Spring isn’t the only time to clean up your home (and more). To keep your life in order, here are eight ways to declutter your digital and physical baggage.
A “spring cleaning,” regardless of the time of year, is essential. You may need a massive sweep (and not just throwing things under the rug): digital clutter and real-life tangibles need to be assessed. Particularly with soo many digital options, it’s easy to have an “out of sight, out of mind” perspective. Decluttering and simplifying your life can unburden your mind and help you become more organized in other areas of your life (like your finances).
1. Sell it!
This should be your first go-to. I (Eric) am currently going through a major decluttering phase. I never wear watches but have been given them as gifts. I will never take my scuba fins in a travel bag again (I had to buy them in order to get certified). And I will have to exhale real hard (and hold it for days) before I fit back into my medium-sized shirts from my previous life. So what is all of this clutter? Junk. But one man’s junk is another man’s jewel. Find a place to sell it. (Ebay is an easy one—and here’s a nifty eBay fee calculator—but we listed a few others here.) Something in great shape may get you a bit of cheddar at a consignment shop. However, if you can’t sell it, donate it. Someone may need it (and if you itemize your deductions, you may even get some money back after April 15th). If you don’t want it, and can’t donate it, then sometimes it’s best to just (responsibly) chuck it.
2. Recycle those electronics
We all keep junk and outdated technology. Sometimes it’s because you need it . . . mostly it’s because “what if?” (like that cord to charge a flip phone that you dropped in a toilet 10 years ago). Get rid of it, BUT instead of throwing it out, research e-waste places in your area. The Lower East Side Ecology Center in New York hosts frequent events where they take in a multitude of items that would otherwise end up in waste bins. Many cities and towns sponsor waste recycling/disposal days so you can responsibly get rid of your old electronics as well as other items that should not be thrown into ordinary trash. There are other options as well. For instance, companies like Best Buy have e-waste drop-offs for many items like cell phones. Some of these drop-off points coordinate with good causes like National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Hope Phones, Cell Phones for Soldiers, and Earth 911, which you can also contact independently. Ultimately, you can always check the U.S Environmental Protection Agency website for ways to dispose of electronics and other items. Just don’t be a plastic straw in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
3. Reuse or repurpose
This gets tricky. You don’t want to hoard items that you “might need someday,” but there are some cool things you can do with your outdated swag. Old ladders can become bookshelves (or places to show pictures), CD spindles can hold your bagel . . . . The message is to feel free to be creative, but if you show up on the next episode of Hoarders, I will deny ever having written the following:
- Reusing can also mean “regifting.” Have you received presents like unwanted candles or useless cooking supplies? These are perfect for regifting. (And if you like the person, save it for a white elephant party.) If someone can use the item, great. If you don’t like the person, even better.
4. Be reasonable
The “I haven’t used it in a year” rule doesn’t always apply. There are things that you infrequently need but should still keep. A ski jacket, WD-40, your parents’ wedding china? Just because you either forgot about them or don’t need them on a regular basis doesn’t mean that you should throw them out with the bathwater. Don’t be overly sentimental, but also don’t let the past (especially expensive, regretful purchases) hold you back. But overall, that oh-so-emo black turtleneck is coming back in fashion as fast as any No Fear hyper-color or coed naked (fill in the sport or profession) T-shirt.
5. Digital graveyards
Don’t let the ghosts of your past possess your phone. Exorcise them and lift your spirits. Not to be “cryptic,” but this will give you more space to focus on your present and your future.
- Zombie photos:
Most of us are extremely guilty of this. Just because you can have what seems like a digital presence expanding faster than the Big Bang doesn’t mean that you should. Who are these photos for? In one year, let alone next week, are you really going to be looking over dozens of pictures of the same thing? OK, maybe if you ran into a celeb at Coachella, you may reminisce, but you don’t need to keep 20 of your best angles on your phone.
- Vampire contacts:
So I am as guilty as the next for my phone being a graveyard of bad decisions, but this is all deadweight (and a potential late-night minefield). This holds true for Instagram, Facebook, etc. (maybe not LinkedIn), but someone you will never talk to again or who gives you FOMO . . . well, FOFF. People, and memories thereof, can also be toxic. It may be good to keep someone’s number in your phone so you know NOT to pick up. (I put a Z in front of their name, so it also falls to the bottom of my contacts.) This helps me focus on the people that matter to me.
OTTER TIP: When putting someone’s number in your phone, take a picture of them and add it their contact info. It will make things less awkward when that random name or number is hitting your digits.
6. Empty space
Just because you have it doesn’t mean that you have to fill it. There is a compulsion to do so, which means more expenses. (You either buy something cheap to fill it, which will have to be replaced, or you overextend a budget on nice furnishings.) Yes, a creepy room out of Rosemary’s Baby isn’t a look, but think about a minimalist office, a yoga/meditation room, or a simple guest room. Even survivalists don’t have “junk rooms.” Clean it.
7. Paper houses
That article you’re going to read or will want to reference at some indeterminate point in the future? Get rid of it! Put it in a reading or reference list (yes, it’s probably online), scan it in, and file it appropriately (or just realize that it will probably be outdated by the time you need it). Paper accumulates quickly, whether it be newspaper clippings, magazines, books, etc. If you need it, go digital! (Although to backtrack, things like receipts for deductions, old tax returns, and important medical files can be kept in physical form.) However, take inventory of what you’re holding onto and whether you still need it.
Why is this here? Because online clutter can affect you just like the real-world stuff. With the amount of time you can spend deleting unwanted emails (which can be just as distracting as the constant pings of a group text), you probably could have already defrosted your freezer five times over. Great, there’s an R/T to Hawaii next week for $500, but how realistic is it that you are getting those vacation days (or have $500 in your budget to jet off to Hawaii)? Also, is that travel company that is offering a ridiculous rate even reputable? Ditch the spam, and, hopefully, you won’t surrender to your inbox being bombarded. If you want a leg up on this, create a separate junk mail account, an account for only friends, and one for work/job emails. It may seem counterproductive to compartmentalize your life like this, but you can always delete the non-personal ones.
The world is filled with noise. This can be digital, informational, clutter, and actual noise pollution. Create some peace; the silence is golden. Clear out the rubbish that may have cost you a fortune, and carve out space (and time) to focus on more important things like your financial future.