag in our office/guest bedroom closet where I can stage more household type items. Then every couple of months I take these bags to our Hospice store. It’s truly an on-going process but feels great when you can stay in control.

  5. I am going to have to start doing this very soon…thanks for the tips and encouragement. I have too much stuff!

  6. I can so relate to his post and this series! I have lived in my home for 10 years now. I raised two boys in it and they have sinced moved out on their own. I have 3 full rooms and closets full of things – from clothes to electronics. I do like all these things but no longer need any of them. Thank you for sharing your tips and one box at a time, I do believe I will be clutter free!

  7. We just moved into a tiny bit bigger home this summer. We’ve been given extra stuff and I’m finding that I don’t need some of the stuff I used in our old house. I’ve been stashing everything in yard sale boxes in the shed in hopes of an early spring yard sale. I figure if there is something we still need, I can pull it out before I sell it- otherwise out it goes!

  8. I really needed to read this, thank you! We went from a modest size house to an apartment when my husband was transferred for his job- it has not been easy, “stuff” wise. Soooo much less space has made me realize the need for just hanging on to what you really need/love! So I am still attempting to finish decluttering and this post was just the motivation that I needed!! :)

  9. I find that I have a really hard time getting rid of the items people gave me. I can easily get rid of something I bought myself, but I will put the gifted item in the box, hesitate, and then take it back out again. I find it especially hard with my kids things. I can’t get rid of anything that Grandparent’s gave them or things that people who have passed away gave them—now I have a play room full of toys that they don’t necessarily play with, but I can’t part with it either. Your posts are helping me break this a bit—so thank you!

    • Maybe you could have your kids do the decluttering for you… Give them large boxes to put all of the toys in that they don’t enjoy playing with and either offer them a quarter a toy, or a special movie night, or that specific game they’ve been begging you for after everything in the playroom has a home on a shelf. Then close the boxes and take them straight to a charity or consignment type store (Once Upon A Child)… DON”T LOOK! Chances are: you won’t notice what they got rid of, you’ll make a bit of cash and be able to bless others with their cast-offs, everyone can enjoy the cleaner space, and you’ll be training your kids now to not be so attached to “earthly treasures”. They learn now, by direct teaching and by example, what is truly important in life… I think we all need (myself included) to be reminded to hold our possessions with a looser hand.

  10. I wholeheartedly agree. I declutter a lot and the only thing I can think of that I regretted was an Ergo backpack and cloth diapers.

    Love reading your comments!

  11. It was ironic that you began this series right after I started de-crapifying my own home. You see, we also have a big (old) house that allows extra rooms AND an entire 3rd floor attic layout. I move my furniture around ALL.THE.TIME. so the attic is where I keep pieces while Im using others. Anyways, I love this series of yours. Its encouraged me along my own path to simplicity. And it feels wonderful!(Plus theres less to dust…HALLELUJAH!)
    I cannot wait for tomorrow’s post!

  12. I put one of those small canvas foldable bin things in the laundry room to put too small clothes in. I was tired of ankle length pants making it back to my kids’ rooms. It was my fault when they would be wearing them, because it takes me too long to get in their closets to do the whole decluttering thing. So instead I don’t even put it away. I chose that bin over a basket, because I have sentimental girls that don’t need to know I am tossing their FAVORITE (insert any article of clothing here), and the bin completely conceals the clothes. When it gets full (or stuffed) I sort it out in piles of 1.)Save for future child and 2.)Toss. And yes, I put that task off as well, but my motivation is to not ‘out’ my secret bin. It usually takes all of 5 minutes anyway.

  13. Great advice, I’m always looking for tips in this area because clutter can be so overwhelming. I’m in the middle of moving our office to an actual dedicated room upstairs. We had a family of 6 living with us for 9 mos. of last year and part of this year and so there were lots of office boxes that never got unpacked. I am viewing them with a highly critical eye as I unpack knowing that I haven’t used any of that stuff in over a year. With the exception of my books and music library, most of it will be making new friends with our trash receptacle:)

    • Great post! I purge all the time. I do regret some things, but I get over it. I am a consignor at a second hand shop, so it goes in the box and out the door.

