Have you used a bit of your extra time at home to purge, declutter, and organize?
Yup, me too!
I love decluttering as much as anyone, but during this period of social distancing, decluttering looks a bit different as all thrift stores and donation drop-offs are closed (and most likely will remain closed for the foreseeable future.)
Definitely not ideal for someone who likes to move stuff OUT OF THE HOUSE, ASAP!
I know so many of you can relate because I’ve gotten all your emails and questions asking, “how can we declutter?” or “what can we do with our stuff?” and even “should we stop purging?”
Honestly, I wish I could magically open all thrift stores again… but since I can’t, I thought it might be helpful to share 10 ways to declutter your home and life when donation centers are closed.
My first 5 tips are all ideas to declutter WITHOUT adding more to landfills or to your donation piles.
My next 5 tips are for those of us who already have hefty donation piles waiting to bring to the thrift store!
1. Focus on digital decluttering.
Since all donation centers are closed, this is an excellent time to focus more of your efforts on digital decluttering.
- Clean out your email inbox.
- Declutter your desktop.
- Back up your computers, phones, and all other devices.
- Scan documents to eliminate the need for so much paperwork.
- Start the process of digitizing your photos and/or printing digital photo albums.
There are countless ways you can “purge”, declutter, and organize without actually creating more stuff for a landfill or a donation center.
And while the visual appearance of your home might not drastically change, I’m confident the mental shift of knowing that so much of your digital clutter is gone will positively affect your life!
RELATED READING: How I Store and Organize ALL My Digital Photos and Photo Books.
2. Purge your freezer and pantry.
If your freezer and pantry are stuffed full, now is an excellent time to start an “Eat From the Pantry and Freezer Challenge”.
Not only will you drastically reduce your trips to the grocery store (something we’re asked to do anyway) you will also save money AND remove excess from your home without creating more trash or a big pile of donations.
You might even find that you get a little more creative in the kitchen too! I almost always discover a few new “family favorite” recipe combinations during our Eat From the Pantry Challenges!
RELATED READING: Our Eat-From-The-Pantry (and freezer) Challenge
3. Reduce Excess “Overhead”.
One of the things I’ve personally found VERY helpful in my journey towards simple organized living is removing excess “overhead” (this is what I call it!)
Over the last 8 years we’ve:
- canceled all our magazine subscriptions
- stopped the newspaper
- canceled cable
- eliminated tons of catalogs and junk mail
- unsubscribed from a massive number of emails
- canceled memberships and other fee-incurring clubs
- looked through our utility bills and called about reducing the rates
- “left” a variety of Facebook groups and other online communities
- turned all notifications off on our phones (other than phone calls and text messages from select people)
This might sound small and insignificant to some — but the impact has been HUGE on my life (and in Dave’s life too).
We have SO MUCH LESS coming into our homes, our computer, our phones, our inboxes, and our lives. It’s extremely refreshing in our media-saturated world.
Yes, I’m sure I “miss out” on some news, and I certainly don’t know the latest trends or fashion or up-and-coming new artists. However, I also don’t experience information overload!
Keep in mind, I’ve been working on this for YEARS and YEARS. This is not something I expect you to accomplish in the next week or two… BUT you can start!
RELATED READING: How Dave and I Saved a BUNCH by Switching Our Cell Phone Plan!
4. Weed your garden!
Spring is here — which means weeds are aplenty!
Use your extra time at home to pull (purge) a few weeds, add a layer of mulch, and maybe even plant some of my favorite perennials!
5. Deep clean instead of organize (a.k.a. purge the dirt and grime).
While I personally enjoy organizing more than cleaning, I’ve been using much of my extra time these days to focus on removing dirt, dust, and grime from our home.
Honestly, it feels REALLY good!
Here are a few places you could tackle during your extra time at home:
- wash all pillows, blankets, sleeping bags, and comforters
- rotate mattresses
- wash throw blankets and accent pillows
- vacuum under all couch and chair cushions
- wash windows (this is my favorite window-cleaning cloth)
- clean out the gutters
- sweep front and back entryways, porches, decks, etc.
- move furniture to the center of the room, wipe down walls and baseboards, and vacuum
- shake out, vacuum, and/or wash all rugs
- dust the tops of doorways, windows, window sills, etc.
- use a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser to remove marks from walls, molding, floors, etc.
- thoroughly wipe down all kitchen cabinet door and drawer fronts
- clean the inside of the oven and the stovetop
- clean the inside of your dishwasher
- clean the inside of the refrigerator (remove all drawers)
Pick and choose one cleaning project a day for the next few weeks… you’ll be amazed how much “lighter” your home feels without actually purging a thing!
