The Big New Year’s Clearout

Christmas has been and gone and with it valuable space in our household. Whilst we by no means have a small house, our storage space, like – I imagine – many other’s at this time of year, has been severely reduced. The time has come to begin the first day of the Big New Year’s Clearout, in which everyone’s stuff is subjected to close inspection of it’s future usefulness in the HTRAP household.

Here is what happens:

Broken, unnecessary or ugly?

This is the first question to ask when pruning stuff. It’s been recommended in many an organisation book and it is a useful guideline in making an informed decision as to what stays and what goes. It greatly reduces the occurrences of later on regretting that you have thrown something away in a fit of wanting to be more organised – after all, if it’s broken or ugly now it will still be broken and ugly in a few months’ time.

Whether or not an item may be useful in the future is slightly more difficult to decide. Who is to say that my old juggling balls, for instance, won’t help me become a master juggler in the future and change my career to a more circus-based one? It’s a game of probability, but only you can decide what is suits your personality.

I never throw craft items away and I am glad of my flat-out refusal to do so. Some things I haven’t touched in years, but may suddenly decide to take up again. This year, for example, I have used up some old card making stock I’ve had since my student years over a decade ago. As part of my New Year’s Resolutions, I want to expand my crafting hobby over the course of the year. So my craft stuff  clearout will be a more gradual one: buy less, use more, be more creative with what stuff is used for.

If an item is broken, the big questions are these: Is it fixable? Is it worth fixing? If the answer to the latter question is no, be ruthless. If the answer is yes, then consider whether, after fixing, the item fits into the ‘pretty’ and ‘useful’ categories after fixing.

What is the point?

As with any tedious task, pruning needs motivation to keep you going for the first part of the job. I find that, after a while, it can become quite addictive, but the sheer enormousness of what is ahead before you start pruning can be quite off-putting. So make a point of finding a reason for pruning. For example, I need a clear desk for work this year if I am to work on my career in the way I have decided. So the need to prune the stuff in the office room is determined by clearing a working desk area (which is so much more motivating than the generic ‘I need to make space for a potential guest room’), which goes hand in hand with filing some old paperwork.

And while we’re on the subject of paperwork, some of my files have no space left in them, so I will have to go through them, too. With paperwork, I follow these rules: tax-related and legal documents (those that don’t need to last a lifetime) are kept for 10 years, bank statements, work records etc. for 5 years and any other paperwork for 2 years. No one needs to see my UCAS application form anymore, nor does anyone want to see my handwriting certificates from when I was in primary school. Most if it doesn’t even have sentimental value, so all it is doing is clogging up desk space. Be ruthless.

Rubbish or not?

If it’s broken and cannot (should not) be repaired, it goes in the bin. The question is what to do with the stuff – especially books, jewellery and children’s toys – that is no longer wanted and useful, but in far too good a condition to be thrown away.

I have to declare here that I am not a big fan of waste. I am fairly environmentally conscious and will reduce and reuse over recycling any day. I don’t go to any great extremes in my household – I will use plastics, buy disposable nappies and your eyes would pop at the amount of tinsel and glitter in this house at Christmas time – but I still like to believe that I am conscious of my carbon footprint and my impact on wildlife in this world.

So if an item is no longer useful (or if it is ugly) I will make a decision as to what happens with it in the future, which will reduce taking it to the bin to a minimum.

In the past, stuff has gone to each and every one of the following: friends (clothes, jewellery, children’s clothes and toys), charity shops (toys, clothes, rags), nurseries and Sure Start centres (toys, books), libraries (books), the ‘any old iron’ men driving through the streets and random passers-by (outdoor toys, bikes) with a great big ‘free to a new home’ sign. Chosen carefully and cleaned well, those old items have found new homes, where they were appreciated until no longer useful or broken and then passed on or recycled at the end of their lives.

If something is ugly, I am considering upcycling over throwing things out. I have previously posted about upcycling my daughter’s old furniture last summer in order to make her room fit for a tweenager and upcycling an old coffee table to make my son’s well-loved activity board. This year, my ambitions are smaller as most of our furniture has been put in place, but there are still little things I can do. Our house came with hideous door stoppers for both our children’s rooms, both of which will be tackled this year to make them more suitable for our tastes. And some old storage solutions could really do with a bit of a make-over to make them look less outdated. They are little projects, which will fit in well around a full-time job with two children.

But enough of the talk, it’s time to get on with it. Watch this space for upcycling updates.

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