Get the upper hand on clutter | Chappaqua Homes

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I have spent a lot of time in the past year getting rid of stuff. By stuff, I mean things that I bought or was given that I no longer use, or never used at all.

There is a lot less stuff in my home now than there was at the beginning of the year. The less I have, the more convinced I become that having less is better.

Most people have clothes that they have outgrown, knickknacks that they hate, and items that they bought for the kitchen that just didn’t work out. Friends and relatives give us gifts that we don’t know what to do with. But we can’t bring ourselves to get rid of them, and over the years it accumulates. We own things that we have forgotten about.

Connecticut real estate broker, trainer and Inman Real Estate Connect ambassador Linda Davis started a group on Facebook for people who want to de-clutter. As a Realtor, Linda worked with people who have to deal with a lot of stuff when they move. The experience started her on a journey to get rid of clutter.

Davis encourages people to remove a little clutter from their lives each day. Hundreds have joined her group, actively participating and encouraging each other to keep going. The group has changed lives. Each day Linda photographs something that she got rid of, and asks us what WE got rid of. Just one thing at a time makes the process less overwhelming.

My life experience had been different than that of many of my friends, family and clients. I have lived on the same block for 31 years and in the same house for the last 23 years. If we had moved more, maybe some of our stuff would have gotten lost.

In those 23 years the kids have moved in and out a few times, leaving some stuff in the basement. Other family members have downsized and dropped stuff off. Then of course there is the stuff we accumulated all on our own.

Most of us don’t even realize that we struggle with stuff everyday. It is in our way and on our minds. We work around it and mostly stop noticing it. It takes up space, and we tend to pay for bigger spaces so that we have a place for it all. It is a distraction that takes up mental and emotional space in our lives.

I have watched my clients struggle with excess stuff when it’s time to move, and it isn’t a pretty picture. They put it in boxes and haul it with them to a bigger house which they now need because they have so much stuff.

Have you ever tried to sell a house that is full of stuff? I have worked with seniors, some who have lived in the same homes for more than 50 years. The stuff they couldn’t part with ends up in basements and attics until it is time to move and then it ends up being given away.

The process is painful for them as they resent the disruption in their lives. Even though they have not seen or used an item for 20 years, they are often reluctant to part with it.

We all think this will never happen to us, but it does — consistently and predictably. How many things can we enjoy, store or keep track of? There are limits.

I don’t want more, I want less. Most days it seems that I am fighting against a kind of natural flow as I try to reduce the amount of stuff coming in the house, and get more stuff out of the house.

Every month this past year I brought stuff to the local thrift shop. I send stuff to the recycle center, and what they won’t pick up I can usually drop off. I have been able to sell a few things here and there, and being the wonderful mother that I am, I even managed to send a few things home with my children.

I am becoming an expert on the most responsible ways to get rid of stuff. I know that there are people who can use my stuff, and I am better able to help my clients and make recommendations regarding unwanted stuff.

Nothing creates clutter like a real estate office in the home. New technology makes what used to be state-of-the art equipment obsolete. I found boxes full of stuff that I’ll never use again. I even found old carbon real estate forms and business cards with out-of-date contact information on them. Not to mention the Palm Pilot that I have no use for, or my very first cell phone.

Having empty drawers in my office is very cool. Being able to put everything away means that there are no more stacks on the floor. I have room in my file cabinets and even on my desk and no plans to fill the space with new stuff.

Having less in my office makes for a better and more organized work environment. I resist the urge to bring anything into my office that I don’t need, and I am still finding items that I need to get rid of. Why do I have three staplers? I can not remember the last time I used a stapler.

If you have too much clutter in your life — or maybe just in your office — spend 2013 dealing with one item at a time until you have an empty drawer or two of your own. It is very rewarding and maybe even life changing.

Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minn., and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog.

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