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Cheri Burcham

I just read this article that Extension Educator Chelsey Byers wrote about decluttering — especially about going through her decorations each year. I could totally relate to her when she said that most of her decorations are for events and holidays in the months of October, November, and December and that every year she will drag her decorations out, see the same ones she doesn’t use, but then leaves them in the same box to go back into storage for another year. Does anyone else do that? Many have no sentimental value, so why do we keep them to gather dust and take up space when someone else could enjoy them?

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Ironically, she and I teach a class about decluttering, but she never really thought about how it pertains to her and her holiday decorations until this fall. So she would like to share a bit about decluttering and some ways to attack your things, whether they be your decorations or other items you are wanting or needing to go through.

Chelsey says, no one goes through life without accumulating stuff. And, too much stuff contributes to clutter and disorganization. According to the free online dictionary, clutter is defined as a disorganized heap or mass of objects; a state of disorder.

If you answer “no” to these questions, then it is clutter:

  • Do you use it or even like it?
  • Does it have a “home?”
  • Can you repair it or fix it?

When deciding what to do with an item, ask yourself these questions:

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  • When was the last time I used this? (Decide what your own acceptable time frame is – 1 month, 6 months, etc.)
  • How often do I use it?
  • Where do I use it?
  • Do I have more than one of them; do I need more than one?
  • Is it usable? If so, will I ever use it again?
  • If I didn’t have this item would it even impact my life?
  • Could someone else use it?

As you ask yourself those questions, you can sort your items into piles so you can move your items along. The easiest way is to have large tubs, containers or laundry baskets to sort your items. Once you have decided you are not keeping an item for yourself, is the item worth keeping for someone else to use? If not then decide if you are pitching it or recycling it. If it can be used by another, you will need to sort it into donating, selling or gifting piles. The easiest to move out of your house are donating and gifting piles. It feels good to know others can benefit from your items. However, you can make money off your items with a little effort and time if that is what you choose.

There are many benefits to decluttering. Managing your clutter can even help you manage your stress sometimes. With less clutter, it saves time finding what you want, need, and use. It can save you money when you make it a habit of only buying what you need and you aren’t buying a replacement of what you can’t find. Managing clutter can reduce fire and safety risks when things are not piled or stored improperly. For some, decluttering can improve relationships if people fight over the clutter in the home. As clutter is moved out, there is more space and we simply feel better about our living environments.

If you are looking for places to donate, there are many local places here in the community that take donations. Please don’t forget places like libraries, schools, long term care facilitates, churches, veteran’s organizations etc. when looking for a place to make a donation. Think about the items and who could benefit from them or put them to good use. It is always good to call first and not just load up and plan to drop off. Happy decluttering!

For more information on family life-related topics, contact Cheri Burcham at University of Illinois Extension at 217-543-3755 or at cburcham@illinois.edu. For more information on University of Illinois Unit 19 programming and to read more helpful articles, visit our website at http://web.extension.illinois.edu/ccdms/index.html or call us at (217)345-7034. Also visit the Family Files Blog at http://web.extension.illinois.edu/hkmw/eb380/.

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