Head into the New Year with Less Clutter in Your Life

Is Your Home Ready for a Little Diet?
Take one house with closets already overflowing, throw in holiday decorations and a few deliveries from UPS and soon you have a house that is ready to explode. The holidays are a great time to put your home on a diet. A clean up of all of those items that have been sitting on the closet shelves for a year that you haven't used, clothes that you don't wear and old magazines gathering dust.

Over the years I have become acutely aware of the clean up and throw out process. With my numerous moves as a military spouse, emptying out my parents home of 45 years, downsizing and combining households, it has been a constant battle to sort out what is important and what needs to go. Along the way I've come to know my way to the local dump, Salvation Army and the phone number for various charities that will pick up larger donations. We are coming up on the anniversary of the last purge and have made a pact that anything in a box, except holiday decorations and true family heirlooms, must be tossed. If we didn't need it for a year then we can live without it forever.

When you are driving around do you ever notice the number of storage facilities that seem to be on every corner. In today's "throw away" society it seems a bit odd that there should be so much of a need for storage facilities. What is lurking behind all of those locked containers? Is it stuff we really need or is it easier just to tuck it away instead of dealing with it? How much money is being spent every year to store things that really should be headed to the dump or donated to a favorite charity? Could you have a vacation with the money instead?

Need some help getting started on the de-cluttering? It is over-whelming I can admit it! So here are a few ideas that helped get me started on the stuff purging:

  • Pick a room-doesn't matter where you start
  • Set a timeframe-only work on the room a couple of hours at a time
  • Sort through it-look at it once and decide if it is a keep, toss or donate
  • Don't reminisce-high school is long over, the faded corsages have got to go
  • Keep the space organized-have trash bags and plastic bins handy so that you aren't surrounded by piles
  • Repeat the process on the next room-move on the next day or next weekend to another space.
  • Reward yourself-trust me after you have made a run to the dump you want a reward

So take a look around and decide what you really need and what is ready to go. You might be surprised how good it feels to have put your house on a clutter diet.

                                   Real People*Real Lives*Real Estate

If you are interested in learning more about the Northern Virginia Real Estate market including Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax and Prince William Counties give Cindy Jones and Integrity Real Estate Group a call at 703-346-2213.

Military Relocation Specialist serving military families relocating to and from the Pentagon, Fort Belvoir, Quantico MCB and all of the Military District of Washington installations. 

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Check out www.varealestatetalk.com and www.cjrealtygroup.com for more information.

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Comment balloon 59 commentsCindy Jones • December 29 2009 05:32AM


Thanks for the reminder. I have been thinking of organizing my closet .

Posted by Gita Bantwal, REALTOR,ABR,CRS,SRES,GRI - Bucks County & Philadel (RE/MAX Centre Realtors) about 9 years ago

Funny you should mention that.  I have a vehicle full of items for Good Will today.  That's the back seat.  The items in the cargo area go to the landfill.

Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) about 9 years ago

Hi Cindy, thanks for your post. Things and people too? Regards,

Posted by Jane Nicastro-Disch, NJ Estates Real Estate Group of Weichert Realtors (Weichert Realtors) about 9 years ago

Ladies,  we are on the same page.    I stayed up until 1 am last night purging those closets.   Still not finished,  but I feel tons lighter.      Time to continue.....   thanks for the pointers!     No more buying stuff,  just cause it's on sale!

Posted by Connie King about 9 years ago


The removal of clutter is  very cleansing. Besides just clothes and vacuum cleaners that do not work --should be professional and personal files.

Posted by Lorraine or Loretta Kratz, Certified Negotiation Consultants (Crescent Moon Realty, Inc. & Land N Sea Auctions.) about 9 years ago

I am about to move (within a week) into a new house and that will be the best time to weed out.  When we packed I saved yardsale items and put into storage for next spring and tossed other unwanted stuff.  When I unpack, I will again sort through and anything else I don't need/want is GONE! 

