Two mature women holding an antique teapot in a store

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

Grandma’s antique dresser, Johnny’s kindergarten drawings, Sally’s dance recital costumes, you’ve been collecting memorabilia for years with the hope that one day your family will want it, but they don’t. So what do you do with it now? It’s time to declutter!

According to AARP, it takes about 20-30 hours to declutter and organize a home. Now, this may seem overwhelming, but as the saying goes: “Don’t try to eat the whole elephant in one bite.” If you carve 2 hours out of your day a few days a week, decluttering your home is very doable. Here are a few tips to help you along the way:

Take a Picture, It’ll Last Longer

One way to declutter your home is to take pictures and make a photo album of your precious memorabilia, like those drawings or dance costumes. This helps to preserve the memory without taking up the space. So many memories are attached to objects, and it may feel like giving up the object means giving up the memories, but this is not true. If you struggle getting rid of the item, write down a special memory you have of it or an in-depth description and attach it with the photo.

Assess Your Actual Needs

What do you need and what do you want? These are two essential questions you need to ask yourself. You don’t need those old dresses you once wore, but you may want the family heirloom that’s been passed down for generations. One way to assess what you need versus what you want is to use the cardboard box test. This test can be applied to any category of belongings—kitchen, clothes, bathroom, kids toys, etc. Put all the items in a cardboard box and for one month (or more depending on the category) only pull the items out when you use them. If at the end of the month, you still have items in the cardboard box, get rid of them. These are things you don’t use regularly and only take up space.

Make It Fun

  • Bring along a friend.

One way to make organizing fun it to have a friend do it with you. Friends who declutter together, stay together. A close friend will go down memory lane with you and help you discard items when you feel you can’t.

  • Reward yourself!

When you have finished with your organizing for the day, treat yourself! Whether it’s a nice nap or a fun movie, give yourself a pat on the back and feel good about the work you accomplished.

Letting go of your belongings can be difficult, but it can also be rewarding. Constantly looking to the past only takes away from the present. It’s time to make space in your life for new memories and to look forward to what the future can bring.