Clutter

Don’t Organize It, Purge It: 10 Things to Throw Out Now

Organize and simplify your home (not to mention your ADHD brain) by saying goodbye to these 10 clutter magnets you can probably do without. Fast fixes for persistent messes.

Illustration of People Getting Rid of Clutter
Illustration of People Getting Rid of Clutter

There is nothing like the feeling you get after decluttering a space. The physical release, space created, and sense of accomplishment are priceless. But, despite my best efforts to purge each spring, the clutter manages to sneak back in.

As items accumulate, our mental clutter increases as well. As I walk through my house, my piles of stuff “talk back to me,” reminding me of all the things left unresolved.

How to organize your life once and for all? Eliminate the stuff and make some new rules, so the clutter doesn’t pile up again throughout the year. Here are 10 kinds of clutter just begging for new rules. See how many you can make disappear — permanently.

Clutter #1. Plastic Grocery Bags

Is this the year you go green? Gather up all your plastic grocery bags and return them to the store for recycling. Purchase five to 10 reusable grocery bags and keep them in the trunk of your car so you don’t forget them at home when you’re food shopping.

If you do forget your reusable bags when you go to the store, ask for paper instead of plastic bags, and put the brown paper bags in your recycling bin. Or, leave your cart near the checkout line, and run out to your car to get the reusable bags. It won’t take long, and you will add a few more steps to your pedometer!

[Click to Download: Get Organized in a Weekend] 

Clutter #2. Out-of-Date Electronics

Whenever I bought a new TV, phone, or kitchen appliance, I used to hang on to the old one. Why? If the old one worked, I wouldn’t have replaced it. As you come across electronics you are no longer using, ask yourself, “Why am I saving them?

Clutter #3. Extension Cords

Along with older electronics, we save cords of all kinds “just in case.” I was guilty of this as well. Now I save one of each type of cord and discard the rest.

Clutter #4. Manuals

Almost all manuals are now available online. When I purchase new items that come with manuals and warranties, I staple the receipt to the warranty and tear off the top page of the manual, which shows the model number and name of the item. This is all I need if the item has to be repaired.

Clutter #5. Extra Bedsheets

In almost every home I have organized, the linen closet holds every set of bedsheets that the owners have ever purchased. We often keep older bedding just in case someone gets sick or we have company. We really need only the set of sheets already on our bed and a back-up set per bed. This rule will keep your linen closet in check.

[Take This Test: Is Your Clutter Out of Control?]

Clutter #6. Free Samples

I once thought I would use travel-size shampoos and one-time-use beauty samples. I don’t. And the few times I use them did not justify keeping the boxes of samples I never tried.

Getting a “free” shampoo sample at the hotel or store feels good. Free is for me! But the odds of using that freebie are slim. Samples become reminders of opportunities you didn’t take advantage of. They can make us feel bad.

Have a sample party, try things you are curious about, and donate the rest. When samples are handed to me, I almost never take one, unless I will try it that same day. There is freedom in saying no to free!

#7. Household Cleaners

I have an affinity for household cleaners. I like to buy different cleaners that I see advertised, but when I start cleaning, I use the same few cleaners in most situations, not the specialty cleaners. Collect all the cleaning supplies you never use and donate them. Many food pantries will take cleaners that have been opened. Just call and check.

Clutter #8. Magazines and Catalogs

How many magazines and catalogs do you look forward to reading when they arrive? Make a list of your favorites. As you get catalogs in the mail, immediately recycle all those that are not on your list. Set aside a box for all of the B-list magazines and catalogs that arrive for one month. At the end of the month, call or email each company and ask to be taken off its mailing list.

Clutter #9. Hobby Items

We store stuff used for current and past hobbies in our garages. As you go through your garage this spring, see if there is one category you can eliminate. Last year I eliminated car washing supplies. We haven’t washed a car at home for more than 10 years. It was time for those to go.

