Decluttering Your World

It’s kind of funny…I was going through my emails at 6:30AM and saw my Daily Astrology email.  What was today’s horoscope?  It was about ‘cleaning’ house, as in de-cluttering things out of my life.  How funny that I was up early this morning so I could take out the trash AND all of my items to be donated to the Vietnam Veterans of America.

There is always a sense of happiness that one gets from seeing a clutter free home.  There’s a sense of renewal when that once cluttered up floor behind your dining room table all of a sudden becomes an actual floor.  Wow…there’s actually room behind the dining room table!  Who would have thought?   

We never realize just how much junk we have in our lives until we start to make life changes. 

Life changes can happen at any time.  Whether it’s just looking at your life and saying “I can’t live this way anymore!” or in my case…moving to a new country.  You start to re-evaluate all of the junk you keep in your life.  This doesn’t just include the overconsumerism in our homes.  It can also be the junk we keep inside of ourselves.

Here are a few things I’ve done in re-evaluating the junk in my life.

1.  When was the last time you used it?  This is probably the easiest question to ask while sorting through your closets.  When was the last time you wore that item? 

I still have a gown I wore in 2000 that had me named as best dressed at one of the biggest society parties in Washington, DC.  The men were still talking about that dress 6 months later.  It was a long formal gown with black and white diagonal stripes, with an asymetrical cut (i.e. one shoulder).  The gown was literally a replica of Ralph Lauren’s gown that was featured on the spring runways.  Literally…it wasn’t on the market yet. 

I happened upon this gown at JC Penneys while shopping for a formal gown.  I didn’t think I would like it, but I tried it on and it ended up looking amazing on me.  A $149 charge later and I was labeled as best dressed…and it still hangs in my closet waiting for that moment that I need another formal gown to wear to some function.

Oh wait…I don’t live in Washington, DC anymore where wearing a formal gown was a necessity.  So why am I holding onto that gown from a decade ago?  It’s the same reason why women hold onto their wedding dresses.  We hold onto that special day when all eyes were on us as being the most beautiful woman in the room.  Will we ever wear the dress again?  Not likely. 

So we’re keeping it for the memory?  To pass it on to our child?  How many of us actually wore our mother’s gown on our big day?

That gown isn’t going to Morocco with me, so it goes up on consignment.  I haven’t worn it in a decade and my body is different now than it was when I was 24 years old.  If worse comes to worse…I could just recycle it and turn it into pillows or give it a new life by making it into two pieces.

Whatever memory you may have of an item, either give it a new life if you haven’t used it in years or throw it up on Ebay or Bonanza or donate it to charity.  Give it a new life and stop letting it clutter up your closet. 

This rule could apply to anything in your home.  Walk around and ask yourself, “When was the last time I used this?”  Look at your movie collection…when was the last time you watched that movie?  Do you foresee yourself watching it again?  If not, either sell it on or donate it to your local library. 

What about your special dinnerware and flatware?  Would you believe I own 3 box sets of a special Siam flatware from the early 20th century (in different patterns) that I hunted down through antique stores?  Have I used it once?  No.  Will I use it in the future?  Maybe not all three sets, which means that I could possibly part with one or two sets…no matter how difficult it was to find them! 

There are things that you can easily let go of…and there are things you should revisit…or at least remind yourself that you own them and bring it out to use them if you really want to keep them.  Even placing these items where you would see them every single day would help in using them more often. 

My friend gave me a set of 6 sake cups.  It stayed in the box for three years before I pulled it out and realized that I could use them every single day.  I put them up in the cabinet with the rest of the dishes I use every day.  I now use those cups for dipping sauces or when I want to eat a cup of soup, rather than a bowl.  It makes for a great serving size for me.

There’s that $70 cup and saucer from London I just had to have…why not actually have a cup of tea in it rather than let it sit there on the shelf for decoration? 

See where I’m going with this?  A lot of times we buy things, put them away and never use them.  If you can’t see yourself using them in the future, it’s time to let go of it.  You don’t need it. 

2. Remodeling = Getting rid of the old stuff.  I have a hard time letting go of the old furniture that I replaced.  That dining room table that my aunt and uncle gave to me with those crappy chairs and folding chairs when I first moved into my apartment…they were still sitting in my kitchen 2 years after I replaced them with my new table and stools that I absolutely loved.  The old stuff just sat there until TODAY when I took them out to be donated.  I still kept the table top, but threw out the legs, because I plan on recycling that table top into a back for my makeshift seating area in my office.  I’ll either paint or upholster it to match the room.  Either way, I’m giving it a new life.

If you’ve remodeled, get rid of the old stuff.  You remodeled for a reason.  No need to keep the old stuff and let it clutter up in a corner in a different room in the house!  Just let it go.  Give it away.  PURGE!

And for those who have that DIY project that is STILL SITTING THERE years later…if you still haven’t gotten to it now, what makes you think you’re going to get to it later?  Donate it.  Let someone else have their own go at it.  Trust me, you won’t even think of that DIY project again.