Posted by Diana Hoyt (Lakes Region Buchanan Group, Ossipee, NH) about 9 years ago

Great tips on a not so fun job that needs to be done at my house. Where did it all come from?

Posted by Diane Williams about 9 years ago

Thank you Cindy- One of the top personal goal for next year...

Posted by Catherine Chaudemanche - Edison & Central NJ, Full Time, Informed and Involved- Results Driven (Metuchen Keller Williams Elite Realty / Middlesex County, NJ) about 9 years ago

Barbara CalwhiteGreat pointers.  And you don't have to wait until spring to 'spring clean'.  With just 2 of us at home, I don't know how we wind up with so much junk, but we are going to do one room each week end.  If I can keep us on track, we will be finished before spring.  Good luck to all.



Barbara Calwhite

Posted by Barbara Calwhite, 417-438-7387 Specializing in Relocation (Keller Williams Realty of Southwest Missouri) about 9 years ago

Cindy, I am in desperate need to clean out and declutter. My first step is my car. I began last night. I will continue on. Once I finish there, I need to tackle my house. When my busiest months (Oct-Dec) hit, I let things go!!! Time to get back on track. Great tips, thank you!

Posted by Marney Kirk, Towson, Maryland Real Estate (Cummings & Co. Realtors) about 9 years ago

My assistant and I hauled seven boxes of office supplies out of my home office and to my private office at Long & Foster.  My husband says he made three trips to Good Will with a Jeep filled to the top.  And we counted thirty-some super-size trash bags.  Who knew that much clutter could accumulate in a teeny little bedroom space?

Posted by Margaret Woda, Maryland Real Estate & Military Relocation (Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc.) about 9 years ago


Not the prom corsage - I can't part with it yet...

There are those who are organized and those who feel that they must keep everything. And, space is finite.  So, unless you clean out, donate items and call 1-800-gotjunk once in awhile you will have quite a fire hazard on your hands. 

Posted by Claudette Millette, Buyer, Broker - Metrowest Mass (The Buyers' Counsel) about 9 years ago

I was looking at my closet yesterday....full of stuff I don't wear anymore.

I have to do a closet cleaning. Good reminder to get rid of stuff.

Posted by Missy Caulk, Savvy Realtor - Ann Arbor Real Estate (Missy Caulk TEAM) about 9 years ago

Great tips, Cindy! Thank you! I did finally take two loads of stuff that had been sitting in the garage for a couple of years to Goodwill last week. But haven't even started the inside yet....yikes!

Posted by Dawn Nuzzi ('Til Dawn Real Estate) about 9 years ago

This is a great time of the year to do this. De-cluttering your space is the first step in de-cluttering your mind to help you focus and be more productive.

Posted by Susan Thompson-Solomons, Southern MD Real Estate-Solomons Specialist (Berkshire Hathaway Home Services McNelis Group Properties) about 9 years ago

What a timely post. Starting the new year lighter is my goal as well and I have blocked time this week for the adventure.

Posted by Deanne Olivas, Your Home Matters (Keller Williams Realty East Valley) about 9 years ago

Great idea at the perfect time of year to do it, now I have to write it down as a goal, and attach an affirmation to hopefully get this done

Posted by Gerry Michaels, GettysburgGerry Social Meida (Glasswork Media Arts) about 9 years ago

Gerry-Of course I didn't obey my own rules and ended up spending time sitting with family photos. 

Posted by Cindy Jones, Pentagon, Fort Belvoir & Quantico Real Estate News (Integrity Real Estate Group) about 9 years ago

Gita-I managed to sort out the clothes before the holidays now it is the other boxes that have been hiding for the last year that need to be dug into.

Posted by Cindy Jones, Pentagon, Fort Belvoir & Quantico Real Estate News (Integrity Real Estate Group) about 9 years ago

I thought I was the anti-clutter bug until my girlfriend topped me. Next month it is eBay, Craig's List, and a garage sale. 

Posted by Joe Pryor, REALTOR® - Oklahoma Investment Properties (The Virtual Real Estate Team) about 9 years ago

Great post. Been cleaning up all month. Will take some time.


