Decluttering was an item on my to-do list for years. One I kept putting off. Until we decided to sell our house and downsize to an apartment less than half the size. Then, getting rid of stuff became priority number one. It was an essential step in selling our home fast and for top dollar and critical for surviving a long distance move on a shoestring budget.
When I brought in professional movers to estimate our long distance move, I was shocked by estimates that we’d have 90+ boxes of stuff to move, which did not include existing storage totes. My first thought was How could four people possibly need that much stuff? The short answer is we didn’t, and I made it my mission to get that box number down.
In fact, not only did we want less stuff but we also wanted to move it ourselves on just one rental moving truck.
We started extreme decluttering. We ended up moving across the country with one 26 ft. moving truck that was only about three-quarters of the way full. And no, we didn’t get rid of everything. We kept enough to furnish our new apartment fully.
With half of our stuff gone, we were able to downsize from a 4500 sq ft home to a 1768 sq ft townhouse-style apartment. Now we are living comfortably in 61% less space.
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Along the way I learned these surprising lessons about getting rid of stuff:
1. Hidden Clutter is the Worst
On the surface, everything looked great. Our home was neat and orderly. Looking around you wouldn’t have pegged us as hoarders. I foolishly thought the decluttering process would be quick and easy. That is until I got to our closets, the basement storage areas, and the garage.
We had a hidden clutter problem.
We were secret hoarders. With so much storage space—closets galore, three storage areas in the basement, and an extra large third garage stall—we were able to stash things away for years without running out of space. As long as we kept the doors shut, no one was the wiser.
When we decided to move, we grossly underestimated how long it would take to deal with our hidden clutter. Thankfully, getting rid of most the hidden stuff was easy because it was hidden for a reason because we didn’t use or need it.
Until we dealt with the hidden clutter and moved to a place where we don’t even have space to hide clutter, I never realized how much baggage we carried around hid away for so many years. Subconsciously, all those storage areas were permanent line items on a mental to-do list—someday we need to clean out the garage, so we have a place for bikes, someday we need to organize those old albums, someday we should create space for a workbench. Someday never came. We just shut the door and ignored the problem.
Now, we don’t have those nagging decluttering to-dos. Our apartment has no hidden storage or overflow space. We can’t allow clutter to build up in our lives, and as a result, we aren’t bogged down with it.
Get My Decluttering Checklist (it’s free!)
If you have a hidden clutter problem and want help getting rid of stuff, you need my cheatsheet 96 Things to Get Rid of Right Now that You Won’t Miss. It’s the easiest way to start decluttering. Grab your checklist below and start enjoying more space in your home.
This is a comprehensive list I compiled while we were decluttering. Everything on this list was an EASY WIN – something we discarded without regret and that we haven’t missed one bit. We should have gotten rid of all these things sooner than we did. So, I want to help you get rid of this stuff ASAP so you can clear space in your home and mind.
2. Getting Rid of Stuff is Easier If You Have a Specific, Ambitious Goal
Your goal can’t be to “declutter” or to “declutter my entire house” or to “finish the KonMari method.” You need a bigger purpose—a reason to finish decluttering.
Once you know WHY you want to declutter, then you need to set a specific and ambitious goal.
The goal must be specific, so you know when you’ve met your goal. How do you know when you’ve finished “decluttering the entire house?” That goal is too vague. A better goal would be to “donate ten black trash bags of clothes and toys this month” or “completely empty the spare bedroom to create a home office.” With those goals, you know clearly when you’re finished.
The goal must be ambitious because, let’s be honest, we’re all lazy unless we’re genuinely challenged. Don’t let being “busy” prevent you from setting a stretch goal. If the goal isn’t big enough, if it won’t make a difference, then you won’t bother doing it. If you set a big enough goal, one that gets you excited about what life will be like once you finish, then you will find the time and energy to make it happen.
For us, our why was to downsize our home, live a more maintenance-free lifestyle, be debt-free, and to move from Minnesota to Texas.
Decluttering would have been way easier for us if we knew where we were moving to next. But we didn’t. So we let our WHY lead and set specific, ambitious goals that would help us get there.
We set three different goals:
- Total Box Number – There was no way we needed 90 boxes of stuff. My goal was to cut that by half. When we moved out of our house, we had about 60 moving boxes. While we were in our temporary rental in Minnesota, I did a second round of decluttering, packing and repacking boxes to get 2-3 boxes down to one. When we moved cross country less than two months later, our total box number was less than 50.
- Limit Per Room – For some rooms, I set a box limit for the room. For example, my goal for the kitchen was ten boxes. For the kid’s bedrooms, it was one bin of toys each. For our closet, it was one wardrobe box for me and one for my husband. All other clothes had to fit into our wire drawer units. (LINK) Setting those limits forced me to be more ruthless about decluttering while I was packing.
- Truck Size – To make moving across country easier and budget-friendly, our goal was for all of our household belongings to fit on one 26 ft truck, which is the largest Uhaul rental truck. (Next time our goal will be a 22 ft truck because we didn’t fill the 26 ft truck.)
