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Posted by on Jan 13, 2012 | 2 comments

Out with the Old: Decluttering the House in One Fell Swoop

Out with the Old: Decluttering the House in One Fell Swoop

Last weekend, as we do every year in mid-January, we drag the Christmas tree to the curb for pick-up. Something then comes over me as I sweep up pine needles. I go into hyperdrive and start cleaning out closets, the frig, and the kitchen pantry. I crawl under the kids’ beds to pull out storage bins and bits of other accumulated detritus (bandaids, socks, you get the idea).

The result: piles and bags of discards. (Name it what you will – junque, crap, hand-me-downs.) I have a method to the madness, especially for getting all of it out the door forever.

1. All expired medicines and vitamins go to Stacy at The Neighborhood Pharmacy. The FDA has guidelines for the proper disposal of unused medicines; you are supposed to flush some, for example; others can go in the trash. I take all of them to the pharmacy where they’ll dispose of them properly and recycle the containers. You can call your city or county government’s household trash and recycling service to find a take-back location in your neighborhood.


2. When I clean out the pantry, I first pile everything in a bin. Then, I sort it based on where it will go next. The books will go to my Alexandria public library branch for their book sale fundraiser. I’ll give away the food items through Freecycle. The metal baskets and other household items will go to my daughter’s elementary school for their annual MV Big Flea fundraiser.


3. Next, I drag the bin upstairs and go through the girls’ clothes. Since my last purge in the early fall, I’ve been tossing clothes into a bag in the linen closet, so I can just grab all of it now. I sort through and decide which items I can hand down to friends’ children, take to the consignment store, or donate to Goodwill.


Any items that are in excellent shape, I take to Dawn at my local kids’ consignment shop, Bellies & Babies. She takes appointments, which fill up quickly I might add, or you can pick up a form and drop things off.


4. The last thing to purge are the kids’ voluminous toy collection.  I first ask them to find a few stuffed animals and toys to give away and they reluctantly comply. Next, I find a time when they’re both out of the house to raze their room. I literally shimmy under their beds (getting my hair caught in the springs a few times) to pull out every little thing I can assess. I swear that they will not miss any of the items I’m tossing. I also filled an entire grocery bag with broken and otherwise “crappy” toys (like trinkets from fast food restaurants) that have to go in the trash bin. The decent toys will again go to the MV Big Flea fundraiser. The rest will probably go to Goodwill.


Here are the bags sorted by the recipient, ready to leave my house forever. I’ll go through this same process sometime in the spring. That way, it’s more manageable and only takes an hour or so to accomplish.


Posted by Leslie


  1. I’m a huge fan of this process typically twice a year. I seem to take things a bit overboard though because I’m never able to complete this task in an hour! Last time the girls rooms got moved to another room, shelving added to their new closet and the room painted. Wow! Yeah can we say extreme DIY’er?

  2. I love this idea! It’s great to be able to take a bin and throw things into it to sort later. You know it’s all leaving the house, so just getting it in there is a big step. And I love the idea of the labeled bags for drop-offs…

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