Life & Culture

Cut the Clutter with ease

There’s nothing like a new year to inspire us to de-clutter our homes, but one woman in Japan has created a movement that is active year round, and has spawned books, blogs and coming soon, a Netflix series. Take a peek here:

KonMari, founded by Marie Kondo (learn more here) advocates transforming your life by tidying your space once and for all. How? By going through every item you own and asking yourself “Does this bring joy?”  From this simple premise has come a New York Times best-seller “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” and hordes of followers all over the world.

Hold on there

Not everyone is ready for this leap.  Items have associations and memories, and for some of us, letting go can hurt.  A Yale study found for some of us, parts of our brains react the same way to the anticipated loss of valued possessions as they do to the idea of quitting an addiction…and that’s where shows like “Hoarders” come from.

You don’t have to evaluate every single item.  According to Sara Getzkin, a professional organizer, you can take it slow:

1. Don’t try to tackle too much at once. Getzkin tells her clients, “Let’s carve out three hours and see what we get done. Then you are going to rest and not even think about this.” Very few people can sustain focus for more than three hours and stopping before you get stuck means you can start again tomorrow feeling positive .

2. To start, Getzkin, recommends preparing three bags or boxes and labeling them Keep, Toss, and Sell/Donate. You might add a fourth box for things that need repairing, mending or dry cleaning, but don’t add more options than that. Put away what’s in your Keep pile at the end of the day and throw out what’s in your Toss pile. (We’ll tell you how to use online resources to sell or donate next week.)

3. Decide what you really use and consider what storage space is available. Be relentless in your decision-making and follow through.

4. Find local options to sell stuff in good condition or donate to a worthy cause.

Books:  Some libraries will accept books in good condition; for a nationwide list of ten places where your books will do some good in the world, check here.  

Clothes and accessories:  You can find options here for everything from that designer gown to that 50-year-old Rolling Stones T-shirt. Some consignment shops will take on your designer duds, shoes or purses, as well; check Google to see what shops are in your vicinity.  Make sure you understand their policies and payouts.

Furniture, Tools and Clothing:  Most cities have a Goodwill or Salvation Army that will pick up certain items for donation (always call and check their policies) but another national organization to consider is, which specifically helps veterans.  Learn more here.

De-cluttering Challenges

  • Medications and medical apparatus:  Don’t flush expired medications: learn if your local drugstore has a ‘take back program;” some police stations offer disposal bins for opioids. If all else fails, the FDA advises taking the pills out of the containers and mixing them with coffee grounds or vegetable peelings; then use a marker to black out the label – or scratch it out – before you put the container in the garbage.
  • Nostalgic objects In Psychology Today, Jim Davies, Ph.D. suggests photographing some of those keepsakes you’ve had for years. “I take a picture, and save it in a folder called ‘nostalgia.’ Once I have this picture, I feel better about giving or throwing away the object, because part of why I wanted to save it was because I didn’t want to forget.”
  • Old gadgets  Jim Davies in Psychology Today refers to the “endowment effect”: he explains that “When we own something, we value it more than we would have been willing to pay for it when we didn’t have it.” In his decluttering, he asks himself if he would be willing to pay what a gadget is worth – say, $20 for his old point-and-shoot. If the answer is no, he sells or donates it.
  • Paperwork: Ask your lawyer and accountant what you need to keep forever vs what you need for a limited amount of time.  Some paperwork can be scanned and saved on your hard drive.


Have a decluttering tip to share? Add it in the comments below.

Photo: Ashim d’Silva for Unsplash.









5 responses to “Cut the Clutter with ease

  1. I’m not sure if grinding up old pills with coffee grounds and compost is a good idea. I know it is an “if all else fails” solution but seriously? Disposing of old medications in a compost or in the ground is contaminating any soil it’s in.
    I’d love to know what pharmacies actually do with returned medications. Where do they go? One would think contained and captured burning would be the best. Not sure about this one at all.

  2. If a person lives alone it is much easier to de-clutter and easy enough to
    maintain. To maintain, just go through all the stuff in your home once a week.
    Do mini de-clutters. If you buy something new get rid of something old. Don’t
    hoard clothes’ just in case’. Get to know your style and most of the time stick
    with it.

    See the satisfaction it brings you. You can go out more, relaxed in the knowledge
    that you are coming home to a neat and time environment, and that is good for you
    mentally. If problems come up and you have a lot to cope with, at least you are
    organised at home. If you have to go into hospital for any reason, relax in the
    knowledge that things at home are stable and you will enjoy going home to relax
    after your treatment.

    I have found peace of mind in being a ‘a bit of a minimalist’ in my 60’s onwards.
    I watched my mother never dispose of anything at all and when she died it was
    a big big job to empty the house and we had to get a specialist company in to
    fill vans with everything and we had to pay a lot.

    Good Luck with your decluttering.

Leave a Reply

Senior Planet’s comments are open for all readers/subscribers; we love hearing from you! However, some comments are not welcome here as violations of our Comment Policy. If you would like to express a comment about Senior Planet locations or programs, please contact Want to continue the conversation? Start your own discussion on this topic on Senior Planet Community.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *