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Cleaning out the Clutter

declutter(Almost) nine years ago, I stood in my closet staring at a sea of clothing that no longer fit me. I was days away from returning to work after having my first baby. Returning to work and taking my son to daycare left me full of anxiety and I felt horrible about my post baby body. I started to cry and then without thinking twice, put every single article of clothing I owned into garbage bags, and dropped them off at Goodwill.

After my purge, I went shopping and bought five pairs of pants and ten shirts that fit my new body. It wasn’t much, but later that day, as I stood looking at these clothes – the only clothes in a very empty closet – I suddenly felt lighter. It was in that very moment, a minimalist was born.

less is more

Cleaning out my closet made me feel so free and at peace, I kept going. In the weeks that followed, I cleaned out (top to bottom) my refrigerator, pantry, kitchen cabinets, living room, dining area, nightstand, and office area, among other spaces. I tossed, donated, and recycled furniture, candles, towels, sheets, toiletries, Tupperware, vases, frames, electronics, papers, magazines…you name it. If I didn’t use it, love it, or need it – I got rid of it.

Fast forward nine years, I have two young boys, and although my home contains more stuff than I’d like, I still consider myself a minimalist. I de-clutter in one way shape or form every day. If I buy something new, I get rid of something old. I discard duplicates of anything. I own less than 12 pairs of shoes, my walk in closet is about 1/3 full, and I don’t own a dresser.


Clearing out clutter can be a daunting task, but if you want to do it, I’m here to tell you that it’s manageable if you tackle it – slowly but surely – in small chunks (i.e. room by room or piece by piece). To get you started, here is a short list of things that are easy to sort through, recycle, donate, or toss.

  1. Expired food, spices, and oils
  2. Clothes and shoes that are worn out; that you don’t wear; or that don’t fit
  3. Little knickknacks around your house that you don’t absolutely love
  4. Picture frames, vases, bowls, platters, candles that you don’t use or like
  5. Craft supplies
  6. Kids artwork (if you can’t part with it consider scanning it as an image and saving it in your computer or just keep a few of those extra precious kids crafts in a small shoebox/tote)
  7. Cables and wires you don’t use (or don’t know to what they belong)
  8. Junk mail and magazines that you’ve already read or will never read
  9. Extra Tupperware and kitchen utensils you don’t use regularly
  10. Worn out towels, sheets, and pillows
  11. Old or outdated sports and workout equipment
  12. Toys and clothing that your kids have outgrown
  13. Costume jewelry that is tarnished, rusty, or that you simply never wear
  14. Papers, pictures, and other print outs/papers that are not being displayed and are backed up on your computer
  15. Expired medications or scripts

Do you de-clutter your home or office? Are there easy items to sort through, recycle, donate, or toss that I missed in my list?


About Jennifer Woodbury Duval

Jennifer Woodbury Duval
A right coaster now living on the left, Jennifer Duval is a mom to two rambunctious boys, and works full-time in the communications department at a Fortune 500 company. Fueled by logic, she is a no-nonsense type of gal who doesn’t buy into the latest trends, but does like to try new, trendy restaurants. An avid reader, she also loves coffee, chocolate, Zumba, and discovering new places.


  1. Megan Fikes

    I love purging! And I finally got my close to a hoarder husband to start liking it too after we had a yard sale last year and he saw that we earned money on all the crap he had been storing in our garage! I go through my closet at least 2-4 times a year. We bought a house last year and downsized quite a bit from our rental, but it felt so good to rid ourselves of so much stuff that we weren’t using! We still have a lot that we could go through, but like you said, do it slowly and it won’t become overwhelming! Great read!

  2. Jessica Santina

    I am definitely inspired to throw everything away! Someone pointed out to me one time that wealthy people’s homes are often simply decorated. No knick-knacks on things. There’s no real desire to hang onto stuff. It makes great sense. My husband is a total clutter hound, hanging onto little childish things–old Star Wars toys, VHS tapes of NBA games from the 80s…it makes me crazy. Now my daughter is the same way, collecting little plastic toys gathered from treasure boxes at school, swim class, party favor bags…I’m fighting a losing battle. 🙁

  3. Thanks for sharing such nice tips about cleaning. It will be helpful for future reference.

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