  14. I’m giggling at the thought of doing a companion post of your repurposed trinkets now sprucing up my own house and wardrobe. You’ll be happy to know that I bought some little chandelier dangly things that were in a baggie at your yard sale. They’re now part of a chandy I’m making for my little girl’s room. And the chandy itself? The discarded light fixture that nobody wanted from your swap-meet. The ever-resourceful Lily convinced me to take it home, remove the ugly globes, and turn the scone thingys upside down. It’s not quite finished but so far it’s super cute.

    So, thanks for the loot!

  15. This was the perfect post for me! I have a office room that has turned into a catch all for miscellaneous things. I need to get rid of a lot of stuff in there so it can look better and be more usable — just walking in there I feel cluttered. I think my husband’s shop/garage would be the perfect holding place, because I know he won’t let me keep it there for long! He treasures his garage space :)

  16. I move things to the garage which really irritates my husband but we have a tiny house and no other place to put things! I’d like a home that was just a little bigger. Just for noise control :) That would seriously declutter my life :)

  17. I’ve been wanting to de-clutter for awhile but couldn’t find the space or motivation to do just what you describe, long story short, our house flooded and we had to move into an 800 sq. foot rental (with four kids) and pack all the “unnecessary” stuff in a trailer while our house is being fixed. It has been so freeing to live comfortably in 800 sq. feet (with four kids and our dog) and there are only a handful of things that I desperately miss out of the entire trailer of other stuff, so not all of it will be going back into our house when we move back in.

  18. I do something similar, fill a box and put it aside for a while. Then I take a quick glance after about a month. I allow myself to remove only 1or 2 items if I truly missed or needed them. Usually I just end up adding more to the box and then taking it to goodwill.

  19. I have a tendency to get bored with my home decor quickly. One of the benefits of owning an antique/home decor shop is that I can put these items in my shop when I tire of them. It’s a constant revolving door for me but it helps eliminate clutter!
    xo, Sherry

  20. Nester,
    You’re a hit out in the mommy world (Decorating Divas Group @ Babycenter). Now I know why. I’ve only been following you a month now, but see that we hold similar interests. I started de-cluttering before my oldest left for college in the fall with the goal of holding a garage sale. We’re almost there. It takes a while to go room-to-room, but your posts are good motivation!

  21. i purge but not often enough. I really need to designate an area as a holding space and not let my girls into it!

  22. I like the idea of a “holding area.” I’m a newlywed and still learning my “design style” which has restuled in a lot of mis match accessories. I have held on to them but end up putting them on a shelf- I like the idea of a holding area because then my little apartment can look less cluttered without sacrificing all the things I have. Great idea! I have learned alot through this series. Thanks!

  23. It’s fabulous how you use such, y’know, gentle phrasing. Such as “that works for me” in the opening. It seems a great reflection of the overarching concern, that we get so, so attached to our things! Brilliant advice. And clever, too, since there’s the whole business about how you’ve done “all that work.” And so once it comes time to consider taking that price tag off, should you ever reconsider releasing an item, you’ll have that extra step in your mind too. “Well, I already took all the time to price and/or box this up… do I really want to undo all that work?”

    Great timing on this post; I’m working on a “Life List” and one of my items is “Get rid of everything I don’t need or to which I am absolutely attached.” So I’ll be using your advice to help me achieve a honkin’ goal. Thank YOU very much in advance!

  24. Being in the Home Decor and Resale business it is easy to add too many “treasures” to my home. One of the hazards to this job. Although it is wonderful to be able to change accessories and furniture as I find things “I can’t live with out” I do have two phrases that help me keep the clutter down. 1. “One in one out”..everything must have a spot and for every item in one out. 2.”Someone else was able to rid themselves of that fabulous treasure so should you (must not be so fab).” This one helps a lot with antiques. Love this series..Thank you!

  25. I use a method very similar to yours and it really works. Many people find it hard to let go of things when there is really nothing wrong with them. I heard something a while back that has really changed my out look on “stuff.” I have come to realize that something sitting in my basement not being used really does no good. I would much rather have someone else enjoying it. Now when it comes time for church sales, I do not hesitate to put things in the donate pile. It makes me feel good to have a clutter free house and makes someone else’s day to find a great treasure!

