moving into new apartment

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Decluttering the house. Fellow parents-to-be, we know the feeling.  The first trimester pregnancy fog/nausea/uncertainty lifts, week 14 hits, and you suddenly look around and think to yourselves…

WHERE AM I GOING TO PUT THIS TINY HUMAN?

Yes.  We understand.  Let’s call it the “Week 14 Epiphany.”

People not anticipating an impending stork drop-off: this moment of truth also applies to you, likely when approaching a large renovation project.  For example, if you tear apart your kitchen, you’re going to need a place to put its contents for a while.  This even goes for a simple painting project. Let’s face it, painting an empty room is HELLA LOT EASIER than painting one filled with stuff.  So, even if you’re not expecting a baby, a lot of this applies to the calmer, non-pregnant population.  

Fear not, dear friend.  You will find a place for your beloved baby.  Whether you’re in a Manhattan studio or a rural mansion– whether you’re anticipating a needy tiny human or just wanting to Marie-Kondo your crap– we’re here to help you clean out the stuff.  The… “things” that are just weighing you down.


Self-Assessment

Now listen, we pride ourselves on keeping things simple.  It’s one of the things that we love about our smaller home.  We literally cannot accumulate “too much stuff…”

… or can we?  Somewhere around our “week 14 epiphany,” we looked around at the mess we made and realized… we’re not as simplified as we thought.  Decluttering the house would be a good idea.

After a few family members had passed or moved since we bought our house, our basement had a few extra items.  Then, after a few construction projects, we had leftover materials stacking every which way.  Couple that with a few too many Poshmark items that just aren’t selling from Noreen’s little shop, and there are three bins with random women’s clothing, just…. Sitting.  And to top it all off, we both ended up working from home from March 2020 onwards – so that makes two workstations, each of which migrated throughout both floors of our living space.  Oh right, and when the “week 14 epiphany” hit, we were still mid-renovation, with half a functioning kitchen and down one bedroom. 

Can you sense the overwhelm? 

We feel you – “… where are we going to put this tiny human?”

Guess what else happens at the week 14 epiphany?  Yes, the glorious second trimester.  Yes, the energetic phase.  And yes… the down-to-your-bones, tribal, medieval, eons-old craving? Desire? Hormone-driven, insatiable appetite… to NEST.  Husbands, just steer clear and support your beloved, for you know not the day nor the hour when superstorm Nest-a-Lot will be at your door. 

A house decluttering session was in order.


One Space at a Time

Alright, good on you, fearless one – you have made the decision to simplify, decluttering the house.  Consider yourself in the top percentile – some people can’t bring themselves to this point.  Maybe you binged Marie Kondo on Netflix first, or maybe you’ve just had enough.  Either way, ::virtual high five::!  You are on your way!

A word of advice:

Please, please, please don’t tear apart your entire house in one day.  It could lead to giving up realllllly quickly. 

What worked for us was “one space at a time.”  Not even one room at a time – one space at a time.  We took this in bite-sized pieces.  For example, the CD shelf.  Or, the filing cabinet.  Or, the giant pile of old Irish dance accessories in the guest room closet (guilty as charged). 

Since we were stuck home during Covid times, bound to the four walls of stuff staring us down, we’d pick one spot every week and go to town. 

Warning: This may take MONTHS.  That’s okay.  If it takes a long time, that means you’re being thorough and not avoiding the things you emotionally don’t want to address. 


Decisions, decisions…

Ok, you’ve picked a spot. Now what? Here’s a semi-KonMarie approach that worked for us when decluttering the house.

  1. Gather all like items together (ex. all the dresses, all the CDs, all the kitchen spatulas…)
  2. Compare the like items.
  3. Be honest with yourself if you have actually used them in the last year. Perhaps you’ll ask yourself if they bring you joy.
  4. Put one in the “out” pile. That’s it! Just one! I mean, you can ditch two if you want. But getting rid of just one is a really good start.
  5. Take a breath and do it again.

