Critter Corner: Tips for Decluttering and Downsizing When You Don’t Want to Get Rid of Stuff

Hayek 1Dear Hayek,

When my sister and I were over for Easter, my mom asked us if we wanted anything. She has a lot of “treasures” that she’d love for my sister and I to claim. These aren’t the valuables I’m talking about … they are sentimental items and clothes. My sister and I aren’t interested in adding more clutter to our own homes, but we want to help my mom downsize. Do you have any tips we can give her?


Rita Stuhf

Dear Rita,

In recent years, there has been a push towards minimalism, especially during the pandemic. People who have been at home for the past year have been more face to face with their stuff, and they’re starting to question what actually adds value to their lives.

As Marie Kondo once stressed, there is no need for all of the excess stuff. Instead focus only on things that serve a purpose or bring joy. Besides, clutter is bad for your health and can actually have a negative impact on many areas of life. It has been linked to stress and anxiety and can even lead to overeating junk food and procrastinating.

For many, the first instinct is to tame clutter by purchasing products to help organize it. But your mother doesn’t necessarily need to do that. The key is for her to keep the things that add value to her life and get rid of any items that don’t. Here are some tips:

  1. Get rid of anything that doesn’t add value

Help your mother understand why it’s time to let items go. Some people want to quit their buying habit for more financial freedom, while others want fewer items to care for and more time to spend with family and friends. Understanding the why behind simplifying gives us leverage to begin to let go and helps us understand what is excess.

  1. Just-in-case items

If your mother looks around her house, she’ll likely find thousands of items she is storing just in case she might need them in some nonexistent hypothetical future. These items can usually be replaced, if need be, for less than $20 and in less than 20 minutes, so she doesn’t really need them taking up space and causing clutter.

  1. Photos and paper

Your mother should give herself permission to get rid of duplicate, similar, or blurry photos, coupons or mailers you aren’t using, bills and statements you can get online, old newspapers and magazines, and things she’s ripped out of a magazine. Consider scanning photos and tossing physical copies or take a photo of a photo to create a digital version.

  1. Actual trash

Suggest that she empty her wastebaskets, shred piles of papers she’s been meaning to shred and get rid of the junk mail piling up on her kitchen counter or dining room table.

  1. Damaged items

Suggest that she be honest about what things are damaged and toss them, even if she was meaning to sell them. If it’s damaged, it probably does not have the value she’s been assuming it was going to have one day. The same goes for things that are missing parts.

  1. Stuff she never uses

If she is holding on thinking, it’s not hurting anything, she should reframe and ask herself how it’s helping and contributing to her life. If it’s not, she likely doesn’t have room for it. This often includes things like random spices and sauces, uncomfortable shoes, empty frames and containers, books she’s already read or never plan on reading, junk drawer items (or the whole drawer), knickknacks, and freebies or gifts she was given but doesn’t like. Consider donating the items to Goodwill or another local charity where people in need could use them!

  1. Anything expired

This includes medications, food and makeup. If she can’t find the motivation to declutter here, she should do it for her health. She should properly dispose of expired medications and toss out old food for her safety as well.

  1. Clothes that don’t fit

Many of us have skinny jeans or T-shirts from high school that no longer fit us. Your mother’s closets and drawers should house items that she looks forward to wearing instead of being a place to cast aside what she knows she’s not going to wear. Consider donating them to Goodwill or another local charity where people in need could use them!

  1. Digital clutter

Digital clutter can build up as well. Suggest that she unsubscribe from email subscriptions she isn’t using and from people on social media she doesn’t want to follow anymore. She should consider deleting apps that drain her time and energy and social media platforms she doesn’t use or care about.

Hope these tips help your mother in her decluttering efforts.


Print This Page
About Renee Eder

Renee Eder is the Director of Public Relations for the Farr Law Firm, and gives the voice to the Critters of Critter Corner. Renee’s poodle, Penny, is an official comfort dog who she and her children bring to visit with seniors who are in the early stages of dementia at a local senior home once a month.