Posted by Tony Grego, 317-663-4173 #1 Trade Association for Alternative Inv (REISA - 317-663-4173) about 9 years ago

Iv'e been trying to get motivated to do this. Sometimes it looks overwhelming.

Posted by Rob D. Shepherd, Principal Broker GRI, SRES (Windermere/lane county) about 9 years ago

My kids have a rule they have to donate atleast 5 toys that are working condition for donation before they get new xmas or their b'thday gifts. Keeps my home clutter free for most part :-). Same goes for adults we clean up and declutter our closet atleast twice a year

Posted by Ritu Desai, Virginia Realtor-Fairfax/Loudoun/PW-703-625-4949 (Samson Properties) about 9 years ago

Good ideas! Personally I can't function in clutter..or what I perceive as clutter. When packages arrive or mail or anything..I sort at the garbage can! I don't store clutter either..when I have something new..I give away/donate/get rid of something too.

Posted by Blatt + Cutino, Broker-Associate 831/206-8070*Call today* (Keller Williams Coastal Estates) about 9 years ago

What an excellent post!  I agree that you feel so much better when things are lighter in your environment and not weighed down by all the disorganization and clutter.  Some of my clients that feel overwhelmed only start at 15 minutes per day in one part of the room.  Soon they're feeling better and increase the time on their own!

Posted by Laura Cerrano, Certified Feng Shui Expert, Speaker & Researcher (Feng Shui Manhattan Long Island) about 9 years ago

Fantastic post, Cindy.  Over the years, we have moved a few times.  Each time, I have looked at it as a chance to "purge" all old stuff that we absolutely HAD to have and hadn't used in God knows how long.  With a teenager, we tend to purge the closets once a year, too.  Most of the clothes go to the Salvation Army, along with anything we couldn't sell at a garage sale.  I am so with you on getting rid of stuff you haven't used in the last year (other than family heirlooms or holiday decorations).  It's like a good deep cleaning of your home.  Nice!

Posted by Heather Chavez, Real Estate Virtual, Assistant (928) 692-3235 (Second Self Virtual Assistance) about 9 years ago

Cindy,  What a great efficient list for how to make this happen.  Also, when you start with one room/spot, you can feel a sense of accomplishment that helps it move forward.  We were sadly amazed at the amount of wrapping paper we had.  We didn't buy anything new this year and we still have enough for all of next year!!!!  (It's been 3-4 years since I tackled that closet.)  Now, it's my first task when we return to town.  Less clutter feels great.  All the best in 2010! Michelle

Posted by Michelle Francis, Realtor, Buckhead Atlanta Homes for Sale & Lease (Tim Francis Realty LLC) about 9 years ago

Words of wisdom to be sure.  I hope more than a couple people take your advice!

Posted by John Akers (Keller Williams) about 9 years ago


De-cluttering can be a wonderfully liberating experience! Thank God I've been blessed with a girlfriend that is practically the antithesis of a hoarder. 

Posted by Ian Greenleigh about 9 years ago

I have picked a room for the last ump teen years.  My office.  I'm getting better.  It's been trimmed down but I'm still not there.  The no reminiscing part...that's where I get caught.  I usually will start thinking about where I got something, who was there, what was going on, etc...  My only chance is to get into a bit of a huff (angry) and start tossing things.  I am getting better.  Thank for the article.

Posted by Frank Castaldini, Realtor - Homes for Sale in San Francisco (Compass) about 9 years ago
Cindy, decluttering just puts more energy into your life. Love your tips!!
Posted by Gary Woltal, Assoc. Broker Realtor SFR Dallas Ft. Worth (Keller Williams Realty) about 9 years ago

Hi Cindy -- Solid advice and one which often goes unheeded in closets I see when a buyer opens the doors and says: Wow, look at all that stuff, our stuff won't fit in here.  Keeping a closert 50-75% full and storing things under the bed, etc., and keeping things very organized will go a long way.

