Dealing with decluttering?

Many people consider spring cleanup the big annual event, the home reset, so to speak, but let’s face it, once a year is just not enough. Our home is not only the place where we live, it serves as entertainment venue, school room and office. Right now is a great time to thin out and reclaim your space. Here are some simple and fun suggestions on how to get started:


Do you need incentives to keep you on task? Don’t be ashamed, you’re one in a kajillion who prefer a rewards program. Stay on task by:

1 – Making your tasks small and achievable. The task could be to clean out a single dresser drawer, a cabinet or a shelf in a cabinet. You get to pick.

2 – Rewarding yourself after completion. That could mean treating yourself to your favorite warm beverage or a half hour in a massage chair.

By keeping the task small no one gets overwhelmed, and knowing the job won’t take long, tasks are approached cheerfully. This is especially helpful when kids are involved in the chore list.


The first thing is to establish your objective.  What is it you want to accomplish? State it. Write it down: I want to reduce the clutter in my bedroom, or I want to have room in my garage to park my car, or I want to be able to find my favorite skillet without pulling out every pot and pan. You get it, right? Your reason, find it and keep it in the back of your mind to help you stay focused.


You have an objective, now break it down. What’s it going to take to make you feel successful? Perhaps it’s everything is off your dresser, all toiletries off the vanity, or storage boxes sorted, thinned and labeled. You can slice off a bigger piece as an objective, but to get you there make your chores small.

Decide what project you want to complete this morning, or today. Make it manageable and it will be more enjoyable. What reward will you earn? Settle this right out. Also, whatever the chore, think about the process: You’ll be sorting through items to keep, dispose of, or donate. Have a place to put these items while you are working on the task.


If your objective is to declutter any part of your home, garage or yard, define your mindset. What do you need, what do you want, what can easily do without.

If you haven’t used it within the past year, the chances are, you don’t really need it. That applies to furniture, clothing, housewares, tools, etc.  What’s reasonable for you? One year? Two? Set it and stick to it.

Remember, most of these goods do not have to be thrown away, these items can be donated. For instance, ReStore (you know I was going to get here, right) accepts housewares, furniture, appliances, building materials, used paint, lighting, tools, picture frames, cleaning supplies and chemicals. (Our Gresham ReStore also accepts clothing.) 


Some may take exception to the one-year rule when it comes to old family photos and heirlooms. Certainly, if these photos bring you joy and you look at them regularly, then by all means keep them. But if you are holding onto items in case someone else might want them in the distant future, it’s time to reconsider.

Photos – Scan or copy photos digitally. Digital photos don’t take much space, and they are much easier to share.  Tip: When scanning photos, make sure to title them with the person’s name and approximate year the photo was taken. Old photos of a family standing next to a Model T are much less valuable if you don’t know who the heck those people are. Another way to identify these photos is to make notes on the back, then scan both sides.

Heirlooms – Ask your family if anyone would like to own them, or be caretaker for a while. If no one wants the piece, one blogger suggested giving it a final “victory lap” by intentionally using it one last time, taking photos with notes, then packing it off to donate. You don’t have to be a repository for your family history if it’s cluttering up your space and not bringing you joy.



The whole KonMari Method about asking if an item ‘sparks joy’ is still a pretty handy tool not only for clothing and housewares, but also when thinking about furniture, a floor lamp, rugs and even appliances. When you walk into a room do you feel joy? Comfort? Ease? Refine your space so it’s the way you want to experience it. Don’t be afraid to lose an item to the donation bin. Someone else may love it!



Pots. Really? Do you need six skillets? Pull out all your pots and think about how you use them. Can some do double duty? If you’re crappy at making omelets, get rid of that omelet pan. Never going to make another cheesecake? You won’t need that springform pan then. Select the ones to keep, and donate the rest.

Fridge. Reach waaay back there and remove those expired, half-used jars of jam and Yumm! sauce. Check the doors and freezer, too. Wipe it down and refill. Replace the odor-eliminating box of baking soda with a fresh box. That feels good, doesn’t it.

Pantry. You aren’t doing anyone any favors by holding on to expired spices. Here’s a tip: Select an annual holiday when you normally do a lot of baking – like Thanksgiving. As you purchase new spices, write the date on the container. The following year, replace all your old spices. It’s an annual event.

Here’s the thing: Canned goods do expire. Check those dates. Mind you, some canned goods will still be edible after the expiration date, though maybe less nutritious and less palatable. You be the judge. If you would be put off by an expired date, there’s no sense keeping it on your shelves.  Definitely dispose of any dented cans- it could mean the seal is compromised. (Side note: When I was chasing down hand sanitizer in my earthquake preparedness box I discovered most of my canned goods had expired several years ago. Egad!)

Tip: Try grouping things in your pantry. Use separate tubs for all flour, all your sugars, all your oils, all your candles, etc.


This is a toughie. If you try to keep the lights off when you walk through your garage because you can’t stand to look at it, then it’s time to do something. Turn on the light, select a wall or a smaller area, and begin to sort. If there’s a tool or item that you doubt you will ever use again, put it in the donate box. Someone else looking to pick up a new skill would love to have it at a discounted ReStore price. (Remember those CHORES AND REWARDS? Keep the task doable within a designated time period – like within an hour, or an afternoon. Select a portion of the garage, or specific shelves in the garage or workroom. Work out from there, making sure you reward yourself when each task is accomplished before heading onto the next.)



You have a lot of options of where you can donate goods, and of course, we suggest the Habitat for Humanity ReStore because every donation helps build more affordable, sustainable Habitat homes. 

ReStores in Portland, Beaverton, Gresham and Vancouver accept new and used donated furniture, appliances, housewares and home goods like rugs, lighting, picture frames and mirrors, dishes, pots and pans, plus hand and power tools, building materials, windows, doors and even used paint, furniture polish, household cleaners and chemicals. We’re open 10am to 6pm Wednesday through Monday (closed Tuesdays only). Plus, we pick up donations of items too large to fit in your car. It’s easy to schedule a pickup online at, or email, or even call Donation Information at 971-229-8888. In all cases, you will be asked to include a photo of the items.

Get information on how and where to donate and ReStore’s donation guidelines at



Look at you! You’ve just completed your first objective: Find out about how to declutter. As you begin the next step, consider the end result. You are about to feel lighter and tidier, your surroundings will be more in sync with your current needs and tastes, you’re about to bring joy to those who discover your donated item(s), and if you choose the ReStore for your donations, you’re helping to build strength, stability and self-reliance through shelter. We hope to see you soon at the ReStore.



SALVAGE SERVICE: We deconstruct

Keep Reading

Read More
Read More
Read More
Read More
Read More