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Purge It: Simple Ways to De-Clutter

Aug 30th, 2019

You’ve likely done a purge or two of your apartment before. Perhaps you do a yearly spring cleaning where you reevaluate your belongings, or maybe you schedule a quarterly sweep of your space.

Marie Kondo’s 2012 book, "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up," and her 2019 Netflix series "Tidying Up with Marie Kondo" have inspired people to clear the clutter. The Japanese professional organizer’s tidying method, the KonMari Method™, centers around decluttering by category, not location and only keeping items that “spark joy.”

While her book and TV series have certainly motivated folks to get off the couch and going through those decade-old storage containers, her methods might not fit everyone’s needs: For instance, some might find the value in having a small collection or a larger library of books, even if every book does not always “spark joy” within them.

There are plenty of strategies and methods for clearing the clutter out there. Likely, a combination of these will fit your particular needs and lifestyle.

Feeling a little lost on where to start? Let’s take a look at these questions to ask yourself first:

  1. When did I last use it? If it’s been more than six months since you’ve used the item (make that a year for seasonal clothing and things of that nature), or, if you flat-out forgot that you even owned it, put it in the purge pile. Chances are you’re not going to miss it if you didn’t remember it existed. And, don’t worry, you’ll have a chance to take a look over your “toss” items before they head to the donation center or garbage can.
  2. How many do I own? Outside of things like sheets (I’d say two sets per bed max), towels, undergarments and the like, you don’t need multiples of items, especially living in an apartment. Go through items you have several of and hold on to the one you typically reach for.
  3. Is it tattered, torn, broken? If the answer is yes, then you should most likely toss it. For projects and repairs, give yourself a strict deadline of when to have them completed or fixed: If you haven’t gotten in done in three to four months, you likely won’t.
  4. Does it serve multiple purposes? If the answer is yes, this is probably a better item to keep than the two to three other gadgets you have lying around to accomplish the same tasks. This is especially true for kitchen devices.
  5. What is its value (to me)? This can mean multiple things. How much was this worth when I purchased it? And what is it now? Does this have true sentimental value to me? If so, can I easily and neatly store or incorporate it into my home?

Shifrah Combiths outlines some pretty common sense items to toss immediately in her no-brainer purge article for Apartment Therapy. Let’s take look at some of these practical and relatively painless ways to clear the clutter:

Expired or old cosmetics, toiletries and medications

Many of these items sit on the shelf far longer than their actual shelf-life. Most eye products should be replaced every three months (eye shadow lasts longer), lipstick yearly, while face makeup like foundation can last up to two years.

Keep your toiletry inventory in check, especially if you tend to collect lotions and hair products. Toss old or products that don’t suit you. Look into donating anything unwanted to a local shelter. Many report a lack of things like toiletries and feminine hygiene products.

Double check the date! Take a second look at last year’s leftover sunscreen before you use it on your first pool day of the year to avoid a painful surprise. Go through your medications and supplements and dispose of them properly if they’ve expired.

Expired canned and packaged goods, spices and herbs

Whole spices tend to last four years, ground spices about three, while dried herbs are more like one to three years. Spices and herbs lose their flavor over time, so one way to cut back on questionable containers in your pantry, is buying smaller quantities more frequently from grocery stores that sell bulk herbs and spices (and things like grains and oats). And, since, you’re bringing your own container to fill, you’re not only getting what you actually need for an allotted period of time, but you’re cutting down on packaging waste, too.

You definitely don’t want to use canned goods that are bulging or have been compromised, but they can be safely consumed after the sell by date, but we must say that you do so at your own risk. If you decide to keep these after clearing out your cupboard, make a point to incorporate them in your menu in the next two weeks.

Some food banks will accept expired food goods, some will not. Be sure to check to check with your local food banks before you donate.

Old magazines, take out menus, excessive wrapping paper, gift bags, plastic and paper bags

Sure, you’ve been saving those old magazines for a project for the kids or perhaps a vision board. Keep three, chuck the rest. You can also look into donating them to art programs or schools in your area.

You do no need a pile of paper take out menus. You can access them online. Clear these out of your junk drawer and set yourself free.

Superfluous amounts of wrapping paper, gift bags and boxes can start taking over out closets and drawers. Pare down and consider giving some to friends.

Recycle exorbitant amounts of paper and plastic bags, especially damaged ones. Don’t worry, they’ll be back!

DVDs and books that mean nothing to you and serve no purpose 

Both of these items can take up a lot of space as well as collect a lot of dust. If you have cable, the internet and access to a streaming service or two, you likely do not need to hold onto any of those DVDs (or, VHS tapes for that matter).

If a home library is important to you, fine, but make sure to take inventory yearly and donate books you haven’t opened in years, or hold no importance to you.


Main photo courtesy Pexels/Chait Goli

Author of Article

Kate Mackay is a freelance writer based in Atlanta.

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