I also got rid of my houseplant potting supplies. I have two houseplants, and they have pots. Enough said.

Clutter #10. Mending Piles

I used to sew ripped clothing, replace missing buttons, and go the extra mile to remove set-in stains. Now I send mending to the dry cleaner, and I replace stained and ripped clothing. I no longer have a mending pile.

Readers Share How They Declutter Their Homes — Fast!

According to Susan Pinsky, author of Organizing Solutions for People with ADHD, if you want a tidy home, you must spend some time daily on maintenance neatening. For decluttering, though, hyperfocus is perfect.

“Set aside a day every few months to weed a chosen room before moving on to the next. Leave time at the end of the day to take the culled stuff to its forever home – the curb, the swap table at the town dump, or the donation bin in the drugstore parking lot,” Pinsky says.

“Borrowed items should be returned to the owner. If no one’s home, place them in a bag and leave them on their porch. Your job is not done until the stuff is gone. Then, commit to shopping only from a list. If you buy only what you need, clutter can’t accumulate and – big bonus – daily neatening will take less than a minute per room.”

Here are more straightforward, ADHD-friendly tricks from ADDitude readers for keeping the house clean — or at the very least, clean enough!

“It’s a work in progress, but I’m making myself put things where they belong, instead of telling myself that I will do it later.”
—Ida Marr, Lexington, Kentucky

“Setting a specific time of day or a specific day to clean up clutter, and having methods in place to simplify my cluttering, like having a basket in each room where I can drop “stray” items. Finding a ‘station’ or specific place for each item is half the battle, and makes the task of decluttering my home easier!”
—Jill, Buffalo Grove, Illinois

“I make sure that there isn’t anything else in my hand when I go looking for something I lost. Otherwise, as soon as I find what I’m looking for, I have to go back and find whatever was in my hand that I laid down while looking for the first thing. It is an ongoing challenge that I have to confront every week.”
—Julie, Texas

“I have a small legal pad next to my computer that has “For Later” written at the top. This is useful for freeing my mind to do what I need to be doing, and also for saving the random curiosities/thoughts that I value.”
—Terra Wulf-Stanton, Vancouver, Washington

“I use a notebook. The left page has a list of “To Dos” and the right has the list of whom “To Call.” I’ve also attached a pocket to the front for post-its with notes scribbled on them.”
—Paula, Montana

“Stop in the doorway and view the room as if you were someone visiting your house for the first time. Limit subscriptions and handle mail only once. Eliminate and file as you go.”
—An ADDitude Reader

“If you don’t use it, wear it, or need it, donate it.”
—Susan, Washington Heights, New Jersey

“Organize one three-foot-by-three-foot space at a time.”
—Martha Yasso, Garden City, New York

“I subscribe to and read daily emails and Facebook posts from flylady.net. She focuses on changing your thinking about clutter, and this has had a huge impact on my home and thought process!”
—An ADDitude Reader

“Owning less stuff is the key for me. But that’s hard, because I’m an impulsive shopper!”
—Suzy Krone, Madison, Georgia

“Write a to-do list and tackle the items one at a time. Play music in the background. When I’m away from clutter, I can think more clearly.”
—Deanna, Phoenix, Arizona

[Click to Download: 22 Clutter-Busting Strategies for Adults with ADHD]

Updated on March 3, 2020

4 Related Links

  1. OgaEmma95–I take pictures of those “lockets of memories” (lovely phrase!) that I’m getting rid of. If you like, print a very few special pics, put them in a notebook, and write just one sentence or a few sentences of memories. As you read your writing, savor the feelings, whether sweet/sad, or happy, or any other emotion.–Decluttering and esp. getting rid of things with memories is hard for me too.–Liz

  2. I have moved house several times in the last 8 years, and seemed to gain stuff along the way.

    Now I have to reduce, and some of these ideas are great.

    I will be reducing magazines by scanning the useful pages, then selling a few or donating.

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