[A tip on the DIY clutter people…put your DIY projects in one place with the current date on it.  If it’s still sitting there 6 months later, chances are you’re not going to get to it.  DONATE THE PROJECT.  If you’re a photo person, like myself, store the photos away…better yet, upload the photos onto Snapfish, Kodak Gallery or whatever program you like…and spend a few minutes deciding what you’re going to do with the photos…put them in an album or hang them.  If you’re hanging them, either buy the frames and then order the pictures OR buy the frames/photos online all at the same time.  When it’s delivered, hang them up IMMEDIATELY.]

3.  Give Your Bathroom a Once Over.  The easiest room in my home to declutter is the bathroom.  I’m talking about the makeup, medicine, toiletries we have piled up.  Most of these things have an expiration date on them.  Grab a trash can and start throwing away all items that have expired. 

As for makeup, I throw away all cosmetics that are not mineral makeup.  Why?  Because mineral makeup lasts for years.  Non-mineral makeup has a shorter lifespan.

  • Concealer: 12 months
  • Mascara: 4 months
  • Eyeshadow: 3 years
  • Lipstick: 1-4 years
  • Powder: 2 years
  • Eye/Lip Liners: 3 years
  • Nail polish: 1 year (Chanel lasts longer…shelf life is 8-10 years)
  • Anti-aging/Acne Products: 3 months to 1 year
  • Body Lotion: 2-3 years
  • Shampoo/Conditioner/Shower Gel: 3 years
  • Bath oil: 1 year
  • Sunscreen: There’s an Expiration Date on the Container!
  • Perfume: 2 years (longer if stored in a dark, cool place)
  • Hair products: 3-5 years
  • Bar soap: 3 years
  • Shaving Cream: 2 years
  • Deodorant: 2 years

Tip: When you open up a new beauty product, put a piece of masking tape on it with the date so that you know when it needs to be thrown out.  I don’t recommend using makeup beyond its expiration date…rashes and infections will abound.

Also, for those who stock up on too much makeup…like it’s going out of style…generally makeup will go out of style.  That blue eyeshadow…came and went.  Last time I saw blue eyeshadow was in the 80s.  They brought it back over 25 years later.  Don’t keep fad makeup unless you really love it and wear it on a daily basis.  It’s best to keep to the neutrals and the colors you wear all of the time. 

I’ll confess that I have 20 different eyeshadows from Bare Minerals.  I use one container until its gone…then I move on to the next color.  Sure, us gals love makeup, but really…we end up throwing it away because we can’t use it enough times or before it expires.  This is where I’d like to point out to ladies…it’s not good to stock up for a rainy day on cosmetics.  Just buy what you need, use it until you’re through with it and then toss it and buy something new. 

And for those ladies who always end up buying 50 different bottles of lotion because you need it for whatever reason it says on the bottle…and then it sits on the shelf (you know who you are…I’m one of them).  Consider donating a few bottles to your local food pantry.  They not only need food, but they also need toiletries.  Check your local food pantry list before donating.

Since I’ve decluttered the bathroom, I have a better idea of what products I love and what I absolutely need.  It also gives me a better idea of what products I do need to purchase before heading overseas.

Also, for those frequent travelers…if you’re like me and also have a stash of travel products for when you’re on the go, make sure to check those items as well.  Yes, that toothbrush will need to be replaced…as well as the toothpaste.  Yes, that sunscreen will go bad.  What year did you pull those product samples from the magazine?  Things do go bad, so it’s always best to remind yourself to put dates on these items and replenish the stock when you’re getting ready to travel again.

4. The office.  Since I’ve been remodeling my office, I’ve found a few bad trends I need to get rid of.  The main one being PAPER. 

You should only keep certain financial records for a certain amount of time.  There are others you keep permanenlty.  BankRate goes through the list of what paperwork you need to keep and for how long.  It’s a good idea to print out a copy as you go through your stack of papers to figure out what to keep and what to shred.  That’s right, SHRED! 

For those wanting to get their financial house in order, I highly recommend an accordion file and David Bach’s “Smart Couples Finish Rich.”  Luckily for you, the file folders to use are listed HERE

If you’re like me, you probably also keep old letters, Christmas cards, etc. from years gone past.  Would you believe that I purged a lot of those things?  Special letters from loved ones, those are priceless…don’t ever get rid of them…I’ll get back to those in a minute.  As for Christmas cards, etc. toss them (unless you have some DIY project for them).  I found that I had boxes upon boxes of Christmas cards that were sent to me over the years.  Would you believe that I had to rehash, “Who was this person again?”  There are also those birthday cards from a decade ago…do you really need it? 

If you haven’t scrapbooked them away, I recommend tossing them.  I do keep a few items (like the cards/letters from my grandfather) and put them away in a special keepsake box.  When I miss him, I can open it up and all of those cards and letters are there.  My grandfather did the same thing with his letters to his mother.  She was very important to him, so he kept all of those letters in an old tin box…a box I now keep for historical reasons. 