That’s all! Just do a little bit at a time, comparing items of like nature. You might find you have six black dresses, one of which you don’t use anymore. Or like us, you’ll find 5 snow shovels… and with only 2 adults in the house, it made no sense to have 5!!

Great job, you’re almost there!

The next question on your mind is probably…

….THAT’S GREAT BUT WHERE DO I PUT THIS STUFF ONCE I DON’T WANT IT?

I am glad you asked!


Where to Put the Stuff

If you’ve kept your stuff for this long, you probably don’t want to see it tossed into the compactor truck on a Saturday morning.  Fortunately, an eco-friendly house decluttering session t is totally possible!  Here are a few suggestions of best ways to distribute the things you’ve cleaned out without just tossing them in the trash. 

Give it away to people you love

We found that many items had plenty of life left in them, but just weren’t for us anymore.  Giving things away to people we love actually helped us with the emotional excuses like, “but that was my Christmas tree in college and I just can’t put it to the thrift store.” 

Examples of items we gave to family and friends:

  • My Christmas tree in college that I just couldn’t put to the thrift store.  Yes, I kept a 2-foot Christmas tree for 13 years after graduating college.  NYC apartment living lends itself well to pint-sized holiday décor.  One of my dear college roommates just bought a house, and I mailed it to her as a housewarming gift.  She was excited.  I was excited.  Everybody wins.
  • Our guest room bed.  When we bought our house, my brother & sis-in-law had given us the contents of their essentially-brand-new guest room when they had a second child.  Fast forward five years and they were looking for a new master bedroom mattress. Our guest room having been occupied exactly 10 times in four years, we were happy to share their original investment back with them.  No extra charge for the four years of storage.  We got more space.  They got a new(ish) mattress.  Everybody wins. 
  • The 60” television, stand, and DVD/Blue-ray player.  We initiated a “come to Jesus” discussion with ourselves and came to realize… while a 60” television is neat, we only watch it approximately 3 times per year.  It does not warrant such a large stamp on the real estate in our little basement rec room.  It’s time to say goodbye.  Derek’s folks had originally given it to us when they were downsizing, and we couldn’t bear to give or sell it to someone random. We gave it to Derek’s sis, who gave it to his cousin, who actually watches TV.  We felt no guilt.  They felt no guilt.  Everybody wins. 

Give it away to people you don’t love without leaving home

Have you polled the fam and no one wants your shite? All good.  The internet’s got your back.  Sites like Facebook, Craigslist, or Buy Nothing Group have a convenient section called “free,” and most items disappear in a matter of hours.   Take a few pics and see what sticks! 

Items that we listed under “free” and successfully unloaded include:

  • guest room headboard (my bro had a nicer one and didn’t need it back)
  • 2 doors
  • old hat box
  • 3 overflowing bags of crafting materials (yarn, fabric squares, ribbons, bows… you name it)
  • 50 plastic hangers
  • an 80lb. bag of concrete
  • 2 years worth of magazine subscriptions
  • baby gate (1 floor apartment living = no stairs to contend with)
  • 3 sterno pans with half-used cans (shockingly high competition for this, btw)

If you aren’t into posting photos and organizing individual pickups per item, check out your local veteran’s groups.  Our local UVWC United War Veterans Council picks up stuff AT OUR HOUSE.  We donated a giant bag of clothes there.  You can conveniently schedule the pickup via their website.  Boom!

Give it away to people you don’t love, but this time (maybe) leave home

You know it’s there.  Places to drop the house decluttering “stuff”:

  • Goodwill or Salvation Army: Be sure to check the rules on what they accept!  We dropped off several bags of clothes and household goods to our local Goodwill. 
  • Local sales & drives: like a nearby school that was having a book sale and wanted donations.  Keep an eye on town websites/social media.  We said goodbye to 4 (!!) tote bags of books this way.  Or check out local drives for things like shoes in the summertime or coats in the wintertime.
  • Books for Africa – They take any books, including text books, which we find are hardest to unload these days. Many college textbooks can quickly become outdated or switch over to digital.   Believe me, after watching D’s engineering textbooks collect dust for years, we were happy to pay the media mail shipping fee to see them used for good.

