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  • Writer's pictureMichael Duran

Find Zen With Less Stuff

Updated: Dec 16, 2019

There’s a cost-free way for your home to show better, increase storage space and decrease stress all while making it easier to clean without a magic wand. That’s right, Mary Poppins. Put down your floating umbrella and get some boxes. This won’t take long.

I love having what I need and no more. Everything has its place and it all fits. No overflowing drawers, stuffed shelves or packed garage. Personally, I don’t want to feel like I live in a storage unit. Not being surrounded by “stuff" is incredibly liberating. To be clear, I’m not a minimalist. Not even close. To me, “minimalist” conjures up images of a post-apocalyptic, dystopian future. I simply like having less stuff and truly enjoy the zen of a clutter-free living space and the absence of chaos.

What is getting free rent in your home? Here’s what we found that just took up space:

  1. CDs - my entire music library is on my phone. With the proliferation of music streaming services and devices like Alexa that double as speakers, it’s hard to justify devoting space to CDs.

  2. DVDs - AppleTV and Roku relegated our DVD collection to the land of never gets used. See also CD’s.

  3. DVD / Blu-Ray Player … because we just got rid of all the DVDs.

  4. Power strips and computer cables - Power strips have a shelf life. For safety sake, toss your old strips as well as cables with frayed ends or bent connectors. Look for cables specific to legacy tech such as Apple’s 30 pin connectors (last used on the iPhone 4) and anything that connected to a Blackberry. Side note: USB adapters (the part that plugs into the outlet) can still be used with other devices!

  5. Paper - Going paperless several years ago was huge! Start with the easy stuff first. If you’re not already doing so, take the paperless option for any statement that offers it. I think most of us handle our bills online but if you’re receiving the paper statements as well, those are easy to cut out. Junk mail rarely makes it into the house. Weekly mailers go straight to the recycle bin. And while I love perusing catalogs, all of it can be found online so those also go straight to the recycle bin.

  6. Sometimes there are paper documents you may need but not necessarily in hard copy. The Dropbox app has a handy scanner feature that works with your phone’s camera. Place your document(s) on a flat surface and hit SCAN. The app will find the four corners of your document, scan it, straighten it out to correct the viewing angle so the scan looks flat, and correct the lighting so that the image is uniform. The image quality is excellent and it has the added bonus of saving your document to your online Dropbox account. It also has the virtue of being free.

  7. Apple also created a scan feature in the Notes app for iOS11 users: Thinning out the filing cabinet was relatively painless and now that we keep fewer papers, fewer things get added helping to keep the bulk down.

  8. Clothes - I was terrible with clothes. If a shirt was still in good shape, I’d keep it whether I was wearing it or not. Now I have a different mindset. If a shirt is in great shape that’s awesome! I donate it so someone else can wear it while I free up valuable space in a crowded closet. Win-win! As a rule of thumb, if I haven’t worn an article of clothing in the past two years, I’m not going to miss it; it goes in the give-away box.

  9. Toys - as the kids got older, they moved away from clutter sources like building blocks and crafts in favor of console gaming and music. This is a great way to get the kids involved in donating, cleaning and decluttering.

And that's just a start. The kitchen is a documentary-worthy endeavor on it's own. But you get the picture.

Strategy from the Pros

Focus on one room at a time. Bring in boxes for giveaway, packing tape and garbage bags. Start by removing everything from closets and drawers — including the things you want to keep — and lay it out on the floor or counter. Quickly divide things into ‘Keep’, ‘Donate’, "Trash" and ‘Maybe’ piles. Put the ‘Keep’ pile back in the closet and you’re halfway to zen! Remove recycle and garbage immediately. Box up your ‘Donate’ pile and get it to the car.

I like Facebook Marketplace hands down over Craigslist. Superior user interface. You can view the profile of a prospective Buyer and your item gets far more attention. We’re typically selling things to make space, not a profit. If I’m not using an item, it’s of little value to me anyway, especially if it’s packed away in a box, unused. Pricing things low gets them out quickly and less time spent responding to inquiries. Think of it this way. Someone is paying you to haul off your stuff.

  • If your item hasn’t sold within a week, send it straight to the donation box and don’t look back. In fact, donate your items that day!

  • Those handy drive-up bins that have become ubiquitous in the grocery store parking lot typically only accept clothes while donations centers like Goodwill will typically take clothes and household items.

  • Donation centers will generally not accept old, letterbox style TV’s or mattresses.Check with your trash collection provider on services they offer. If you’re in Southern Nevada, Republic Services will take just about everything, often for free provided you follow their guidelines. Mattresses, for example, must be wrapped in plastic while toxic fluids like motor oil must be in appropriate leak-proof containers and clearly labeled.

  • Best Buy, OfficeMax and Staples have programs for old tech like cell phones, printers, scanners, fax, etc. Check their websites for details.

Purging is a Habit

Honestly, we still buy new stuff. I love me some Amazon. But we don’t buy more than we need and once you’re in the mindset of having fewer things, purging becomes easy. Next time you feel the need for retail therapy, think about clearing out a drawer or two instead. It’s a no-cost treatment you can do at home and you’ll have the satisfaction of a cleaner, organized space.

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