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Answering all those burning questions you didn’t know you had about home ownership.

The Spring Purge

Picture of Jessica Dabkowski

Jessica Dabkowski

Helping you with all things homeownership!

It’s spring (though no one told the weather 😒). The Mathematician found me in the basement this weekend gearing up for a major spring purge. Luckily, this is one area of thought where we are a couple in perfect lockstep. Get that stuff out! Since I enjoy linking my articles to my own life, I thought it was a good time to do a refresh on cutting out all that extra.

Spring Motivations

A lot of people seem to get the declutter bug in January, but that is just not for me. I lack the motivation (as one does) to do the heavy lifting when it’s cold, dark and nasty outside. When that spring air starts to hit and we get a pocket of sunshine, I feel freshly motivated to clean. And what gets in the way of all that glorious cleaning? All that extra stuff in your space. (Did I lose you at the word “glorious”? Bear with me.) Must be time for a spring purge!

Sunshine and the promise of warm weather isn’t enough to motivate you? Well, imagine my surprise when I found out there are a bunch of podcasts that surround your home. No matter what your goal, you can find a podcast to match your goals. Have less stuff, clean more, have the same stuff but more organized – you name it, there’s a podcast episode for you.

Rainbow Brite is chasing Stormy away!

The Science of Clutter

Before we dive into the how, let’s discuss the why. In 2009, UCLA linked how people described their home to increased levels of cortisol. The participants gave a tour of their home to the researchers. The researchers analyzed the words used during the tour and measured the person’s cortisol levels for three days. Women who used words linked to the categories of “clutter” or describing the home as “unfinished” had increased depressed mood and cortisol profiles linked to poor health outcomes. Now, this was a small study of 60 wives, but I think many of us can relate to this outcome with anecdotal stories from our own lives.

In 2011, Princeton researchers published results linking a cluttered environment to poor focus. Our eyes can only process so much visual information in any given moment. Their findings seem to indicate that the clutter around you is competing with the task at hand when it comes to your field of vision. This competition leads to distraction, and thus, poorer focus.

What other aspects of our life does extra stuff impact? Possibly your eating habits. In 2016, a joint U.S.-Australian study found that female college students were twice as likely to reach for sugar-rich foods when they were placed into a chaotic kitchen environment. Let me rephrase – they were TWICE AS LIKELY to reach for crappy food if they were in the cluttered kitchen.

To recap, our brief foray into science tells us extra items in our personal spaces can mess with our stress hormones, hurt our ability to focus and possibly reach for unhealthy snacks. What now?

Think Visually

If you aren’t there yet, a great trick to getting started on the evolution of your space is to really visualize how you want your space to look, feel and function. Marie Kondo has a nice exercise in her book (the very much overdone but still incredibly useful) The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up where she has you visualize exactly how you want your space to work for you.

Me, writing my January Letter

My own recent foray into purge-atory (see how I did that?) was sparked by a January Letter. I’d never heard of this concept before, but it recently came up on one of my podcasts. You write a letter to yourself from one-year in the future. In the letter, you detail how the year went for you. (Yeah, I love me some woo woo. I own it.)

Curious, I wrote the letter. While I didn’t specifically reference my home in my letter, looking at the situation, the letter sparked the purge because I was actively visualizing how I want my life to be in the future. My ideal future included way less discarded clothing, toys and other life accoutrements that seem to pile up no matter what I do.

Go Deep

Discard the preconception that you can’t discard your things.

Fumio Sasaki, Goodbye Things

Of all the tips floating around the internet, I think this one is the most powerful one for someone just getting started. For many of us, it’s such a knee-jerk reaction. Oh I couldn’t, possibly part with that rocking chair!

Fumio also asks you to take a minute to “ask yourself why you can’t part with your things.”

Why can’t you get rid of that shirt/purse/burnt pot/shoes that pinch?

Sometimes, we have dig into the why before we can move onto the action portion of any purge. If you are a person who gets very sentimentally attached to items, there are a lot of resources our there to help you examine your relationship with your items and explore how best to help you achieve that happy medium you are looking for.

There are a million ways to tackle the process itself, but I’m not going to dive into those today. (I’ve already done enough unlicensed therapy on you today.) You can refer back to my earlier articles for more information:

  • A Mindset Shift (Whereby I tell the story of my dad cleaning my room with garbage bags.)
  • Tackle the Excess (Whereby I call you out for reaching for the same coffee mug, every time.)

Help is on the way!

There are three methods I am currently using to transform my trash into someone else’s treasure. These three do not include the actual trash, which is my method of last resort. All three involve someone picking up the items from your porch.

1. Nextdoor

The Nextdoor app continues to be my go-to app for re-homing items from my home. In my current season of life, this process mostly consists of sorting through the land of misfit toys in our basement and posting them in the “For Sale” section. If the item’s in good shape, I’ll post it for sale at a “fire sale” price and someone will usually snap it up.

For items that have seen better days, I post them for free and the moms and grandmas snap them up. A four-year old doesn’t care that Elsa is missing a boot when they just received Elsa, Anna, Olaf, Kristoff, Sven and their accompanying sleigh. Elsa can go barefoot for all she cares. In my experience, the free stuff is picked up from your porch within 24 hours.

It’s also great for small appliances, miscellaneous wall decor and white elephant gifts. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure and all that.

This guy’s wife is going to be posting that shake weight on Nextdoor in three months.

2. is not a non-profit (as far as I can tell), but it partners with recognizable nonprofits to basically connect people with these charities via pickup services. Donate Stuff specifically takes gently used clothes, shoes, bedding, kitchen supplies and small appliances. The key for this service is the stuff needs to be gently used such that it can be re-homed to someone else.

When I did a recent pickup, I was able to select the Oakland Foster Closet as my partner charity. It’s an easy way to move items out for the benefit of someone else.

3. Simple Recycling

Simple Recycling appears to be a sister company to Donate Stuff. It is a bit different in how it operates. It focuses on textiles – specifically clothing, thought it does accept some other stuff. The top quality materials will be resold to local thrift outlets, mid grade is exported to international markets and “unusable” items are processed for raw materials.

This is where I send the items that cannot be re-homed. Cotton t-shirts with holes, cotton pants with the knees blown out, etc. At least I know these items have a fighting chance to get recycled.

There are loads of other ways to send your items onto a new life out there. If you have any favorites, comment below!

Thanks for joining me this week! As always, please reach out if I can help with any of your homeowner questions or concerns.

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