There are also those letters from over 200 years ago that my family kept…I keep those too.  Those are heirloom items. 

Keeping that in mind, if there are letters you want to pass on from one generation to the next…KEEP THOSE LETTERS.  They are more precious than anything you will ever pass on to the next generation.  Keep them in a keepsake box that will keep the letters dry and free from air.  It will also help the next generation identify the box quickly and keep it as a memento for the next generation.

If it’s not something you plan on passing on to the next generation…TOSS THEM. 

As for your library, do a once over.  Since I hit up a lot of library book sales, I tend to buy the same classic TWICE.  I do this all of the time.  Go through your library and pull books that you can donate to your local library.  They can also use your DVDs and CDs too. 

Download all of your music to your computer and back it up.  I don’t normally keep CDs after I’ve put it on my laptop and backed up the file on a ClickFree device.  Buying a ClickFree was one of the smartest things I’ve ever bought.  It now houses my entire CD collection.  Those tens of thousands of photos I’ve taken over the years are all on that ClickFree device.  It’s one of the best investments I’ve ever made to declutter my office. 

For those who bulk up on gift wrapping items…I used to do this until I started the remodel.  I forced myself to wrap every single item that was in that ‘just in case I need a present’ closet.  I put a name on each of those items and I plan on giving away every single present THIS CHRISTMAS.  Not next Christmas…THIS CHRISTMAS.

I used almost all of the giftwrap.  I recycled all of those boxes I was keeping to put presents in.  I used all of those gift bags and tissue paper.  Why?  Because you know that we always buy new rolls of giftwrap and tissue paper after Christmas.  Instead of buying new stuff, why don’t you recycle the same tissue paper, ribbons, boxes and most of the gift wrap from this year and use it again the following year?

My point is use what you have, recycle what you can, use that extra money for something else.  Most of all…get it out of your home and into someone else’s hands.  You did buy that stuff to give away, right?

5.  Bags.  I used to be one of those people that had a huge slew of plastic bags under my sink.  It was always for that ‘just in case.’  A few years ago, I decided to limit taking home a bag with every purchase and I started bringing my own reusable totes to the grocery store or wherever I may shop.  I usually carry a reusable tote in my purse for those just in case moments now.

It took me about a year and a half to get through 2 overflowing large shopping bags filled with plastic bags.  I forced myself to use them as trash liners and no matter what, I had to throw out whatever was in those plastic bags at the end of every week.  Now, I limit myself to just a few plastic bags every month…as in…enough to use as trash bags and not any more than that. 

These days, I’m not a big fan of plastic bags, even to use as trash liners.  Why?  Because I saw the impact plastic bags have on the environment.  While I was traveling along the roads in the Sahara Desert I saw plastic bags everywhere…as in, all along the side of the road.  They started to place a ban on plastic bags in the country because certain plastic bags DO NOT BREAK DOWN.  Instead, you find them strewn across the desert. 

I wish I could take a photo of the issue, but it stretches for so many miles, it is hard to take an accurate photo of it.  That’s just a reality check on how bad plastic bags are for the environment.  Consider using something else for those who are moving in an eco-friendly direction…paper bags do break down, so start using those…or environmentally friendly plastic bags.

6. De-Cluttering Your Mind.  This one is my personal favorite.  I realize that when things get bad in my life, it’s because I’ve lost focus on the important things…like staying positive and pushing good into the world.  Like…maybe I need to refill my karma basket after spending it all on finding the love of my life. 

The only way you can start to declutter your mind is by meditating and working to mentally clear your mind of the things that don’t matter, the things that will hurt you, and the things you really don’t need anymore.  That also means finding happiness within. 

One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned recently is that the past is what it is…the past.  You cannot change it.  It’s best to let go of the past, especially if it’s hurt you.  Holding onto hurt does not help you.  It inhibits you.  It makes you feel like crap.  Let it go. 

You can rehash it left and right, but nevertheless, you’re still in pain.  Let it go.  Let go of the could haves, would haves and should have beens.  Let go of the things that poison you and your soul.  Let go of all of the people that hurt you and harm you.  Instead, focus on being free of hurt.  Let go of everything that really does not matter.  Focus only on the things that matter in life and the things that bring you and everyone around you happiness.

Aim to be free of those nasty radicals that cloud your mind and stress you out.  Focus on your soul.  Focus on that moment of peace…and then let it radiate through your every being. 

While you’re at it, start filling up your karmic basket with good things.  You’ll find that the more good you put into the world…the more you get coming back to you. 


So kids, remember, decluttering is the best thing you can do for yourself.  It kind of surprised me how much STUFF I had until I started going through it to donate it.  Just the little dent I made in my home is not even 10% of what I have to pack to go to Morocco.  That adventure into the severe cuts will be forthcoming in the next year so stay tuned.

About Michelle Kenneth

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