How to declutter your home


If the theme song in your attic or garage is "Never Can Say Goodbye" you're probably drowning in junk you never use anymore. Bruce Littlefield, author of Garage Sale America, will help you break up with all that stuff that's cluttering your home.

How to declutter your home If your garage, basement or attic is full of junk, it’s time to declutter your house. Here’s how to determine what to get rid of, and how to get rid of it.

How to decide what is clutter:
  • Have you used it in the last year?
  • Can you use it in the next week?
  • Does it have any sentimental value?
  • Is the item a duplicate? Meaning, do you have more than one?

How to get rid of the clutter:
  • Host a yard / garage sale.
  • Declutter for charity! Mark a box for ‘giveaway’ and have the family help you fill it up. The charity will give you a receipt for tax purposes.
  • Sell it on eBay.
  • Give it away on Craigslist.
  • Give it to friends or neighbors.
  • Take it to a dump, which often will have a ‘freecycle’ area where people can recover your unwanted goods.
  • When you decide to dispose of clutter at the dump, keep in mind that electronics aren’t always disposable in dumps/landfills for environmental reasons. The Electronic Industries Alliance website has a feature that helps you look up local places to dispose of electronics properly.

LISA: Hi I'm Lisa Birnbach for If your garage, basement, or attic looks like this, don't despair. Bruce Littlefield is here, he's the author of Garage Sale America, and he can help. It's clutter, right? I don't need any of this.

BRUCE: Well you can ask yourself five questions. One is that, have you used it in the last year? 


BRUCE: Okay, then we're getting rid of it. Is there a way that you can use it in the next week?

LISA: Yeah.


LISA: I could serve tea to my doll in this.

BRUCE: [Laughs]

LISA: I'm getting rid of it. 

BRUCE: Getting rid of it exactly.

LISA: Okay, okay. 

BRUCE: Grandma's dishes: do they have any sentimental value?

LISA: No. 

BRUCE: She hated them right?

LISA: Right. 

BRUCE: Yeah. Husband's, ex-husband's beer stout.

LISA: Out of here. 

BRUCE: Right. Get rid of it.  Or if you have more than one...

LISA: I don't need them.

BRUCE: Yeah exactly like this--

LISA: Right, right. 

BRUCE: Separate the twins. 

LISA: Okay. Now, if you feel like the thing isn't taking up that much room?

BRUCE: Okay well a lot of one things will take up a lot of room, but if you can contain your junk and you make it look okay, then go ahead and keep it. But, the real truth is is that for most people it's time to get rid of those things.

LISA: Bruce, I know I need to get rid of these things, how do I start?

BRUCE: Well there's basically four ways to get rid of things. One is: have a box at your house marked 'give-away.' And that is things that you're going to give to a charity, and once you get the box full you take it to a charity and in exchange they'll give you a tax receipt. 

LISA: Right. 

BRUCE: If you have enough boxes or even clutter, this garage for example, you could have a garage sale. You could actually sell the things that you have. 

LISA: Right. 

BRUCE: If you have a collection of things you might decide to sell them on Ebay. The next way that would be great to get rid of things are bartering, are exchanging, or giving them to someone else. Craig's List, for example, is a prime way. Somebody will come pick up your old sofa if you're ready to get rid of it. All you have to do is go on Craig's List and put the description of your sofa, maybe a picture, and someone will call you and come by and pick that up. 

LISA: And that you're not selling. That you're giving. 

BRUCE: You're giving. You no longer need it and you don't have to carry it off. 

LISA: Right, right. 

BRUCE: This, for example, is an old box of toys. If your kids have outgrown them you might want to give them to the neighbors. They have young kids: perfect gift for them. And the the fourth and final way to get rid of things is basically trashing it, taking it to the dump. But, waste not, want not, there is an audience for everything. And most dumps throughout the country have something we like to term 'free cycle.' So they have an area for things that are sort of nice, but just not nice for you.

LISA: Right. 

BRUCE: So, um, you can put things there and somebody will come by and scavenge those and be the happiest guy alive. 

LISA: And if they don't, they're at the dump and they're--

BRUCE: Yeah in the proper route--

LISA: Resting place. 

BRUCE: Yes. The one thing I want to mention is about electronics. Electronics have a horrible afterlife. So, you want to make sure that you dispose of those properly. The Electronics Industries Alliance has a great website for you to go to and find out where in your state you can properly dispose of things like cell phones and old refrigerators and that kind of thing. 

LISA: Okay great. And what you're looking for is to start afresh really. Right?

BRUCE: Well a clean slate is a clean house is a lot of fun.

LISA: Okay, thank you Bruce. For I'm Lisa Birnbach. 


meet theexpert
  • Bruce Littlefield

    Bruce Littlefield Design and Lifestyle Guru Bruce Littlefield is a New York-based designer, writer, and restaurateur. Hailed as a "design and lifestyle guru" by Publisher's Weekly, he is the author of the recently published Merry Christmas, America!: Megawatt Displays Across the U.S.A. (HarperCollins 2007), Garage Sale America and Airstream Living (HarperCollins 2007), and co-writer of the best-selling Use What You've Got and Other Business Lessons I learned from My Mom (Penguin Group) with real-estate magnate Barbara Corcoran. The Today more about this expert »

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