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Resources - July 11, 2020

Tips from a Decluttering Expert

by Amanda Ranowsky

Decluttering and downsizing your home may seem like an overwhelming task, but it doesn’t have to be. Whether you’re preparing for a move or just want to reduce the amount of stuff piling up in the corners, decluttering can go a long way toward making your day-to-day safer and more manageable.

In a recent webinar presented by Goodwin Living At Home and our two Goodwin Living Life Plan Communities (Goodwin House Alexandria and Goodwin House Bailey’s Crossroads), Organization expert Eileen Spata offered tips and ideas to help you accomplish your decluttering goals. Spata is a client experience manager at Wayforth, the nation’s largest move management provider. Over the years, she’s helped many older adults de-clutter their homes and prepare for a move, whether to a smaller home or a senior living community.

Getting Started

Just about everyone would say they want to be more organized and have more space in their homes. They resist decluttering because it often seems like a gargantuan, overwhelming task.

Spata suggested that the easiest way to overcome your mental block for decluttering is to start now and start small. Starting to declutter before you need to will make the process less overwhelming because you won’t have other pressures to manage – like an upcoming move. “It’s never too early to start,” she said.

Spata suggested starting small by picking one area and staying there – start with one drawer, for instance. By breaking up the job into small, manageable tasks, you’ll find it easier to get the job done. Accomplishing small goals like these then gives you the motivation to continue to the next drawer, and the next, and so forth – before you know it, you’ll have decluttered your entire home!

Four Types of Clutter

Spata said there are four types of clutter that are often responsible for derailing decluttering efforts.

  • Aspirational clutter: those items that you bought with the intention of using them to attain your personal goals. Exercise machines you bought in the hope you would use them to get fit, that pile of cookbooks you purchased hoping you’d make fancier homemade meals, the sewing supplies you’re holding on to in the hopes of making that quilt one day – all these are examples of aspirational clutter. “Have you used it recently?” Spata asked. This question is key to just about every decluttering decision you need to make. If you’re not using it, Spata suggested that you can let it go. If the items are in good condition, you might consider selling them. “Don’t forget,” she said, “you can always buy new if you ever get back to it.”
  • Bargain clutter: all those little freebie items like hotel toiletries, convention giveaways and trial-size samples. “Just say no to these items,” said Spata. More often than not, the items will expire before you ever get around to using them.
  • Abundance clutter: the things you bought in two-for-one deals or bulk purchases. “Are they things you actually use?” Spata asked again. If not, it’s time to get rid of what you don’t need. Spata also emphasized the importance of staying out of bulk purchase stores like Costco and BJ’s. “Limit the time you spend in these stores,” she said. Only buy in bulk if you actually use those items frequently enough to justify the purchase.
  • Sentimental clutter: this is perhaps most difficult type of clutter for people to downsize. Spata suggested that you to consider the reasons you are holding on to these items. Some reasons can be easier to overcome than others. If the item needs fixing, for instance, consider how likely you are to actually getting around to fixing it – if it hasn’t happened for a long time, it probably won’t. Initial purchasing expense isn’t a reason to keep something around, either. Just because it was expensive, that doesn’t mean it’s worth keeping now, especially if you’re not using it. Acknowledge that it served you well and let it go.

Quality over Quantity

Whatever you choose to keep in your home should represent your actual needs. “I think the quantity of something that you have should reflect the lifestyle that you lead,” said Spata. If you’re looking to downsize, but are afraid of letting go of too much, Spata suggests starting to live with whatever quantity you are considering – 4 sets of dishes instead of 8, for instance – and see if it works for you. If you find you actually need six sets of dishes regularly, you’ll have the confidence to let go of the other two sets.

Manageable Decluttering Demonstration

In the second half of her webinar, Spata demonstrated a trick you can apply to make your decluttering more manageable. Unlike the common method of “take it all out and only put back what you’re going to keep”, Spata’s method won’t leave you with a pile of stuff on the floor if you get distracted partway through.

Watch the webinar to see her demonstration and hear all of the great tips she has to offer. Before you know it, you’ll be a decluttering pro!


As Marketing & Communications Specialist, Amanda Ranowsky partners with colleagues throughout Goodwin Living to tell our stories and raise brand awareness. From printed collateral to digital marketing, Amanda covers many bases. Before joining GHI, Amanda worked for a small, family-owned business where she gained experience in content marketing. Amanda’s creative expression extends beyond the office. She is an active member of community theater and chorus groups.


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