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When we decluttered our home and downsized, it was an undertaking that took 18 months of seriously analyzing our stuff.
Deciding on which things to declutter after many years of living in a large space was a bit overwhelming. There are so many emotions and unknowns that, many times, it’s the hurdle keeping people from their dream.
Here are our insights into decluttering to leave you feeling more confident about taking the downsizing leap.
How to Get Rid of Things
When you start to get rid of stuff, you’ll need the motivation to get going and get past the initial overwhelm. Read books and watch documentaries on the subject. Remember that not all advice will apply to you, but take in as many ideas as you can. Be a sponge.
Try different approaches and see what resonates with your decluttering style the most.
Here is our list of 50 things to declutter and why to get you started downsizing.
Entertainment items are a great place to start decluttering since many can be digitized. Still, you’ll want to focus on what is important to you, so you don’t end up with cluttered digital libraries as well.
Start getting books online through the library or buy them electronically for a Kindle or other device. Any books you don’t love or that don’t have sentimental value can be let go. Try bookscouter.com to find the best selling price for your books. And if you aren’t someone who really loves a physical book, you probably won’t miss any of them.
DVDs take up precious space, and you really don’t need them. You can download software to rip DVDs to your computer for watching on an external drive. Then find the best price you can for your physical DVDs on Decluttr. For future purchases, buy movies through Amazon or another digital seller.
If you still have CDs lying around, you can rip these to your computer as well. Decluttr will also give you a little bit of cash for old CDs. In the future, find a streaming app for music or purchase online.
4. Board Games
These tend to take up quite a bit of space if you have a large collection. Focus on the ones you play the most. If you are downsizing to a much smaller space, consider ditching the boxes and storing all the games in one bag or box. You can use this same strategy with puzzles.
This is probably one of the last areas you’ll think about to declutter your home. When you’re gathering up items for our annual Goodwill drop, you rarely think to look at the things on the shelves, bookcases, and mantles.
5. Decor that Isn’t Your Style
Home decor items tend to add up over time. Examine your tables, shelves, and other display areas, and think about what items you actually enjoy. Are there things that are there just because they always have been? See what you can declutter, and don’t be afraid of utilizing negative space.
6. Decorative Pillows
These types of pillows have a tendency to add up. Think about the sitting and sleeping space in your new home. Will you have room to store decorative pillows when you are using the bed? And will there be room in the sitting areas for both pillows and people to sit? Focus on one or two quality pillows that you love to enhance your space.
I know how difficult it is to give up that precious candle collection, so allow yourself a couple of favorites. When we downsized, I sold all but one candle (used and unused) in a bundle on a yard sale group on Facebook. This was a great way to get a little cash for my candles and find them all a good home.
These days we have many devices that can tell time for us without the need for a clock. Unless you have a clock with sentimental value, you can declutter these items.
9. Picture Frames Not in Use
How these add up, I will never know. If you have some frames stored away that you want to use, set a time to find photos to frame in them or trade them out with other frames you aren’t in love with.
You probably have at least a few furniture pieces in a garage or spare room that isn’t functional or doesn’t work with your current space. This is a great place to start decluttering since you’ll create a ton of space by getting those pieces out of your home.
11. Holiday Decorations
We tend to go crazy for the holidays, buying up a load of holiday decor that we probably don’t need. Keep the holiday decorations that you truly love to put out each year. Specifically, items that are unique and personal to you and your family. I’ve found that having fewer items makes decorating during the holidays that much more special.
These items always pile up mainly because we don’t know how to get rid of them. Creating a plan to get rid of electronics is most of the battle.
12. Phones and Tablets
Do you have a drawer of old phones and tablets? Maybe a Kindle you don’t use? Get a few dollars for these things on Decluttr. Decluttr is an easy-to-use app that will give you cash for old phones, Apple products, Kindles, game consoles, and more.
13. Camera Equipment
First, evaluate how much you use your camera. As my husband likes to say, the best camera is the one you have with you, and that camera is often our phone. If you are an avid photographer, reevaluate your gear. Do you have a lens that you rarely use? How many tripods do you have, and which ones do you use the most? Focus on versatile gear to save space. EBay is a great option for selling gently used camera equipment.
14. Chargers and Electronic Cords
We all have a stash of cables. For some reason, they seem to multiply like baby rabbits. If you don’t know what the cable goes to and haven’t used it in a year, you probably don’t need it. Consider a cord organizer case to wrangle your remaining cables.
Hobbies and Projects
When you’re getting rid of things, some areas to take a hard look at are hobbies and projects you’re no longer excited about.
15. Sporting and Exercise Equipment
If you aren’t using it and it’s in good condition, add it to your list of things to sell. Make sure to sell seasonal sporting equipment at the beginning of the season for the best profits. Exercise equipment will probably sell best at the beginning of the year.
