New Year’s Decluttering Tips

by McEnearney on December 27, 2017

modern wooden wardrobe with clothes hanging on rail in walk in closet design interior

You’re already eager to ring in 2018, but just think of how excited you’ll be to do it with a decluttered home!

There are plenty of reasons to partake in a cleaning ritual, but the number one benefit is peace of mind. In Japan, an end-of-year cleaning and organizing overhaul, called oosouji, is a tradition thought to put you at ease and invite prosperity in the new year. The Swedish even have a practice called döstädning, or “death cleaning,” which is a little darker but involves a pointed method of decluttering to make sure your loved ones are not overly burdened by your things in the future. (The idea is not new, but you’ll hear a lot more about it with this book release in January, 2018.)

The bottom line is that clearing out unwanted belongings, sorting, and organizing are simple ways to make life a little less stressful. Decluttering has the added benefits of breathing new life into your belongings and making daily cleaning easier.

Here are some best practices for getting all your “stuff” in order:


“Sort Before You Stow”


Especially around the holiday time, this is a good tip to follow that helps you avoid procrastinating into the future. It may seem simple, but in our often hectic and hurried lives, we fail to accomplish this trick: before stowing anything (back) away, sort through and organize what is already there in that box, furniture, or closet and get rid of unnecessary items. If you only used some of your holiday decorations this year, for example, get rid of the ones in the box that you haven’t used before you place the current ones back. Parsing your organization into convenient and small bursts like this relieves you from having to do a huge, time-consuming purge.



The KonMari Methods


Recently, you may have noticed the Japanese organization maven Mari Kondo speaking out about giving the “objects” in our life thanks and joy. Essentially, if an item does not make you happy through the purpose it serves, it needs to go. By the same token, it is much easier to organize by categories based on the emotions we attach to them (i.e. it’s much easier to sort through all your clothing in the house now, and then all your photographs later). Approaching tidying up by category is a more holistic way of getting the task completed than going room by room, which can drag out the process.



“Get One, Toss Two”

Donation box for poor with clothing in male hands

Tis the season to give (and receive) lots of things. While putting away new gifts, you have the chance to evaluate your home and your belongings. Your task is this: For every gift you receive, throw out or get rid of two counterparts. Did you get a new kitchenware or dish set? Donate the previous items you will no longer truly need. Are you donning a new sweater you actually like that was gifted from a relative? Throw out two older shirts. Chances are you won’t miss the old–you’ve already got an upgrade!



The Clothes Hanging Trick

Clothes Hanger Rack Costume Outfit Closet Concept

Too many clothes hanging in the closet? We may think we are good at throwing away obviously worn clothing, but making a decision about the clothes we only “sort of” still like is a lot more difficult. Try this for some perspective: Put every hanger on the rack backward. Then, if you wear that item of clothing, put the hanger back on the rack facing the proper way. Notice after one year how many hangers show clothing you haven’t worn! This time next year, consider a cleanse to donate anything you have not worn.



Use your holiday shopping boxes…

Donation box with clothes on the old wooden background..

As a literal vehicle for sending “stuff” back out of your home. You already got an influx of gifts and items you couldn’t resist from holiday sales. If you’re not holding onto the boxes for another purpose, go ahead and fill them with closet and storage items you can afford to lose and send it to a charity.



So, what to do with all the removed stuff?


Rest assured your things are going to a good cause by donating them to one of several local area organizations.


Generally everything:


Goodwill of Greater Washington

There are locations throughout D.C. and most of the immediate Virginia and Maryland suburbs, or you can mail items for free. They accept gently-used clothing, furniture, housewares, working electronics and accessories.


Salvation Army

There are dropoff locations throughout D.C. and most of the immediate Virginia and Maryland suburbs, and you can also schedule a pickup. Be sure to note which items are in each bag and box so you can indicate how many of each type will be picked up.


The National Center for Children and Families

Accepts gently used and new clothing (all ages), baby items, new toiletries, school supplies and furniture. (Furniture pickup within Montgomery County, MD only.) Donations benefit clients from 24 programs throughout the Washington, D.C. area.




Clear out novels you’ve read, old textbooks, or books you’ll probably never read to make more room on your shelf. Head to a local used bookstore, or to Books for America, which is a larger, warehouse based organization that distributes donations to area schools and promotes literacy.


For larger items or appliances:


Bikes for the World
Accepts bicycles, bicycle spare parts & accessories, hand tools (wrenches, screwdrivers, and hammers of all types), portable sewing machines.


Habitat for Humanity ReStore

Accepts appliances, furniture, and a variety of smaller items. Locations in Alexandria, Silver Spring, Rockville, Chantilly, Manassas, and Columbia.

Community Forklift

Accepts most new and salvaged building & landscaping materials, appliances, and tools, as well as antique and vintage housewares. Accepts furniture and commercial materials on a case-by-case basis.


Clear Out Hazardous Waste

Have you been holding on to batteries, electronics, carbon water filters, or other items that you are unsure how to dispose of safely? Make it a point to meet your environmentally-friendly ideals and clear out these items. The resources below may help. If you don’t see what you need, check if your community has guidelines. : Handling Hazardous Waste Materials

Arlington County Hazmat Disposal and Recycling

Montgomery County Household Hazardous Waste Information on Recycling Water Filters

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