To Keep or Not to Keep

by Melissa

This time of the year, it is hard to walk into a store and not buy all of the holiday decorations. Target has the cutest Halloween rugs in the dollar section for only $2.50, and I really want a couple for the bathrooms. As I stand there trying to decide which ones I will buy, my conscience takes hold and reminds me that I am trying to de-clutter my house – not add more stuff to it. I put the rug back and remind myself that it is okay to use what I have.

Ryan's closet after a first pass at cleaning clothes. Lots of empty hangers, but still a mess!

Later, as I am walking around my house picking things up and putting them away, I notice just how much garbage stuff we own. Which then gets me thinking:

What in the world are we going to do with all of it when we leave? How much do we keep?

Anyone who has ever tried to de-clutter because your house is not big enough to hold it all, or just wants to be able to find stuff in the closet, or is planning their own world trip, has come to discover what I have – it is not easy to get rid of it all.

Once Ryan and I made the decision that we would be leaving in August of 2013, we started downsizing. We sold our car. We got rid of cable and sold some books to Half Price Books. We have slightly cleaned out our clothes closets and drawers.

But what comes next? How do we remove the clutter that we still find when we open every closet or step out into our garage? It’s hard to know what we will keep and what we will get rid of. For instance, do you keep your major furniture? Couches, mattresses, bed frames, dressers, washer/dryer, coffee tables, kitchen table, fridge, freezer etc. What do you do with the filing cabinet full of your child’s work over the last two years? What about your health insurance paperwork, taxes, house information, last will and testament, towels, sheets, blankets etc. How do you decide what goes? How do you manage the de-clutter in a way that does not overwhelm you?

My mother in law once gave me good advice on how to choose which clothes to get rid of. “Take the clothes that you did not wear that season and hang the hanger backwards. If you do not wear them the next season, then you know it’s time to let them go.” I have turned some clothes – we shall see if it works.

Here are some other tips that I have been reading about and plan to test out.

  1. Start small.  One closet at a time.
  2. Have two empty boxes ready.  Sale and donate.
  3. One trash bag for the toss items.
  4. Leave the keep stuff in the closet as I do not think we have to start boxing just yet.  Plus much of it we are still using.
  5. Only work on de-cluttering for 30 minutes at a time.

Now, how to sell the stuff we want to sell and try to make some money off of it for the trip. We have already used Ebay to get rid of nice bags we used for work, we sold our car as mentioned above to Carmax. We plan to use Craigslist for the big stuff as well as hold a garage sale. We will donate what can’t be sold. We are also thinking of renting a storage unit to store what’s left over. For instance, I can’t get rid of all of the kid’s toys. I can’t part with their bedroom furniture. This is just too precious to me. Washers and dryers are expensive, so maybe we should store those along with the fridge so we have some basics to start our house with when we get back.

Lots of food for thought. What would you get rid of or keep?


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Gretchen Trominski October 10, 2012 at 11:36 pm

These are definitly the hardest decisions. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said you want to be able to set up house again when you get back without going into huge amounts of debt. Keep just enough of the basics to do that. The newest sheets…one set for each bed. Worn out furniture should go. Family antiques should stay. I sure don’t envy you. It’s really hard for me to let anything go. On the other had what a wonderful feeling of freedom you will have…no clutter as of Sept 2013!


Melissa October 11, 2012 at 10:14 pm

Yes! I am so looking forward to my year of freedom!!! Thanks for the good ideas. I am very much leaning towards keeping the major things. We need to have some security when we return.


Big D & Me October 11, 2012 at 9:39 am

I did this on a much smaller scale when we sold our house – I cleaned out a closet one day or even tackled just a shelf. It was a chore to go through every drawer, closet, room in the house but it feels amazing afterward. Living with less stuff and a decluttered house made me a very happy person.

I would think about things that you have 2 of right now – i.e. kitchen table, dining room table – get rid of one since those are always easy to purchase later on.

Getting a storage unit isn’t the end of the world – just make sure you really want everything that goes in there b/c there’s nothing worse than emptying a storage unit realizing your only going to toss the stuff.

I’ll come help you clean out – it’s always easier to toss someone else’s stuff :)


Melissa October 11, 2012 at 10:15 pm

LOL! This is what I love about you, come on over. I could use an objective opinion. You might even find some “stuff” you would like to put in your house :)


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