16. Craft Supplies
If you are into crafting, this is an area that can really get out of control (I know from personal experience). What projects did you start but are never going to finish? You don’t need to get rid of it all, but do an inventory and see what you don’t use anymore. Instead of tossing your craft supplies, try selling them as a bundle on a Facebook group. You’ll make a fellow crafter very happy!
17. Home Improvement Supplies
This category is for decluttering anything you bought explicitly for home projects that you aren’t going to start or finish. Be honest with yourself and either set a date to complete the project or get rid of the supplies.
18. Duplicate Tools
These have a tendency to pile up in the garage or toolbox. Sort through your tools and see if you can get rid of any that have similar purposes. Is there anybody out there with a few too many screwdrivers? Also, look at any specialty tools that you may no longer need and can add to your sell pile.
For many of us, this is one of the most complicated categories to declutter, but it can also be the most rewarding. Decluttering clothes that represent guilt, disappointment, and other negative feelings will drastically change your self-image and your start to each day.
19. Clothes You Never Wear
The clothes you never wear are the most obvious and the most challenging to get rid of. Start by recognizing what you don’t wear and why. Is it style, fit, or do you not have anywhere to wear it? Defining the ‘why’ will allow you to make confident decisions and avoid keeping clothes ‘just in case.’
Whether they’re from sporting events, charity drives, or last year’s vacation, the t-shirt drawer seems to always be on the edge of exploding. Comb through these and only keep the shirts that are comfortable and make sense in your wardrobe. If you don’t wear a lot of casual attire, you’ll find you don’t need many t-shirts.
Most of us maintain a closet full of shoes but only consistently wear a few pairs. Get rid of any shoes that are worn, don’t fit your current wardrobe, or are uncomfortable.
No one can tell you how many hats you should have. But take this time to evaluate how much of a hat person you are. If you wear a hat once a week, how many do you need? Wide-brim hats especially take up a lot of space. With sun hats and western-style hats, be sure you are enjoying them, and they’re earning that space in your closet.
Are you as guilty as me for having an absurd number of purses in your closet? Purses don’t usually wear out. More often, we buy a new one because we just want something different. I have been using the same couple of bags since we downsized, and they are still in great shape. Try cutting down to a small crossbody, a large tote, and a dressy clutch if needed.
24. Extra Hangers
You are on a downsizing journey which includes a major decluttering of your closet. You won’t need those extra hangers where you’re going!
Jewelry is the hero of smaller wardrobes so you don’t have to go crazy on decluttering here. It’s great for accenting your clothing and changing the vibe of similar outfits. It also doesn’t take up a ton of room. Review your jewelry collection and see what is worn out, isn’t your style anymore, or was trendy five years ago.
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Somewhere along the line, it became standard to have ten or more place settings, a cabinet full of drinkware three cups deep, and a countless number of cooking utensils. It’s completely normal and I’ve been guilty of all these things. It was enlightening to find I could declutter 85% of my kitchenware and still have relatively the same cooking experience.
You probably have a couple of kitchen towels you use often. The rest are stored in a drawer or cupboard. Go ahead and let those that aren’t your favorites find a new home.
We all have a collection of kitchen gadgets that we just don’t use. Start adding these to a list of items to sell if they are in good condition. Be honest with yourself. Do you need a food processor, blender, and hand mixer – or can one appliance do what you need? Unless you are an avid cook or baker, you can probably get by with less.
28. Coffee Mugs
We are all guilty of having too many mugs at one point in our lives. Where do they all come from? You really only need one per person. Have everyone pick their favorite and one or two for guests.
If you are downsizing to a much smaller kitchen, you’ll want to hit this one hard. One can opener, one cheese grater, one or two baking pans, and two or three utensils for cooking food. Take a look at your knife collection – can three versatile knives do the job of the eight you have? And do you really need that cleaver?
Linen Closet and Laundry Room
When you’re getting rid of things, the linen closet is always an area you can easily start paring down.
My bath towel collection was always at least four towels deep, plus numerous beach towels. It wasn’t until we downsized that I realized I needed two towels max (mainly one) and one beach towel. To save space, replace your bath and hand towels with Turkish cotton and microfiber for beach towels. I recommend your local Humane Society for donating towels.
There’s nothing I love better than cozying up with a nice blanket. But how many do we need? Most of us can get by with a summer and a winter blanket or cover for each bed. One or two throw blankets for cuddling in the sitting area should suffice unless you have a large household.
You really only need one extra set of sheets for your bed. If you want to be even more minimalistic, opt for one set of sheets per bed. Or use the guest bedroom sheets as your extra set.
33. Iron and Ironing Board
Unless you have a ton of clothes that require ironing, you can ditch the iron. Another option is to downsize to a much smaller sewing iron.
