Stems and All

My journey to buy less, consume smart, use what's there.

Five categories to help de-clutter


We made the proactive decision to begin to seriously de-clutter our home, lives and overall way of thinking. We wanted to get rid of the ‘closets of stuff’ and the boxes of never used items in the garage. We wanted to frequently use the things that we valued and owned, and no longer wanted to just own things for the sake of owning. We were ready.

“But where do I start?” I felt overwhelmed and wanted to hide behind our wall of ‘things’ and stuff….

I quickly realized that I would need to get a few systems in place. What this meant for me, was having a way to categorize our possessions and stuff, as I went through each room, closet, cupboard and space. I needed to be able to label (or actually physically put) each item into a category (or designated area) that made sense, as I tackled different parts of the house and garage.

I created the following categories. For large items, I wrote the category in pencil on the back or bottom of the item. For smaller items, I set up boxes and bags to collect and contain them until I was ready for ‘next steps’.

Outbound stuff: This category contains stuff that: a.) needs to be returned to their original owner or b.) is of high-value/high-quality that someone else will get great use out of.

Garage sale: Yes, we did have a garage sale. We didn’t do this so much for the money, but we wanted to see if we could find homes for items that were still in good shape with our neighbors and friends. It turned out to be a fun block party and social event to boot.

Donation: Any item that was clean, in working order that we planned on donating to our local Salvation Army. Anything that didn’t get sold at the garage sale went into this category and pile.

Fix it: These are all the items that are in good shape, but need some sort of ‘fix’ before they can either be used, shared, or donated.

“Use it or lose it”: This category is the ‘maybe’ stuff – the stuff we were on the fence about. It might have been a high cost item, or something that we used a while ago but was now collecting dust.

The “use it or lose it” pile turned out to be the funnest pile to deal with. Once an item was in this pile, we had 30 days to either ‘use it’ or it went into the donation bins. And it gave us a way to really see if we ‘needed’ an items or were just holding on to it.

This category approach works shockingly well for any organization and de-clutter project. I’ve used it on clothing, kitchen stuff, bathroom cabinets, even the jewelry box.

These 5 categories are a good way to start what can seem like an overwhelming process of de-cluttering your home and life.

Author: Jane Newcomb

“Stems and All” is my personal journey to become a more environmentally responsible human, live a more sustainable life, and practice sustainable consuming habits.

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