  26. Awesome system! I love this and need to do this more often, it’s really easy to live with less stuff and this seems like a good way to ease into it. I usually try to remove one thing for everything I bring home, that helps me to decide if the item I want to grab is something I really love if I can think of something I’d gladly trade for it in my home.

  27. This is a great strategy! I’m currently doing this with my clothes while I’m pregnant. Everything I didn’t absolutely love, even if it could still fit for a little while longer, got packed and sent to the basement. I purposely kept my maternity wardrobe small because a) it’s cheaper and b) I’m learning to live with less on a temporary basis, so it’s not as intimidating. I’m hoping that in 3 or 4 months when I can wear those clothes again, that most of them can go straight into the rummage sale box!

  28. I think this is the best way to get rid of things you love. I am currently in the process of redoing my livingroom. My style has changed and I have many primitive things I love but don’t need…redware, pottery, etc…and I haven’t decorated primitive in years…I just couldn’t let go of some things. I also love pitchers of all sizes and colors but many just don’t fit anymore. I have packed them away in a container and they are moving to the garage. Once I decorate without them, I won’t miss them. I have decorated with red for years and am changing to green and turquoise…all red must go! Love your blog…thanks for the inspiration!

  29. For some reason this totally makes sense to me! -I like the idea of moving it out , and then waiting to see if its missed. I have alot of things I like , but not the space to display it all. I will start with taking it out to the garage today! thanks!

  30. Love this! We just repainted our entry, living room, eat-in kitchen & hallway. We finished Saturday…but so far have only hung the “major” things on the walls. My kitchen counters, living room horizontal spaces (except I’ve been playing with the mantel) and space above my kitchen cabinets are EMPTY!! I’ve been enjoying it (and it’s oh-so-easy to clean). I am in a purging mood and really evaluating what I want to put on all those empty surfaces (horizontal & vertical). It’s lovely…but I can’t put it off too much longer, since the things we removed from those surfaces are in boxes in my living room and out-and-about in my basement!

  31. Ever since you did the posting about the cottage in the mountains and the comfort you gained from the scarcity of stuff, I have seen the table with only a dough bowl with pine cones in it. I day dream about the simplicity of that cottage and know that more than a cottage in that setting I want and can easily (well with work) obtain that same sense of freedom. Keep telling us how and thank you for keeping it simple.

  32. This is too funny! I was just e-mailing my friends about decluttering my house! Thanks for the good advice.

  33. I have a tall lidded basket behind our bedroom door where I put things to go to Goodwill. Once it’s full I go through everything and box it up for drop off or occasionally put something back in the basket if I am not ready to let it go.

  34. I did a version of this unintentionally by procrastinating. I went through a bunch of my three- and one-year-old’s toys, and then so the three-year-old wouldn’t see them and freak out to have them back, I HAD to take them out to the van. We don’t have a garage. They sat in the van like that for a couple of weeks, and I loved having fewer toys to pick up. She didn’t ask for any of the toys in the van, either. This has happened before–I’ll take what I think is a junk toy to Goodwill and then she’ll say “Mommy, where’s my _____?” It’s a really awful feeling. We went through the toys the other day while she napped, pulled a couple back, and sorted the rest for consignment and thrift store. Yay!

  35. I have “Porch Sale” for friends who like home decor. I throw the stuff out on our screened porch, rarely price anything (except high ticket items), and send out an email. I just price by the “lot” (lol). I will often throw in a thing or two they wanted but didn’t buy. I also give away extras to friends who don’t have the funds to “shop”. Love your idea of pricing as you purge!

  36. I am in the process of doing this my self. I am fortunate to have a basement where I can take things, sort them, and make those decisions. I currently have one pile for Goodwill and another for consignment, and a deadline of next week. I was guilty of putting things away (either in cabinets/closets/or the basement) thinking “I might need this someday”, only to find “someday” has come around for any of the items. While I am a very organized person by nature and our home is relatively clean on a daily basis…all the extra “stuff” was mentally taxing and time consuming on cleaning day! I am finding I am much more comfortable with less, giving me more time for what really matters and to do the things I enjoy doing.

