Political timeout: How to declutter your house — and make money doing it

cluterIt’s cold, windy and snowy outside this weekend. It’s a perfect time to start to declutter your house.

Wait, don’t go away.

Notice, I said “start.” Calmly and deliberately getting rid of clutter in your life can take months. But it’s worth the time.

Here’s a template from how I did it — while along the way making a few hundred dollars from selling old books and albums. (See, supporting this website gets you more than just cranky opinion posts.)

I also enjoyed seeing plenty of memorable photos, old newspaper articles, albums — right before I tossed them into the recycling bins, the trash or a pile to sell.

As with many people in this situation, my ambitions were stoked after reading part of “The life-changing magic of tidying up: The Japanese art of decluttering and organizing” by Marie Kondo about six months ago. And you can read plenty of other advice books on the subject. But don’t waste your time. Just do it.

— Start with photos

I had 35 albums containing about 25,000 pics from the last four decades. It took only several nights to go through and get rid of duplicates of photos, toss out 12 photos of a sequence and keep the best ones, etc.

Here are the photo and music albums now left in my collections.

Here are the photo and music albums now left in my collections.

At the end, I’m now “down” to 15 albums with about 8,000 photos. I’ll cull again in a few years, enjoy seeing many photos one more time and get rid of even more.

— Music albums

This took about a month, but I gave away about 100 of 800 albums,  then sold about 500 to Josey Records and Half-Price Books.

I decided that I wasn’t going to listen to those 500 or so albums anymore, so why not give other people a chance to enjoy them. Now, I’m down to 200 or so “favorites,” which will be further reduced to around 100 in the next year as I continue not to listen to them.

— Books

Packed bookcases are like trophy cases for many people. But if you are not like that, it’s actually easy to move books out of the house. I got rid of several hundred — again, making some money at Half-Price books — while not flinching a bit.

This is another opportunity to let other people enjoy the books you’ll no longer read. And  trust me, it’s not as difficult as you think to decide that, hey, I’m never reading this book again.

—  Newspapers

I have a lot, lot more than most people, accumulated in a 43-year journalism career. I had kept neat books of newspapers in boxes in the basement (never opened in decades, of course) chronicling stories for the University Daily Kansan, The Lawrence Daily-Journal World, the Miami Herald and The Milwaukee Journal, as well as copies of The Kansas City Star since late 1979.

I perused them early in December and kept the several dozen copies of stories that meant the most to me (my first-ever college football piece for the Kansan in 1973, for instance, and coverage of a murdered policeman in Salina in 1975).

Then the rest — such as hundreds upon hundreds of Kansas City Star sections and pages from the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s — went into the recycling bin.

— Clothes

I’m not a clothes guy, but I did give about a dozen like-new running shirts, pants and a few coats to a local charity.

Oh, one last word of advice: Try not to let your husband, wife or significant other know what’s going on. Trust me, the whole process will go much more smoothly.


9 Thoughts.

  1. I started decluttering on Thanksgiving weekend. Kitchen, living room, dining room and office are done. Try to do a little each day. I have made several trips to local charities. And….the trash service hates me on pickup day.

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