What to do with all your unwanted stuff

Jan 05, 2020
Donate, sell or gift — there are numerous ways to offload your unwanted household items. Source: Getty

Having selected the items you love, and those that will be appropriate for your new home, you will have amassed your all-important core possessions. This valuable process will charge you with more energy and motivation to create the life you want.

But what do you do with everything that doesn’t make the cut? Following I have listed some ideas for the most common types of clutter.


A simple solution that allows you to hold onto documents, school records, university degrees and photos is to digitise them. Simply scan them and save them to your computer or an external hard drive, and you can keep them forever while freeing up physical space.

Let’s face it – music, movies and television shows are now bought and saved as digital files, so why not the rest? If you think about it, it’s liberating, as everyone in the family will be able to access them! No longer do you have to feel that you’re the only link between your children’s past, present and future.

For essential documents, find one central storage place for the originals, as well as making digital copies. This way, the digital copy can be sent to other members of the family, if required. Maybe one of your older children might be prepared to act as family ‘historian’ and store the original paperwork for future reference.

Engage a wardrobe consultant

The beauty of modern apartments and townhouses is the likelihood that built-in floor-to-ceiling wardrobes will be part of the design. In fact, many have walk-in wardrobes, built-in shelving and other multipurpose built-ins. Maximising storage and making smaller spaces far more functional and beautiful is essential.

However, it’s still important to use the space wisely so you will always be able to find something fabulous to wear at a moment’s notice.

This is where engaging a wardrobe consultant can pay real dividends – it is a brilliant opportunity to go through all your shoes, clothes and costume jewellery and cull the ‘out of date’ or ‘now inappropriate’ pieces. This will free up valuable space, making it possible to put your hands on exactly the right items when required. Creating a truly fantastic wardrobe will now be a breeze. A consultant will sort your clothes by activity, advise which pieces will work well in your daily life, and share tips on the art of a seasonal ‘packing away’.

A session with a wardrobe consultant can be a terrific Christmas or birthday gift if you have a daughter who inevitably spends much of her income on clothes. She will learn the art of culling at a young age and discover which clothes she wears regularly, as opposed to the ones she just likes the idea of owning. Similarly, if you have a son who has a large array of t-shirts, jeans and runners, he might be able to adopt some of these strategies as well.

Ask the experts

Many clients have bought or inherited an assortment of furniture and collectibles from different eras. We often use the services of specialist advisors who can identify the items worth keeping. We find some clients have hung onto items because they were convinced they would be worth a great deal one day. It becomes apparent that the resale value of many styles of antiques has diminished considerably due to their current unpopularity.

Ultimately, formal dining suites, dressers, coffers, and anything too bulky for modern interiors have dramatically dropped in value. This includes late mahogany, early mahogany, and items from the Regency, Victorian and Edwardian periods. There are always exceptions, though. Some truly wonderful and exquisite pieces manage to transcend these trends. An expert can help identify those that are exceptional – the items that will have held, if not greatly accrued value.

Practical tips for curating collections

You may have been able to add wonderful and rare pieces to your collections over the years. However, to curate a great collection, you need to constantly refine the pieces you include. For those that are on display, there needs to be visual harmony and balance. This is discussed in more detail in Chapter 6.

For the moment, let’s focus on your not-so-valuable collections. Books – think of the cookbooks! CDs – how often do we listen to them now? DVDs – even though we can download from Netflix. Chipped and dated wine glasses, a plethora of platters, camping equipment and ‘the silver’, are good collections with which to begin.

If sorting through them feels like a mammoth task, here are some tips to get you started:

  • Do you love these pieces and are they important enough to keep?
  • Don’t go through everything at once
  • Only handle things once
  • Place it in a box for six months
  • Refrain from accumulating ‘aspirational clutter’
  • Get some help.

Once you’ve completed the editing process, your physical footprint will be smaller. The psychological load will have diminished as well. Never underestimate the power of unloading the burden. Certainly, do not feel compelled to keep things out of guilt ‘because great aunt Mable left it to me’ or ‘it’s been in the family for generations’. This is your life and, in the grand scheme of things, it’s pretty short. This is your opportunity to create the home you’ve been dreaming about for years!

This is an edited excerpt from Kym Lackmann’s first book, The Art of Downsizing. For more details, visit Luxe Domain.

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