When we first realized back in December that selling our house was a very likely possibility, I knew that our house was going to have to be cleared out. When staging a house, shelves, closets, and cupboards should only be 1/4-1/3 full. In other words, they have to be REALLY EMPTY.
For at least the last year I’ve been unhappy with the number of things everywhere in our house and I’ve been trying to buy less and shed more. Having piles of things everywhere is stressful!
I made it my mission to get a black garbage bag full of STUFF out of our house at least every 2 weeks, if not every week. I tackled my wardrobe first. I had been tiptoeing around many of my clothes for several years.
I let it all go. It wasn’t easy, but I did it. Well over 100 items were sent packing.
I usually buy my clothes second-hand and then wear the shit out of them, so there wasn’t a single thing in my wardrobe worth selling. If the thrift store didn’t want it, they could make it into rags.
After my closet, I worked from the front of the house all the way to the back. I emptied out every single kitchen cupboard. If I used an item once a year, I kept it, but it went into storage for now. If I had two implements that did almost the same job, I kept the better quality one and tossed the other into a bin. Once I went through the whole kitchen like this, I did the same in the livingroom, kids’ rooms, toy room, and storage room. The “Get Rid of This!” bin took over the livingroom.
When it came to toys, I was brutal. I weighed the kids favourite toys against the toys I liked to see them playing with, the toys that got a lot of play vs the toys that took up four square feet of space, and the toys that had growing potential vs the toys that fell apart daily and would soon become yesterday’s fad. At least 50% of our toys went into the PURGE bin. Nearly 50% of the remaining toys went into storage, which means that only 25% of the original toy collection remained in our house.
What did I keep? (Half of the) Hot Wheels cars, wooden blocks, Lego, Duplo, FP Little People (no sets – ALL the bulky castles, pirate ships, farms, & zoos went into The Bin), Dress Up clothes, balls, and toy food stuff. And the Marble Run. Have they missed the piles of toys that vanished from their bedrooms and the play room? They haven’t even noticed that anything has changed.
Getting Rid of the Stuff: Sell or Thrift?
The beginning of April is not a great time to have a yard sale, so that was out of the question. (Besides, there were zero days in the last month on which I could afford to just sit out on the front porch while people rummaged through my cast-offs.) However, loonies, toonies, fives and tens add up, and since we’re about to become poor grad students, I couldn’t afford to just send everything off to the thrift store.
Every item was given careful consideration and was placed in either the SELL bin or THRIFT bin. After one week, everything left in the SELL bin was loaded into the van and taken to the thrift store.
The grand total from The Great Purge was just over $500. I’ll take that pay cheque, thank you very much!
We are renting storage space because we’re going to be squeezing into a 2 bedroom apartment for the next few years and we aren’t going to have space to store our winter clothes/gear, sports equipment, etc. in our own space. However, you can rent storage lockers by the month and it’s a very good idea to have an off-site space that you can move your not-for-sale-but-not-needed-right-now clothes, baby gear, and toys while you stage and list your house.
Obtain a LOT of banker’s boxes / bulk paper boxes or purchase a big stack of plastic storage totes from Wal-Mart or Canadian Tire when they go on sale for $5 or $6 each. We chose the plastic storage totes, since much of our stuff will be stored for a few years and we didn’t want any moisture problems.
When going through the purging process, be very honest with yourself about whether or not you’ll want to use the item before your ideal moving date. If your answer is “yes, but not often,” put it in a storage box with other items you’ll use occasionally. Stick a bunch of blank address labels on the box and LABEL EVERY SINGLE THING you put into the box, or you’ll rip your storage locker apart trying to find the waffle maker. If you won’t be using the items before your move date (out-of-season clothes, Christmas decorations, etc) pack them away (label the boxes!) and put them straight into storage.
Take a picture of the label on each box before they go into storage so that you can go back to your pictures when you’re frantically searching for something in your house. If you’re feeling super organized, number all boxes and enter all of the information onto a spreadsheet.
The 20/20 Philosophy
There’s a minimalist philosophy that says that if you’ve been keeping something in your house “just in case” and you can replace that item in less than 20 minutes for less than $20, you should toss it. In theory, I like that. In reality, I can’t get behind it yet. What if that happened three times in one month? My budget would be out $60. On stuff that I already owned once upon a time. I hate spending money on things that I already spent money on. When we move into our next place, I’m going to try out the 20/10 philosophy. If I can replace it in less than 20 minutes for less than $10, I’ll get rid of it. I can do $10 at a time. I don’t think I’m ready for $20 yet.
It’s a frustrating process, purging your house. Unless you’re already a minimalist either by choice or because you already move every two years, YOUR HOUSE IS FULL OF STUFF. You spend a week purging and people walk in and say, “Wow, do you ever have a lot of stuff in your house!”
Yeah. Thanks for that. It’s a long process, and you end up with mess EVERYWHERE. But take heart: Once you reorganize and put the remaining stuff in its rightful place, you’ll exhale and think, “Maybe I SHOULD become a minimalist! Stuff is overrated!”
Now that your house is at least half emptied, you can get on to the next step: Consulting the Experts!
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