Monthly Archives: December 2014

Project Declutter: Christmas

Fortunately, this was much easier than I expected!

Over the years, our accumulation of Christmas decorations has grown out of control. So this year, as part of our larger declutter project (but also because it’s a good test for using Swampumâ„¢ to pass things along to other people), we made a commitment to sort through every single piece of holiday ephemera and choose whether to keep it or not.

Bottom line: we pared down from 12 storage bins to 8 and found a good amount of things to pass along for others to enjoy.


Here’s how we did it:

First we pulled from the attic the 12 bins of decorations we sift through every year deciding what to use. This included 2 bins that are labeled “Early Christmas” because they contain the things we put up first as well as the supplies for sending out Christmas cards.

Going through each bin and each item, we fairly quickly settled on 4 distinct piles: one for things we use each year and want to keep and three for things we no longer want (those our daughter may use when she has her own place, others that might have enough value to sell and finally, those that don’t have enough value to try selling and should just be given away).

Those things that we think our daughter might want eventually were boxed up again and put in longer-term storage in the attic–sufficiently out of the way that they don’t clog up the annual decorating effort, but easy enough to retrieve when it’s time to pass them along.

The pile of things that we thought might have enough value to sell included mostly older Hallmark and Disney ornaments. Some collectors go gaga over these ornaments, so I thought I should at least check out eBay to see what they might be worth. To my surprise, even the most valuable (based on actual completed transactions over the past few months, not just current listings) of these ornaments wasn’t worth more than $15. The prospect of earning a few hundred dollars by going through the hassle of listing, selling and shipping 30-40 ornaments didn’t appeal to me at all, so everything went directly into the “Give Away” pile.

All told we ended up with about 80 different Christmas decorating items nice enough for someone else to use, and it took about a week to list them all on Swampumâ„¢ (if you’re curious, here’s what’s left).

Even better, we’ve now streamlined our decorating bins down to 8 from 12 and we won’t have to go through the use/don’t use sort each holiday season.

Project Declutter: Getting Started

One of our primary motivations for building this site was to create a more effective tool for decluttering. While not everyone qualifies to be documented on Hoarders, most of us have things that are unused and just taking up space.

And while you might expect a big declutter project to begin in January (along with all the other New Year’s resolutions), two things motivated us to start a little early.

  • First, we’ve entered that time of year when cold weather and shortened days move us inside where we’re forced to face our clutter on a daily basis. Ugh.
  • Second, we’ve started decorating for the holidays, and what better time to start sorting than after we’ve pulled all those boxes down from the attic. Ugh, again, but with garland and glitter.

So this is just the first of several posts about my family’s “Project Declutter.” We’ll start with Christmas–’tis the season, after all–and move on to other categories (books, videos, clothing) and even specific spaces (garage, closet, the black hole known as my office).

This will very likely be a “learn as we go project,” but we’re starting with a few principles in mind:

  • One, clutter is not synonymous with junk. Many people equate the two, but that’s an oversimplification. If it were just junk, it would be easier to eliminate. But it includes both things we want and things we don’t. And it’s the result of years of accumulation, little or no sorting, editing and removal, and an unfortunate combination of too much stuff and too little space. Which is why it takes time to sort through and make decisions, and why it’s often postponed indefinitely.
  • Two, the “get rid of” process is often the biggest obstacle. Many declutter writers have lots to say about the identification and organization steps, but gloss over the tough part: getting it gone. Which, again, is why we’ve created Swampum, and we’ll be using the site to pass things along to others (hopefully people close to us) who can really use them.
  • Three, discarding is the last and least desirable solution. Waste is never a good thing–for both economists and environmentalists. So, as much as possible, we’ll avoid throwing things away.

So, let the “adventure” begin … next stop: Christmas!