Decluttering Books, Clothes, and Dishes

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new-suburban-stockade-introMoving from the material world decluttering that we discussed last week, we turn to our books, clothes, and dishes.

decluttering closets

Simplifying your clothes by wearing hockey jerseys won’t work unless you’re Kevin Smith.

First, the books. Should you get rid of them? That’s hard for me. We have thousands of them. We also have thousands of linear feet of shelf space to put them on. We organize the books by separating the fiction from the non-fiction. The fiction is organized by author’s last name. Duplicates are given to the library sale as are books we won’t reread or didn’t like.

decluttering books

We’ve got three boxes of books ready to go to the library or Cupboard Maker Books.

Non-fiction is arranged by topic and again, we discard duplicates. After that, it’s harder. Is a book something that has useful information on gardening? cooking? first aid? research for one of the many books we write? It will live through the purge. If it doesn’t seem to be useful, it may go off to the library sale to find a new home. We’re careful about discarding books as we’ve often had to buy them back from Abebooks. But if your books are filling boxes in your basement, and you don’t know what is in each box, you have too many. Either build shelves to house them, purge them, or both. Boxes of books in a basement or attic turn into silverfish motels and mold farms quick and then the books are useless to anyone.

decluttering books

if your books are filling boxes in your basement, and you don’t know what is in each box, you have too many. Either build shelves to house them, purge them, or both.

Tools? Do you use them? Do you know how to use them? Does each one have a dedicated home on your workshop pegboard or toolbox or are they thrown, jumbled up, into a storage bin? If the answer is the storage bin, then you need to sort through the tools, figure out which ones you do know how to use and find them a home. The ones you don’t know how to use may have to find new homes or you will have to learn how to use them.

We all have clothes. Most of us have far more than we need. The classic approach is still the best. Take everything out of the closet and dresser, look at it, and then decide:

* Do I wear this regularly? Keep.

* Will I never wear this again? Get rid of it.

* Is it damaged? Can I repair it and wear it? If yes, repair and keep. If no, get rid of it.

* Does it still fit? If no, get honest and get rid of it.

Children’s wardrobes should be evaluated on an annual basis, as they grow so fast. It’s disheartening to discover brand-new clothes that were outgrown before ever being worn. If your kids’ closet is full to bursting, along with the dresser, this is probably happening to you right now. Unless they have the fashion gene, the kids will wear what is upfront and easy to reach and never pay one bit of attention to the other stuff jammed into the closet.

Go through your entire house, your vehicles, and your outbuildings. Evaluate everything. Do you use it? Is it worth the storage space? Is it stored in such a way so that it won’t get damaged with the passage of time? Do you like it? If you hate that ugly vase, you’ve always hated that ugly vase and everyone else in the family hates that ugly vase, then you need to get rid of it.

Once you’ve done the purges and put like with like, then it’s time to look at your shelving. Let me repeat. You can’t organize your way out of clutter. You have to get rid of the excess junk and then you can organize what is left.

Don Aslett has written numerous books on clutter busting. He’s amusing and accurate. There are other writers as well, and they all agree. Get rid of junk first and then install your magic organizers. Otherwise, you’re just building bunkers for junk.

Like so many other things, magic organizers only work if you use them. Complicated organizing systems won’t get used. If you have to stack things to fit them into a cabinet, you won’t do it. If you do that already, then you’re one of those “naturally born organized” persons and why are you reading this?

Getting rid of things lets you consider what you do use. We did this with our dishes a long time ago. When Bill and I got married, we mixed our dishes, all kinds of plates and bowls and what not. They had to be stacked just so to fit into the cabinets.

I got tired of that so I decided to use the dishes his mother had given him as that was what we had the most of. I bought from Replacements Ltd. plenty of plates, cups, serving pieces, etc and got rid of the rest. I replaced all our glassware with Anchor Hocking Tartan glasses. I can set a basic table for 20 people now and all those dishes fit into two small cabinets. It was totally worth the cost of the dishes, and I have never once missed any of those cereal bowls.

decluttering dishes

I can set a basic table for 20 people now and all those dishes fit into two small cabinets.

Would I have chosen this china pattern, ever? No, but who cares? It works, they stack nicely, and it’s done. I’ve had twenty years now of not having to stack dishes just so. Getting rid of the stuff we didn’t use or like also meant that I did not have to invest in magic storage organizers for my dishes. I used the cabinet.