Since we decluttered to downsize, the other thing that was helpful was knowing what rooms we wouldn’t have in the next place. We wanted to downsize to a home that did NOT have a formal dining room, office, craft room, home gym, guest bedroom, loft, or a second living room. Knowing we wouldn’t have those spaces, made it easy to get rid of home decor, furniture, and other items from those rooms.
3. It’s Worth the Time and Hassle to Sell High-Quality Items
In the past I’ve never put much effort into selling things, preferring instead to donate. But this time I wanted to make some extra cash to support our move. Plus, I was getting rid of way more stuff…including high-quality furniture, small appliances, and yard tools. I knew we could sell many of these items.
We participated in our community garage sale and made over $1200 selling furniture, home decor, and kitchen items. Big ticket items included a snow blower, a set of kitchen bar stools, a set of kitchen chairs, a chaise, mirrors, and a KitchenAid Mixer. Our garage sale was a success because I posted the big-ticket items on NextDoor.
Later on, when we were too busy to hold another garage sale, I used NextDoor exclusively to make another $500 selling furniture including our patio table, patio chairs, and a small sofa.
I only wish we had started selling sooner and used NextDoor and other apps like Facebook and LetGo. We ended up donating some good furniture that just didn’t have time to find the right buyer.
After giving so much stuff away and disposing of other things that didn’t meet donation guidelines, I was starting to feel a sense of loss, and at times I felt wasteful. It felt good to make some money on our quality pieces and to see the joy on the buyer’s face over their amazing find. It made it easier to let those things go.
4. Sometimes It’s Worth Paying to Get Rid of Things
It seems counterintuitive, but in the pursuit of owning less, it might be worth paying money to have someone take your stuff. If there are items you can’t move yourself, that can’t be donated or sold, or that you don’t want to take the time to sell or donate, then you have other options.
At first, I was resistant to spending money to clear space. Then I reached a point where I wanted to get quick and easy results. Ultimately, it was worth it everytime we spent money to get rid of stuff.
Here are some of the ways we PAID to discard or give stuff away:
- Bagster – We have used Bagster twice to get rid of remodeling scraps, broken furniture, expired car seats, etc. Each time it cost us $30 for the bag (you can order one from Amazon) and about $150 for the pickup. Each Bagster can hold up to 3,300 pounds of waste. Bagster is so much easier than a dumpster. You fill the bag, schedule the pick up online, and they come to get it within three days. If you have space, I recommend collecting most of the things you plan to put in the Bagster ahead of time, so you can fill the bag all at once and have it picked up quickly vs. it sitting on your driveway for weeks. The price is worth it to save us and our vehicle from multiple trips to the landfill. Not to mention fees we’d have to pay at the landfill. We only used this method to dispose of items that could not be sold or donated.
- 1-800-Got-Junk – For a more white glove service, we have used Got Junk twice. Once, we had them take a bunch of stuff from our garage, including some furniture that did not sell at our garage sale. They bring the truck and two people to move and load everything (we didn’t have to lift a finger). They donate what they can (like furniture) and dispose of the rest. We used them a second time for two additional pieces of furniture that didn’t sell right before we moved. We were able to schedule them to come the same day (so helpful). They only charge based on the amount of space you fill in the truck. Again, to save ourselves the hassle of transporting large furniture and waste, it was well worth the price to get professional help.
- Movers – When we got rid of all of our dressers and a sofa, we hired two movers to take all the furniture to Goodwill for us. First, we couldn’t fit some of the dressers in our vehicle. Second, we couldn’t move some of the large pieces ourselves. Third, even if we tried, we probably would have damaged our house, the furniture, or ourselves. The movers came in and treated our home and furniture with the same respect they would have for a full moving job. They laid down floor protectors, wrapped door jams, and shrink-wrapped the furniture for transport. We had to pay a two hour minimum for the movers, which was fine since it took them about an hour and a half. It was worth it to donate multiple large pieces at one time without injuring ourselves or the furniture.
5. I Don’t Miss One Single Thing
This is the lesson that surprised me the most. I thought there might be a few regrets. A few things we’d miss. But, honestly, I can’t even remember most the stuff we gave away. If I didn’t have the pictures as proof, I couldn’t even tell you what we sold at our garage sale. For the other stuff I do remember, it’s because it’s a relief that it’s gone…like unused small appliances in the kitchen that swallowed up a whole cabinet or excess kids toys strewn everywhere.
Throughout the decluttering process, we focused on keeping only our favorites. As a family, we agreed on our favorite sofa (the large sectional in the basement) and we got rid of the other two sofas. We paired everything back to our best stuff. In the end, we have no regrets. We love everything we have even more and don’t miss anything we discarded.
Remember, everything you have is optional. The question is what is worth your time, money, and energy to keep, clean, care for, repair, store, and move? For us, it was less than half what we used to own.
Now we feel lighter and free.
Get My Decluttering Checklist (it’s free!)
Want to jumpstart your extreme decluttering? Download the 96 Thing to Get Rid of Right Now checklist. I promise you’ll find at least a carload of stuff you can donate without a second thought. You won’t even notice these things are gone except for the fact that your closets will be a little roomier, your cabinets a little emptier, and your surfaces a lot cleaner.