Follow along as we start the BIG clean to make my home and your home functional, clean, safe and comfortable. If you have just dropped in check out time to clean the nest first. I will not offer you any deep seated reasons why you or I live in clutter and why we can’t seem to get rid of it. No, no, none of that. I will ask, want to clean your house in less time? Want a fresher home? Want a safer home? Of course you do. Let’s jump in.
Donate, donate, donate! Can I say that more clearly?
What to donate?
This is one time I do not multi-task. Go through each room of your home, each cupboard, each drawer, all the shelves, the garage, everywhere and pull out what you do not use. Forget about throwing items in the trash right now or collecting boxes and paper for recycling. Focus on getting items to give away. If the items are of any value – small kitchen appliances, toys, clothes, furniture and other goodies in good condition – take a digital photograph. This photograph is just for you and will help you figure out your deduction (if you qualify) for donations on your tax return.
Not so obvious places to find items for donations.
Ask every member of the household to go through his or her possessions. When our son came home unexpectedly he brought everything … all the food, paper products and laundry supplies that we sent him came back to where they started. He stacked up lots of clothing (all perfectly folded military style), boots, shoes, hats and gloves. Plus, he parted with an espresso machine, a blender, a food processor and a bread maker. Not using it? Give it to someone who does.
Go through your pantry and kitchen cupboards and identify everything that expires in the next six months – box up what you know you won’t need. You know, the 15 free jars of pickles (did I think we were going to have the picnic to end all picnics), soups we never eat, salad dressing (who uses bottled dressing?), packaged rice mixes and on and on. Get ruthless! Your home is not a food bank … but the local food pantry is and more people are asking for help.
What is under your bed? You know who you are; I just don’t know what you keep under there but yank it all out and get rid of what you don’t use. Check your nightstand drawers for books you never finished, jewelry you never wore, a photograph frame you have been meaning to put a picture in and the toys the cat played with before he departed years ago.
Open every desk drawer. Did you find a treasure trove of extra pencils, pens, markers, rulers, staplers and post-its? What about the other 480 sheets of special paper you needed for the laser printer that no longer works? Add in shipping labels, photo paper, notecards (you bought a box of 12 thank you cards in a hurry and wonder if your taste was really that tacky, still have 10 left … out, out, out they go), notebooks and folders. I have a hard time giving away paper (I tend to throw out a piece of paper only after every square inch has been written on and as for new notebooks – you want me to write in this?) but most paper products have a shelf life – the adhesives on envelopes and labels don’t last forever and storing paper in a not perfectly dry basement is not a great solution either. Of course, all of you are reusing your printing paper by turning it over (when possible) in the printer? If you want some more ideas on reusing paper check out Carrie’s blog at Money Saving Methods … one of my most favorite creative sites on saving money.
Look on your walls. Are there any prints, posters, paintings or dishes you have not enjoyed for a long time? Any unused bulletin boards, whiteboards or chalkboards?
Laundry and mud room
Both rooms collect unused stuff – does no one in the house put things where they belong? Guilty, I am! All the normal stuff piles up here plus dog bowls, mouse traps (I am using them as fast as I can), fabric softener (haven’t used the stuff in a decade), one trick mop heads (will I never find the perfect one), unused kitty litter trays (yes, the little guy is gone), on and on. When in doubt throw it out … or better yet, donate it.
Apparently I have been collecting bars of soap (enough for a couple of years), what about you? Where did we get so many boxes of Band-Aids? They really do have a shelf life since the adhesive becomes too sticky or just plain funky after many years (they don’t survive a house fire very well either).
I found a stockpile of unused candles … short of planting them in the garden and lighting them one night for a splendid party they will not get used.
I use one vase for flowers … period. And that vase was a requested gift. If I am fortunate enough to receive an arrangement of flowers in a vase, that vase is destined for Goodwill. One beautiful vase of stellar blooms or several fussy arrangements scattered throughout the house … hmm, that’s an easy one. Go for bold on your next outdoor gathering with big bunches of wildflowers overflowing a galvanized pail (yes, the same one you use to wash the car).
All the items you have saved for eBay or a garage sale
I started to eBay in 1999 and have sold enough to receive over 500 great reviews. But, online auctioning has lost its luster for me … still, I did sell some trains and old models this last year. In retrospect I think a donation would have been just as good. Less time, fewer fees, no shipping, no photography and writing up of descriptions. Also, no $500 in my pocket. The items sold for lots more but fees, PayPal and shipping really cut into the profits. Your choice, online auction or donation. Either way, do it now.
Are you ready to donate?
Methodically go through each room and open drawers, closets, boxes, everything and see what you can find. That recycling center of boxes in my basement has dwindled to just a few really big containers – all the rest have been filled with stuff leaving my home and gladly filling up someone else’s home.
Next: Where to donate? General donations.