The Basics of Organizing!

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At times, all of us spend money on items that we don’t end up using. Most of us spend a lot of money on these things. For some of us, it is exercise equipment; for others it might be clothes, toys, kitchen gadgets or tools. We keep them because we would feel guilty if we got rid of them. “I mean, Do you know how much that is worth?” or “What if I get rid of it only to discover that I need it?”

Why are you punishing yourself by keeping something that is cluttering your life? Stress is one of the biggest problems that Americans face today and disorganization and clutter are among the biggest causes of stress. If you bought something you don’t use, face it. You made a mistake. Don’t make an even bigger one by keeping it. Get rid of it and move on. Donate it to someone who can use it and relieve you and your family of the stress of living with it. Learn from your mistakes and try to evaluate better whether you actually need something before you spend money.

If you are saying, “…but that might be worth something”, why don’t you find out. If you are afraid to lose out on a financial windfall, sell it on Ebay or put it out for a garage sale. If you make big bucks, put it in the bank! If that item doesn’t get $5.00 on Ebay, you probably overestimated its value. Toss it!

But what if you get rid of it and later find out that you do need it? Most of us save all sorts of things that we might use one day. Very few of us will ever use more than one thing in twenty that we keep “just in case”.

Think about this: If you sell the things that will put money in the bank, give the useful things you don’t need to other people or a thrift store and toss the rest, you can’t really lose. When you find out later that you needed that extra toolbox, take the money you made selling all the other stuff you never ended up needing and buy it! Almost everyone will be way ahead financially doing this because we will never need most of it. Not only that, but doing this will also eliminate the stress and expense of storing and moving it.

Oh and if it’s trash but you feel guilty about separating yourself emotionally from it, just put it in the trash. Don’t make the thrift store do it. Say a prayer over it if it makes you feel better and let it go.

Here are some specific things to work on:

    1. Do you have more than one of some utility item? Keep your favorite or best one and toss the rest. Many people keep four potato peelers, three strainers and five 9×13 pans. If this is you, do you often prepare meals for 50 or more people? No? Toss it!
    2. Food stuff – Wow, food is a big one. I think it’s because we think of all those starving people in some third world country. If you don’t need it (unless you are ready to box it up and send it to them), toss it.If there are bugs on food items, if cans are swollen, or if items are past the expiration dates, then toss them. Staring at them every time you open the pantry isn’t going to cure botulism. (Did she say bugs? Yech!!)If you have more items then your family can eat in a year then use them before you buy more or donate them to a food bank. If you want to use it, but didn’t realize you have 17 cans of beets and 12 cans of pie filling, you need a better pantry organization system.

    1. Are you really ever going to make that craft or sewing project? Toss it.
    2. Why save 25 empty mayo jars when you only use two a year?
    3. If you are saving a magazine that is dated from the last millennium or even last year and haven’t read it do you honestly think you’re going to ever read it? Those hair styles aren’t popular anymore and not many people even remember Commodore 64 computers.
    4. The same goes for newspapers. If you didn’t get yesterday’s paper read, what makes you think you are going to read last week’s? Time marches on and collecting newspapers can get you in hot water with the fire marshal.
    5. Why are you keeping it if it is torn, stained, too small or outdated? Get rid of it. The moth balls just make your house smell funny.

Clean up that cluttered storage space!

  1. How many tee shirts can you wear in a week? Why do you have 30 stuffed in your closet? How about pants, dresses, and pajamas?
  2. Do I really need 5 pairs of brown loafers? Enough said.
  3. Do your children play with the same half dozen favorite toys every day while the rest lay buried in the toy chest? Why are you saving the rest? Toss them! (But not in front of the kids. They will never consent to giving up anything!) If there are things they don’t play with but you think they still like, put them in a box for a few months and trade them out with some of the other stuff when they get bored with what they have. Don’t be a pack rat. If you have 12 boxes like this, keep tossing.
  4. Do you really think that when your son is 35 years old, he will get a thrill out of looking at every school paper he ever did, especially the ones where he wrote the letter “D” a hundred and one times? Keep the highlights if you like, but if it takes more than a small box, keep tossing. Let’s not even talk about saving every school paper you ever did for your kids.

The next time you open a closet and experience a major cave in, remember that stuff is not more important than your family. Your family deserves a peaceful, stress-free house and so do you. Are you choosing stuff over your family’s well being? Ask yourself that question as you sort through your “things”.

For more help with organizing, cleaning and laundry, take a look at our Keeping It Clean e-books.



  1. Katie says

    Thanks for the reminders. When making decisions about what item (not clothes) goes and what stays, I ask myself, “If I died today, what would my family do with it?” If the answer is, “keep it for posterity,” then it stays. If the answer is “good will,” then it goes to good will. If the answer is, “throw it away,” then to the trash it goes. This method helps me purge somewhat objectively.

