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Photo Copyright MarthaStewart.com

For everything there is a season, and for every new season comes the time to purge. That may not be the verse that you are familiar with, but that’s exactly what happens at our house. As you can likely imagine, with 6 people under the same roof, it is very easy for “stuff” to accumulate and be forgotten. We also have to store lot of clothing, sports gear, toys, etc. to be passed down from one boy to another, so I try not to keep anything extraneous.

About twice a year, we mercilessly attack our closets and storage areas to re-organize, and get rid of our unused or unnecessary belongings. It’s the only way to combat acquired clutter, and make room to, well, breathe. Because for me, purging “stuff” from our home is a very cleansing and cathartic experience. I just feel so much better after getting rid of the extra weight of “stuff.”  Besides, by paying it forward and donating perfectly good items, I am blessing someone in need. It’s a win-win.

Here are some of the guidelines I use when deciding what stays, and what goes:

Storage Areas:

1. This is probably the most important: No Guilt Objects! Keep only what you absolutely LOVE. Don’t hang on to things you hate or will never use just because they were given to you by your sweet Aunt Adelaide, and you are afraid of hurting her feelings. It’s taking up space, it’s weighing you down, so get rid of it.

2. Unless you lead a nomadic lifestyle, recycle empty boxes from appliances, computers, etc. This is especially true if the item is out of warranty. If you do in fact move, you can find another box to pack it in. Empty boxes are a waste of storage space.

3. If you have boxes from prior moves that haven’t seen the light of day in 3 years or, ahem…longer, pitch them *unopened.* I’m telling ya, once you open that dusty old box, you’ll get all sentimental about the paperweight you made in the 3rd grade, and you’ll put the box back on the shelf.

4. Books that you are not going to re-read or actively reference should be donated for someone else’s enjoyment. (Hello, college textbooks!) This is a toughie for me, because I love to read. If I loved a book , I want to keep it always. I am getting better about donating the ones that I may have enjoyed, but won’t read again. The American Association of University Women has a great used book sale every year, and happily accepts your cast offs. http://www.aauw.org/

5. I subscribe to Alton Brown’s method for kitchen gadgets & appliances:  If you haven’t used it in the past 30 days, you probably don’t need it, or have something else in the kitchen that can do the job. The only exceptions in my kitchen are my canning supplies, and the ice cream maker.

6. Purge the medicine cabinet of any expired items at least once a year. This includes sunblock, which drastically loses effectiveness after one year.

7. DVDs, or goodness knows VHS tapes that you haven’t watched in the past 2 years are begging you for a new home–somewhere where they will be loved, and actually be watched.

8. Things that you’ve been hanging on to for a Garage Sale that never happens should be donated or taken to a consignment shop.

See? That wasn’t so bad.

Now for the hardest area–what to purge from the Clothes Closets:

9. If you don’t feel good in it or you don’t love it, it  has to go.  Even if the tags are still attached! I take all unworn clothes to a consignment shop.

10. Don’t hang on to clothes that don’t fit: if they are too big, or too small, they shouldn’t be taking up space. I figure if I ever lose the last of the baby weight, I’ll treat myself to a new pair of jeans. Butter is not helping me accomplish this goal.

11. If you haven’t worn it in the past 2 years, out it goes. I used to get rid of clothes if I hadn’t worn them in 1 year, but seeing as how I’ve spent many of the past 10 years either pregnant, or shaking baby weight, I figure my clothes deserved an extra year in the closet.

12. Anything that is out of style. I know fashion is very subjective, but I figure if the clothes were purchased over a decade ago, it’s probably time for them to move on. I am a little more lenient with evening wear. I don’t get out much, but if for some reason I have an event that calls for a little black dress and strappy heels, I’d rather not have to find them at the last minute.

13. My friend Karen is a professional organizer, and she suggests hanging your clothes backward on the closet rod. Then when you wear the item, turn the hanger around. At the end of the year, you will see what you have worn, and what’s taking up space.

14. If you own undergarments that are older than your children, treat your self to some new stuff. I just threw out a pair of socks that I’ve had since high school. We’re not even going to talk about how long ago that was–just don’t go there.

I know the list is pretty exhaustive, but it doesn’t have to be done all at once. Believe me, my life is not conducive to spending hours on end cleaning closets. Ease into it–start with one closet at a time. Dedicate 30 uninterrupted minutes to the task. You’ll be amazed at how much you can accomplish!