Posted by Chris Olsen, Broker Owner Cleveland Ohio Real Estate (Olsen Ziegler Realty) about 9 years ago

Cindy...You have wonderful tips which I really need to follow!  Now that you gave me the game plan, can I execute it?  Ah, not sure yet!  Thanks for the pointers.

Posted by Carra & Shae Riley, Helping people Transition at all ages! (Brokers Guild Cherry Creek Ltd) about 9 years ago

Cindy:  I started this process in the kitchen this holiday.  I got new pots and pans.  Boxed up the old ones, then thought, "Hmmmm, since I'm going to the Salvation Army anyway..." Cleaning up closets is a great feeling. 

Posted by Chris Ann Cleland, Associate Broker, Bristow, VA (Long and Foster REALTORS®, Gainesville, VA) about 9 years ago

Thanks for the post...all great tips that we should try and do at least once a year. 

Posted by Michael Larson (Lancer Group Properties) about 9 years ago

Even better than throwing stuff away, consider whether you really need to buy more stuff. Reduce, reuse, recycle.

Posted by Christa Ross, Helping you buy and sell Pittsburgh's Best Homes (RE/MAX Select Realty - REALTOR and Green Homes Specialist) about 9 years ago

Great points, I like to donate a lot of my items I dont use or need.

Posted by Trisha P Realty Group, "Holding the Keys to Your Dream Home" (Realty Executives) about 9 years ago

Great post but it just reminds me I need to tackle my garage and make the garbage man earn his keep.  Happy New Year and may you have a very very prosperous 2010. 

Posted by Larry Gray (Real Estate Consultant) about 9 years ago

I want to declutter, I want to declutter, I want to declutter!!

Posted by Team Honeycutt (Allen Tate) about 9 years ago

Great timely post.  I will be doing this when I take the Christmas tree down.  I was showing a house yesterday that was such a mess...it showed terribly.  I should send this post to the owners prhaps they would take the hint to clean and remove some all the trash, toys, clothes, etc...so the home would sale.

Posted by Rebecca Gaujot, Realtor®, Lewisburg WV, the go to agent for all real estate (Vision Quest Realty) about 9 years ago

My sister and I are both purging this week....she's way ahead of me but I'm getting revved up.  Nothing like a little sibling rivalry to get the job done!

Posted by Kirsten Lindquist, Realtor - Sonoma Wine Country (Pacific Union International) about 9 years ago


I'm going to start with my office.

And, I must have at least 30 old computers.....



Posted by Brian Madigan, LL.B., Broker (RE/MAX West Realty Inc., Brokerage (Toronto)) about 9 years ago

Cindy - you are so right about de-cluttering. I worked on my office area yesterday, and have clothes to give away as well. No point in keeping them around, and they may be useful for someone else.

Posted by Sharon Paxson, Newport Beach Real Estate (Compass) about 9 years ago

Sure, I can move furniture, boxes, shelves, etc. But how, oh how, to I organize the clutter in my mind?! =)

Posted by Aaron Vaughn | Builder | Investor, If the deal makes sense, the cash will follow. (Conifer Homes) about 9 years ago

Cindy - I loved the analogy of putting my house on a diet...sure fits my after-holiday mindset. 

Posted by Kate Wheeler, CCIM - Murphy NC Real Estate for Sale (Country Homes and Land Murphy NC Realtor ) about 9 years ago

Great post, Cindy! I'd like to pay someone to do it for me but couldn't possibly allow anyone to see the clutter until I've sorted it out! LOL

Posted by Maria Morton, Kansas City Real Estate 816-560-3758 (Chartwell Kansas City Realty) about 9 years ago

Cindy - I'm in the process of moving and I can't believe how much stuffs I have.  I've been organizing my paperwork.  It's overwhelming but I see your point.  I feel much better that the house looks neater. 

Posted by Rosalinda Morgan, "The Rose Lady" about 9 years ago


Great post! I currently have my home on the market and, as hard as we try, it is always panic time when we have a showing. Your tips are priceless ... and soooo timely.