Sell it!

There are PLENTY of ways to sell your stuff these days.  Our favorites, and the “what we sold where” include:

  • Facebook Marketplace – This is great for furniture and large items!  We sold 2 kitchen upper cabinets, 1 space-saving above-the-toilet shelf, 1 6-panel door, 1 bifold door.  Total pocketed: $110.
  • Craigslist – We utilized the “Free Stuff” more than selling this time around, but in the past we’ve actually sold two sets of kitchen cabinets for cash. 
    • Safety tip for local pick-up: Until someone confirms a pickup time, even if it’s contactless pickup, I do not give out our address.  This ensures a level of commitment from the buyer, rather than splaying our address to random strangers that likely won’t show. 
  • Poshmark – This is the best place for selling clothing and accessories.  (Not yet a member? Use code “Thrifty_Noreen” for $10 to shop!). Shipping is SO EASY (they just mail you the label, no weighing or math needed).  Over the years I’ve sold dresses worn to weddings, lightly worn trendy pieces, etc.  This summer we sold a 2 vintage skirts, a pair of gloves, trendy button down, old graduation gown, vintage dress, athleisure wear, vintage slip, a new with tags (NWT) baseball jersey, and a cute vintage maternity gown.  Total pocketed: $188.
  • Mercari – Try this app for both clothing sales (ex. a cashmere scarf) and random items like CDs or tech stuff.  Yes, I sold 20 pop CDs from the 90s for $15. (Don’t worry, I uploaded the media to keep the music.)   Admittedly, I nearly shed a tear when packing up my beloved N’SYNC No Strings Attached….but let’s return to earth and admit that I hadn’t touched it since Homecoming ’03.  Total pocketed: $40.
  • eBay – We find eBay is best for “stuff,” electronics, and vintage items.  (Sorry to be the one to tell ya, but your stuff from the ‘90s now qualifies as vintage.)  Our summer clean out sales included an unopened fancy corkscrew, a used Google Nest, and vintage toys like a Barbie workout audio tape, hard-earned ski-ball championship Chuck E. Cheese frisbee & tickets, Kermit shoe toppers, two vintage button downs, and an Irish dance wig. People bid on the most peculiar things. Total pocketed: $104.
    • Safety tip for selling online: We keep a PO box as our return address.  The annual fee is worth it to us for our safety. 

All totaled, we pocketed almost $450 from our clean-out sales in the summer of 2020.  Fringe benefit!  We’ll take it!

Ready to take a deep-dive into reselling? Head over to our post, “Reselling online for extra cash: an in depth how to.”

Recycle it!

Sure, you can toss any item that is recycleable in your weekly pickup. But what about papers with sensitive info, electronics, or hazardous materials like stinky old lacquer thinner?

Check your local county or town’s page! Our municipality had a “shred day” where we dropped off a big box of what used to occupy our filing cabinet. Since we didn’t keep a shredder around, this was the perfect solution.  Ahhh, so freeing. 

Also, your town or county may have hazardous material or electronics recycling days.  We find this useful for the box in our basement housing aerosol cans, spray paint cans, soupy-looking wood varnish, half-empty paint that we hate, old computer wires that don’t work, etc.  Check your local websites and see what is offered from your house decluttering project.

6.  Last resort… throw it away

Unfortunately, there are a few items that truly cannot be given, sold, or recycled.  One thing we couldn’t find a way to give, sell, or recycle were bed pillows.  Local thrift shops and even pet shelters would not take pillows that had been slept on due to sanitary reasons. 


All Cleaned Out!  Now what?

First of all, kick back and look at ALL THE SPACE you now have. Relish this moment. Thank yourself and anyone who helped you. Decluttering the house is no easy task!

Secondly, vow to yourself and your family (if applicable) to be vigilant about what comes back into your home.

Lastly, enjoy your newfound freedom!  Celebrate, whether you choose to toast with friends or paint the nursery.  Or if you’re expecting, for Heaven’s sake put your feet up! 


how to clear house before an exciting life change