34. Cleaning Supplies
There is a specific cleaner for everything these days. When we downsized, I ended up tossing almost everything but an all-purpose cleaner. Start moving to natural cleaners to save space (baking soda and vinegar will take care of many things). Take an inventory and get rid of things you haven’t used recently or products that didn’t work as intended.
Bathrooms can become overrun with personal care items we no longer use. As you declutter this area, also think about how you can streamline your regimes to minimize the products and appliances you need.
Makeup is one of those things that doesn’t last as long as we think it does. Most powder-based makeup will last 2-3 years. Liquid makeup tends to have a shorter lifespan. Whether it’s an expired foundation or a palette you never use, do a deep dive into that makeup drawer and clean it out.
Perfumes don’t usually have a hard expiration date, but 3-5 years is a reasonable estimate for most unless you have a very high-end fragrance. If you have a bottle that’s been hanging around for a decade, go ahead and toss it.
37. Beauty Samples
I used to be the sample queen, but I’ve slowly whittled down my collection. First, get rid of any samples you didn’t choose. For samples you specifically picked, put them out to use tonight or tomorrow morning. If you don’t use it in 48 hours – trash it.
38. Nail Polish
If nail polish sits for too long, the chemicals will separate, making it unusable. Check your polishes and make sure they aren’t a different color or have a thick consistency. Also, toss any colors or types of polish you aren’t in love with anymore.
39. Beauty Appliances
This includes everything from hairdryers to curling or flat irons, hair removal devices, and ultrasonic exfoliators. Take inventory of these and get rid of any appliances you aren’t using or didn’t live up to expectations.
Take a peek in your medicine cabinet and dispose of items that are past their expiration date. Also, get rid of any medication that you won’t use again. You can swap bulky boxes and large bottles for smaller storage containers to save space.
The office area is typically a space that can be neglected from an organizational standpoint. It’s usually one of the last places we tend to tidy but the first to get overrun with clutter.
41. Office Supplies
How many pens, pencils, and paper types do you have? How many notebooks and notepads do you need? Unless you are a serious pen and paper person, you don’t need more than a couple at a time. Do you use rubberbands, paper clips, rulers, etc., regularly? Most of our work and organization can be done digitally. Take advantage of this in your downsize!
42. Paper Documents
Toss junk mail, old receipts, and any other irrelevant documents. There are only a few types of paper items that you need a physical copy or original of. Things like marriage licenses, social security cards, passports, etc., should be kept in a safe place. Scan all other documents into digital storage and shred the physical papers that you no longer need.
Manuals to appliances, tech, etc., can be thrown out. These are accessible online. If there’s information you want to have easy access to, take a picture and store it digitally.
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Decluttering sentimental items is one of the hardest areas to tackle when you are downsizing.
Gather all the knick-knacks you picked up on a trip or at an event you attended. Think about which items you still love. Keep the things that bring you joy and display them where you can to be reminded of those memories. Let go of anything you are storing ‘just because’.
Do you have a collection of items, whether it’s inherited, something from your childhood, or something you presently like to collect? Think about how you can enjoy a couple of your favorite pieces from the collection and declutter the rest. Take a photo of the entire collection to remember it.
Unless photos are being displayed on the wall or in an album, you can let the physical picture go. Gather your photos, decide which ones you want to scan into digital storage, and set up a time to do it. If you have a large number of physical photos, consider hiring a service to do this for you.
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These are the catch-all areas for the remaining things to declutter in your home.
47. The Junk Drawer
Keychains, lanyards, pens that don’t work – you can declutter almost the entire junk drawer if you examine what you really need. Cleaning out the junk drawer can also serve as motivation. It’s an easy ‘win’ on your downsizing journey.
48. Bags and Suitcases
If you have as many bags as we did, you’ll find they often get used for storing things. Ditch bags as a storage plan and sell anything more than one suitcase or duffel per person. One daypack should cover you unless you are an avid backpacker.
49. Pet Accessories
If you have pets, those little furballs probably have a ton of stuff they don’t use. Like the bed, you bought that they never sleep in or the toys they don’t play with. Call your local Humane Society and ask what they will accept for donations. Most will take anything as long as it’s in decent shape.
50. Empty Boxes
Please get rid of any empty electronics or other boxes you are storing because you might want to sell the item that came in them. Unless you plan to sell it in the downsizing process – go ahead and ditch those extra boxes.
Living with Less Stuff
Phew – that was a big list of things to get rid of to declutter. I hope you found this list helpful and also found some insight into how to think more minimalistic. Changing your mindset will have the most significant impact as you get ready for your downsize.
When you choose to live with less and realize it’s not a burden but actually a reliever of stress, it can change your life.
Looking for ideas to get motivated on your decluttering journey? Also, check out 5 Critical Steps to Find Motivation for Decluttering.
Want more tips on decluttering?
Check out our guide with ten specific steps to get you started decluttering to downsize.
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