It seems like this time of year there is no dearth of advice on decluttering. It’s the ultimate New Year’s resolution, which may be a foundational necessity in order to meet your other well-intentioned resolutions: getting organized, selling your home, finally tackling that remodeling project you’ve been putting off for years, or even a zen lifestyle change to embrace minimalism! 

Whatever your reasons, finding the right motivation to get started is often a challenge. We all know the story, because we’ve all lived it, or know someone who has: the boxes shoved in a closet (or office, or basement, or storage unit) that have been moved 3 times, but never opened; the childhood keepsakes that you just can part with; the collections of Precious Moments figurines you’ve been collecting for decades. How can you simply part with it all, when they mean so much? 

A shift in thinking

I’m about to blow your mind here. So fair warning. 
What if, just possibly, labeling everything as “special”, means that nothing is? 

Profound, I know. I have my moments. 

So all the “stuff” you surround yourself with, how special is it? Really? If it hasn’t seen the light of day in 12 years, is it really all that special? 

Decluttering requires a change of mindset, otherwise we often get trapped by our own sentimentality. Cluttered living is a cage, limiting our freedom. But escaping that cage requires mindfulness and intentionality. 

Three questions

It takes guts, and no small amount of faith, to make the leap and to start mindfully extracting the clutter from our lives. One way is to ask yourself three questions about the things you are holding on to. It’s like litmus test, of sorts.  

  • Is it beautiful? If you were walking through a store today, and saw this “thing” on display, would you feel an overwhelming need to own it? Would you buy it and put it on display in your home? Chances are, if it’s been packed away in a box and not in display, it may not pass this test. Your collection of porcelain unicorns you’ve had as a child may have been beautiful to you at one point, but if you aren’t displaying them in your home, then why are you keeping them?
  • Does it have an important use? Things we use every day, or even several times a month, are useful in our lives. If getting rid of something means you’d have to replace it in a month or two, it means that it has value. Keep it. For example: crafting supplies. We all hate to waste. We never throw away the left overs because we MIGHT need them someday, but that day never comes. If you won’t ever use it again, get rid of it.
  • Does it have a story? Of course, we can have room in our lives for sentimental things. But if you are keeping a box of baby clothing, even though your kids are gown and out of the house, is it really sentiment? Does each item of clothing have a specific and tangible memory attached? If not, find the things that do have important meaning – the baptism outfit, the mouse ears from Disney, or the 1st Birthday crown, and discard the rest. This holds true for anything you are holding onto for sentimental reasons. 

Note: And if you think you are holding on to all those kids clothes because your kinds may want it for their kids…just don’t. They won’t. They will be out of style and no amount of guilt-tripping will get your kids to dress your grandkids in them. 

If you hold on to only the things that are the MOST special: the MOST beautiful, the MOST useful, the MOST precious, then those things truly have value. If you hold on to everything, that value diminishes.

Start small

People often get discouraged because they try to do too much at once. This intentional and mindful decluttering is hard (and often emotional) work, so trying to take on too much could result in ultimate failure. So start small. Pick a corner, or a closet, or a desk, and start there. As you start to feel good about your efforts, move on to another spot, and work your way through your home. You don’t have to finish in a weekend, or even a year. Like getting healthy, this is a lifestyle change, and you are in it for the long haul.

Mindful giving

So now that you have started tackling the clutter, what do you do with all the stuff you are getting rid of? Deal with it right away, because if you let it sit, you’ll never get rid of it. Some things can be donated, so take them to the donation drop off the same day! 

Here are some places in the DC and Northern VA areas to consider. 

When it comes to buying or selling your home, we are here to help answer any questions and guide you through a better understanding. Please do not hesitate to contact us at or phone us at 202.800.0800.


Tags: Tim Pierson, Northern Virginia, Decluttering, Donating, Giving, Community