  37. I like the idea of just taking all the STUFF and tossing it in the spare room for a couple of days…will have to explain to the hubs first. ;)

  38. I do basically the same thing. I box it up & take it to the garage. If I don’t miss it in a few days (I rarely do) I know it’s safe to go. And, to be honest, it usually stays around for more than a few days in the garage so I have extra time to miss it!

    I just donated 3 candlesticks that I LOVE but haven’t used in years. I hope someone finds them and loves them as much as I did.

  39. I love your site and it has motivated me to do a complete overhaul on my house. We now only have colored towels for each kiddo and two plastic cups each! One idea I had after decluttering was to host a swap at my house. I sent out an evite to my girlfriends to bring ten treasures to swap. Now I can trade in those unused purses for something I really need. :-)

  40. When we moved house, we slowly packed up over a year, decluttering as we went. I put a set of shelves we weren’t taking with us, in the front hallway. Some stuff went to St Vinnies (like Goodwill) straight away and other stuff to the tip, but the stuff I wasn’t sure about went onto the shelves. I sometimes took things back, sometimes other family members would too, (after all it is their house too!) and sometimes friends would admire something and I would give them that item. After being on the shelves a while it either went off to St Vinnies (Goodwill) in a box or got set aside for the final garage sale. I felt happy that friends and immediate family also got a part in making the decisions.

  41. Love love LOVE the idea of pricing things as you set them aside! I have no problem sending piles of clutter to the basement with the plan of selling them in a yard sale, but we never actually have the yard sale, so the basement pile just grows bigger and bigger. I think pricing things as I send them to the yard sale pile will actually make the yard sale effort less daunting. Great suggestion!

  42. I think the best system has been our church’s freecycle on yahoo. This has truly enabled many of the ladies (and myself) to look at the stuff in our houses and realize that someone else could use it more than us. So many needs have been met by ladies posting on there stuff in there house that needed to go! What a blessing to many in our body that especially need things. And, what a great place for those who hate to get rid of stuff to feel like their helping fulfill a need!

  43. Freecycle and goodwill are my personal decluttering favorites. I am just not a garage sale girl. ( I love visiting them, I just don’t like holding them) Freecycle is quick and I always get a really nice thank-you. Knowing someone will use something I no longer needed makes me happy. Goodwill is great for clothes and my smaller stuff. Knowing the money they make at their stores provides financial planning services for those in need make me smile too. Letting go gets easier the more you do it.

  44. I LOVED this post!! I find often posts that say “get rid of stuff” may be too overwhelming for some. I love your “baby step” approach. Very, very do-able. I was pleased to share this post with my Facebook followers this morning! So glad to have found your wonderful blog! It always puts a smile on my face.

  45. Several things, all occurring simultaneously, kind of like the perfect storm, are helping me declutter. First I have been reading “simplifying” blog posts lately. I don’t believe I have to live with only ten things and give away my car or anything, but it has definitely caused me to analyze my life and all the “stuff” in it. So your October series has been wonderful.

    Secondly, we are getting carpeting ripped out of the dining room and sewing room (which used to be our living room). Yesterday after spending 1 1/2 hours taking everything out of every piece of furniture, china hutch, armoire holding boxes of Christmas decorations, and all my fabric (yikes, where did all that fabric come from???), I can guarantee you that it is not ALL going back. In fact earlier in the month I already wrote a post about giving away all my handpainted china. I took pictures and my daughter-in-law will make a nice digital picture book, but I’m moving on. Next up, or rather OUT, is my collection of depression glass. never use it. Don’t need it. so thanks for your help in totally not feeling bad about it. The fabric? Uh…..it’s staying!

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  49. Brick Horse says

    This is very helpful. I have decluttered through the “onion” layers until I am now at the layer of the good stuff, the loved stuff, the meaningful and sentimental stuff that is difficult beyond the usual “I might need it someday.” Thanks for posting your techniques for moving through the hard stuff. I particularly appreciate that you “allow” yourself to pull things out if you want. This process is not to be punitive, for us to punish ourselves by taping up boxes and never seeing anything in them again – then tossing it out in 6 months. Not for me. Your way is gentler and more self-respectful. And for me, effective, since I’ve used a version of this.

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