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Retaking Control of your Home

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I have a confession, I am in a war against stuff! It started about a year and half ago when my husband took me to the Philippines to visit where he lived for 2 years. I had seen poverty before many times, but nothing like this. They had less “stuff” than anyone I have ever known – and we are talking they were missing the basics like their own bathroom or kitchen! Most of them had coconut shells they burned on dirt floors for their kitchens. I was so humbled and yet I have never seen happier people!

I have thought about that so much since being back. I have come to believe that for most of us, it’s the buying that we are addicted to and no matter how much “stuff” we have it will never seem like enough. It certainly won’t bring us happiness. I am trying to learn to be content with what I have and teach my children the same thing.

We have been in our house for 5 years and it was beyond time to purge. John and I are both pack rats so it’s not a great combo! We started in the garage and went through every Tupperware and every shelf and we were amazed at the things we were finding. The more we cleaned out the more I wanted to get rid of. Here is what our yard sale pile looks like so far:

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Yep, it’s a little embarrassing! I feel 30 pounds lighter in a week. Best diet ever Smile But really I just feel less weighed down with stuff. Here are some principles I learned along the way to judge if something is a keeper or a tosser:

  • Get rid of organizers! It’s the whole “if you build it they will come!” If you have empty containers you will find things to fill them with. The same goes with bulletin boards or magnet boards. Sure they help you to organize, but it also makes places to keep stuff. I had 4 magnet boards in different rooms of our house and when I really looked at what was on them it was junk! We just didn’t need it, but since I had a place to stick it I kept it. The same goes for unnecessary flat spaces. If you have them you will put things on them!
  • Don’t feel guilty about getting rid of things that have been given to you. First they don’t have to know and second it’s not their house. Let the guilt the go!
  • Keep things that are memorable, not things that just belonged to someone who was memorable. My Mom passed away 2 years ago and I am her only daughter, so I got a lot of her things. At first I wanted everything that was hers because I loved her and missed her. But, now I am ready to wean out the things that I really don’t need. I realized that I was holding onto things because I was trying to hold onto her. When it came to things that belonged to her I thought about the items I had that really mean something; her wedding ring, her grandmothers chair, her hope chest, her china, etc. I found that when I thought about what was really meaningful, I didn’t feel bad about letting other things go just because they belonged to her.
  • Get rid of things that have “potential.” If you find something with potential ask yourself if you can accomplish it that month. If not – say no to potential!
  • Just purge and purge only. Don’t get distracted by reorganizing and redecorating. Purging is a mindset and you can’t interrupt that mindset or you can get distracted. I have been going through one room at a time and leaving what I am keeping behind in the room, but not necessarily in the right place. I advertised a yard sale this weekend so I have a deadline and can’t back out now. Once everything is gone after this weekend, I will take next week to go back through and get things organized really well.
  • Ask yourself if you have used it lately? CDs and DVDs are great, but when was the last time you reached for them? We usually use Netflix, iTunes, and Pandora instead. Ask yourself when looking at something when you last wanted something like that, did you go looking for that item specifically? If not, why are you still holding onto it?
  • If it’s a seasonal item, ask yourself if you used it this last season? If not – toss it!
  • Get rid of things that don’t work! We had heavy stoneware dishes that were super heavy and got hot in the microwave (but the food didn’t). Bad choice with kids! I am going to sell them all, but I didn’t have the money to just run out and buy all new dishes in the meantime. Instead I bought just enough to get us by right now and will add one piece each grocery trip until I get a full set. I bought simple white Corelle and I cannot believe the difference in our cupboards! It is neat and tidy with things we actually use and need! Plus it looks way better!


  • Don’t be afraid to get rid of the things that cost you money. My kids playroom was out of control! It was packed with so many toys they were not playing with. All the toys were just causing clutter, chaos, and conflict. Some of them were things they got this last Christmas. It breaks my heart to see all of the money we spent on toys and then just sell them off for pennies…heartbreaking! But the reality is if it isn’t functional, why would we keep it and inconvenience everyone in the meantime. Advertise on Craigslist the week before your yard sale at higher prices and if it doesn’t sell then you won’t feel so bad getting rid of it for less on Saturday. Here is what we took out of our playroom:

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It is a little shocking when you actually see the pile building up and it’s a little embarrassing too. I had no idea how much we had accumulated! I must be a better organizer than I thought! I feel so much better and hopefully after this weekend I will be a little richer too!