RELATED READING: How to Clean 10 of the Germiest Places In Your Home.
Now, for those of you who (like me) have already purged many rooms in your home and have piles of donations ready and waiting…
Here are 5 suggestions to handle your growing donation pile.
1. Evaluate if Your Stuff is Actually “Donation Worthy”
This is a nice way of me saying, “you probably have a decent amount of trash in your giveaway pile.”
Yes, I know the amount of trash we produce as a nation has risen over the past few weeks, and we DO need to be mindful of this as well. BUT, the fact of the matter is, many of our “donations” will end up in the trash eventually — it’s just a matter of WHERE and WHEN.
Will you be the one to ruthlessly vet the trash from your donation pile? Or will you make volunteers at the donation centers do it a month from now?
Take a long, hard look through your growing donation pile and pull out EVERYTHING that isn’t in VERY good condition.
- clothing with stains, rips, tears, holes, faded areas, broken zippers, missing buttons, non-functioning snaps, etc.
- toys and games with battery corrosion, broken parts, and missing pieces
- puzzles with missing pieces
- books with ripped pages, missing covers, scribes, etc.
- DVDs and CDs with scratches
- outdated media (cassette tapes, VHS tapes, etc.)
- kitchen items that are not in great condition (melted plastic, food stains, warped lids)
- any furniture items that require repair in order to be functional again
You get the idea.
Trash the trash, and your donation pile will be significantly smaller!
2. Post Items as “Porch Pick Up” or “Free” on Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, etc.
I know some will not agree with this (I am aware that the virus can spread through materials)…
HOWEVER, in my non-professional opinion, there is very little (if any) difference between selling/giving your items away on your front porch versus bringing them to a thrift store.
Well… the only difference is that you move stuff out of your items now, versus holding onto them for another month until thrift stores reopen!
There’s no need to have any human contact with your porch sales or donations — simply upload pictures and information to Marketplace, Craigslist, Freecycle, place items on the front porch, and include an envelope for paid items.
All interactions will be via email or text, and if your area is anything like mine (and if you set reasonable prices) your things will be gone ASAP — meaning a smaller donation pile.
3. Look for ways to repurpose cast-offs in other areas of your home.
I’m always moving furniture and decorations around the house, so before I put something in the donate pile, I walk through my home and consider if there are any other ways I could reuse that particular item.
In the past, I’ve repurposed food storage containers as a way to store and organize crafts for my kids. I also regularly use old t-shirts and baby blankets as rags.
And sometimes, just swapping decorations between rooms will give the illusion of a whole new house… for free!
Lamps, throw pillows, and other decorations that feel “tired” in one room could be repurposed to “refresh” another room (I do this ALLLL the time).
NOTE: Please do NOT mistake this advice as a reason to hang on to your things “just in case”!!!
That is the opposite of what I want you to do!
I simply want to encourage you to think through other ways you MIGHT be able to utilize items throughout your home. However, don’t force something to work. If you’d rather donate it — that’s great too!
4. Use stackable containers for donated items.
Instead of stuffing everything into black garbage bags and piling it all in the corner of your bedroom, why not try packaging your donations in a more space-saving way?
I suggest using any type of stackable box, bin, or sturdy paper bags that can actually be stacked if packed in the “right” way.
Also, take a few minutes to fold your clothing nicely and configure toys, books, games, etc. in a way that allows you to fit the maximum number of items in your bins or bags.
This is another one of those tips that sounds insignificant but can make a big difference in how much space your donations take up.
5. Designate an area in your home for donations.
Unless you want your donations to eventually take over your living spaces, you should designate a spot in your home for these items.
Personally, I’m using a corner of an extra closet upstairs.
The closet is out of the way and not in my general line of sight, so even if it’s messy and cluttered inside right now, it doesn’t bother me because I don’t walk past it 27 times a day.
I know some of you don’t have basements, attics, garages, or extra storage closets — so this tip will be trickier for you to implement! But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
Get creative, can you store donations under the bed? Can you stack them in your dining room and push the table to one side? Do you have a guest bedroom that isn’t being used right now? Can you declutter a closet enough to make space for your donations?
In my experience, there is always SOME space to be “found”!
Should You Keep Purging?
I’ve been asked this question countless times over the past few weeks… and honestly, I DO think you should continue to purge, declutter, and better organize your spaces — even if you can’t remove the items from your home.
While I’m always an advocate for moving items out of our homes immediately after purging, I also realize that these special circumstances prevent that possibility.
Thrift stores will open up eventually (and probably get an insane influx in donated items). In the meantime, you can enjoy a cleaner, less cluttered, more organized home and life thanks to your diligent decluttering efforts!