I have stuff in four houses.

I said this to my sister in law and she reacted, naturally, in disbelief. What happened is that I moved out from my family home to a bedroom with my in-laws, so we put some things in storage at my other sister in law’s place (the first is my brother’s wife E; the second is my husband’s sister K)

When Black Friday rolled around, I picked up some other kitchenware and that was delivered together with E’s stuff to her place. So that makes a grand total of four places.

I don’t have regular access to either K or E’s place, so I did remove six to seven boxes from K’s place the last time I went there, which I’ve whittled down to about five. Progress. I’ve also made it a habit to clear stuff from my bedroom at my family home, so here’s a before and after:

I tossed three bags of stuff into the bulk bin downstairs (sorry it wasn’t a Zero Waste disposal method; still working on that), packed what I could into that reusable blue bag, and that’s the result, thus clearing the six drawers you see here, three shelves (the bottom one with stuff is not my stuff; my sister took advantage of my absence to shift a few things in) and the rest of my clothes in my cupboard.

I have about ten more shelves to work on and the shoes to clear.

Tips for decluttering

Never do it with someone overseeing your choices.

For the longest time my mom checked through each item that I owned and wanted to get rid of, and either stressed that I still could use it, wanted to hand it to someone else etc. It took me forever to cull my stuff down. Now I firmly tell her not to check and everything goes to the trash. I like to think this makes us both happier since she won’t know what I threw away and thus the perceived value of those items won’t affect her and I can declutter with abandon.

Start with Easy Categories.

For me, this is always clothes. I separate my clothes into three piles: Donate, Keep and Maybe.

Items I haven’t worn in years or worn once and I know that I won’t wear again goes into the Donate pile. Sometimes if it’s an item that my husband gave me, I’ll ask his approval and then donate it. If it’s an item I might wear to a wedding I keep it and see if I actually do (I usually don’t) and then donate it if I don’t. I re-wear long dresses to lunch weddings now: best if I’ve never documented the dress on social media (unlikely) or if the group I’ve worn it to is different from another. I’m also thinking of renting the dresses but we’ll see.

This is also the time to get rid of any of the items that someone gave you but never wore. Donating this pile alone can save you a lot of space.

The Keep pile consists of items I wear very regularly, such as t-shirts and jeans, long sleeved button downs, shorter dresses that I wear more frequently and jackets which are my weakness (I have a black satin, dark blue “blazer”, blue bomber, army green, brown blazer and leather jackets) and I didn’t want to decide on them there and then. So I brought them back from my family home.

The Maybe pile is anything I’m undecided on. It used to include gifts, expensive dresses that were a good idea at the time but I’ve never found a good occasion to wear them, suits that I might one day wear (I donated them all yesterday finally) etc. They go back into the closet if I really can’t decide and then wait for the next cull.

Don’t leave others with your mess.

This is something I learned from Marie Kondo’s Spark Joy. She says not to give your parents/sister/friend more items that you think they’d want or to leave it there for them to decide because you’re just adding to their clutter.

There were a few items of clothing that I did leave behind, as they were originally my sister’s and my mother’s. The rest of the items I decided on on my own.

It’s okay if you don’t see huge amounts of progress. Just start working on it.

Marie Kondo advises getting everything done within a few days, if I remember correctly. Honestly, I don’t have the time. So I take an hour or two to tackle a section. On Saturday I “spring cleaned” which basically means I cleaned the surfaces that I could and generally wiped away some of the dust. I also managed to clear an entire box of books, books I convinced myself I would one day open but never did. I did keep my David Eddings books because they are pretty hard to replace. My room still looks nothing like the Instagram and Pinterest-worth rooms but it’s getting there.

Remove duplicates.

Lay out all your stuff and then see if you have any duplicates of the same items, like two sets of the same markers, three little black dresses, or in my case, seven jackets. It makes it easier, because you know that you haven’t completely erased all instances of that item, just that you have too many of them.

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