  2. Cindy says

    I have been having trouble lately in weeding out old photographs. There are many, many of our kids when they were little. It’s really hard to dispose of any, but I know my sons won’t want them! It helps if I think about making things easier on our kids when my husband and I are gone. (I’m 57 so not planning on that any time soon, but …) There’s also a thought in the back of my mind that we might move some day and I want that to be as easy as possible. Anyway – since I can’t toss the pictures, I plan to burn them – I view this as a respectful disposition, sort of like cremation!

    • says

      Cindy we do have unusual emotions when it comes to our pictures. I recently went through mine again and have finally got them under control I think. What helped me is;

      1. I look at the picture and if there is no one in there my children would know or I’m not sure I even remember I toss. Ex. a picture of all of my classmates in 4th grade.

      2. Any picture that is just of scenes,animals, buildings with no people out they go.

      3. I had 5 sheets each of each year of my kids school pictures. I kept 2 pictures only and checked to see if my kids wanted the rest – if not they were tossed. I know a woman who had 8 pictures of the 24 she had developed and they were of the same pose of a dolphin. She wouldn’t dream of getting rid of 1 of them at all.

      4. I had my kids scan all my pictures and each family now has copies of all I own. If one house burns the pictures are safe in another one and I can get copies.

      5. This was all made easier when I realized so many of my originals are fading badly even though I have been careful of them so except for a few special ones why am I keeping them all – just scan them.

      I looked at my moms pictures. She has so many of people she doesn’t even know who they are or the events involved so of what use are they and what a waste of space and energy she did packing and moving them all the time.

    • says

      Hi Cindy,
      Artists are always looking for photo reference material to have on hand. Whether its for a drawing exercise, use in a workshop or to add something to a picture they are painting or producing. And a lot of artists who take their own photos for reference like to copyright their images so others can’t “steal” their or use their ideas.
      Another consideration for your old photos would be to find a local art group who would want to add these to their library of material for their members to use. I’m sure there are many artists out there that would appreciate them.

    • Free says

      Photos can also be used as postcards. It’s a good way to clear the clutter and keep in touch at the same time.

  3. Sandra Stanley says

    I donate to the local emergency assistance foundation because there are to many people out there hurting and could really use that extra blanket, a few dishes, or even pictures I used to hang on the wall. Also, I think about what my family would think when I pass on and they are stuck going through my “junk”. Would they keep it or trash it? If it’s trash it or at least get rid of it (or donate to help me feel better about it)out it goes. It is slow going, but I am making a dent. At least I’m trying!

  4. says

    I say everytime when I read your articles that I am going to start getting organized but this time I am. It is really depressing when I look around and see how I have let things go but nomore.I love your articles and thank you for being so frank. keep up the good work

    • says

      Rach it sounded like you really mean business. I can’t wait for you to get started because I really think you will be amazed at how good it feels and once you get started I think you will find it is so encouraging to see even a little spot clean you won’t be able to stop. Holler if you have any questions on what to do or anything. Can’t wait to hear about your progress.

  5. Sandi says

    My mother had a large set of Noritake china my father had gotten for her when he was stationed in Japan. We used that china once or twice a year, moving it to every new station. On one of the last moves, one of the boxes fell off the truck and smashed to smithereens. After that, my mother decided to use the rest of the china for everyday. It did break and chip over time, but at least we used that beautiful china instead of just storing it. I try to use what I have instead of just storing it, especially since we’ve lost our house and seem to be getting smaller apartments every time we move.

  6. Deidra Ward says

    At one time, did you publish a list of clothes that each person really needs? I would like to have that article again.

  7. SIDNEY SHARP says

    Just discovered your site. Am bookmarking to read many, many times! Thanks for the organizing tips which I desperately need.

  8. Judy says

    I kept things because I spent money on them and/or thought I might need them someday. I looked up the value of things on EBay. Most things were $10 or less. This gave me the motivation to donate my extras to the thift shop. In my doing so, I uncovered a beautiful covered casserole dish that was a gift. It was in the back of a closet, completely forgotten about! I was using a similar-sized 40 year old casserole dish in its place! Some of the items I had were expensive gifts, which I passed along to my newly-married daughter. She was thrilled to get them. I now look at my home and see things I use and love. It’s a great feeling.

  9. Cathy says

    Thank you so much for this article. I have managed to keep my living area clean. I just purged the junk area this week. But now for my basement. It is overflowing. This article will definitely help me get started on that. We want to move next year and the last thing I want is to drag it with me again for the hundredth time!!! So I’m saying goodbye, I won’t miss it haven’t used it in years, why I keep dragging it from house to house to house is beyond me. (we move a lot)

    So appreciate your encouragement and honesty, we needed to hear it. Thanks again.


    • says

      One thing you have going for you Cathy is it sounds like mentally you are ready to do it and that is usually half the battle. You sound really ready. I would be excited to hear how it goes and what it feels like when you get it done. Sounds like you are on a roll so keep up the good work.


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