Posted by Linda Powers, On the Outer Banks (Resort Realty - Duck) about 9 years ago

Cindy, this is a great reminder for getting rid of clutter, especial now that we have time, just before the new year. I kinda started on this yesterday, I was looking for a paper. I have to go through my room and all my papers I accumulate. last time I did a major clean up was about 6 months ago when I got my puppy, its 2 years old. 

Posted by Eva Aliaga, Boca Raton & Delray Beach: SE Florida Real Estate (Keller Williams Realty Boca Raton IdealFloridaLiving.com) about 9 years ago

Ah Cindy! You reminded us that THAT has to go on the New Year resolution list! Hate the job, but that wonderful feeling when you walk into that organized room or closet!  Great post- timely 

Posted by Al & Peggy Cunningham, Brokers, Our Family Wants To Help Your Family! (RE/MAX West Realty Inc., Brokerage) about 9 years ago

Cindy, I'm so proud of us.  We purchased only ONE roll of wrapping paper this Christmas.  We re-used old paper and, most of all, decorative bags.  This week after Christmas is a great time to declutter/discard/donate before all the storage boxes go back to ... where?  ... the storage unit. 

Posted by Sallie Williams, REALTOR - MBA, Baton Rouge (Keller Williams Realty RED STICK PARTNERS) about 9 years ago

Great post. I pick my garage. A man can never have a "too" organized garage, can he ? My fetish I guess.

Posted by Chuck brawn about 9 years ago

I love to get rid of stuff I don't need. You just function better when the house is clean and in order also. It carries over into your business and relationships.

Posted by Lizette Fitzpatrick, Lizette Realty, Lexington KY MLS - Kentucky Homes (Lizette Realty - Richmond KY) about 9 years ago

  We started by organizing staging stuff....and have expanded that plan....trips to the Good Will.....wallls we forgot we had...:)...closets that have room...the stuff you can actually see and don't buy again cuz now you know you already have....when we moved to this house...my best gal pal made me get rid of my prom dresses....enough....best to you in the new year !

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Realtors - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) about 9 years ago

Posted yesterday that I was mid-purge.  Updating today to say I got two big boxes of books to my local thrift shop (nice ones, too) and several bags of clothing.  Feels SO GOOD...I'm staying on it today, Here in Sonoma Valley the sky is grey, but my day is brightening with each thing I decide to give away.

Posted by Kirsten Lindquist, Realtor - Sonoma Wine Country (Pacific Union International) about 9 years ago

Cindy - I've lived in the same house for 30 years. Not only do I have my clutter, I have clutter from my grown children. And I'm sure I have the prom corsage from my youngest. 

I see several trips to Goodwill for me in 2010. It's getting crowded in here.


Posted by Suzanne Strickler, School is never out for the Succesful. (Realty Mark Associates) about 9 years ago

Cindy I have to agree.  I have a bad habit of keeping paper in particular, magazines, etc....thinking I might need that later.  So, my plan is to deal with it immediately and move on.  Besides the piles on my desk don't look too good.  Thanks to your spouse for his service.

Posted by Sun City Grand Homes; Surprise AZ Real Estate and Homes,Josee Plant Long Realty West Valley, Arizona Retirement Communities Specialist (Long Realty West Valley) about 9 years ago

The reward part sounds like a Starbucks and Panera run to me!

Posted by Cheryl Ritchie, Southern Maryland 301-980-7566 (RE/MAX Leading Edge www.GoldenResults.com) about 9 years ago

OK - My husband and I are guilty.  We just rented a storage unit so we can make room in our house and garage. 

Now... you might think we are just trying "to tuck it away instead of dealing with it", but we do have a plan.  Here in Arizona the only time my husband and I seem to have in our busy careers is smack in the middle of the summer (think 115 degrees+). 

Anyway, we figure we'll head to the air conditioned storage unit this summer and deal with the stuff I'm sure we don't need but still need to sort through.  :)

Posted by Kathy Anderson, Arizona Retirement Homes For Sale, Sun City Grand (HomeSmart) about 9 years ago

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