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Clutter can take on many forms, and getting rid of clutter is a never ending battle for most people.  We try to stay on top of clutter as much as possible, but I was still amazed when I went through just the basement and thought about some of the items that we could likely eliminate or reduce if we really put some effort into it.

Here are a list of things that are currently creating clutter in our basement.

  • Old couch and easy chair – I bought a leather sofa and easy chair back around 1999, which graced my condo for the eight years or so that I lived there.  It was a pretty cheap buy and the bachelor life didn't do it any favors, so it quickly showed its age.  I keep it because the cats actually still like to sit on it now and then when they hang out in the basement, most usually to take a breather from the kids.
  • Two old television sets – We have two TVs, probably 19 or 21 inch models, that are pretty much collecting dust.  I'm not sure Salvation Army would even keep them.  I put them downstairs when we replaced them with flat screen TVs, thinking that if the flat screen went out, we could use it as a stopgap measure.  But, realistically, if a flat screen TV goes out, I'm getting another flat screen.  And if one of the remaining non-flat screen TVs that we use goes out, I'm not even plugging one of the ‘basement spares'  in.  I'm probably just…getting a flat screen.  These need to go.
  • Paint cans – I keep just about every bit of leftover paint there is from when a room gets painted.  With our house being somewhat colorful, there is quite an assortment of paint sitting in the shelving unit dedicated for paint.  I'm guessing that a lot of it could likely be eliminated.  I know that we bought a gallon of paint for the kitchen that we ended up not needing (that was the only paint we had mixed that I overestimated, which wasn't bad) but do I really need a whole gallon and a half of spare paint?  Probably not.  I'm sure there are other cans that could be eliminated as well.
  • Table setting boxes – We use Fiesta Ware for all of our plates, dishes, bowls, and serving dishes.  We got a majority of the settings back when we got married, and have added to it since.  I have kept all of the boxes for this which takes up a significant amount of space.  Do we really need all of these?  Would we really pack them up this way if we ever moved again?  The only reason I would see us using them is that we pack some of the settings away since we don't have room for all of them.  Right now they go into our china cabinet, but we'll probably run out of room there someday.  So, maybe some of the boxes would be useful?
  • Kid clothes – We keep most of the clothing that both Little Boy Beagle and Little Girl Beagle have grown out of.  My wife prides herself in keeping it in great shape.  We keep it so that if we ever have more kids, or if anybody else in the family would perhaps need it some day (the likely candidate would be my wife's sister, though she's likely a ways away from having kids).  My wife keeps it packed in rubber storage bins, but the number of bins is starting to be overwhelming.  She is going to talk to her sister to find out if she would want us to keep it.  If some of the clothes might be five years or more old by the time they'd be needed, she might not even want them.  Eventually, it might make better sense to try to sell or donate them, but I don't think we're to that point yet but it's something to keep in mind.

All of these things added together would free up a significant amount of space.   Will we get rid of everything at once?  Probably not. At this point, I would say the televisions are the only things that can go right away.  The couches can probably go when the cats no longer need them.  The clothes can go when my sister-in-law either takes them or decides she probably wouldn't want them.  The dish boxes can probably go or at least be reduced.

There are a few things you can do to manage or reduce your clutter.

  • Identify what is or will be clutter – I just took this step with the list above for the items in our basement. I now have a watch list and have identified things that I can likely discard or donate right away, and also have a list of things that can be acted upon with a little more thought or other input.
  • Decide what to do with the clutter items – Many of the items have some sort of value above throwing them in the trash can.  Perhaps the televisions can be donated or given away through FreeCycle.  The boxes from the dishes could be recycled.  The couches could also be given away.  The clothes, if not given to my sister-in-law, could be sold, consigned, or given away.
  • Set criteria – Many people don't know what to do with clutter because they don't establish and follow criteria as to what clutter is.  This will depend on you.  Sometimes people will identify things that may be clutter, and pack them in a box that they will label with a date.  If it goes unused for a certain length of time (say a year) then it can be assumed that the items are no longer needed.  If this rule works for you, go for it.
  • Stick with it – If you establish a rule about dealing with clutter, follow it.  Hold yourself accountable.  Using the example above, many people will go an entire year without using the items in the box, but hold onto them anyway.  If you find yourself falling into this trap, you will become inundated with clutter.  Make sure to follow the rules you establish.
  • Know that you'll never be done – Even if you follow all of these steps, you still need to stay on top of it. If you go one room to another and eliminate clutter, you will have done a lot of good for yourself and your home, but the fact is that by the time you get done with that last room, you'll probably need to go back and start over again as new things will have cropped up in the meantime.  It's like painting Mackinac Bridge here in Michigan.  They're never done with it, because by the time they get to the end of the bridge, it's time to go to the beginning and start over again.

A cluttered life can cause many issues.  You can feel overwhelmed with life, especially if you allow clutter to build up in areas where you spend a good portion of your waking hours.  It can make living in your home less enjoyable.  Less happiness can drain on your health.  So, don't underestimate the power and the importance of keeping clutter to a minimum.