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Previous author of Over the Big Moon. I shared my passion for home and family life! I love graphic design, DIY projects, cooking, and working in my garden! My favorite role is taking care of my husband and our 3 amazing and busy boys!

Comments (31)

  • Excellent list!! Really great points – I’ve been going through a clothes purge the last few days and this list will get me through the last few steps, I think 🙂

    I would add more point, the one that was stopping me for months: don’t get too hung up on what happens to your stuff after it leaves your house. Of course, in the ideal situation you will yard sale it or donate it to someone who needs it. But don’t just procrastinate (like I was) by trying to find the perfect way to get rid of it!

  • Great tips! I feel like it is so easy to get distracted with a big job. It is great to break it down into little steps.

  • Wonderful tips! I have just one to add. Have a plan for when the garage sale is over as to where the left overs go. I did a major purge years ago (need to do another) and the best thing that happened was at the end my best friends husband would not let us put it “away”, he loaded up the truck and van (yes, I had that much stuff) and hauled a load to the dump and a load to charity. I am pretty sure I would have been tempted to reincorporate stuff if it wasn’t for him.

  • Cannot believe I am looking at a blue container full of Marble Mania items!!! That is exactly what we are getting rid of here! the slides, though – not the connectors since the boys love to put them together into whatever their minds come up with that day!

      • I would argue that holing onto everything from that person does make it junk. I personally held onto so much stuff that it was devaluing what mattered most to me. Now I have the items that really mean something not just lots of junk that belonged to someone I loved, I think it also takes time. I needed more to hold onto the first few years my Mom was gone, now I am fine with less more meaningful items,

    • That is a hard thing to do! Good luck and Im sorry for your loss! I would say if you really aren’t sure, keep it for now and you can get rid of it when you are ready. Each year I have weaned down on those items. {Hugs}

  • Christina LaClair Solley

    I think once you have a purging of toys and such, you think twice before selecting gifts for your kids and items for your home. I know for me I think how long are they going to really enjoy or use this item. Is it going to be a fleeting interest to them? It really helped me after I purged a bunch of stuff that I knew had been costly. It felt so good in the end though knowing that I cleared out stuff that honestly wasn’t useful to us.

  • I WISH I could do this. I live with my boyfriend who is a total hoarder! Ahhh! I try to get rid of stuff, but he is one of those “it has potential” types. Bleh! He has about 50 t-shirts and refuses to get rid of anything. Oh well….

    • Elizabeth Rubenstein

      be careful… you are mocking his tendency now, and it’s not going to go away.
      seriously consider if it’s something you can live with…

    • My hubby is a hoarder too so its not a deal breaker. We have set guidelines we both agreed on as to where he can keep his “stuff.” If he wants to keep something and it doesn’t fit, then he has to get rid of something else. Its worked wonders for us. He can hoard in his space and I don’t get mad because I plan on that space being used anyway.

  • Great tips, Lisa! And it’s funny — we just got rid of the heavy Walmart stoneware dishes my husband bought for his first apartment, and replaced them with white Corelle (with the “wavy” edge). Our set of 12 dinner plates is smaller and lighter than our previous 8 stoneware plates!

    I’ve been purging a lot lately, but you’ve inspired me to get back to it!



  • I just did this at the beginning of summer!! I was shocked at how much stuff we had!! It was terrible actaully. I mean we had so much stuff that we made $400 doing a yard sale! We had two other families with us and they did another $300 between the two!! Now we are actually thinking about having another. I have found so much more stuff!!

  • April Williams Zimmerman

    I so needed to read this. I am working on decluttering our house. As my girls are just starting to leave the nest and I am down to only homeschooling one, I want to have less stuff to manage. We have a small house I am so tired of feeling like we are bursting from the seams. This is my goal over the course of the next few years to eliminate the clutter.

  • Our Pinteresting Family

    Great tips! I’m someone who hates to have too much extra stuff around the house. I always put stuff on CL, Freecycle or donate it to a local charity. Sometimes I feel guilty, but I make a rule if I haven’t used something in the last few months chances are it is not going to get used anytime soon.

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