Feeling a little claustrophobic in your room? It may be time to start putting a trendy verb to use — “Marie Kondo-ing.” The Kondo method helps you identify items you really need and items that bring you joy. You can simplify your life, clear up space, and even help others by donating things you don’t need.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Set Aside Time in Your Schedule
- Identify Problem Areas
- Decide on Categories of Goods
- Find a Cause (or Two)
- Gather Any Supplies or Help
- Plan Your Haul
- Sort Through What’s Left
- Celebrate and Regroup
- Invite Friends and Family Over
- Repeat as Needed
Maybe you plan to go through your belongings as part of a New Year's resolution or end-of-life planning. Consider how difficult it would be for your loved ones to go through your belongings and decide which items are important. Think it would be incredibly difficult for them?
Let’s go through a quick checklist so you can get rid of stuff you don’t need.
1. Set Aside Time in Your Schedule
Make a schedule and stick to it. Whether this means taking a day or two off work or setting aside a specific weekend, you can knock out this project all at once.
Or maybe you can even set aside a block of time each day to go through your stuff and identify what you want or don’t need. You can plan any sort of combination of the two of these schedules until you’re satisfied with the results.
2. Identify Problem Areas
Figure out specific areas where you have too much stuff — it can make the removal process easier on you. These “problem areas” can mean specific rooms, closets, or cabinets that are overflowing.
Maybe you even inherited a house full of stuff. It’s far easier to part with items you’re not emotionally attached to. But let’s say you’re cleaning out an elderly parent’s house.
Ask yourself whether specific items in these problem areas really can make you happy, or will they be better off serving someone else?
3. Decide on Categories of Goods
Now that you know where your problem areas lie, you identify the types of things you’re going to get rid of.
Do you have too many clothes? Lamps? Tchotchkes? Need to recycle a bunch of old papers? Know what you’re getting rid of so this process goes a little smoother.
This is also a good time to start thinking about whether you can sell or are planning to donate items you don’t need. There’s nothing wrong with trying to make a little extra money to invest it in something more important to you. Are you cleaning out a different type of space other than your home, such as your office or cubicle? You may have to prepare a little differently.
Tip: If you have a lot of furniture, read our guide on how to get rid of old furniture for free. It may help you categorize your items for easy hauling.
4. Find a Cause (or Two)
Some donation centers and organizations accept any and all items, while others specialize in specific items. What you have to offer will determine how many separate causes should receive your goods. For example, you may be donating old baby clothes to a coworker who’s expecting a baby and some furniture and adult clothing to Goodwill.
You can also check local listings in your area for other individuals who are selling items similar to what you’re pitching. Is there a good market in the area for used furniture? Maybe you live in a college or university town and move-in day is coming soon. You can offer up unwanted supplies or furniture to your coworkers if you’re cleaning out your office or cubicle. You can also donate extra supplies to a local school.
5. Gather Any Supplies or Help
Do you have enough bags to donate clothing in? How about a large enough vehicle to organize a major furniture haul? Think about what you’ll need to do to reach out to people beyond your household for help.
Some nonprofit organizations also offer pick-up services. They’ll come right to your door — free of charge, of course.
6. Plan Your Haul
It’s equally as important to set aside time in your schedule to donate or deliver items that you’re getting rid of. Now that you’ve identified the supplies you need or who’s helping you, pick a day or time that’s free.
You may also want to consider the weather conditions because donating or delivering a bunch of soaking wet items isn’t favorable. Look into garage or rummage sale events in your area. Does it make sense for you to participate? Add price tags on items or consider whether you need to create makeshift tables or clothing racks.
A well-organized sale will entice buyers to linger and purchase more. If your community doesn’t offer this type of event, you can also look into local churches. Rummage sales are common here, too, and it’s likely they benefit a worthy cause.
7. Sort Through What’s Left
After taking that haul or two, it’s likely that you have some more open space in your home. Can you finally see the kitchen tabletop for once? Have floorspace in your office?
Now is a good time to go through any additional items you couldn’t easily get to before. Use the additional surface area to pull things out of storage and file cabinets and get down to the bottom of what you need to keep. Shred anything that has personal information on it and recycle the rest. Personal information includes telephone numbers, your full name, addresses, payment details, medical records, and more.
As you go through printed files, when’s the last time you went through digital files on your devices? Do you have an almost-full memory on any of these devices? What can you delete? Take an inventory of your photos and other documents and see if it would make sense to store them on the cloud or on an external hard drive instead.
You can also reevaluate the apps you’re using and if they’re storing data you don’t need. Are you having trouble deciding what to delete or keep? You can always ask a tech-savvy family member or visit a tech specialist.
It’s common for digital devices to allow more storage than we’ll ever need. However, if you do run out of space, paying for an additional data storage plan is typically very affordable.
8. Celebrate and Regroup
Now that you’re free of items you don’t need, reflect on what you gave away. Do you feel freer? Happier? Are there any awkward open spaces in your home in the absence of these items? This is a good time to not only clean some once hard-to-reach areas, but you can also move the furniture in your home and redecorate a bit.
Let yourself enjoy a more minimalist look. A clean, refreshed home is also the perfect occasion to throw a get-together or a dinner party with friends and family.
9. Invite Friends and Family Over
Even if your home is looking less cluttered and you’re thinking it’s time for a party, you can still use this as an opportunity to get more work done. Let’s say you own family heirlooms or other collectibles. It may be time to poll your other family members. Do any of them have their eyes on something you don’t really use or need?
Maybe your grandson has his eye on your college letterman jacket. Maybe your younger sister really wanted that serving dish from your mom. Passing these items down to your other family members is a great way to keep traditions alive and start new ones.
All this gift-giving will probably make you feel pretty good, too.
10. Repeat as Needed
It’s only natural for things that were once neat and tidy to eventually need more cleaning in the future. It may benefit you to go through your belongings every few months and reorganize them. You might want to organize important documents, for example. You can get rid of clothes you haven’t worn or donate appliances that sit, unused, in your cabinet.
One of the hardest tests of getting rid of things you don’t need is to not fall into old habits again. However, once your spaces are clean and organized, it may motivate you to keep photos of your success.
Take a few pictures of your home when it’s at its most neat and tidy on your phone. This evidence alone could keep you from creating piles of unused things in the future.
Help Yourself and Others in Need
You’re pretty fortunate if you’re in a position where you can part with unnecessary items. This doesn’t mean you should feel bad about having possessions. Instead, you should feel an air of responsibility to keep and donate items accordingly.
If something no longer serves a purpose or brings you joy, this doesn’t mean this item is trash. It’s rather likely that this item can bring joy to someone else or remind another person of you for years to come.
Sort through your belongings and identify manageable ways to get things done. You might also go as far as turning off the home shopping channel the next time it comes on or deleting the Amazon tab from your browser. The less stuff you “need” now makes for fewer things to go through later.