Two Ways to Head Into 2021 With Less Clutter and More Serenity

My oldest turns 24 next year, my youngest 20. Suffice it to say we are beyond the baby years. Yet my storage closet still houses tattered Baby Einstein videos and unopened Diaper Genie refills. Ah those were the days. Decades ago. A Goodnight Moon Board Book with some tiny teeth marks. A stained Baby Björn. 

Over the years I have given away cases of Legos and matchbox cars and Care Bears. Outgrown Halloween costumes have found new life in younger neighbors eager for dress up. 

It’s time to declutter our house. (Twenty20 @jdnjd83)

I am determined to declutter and simplify

As I enter into the age of children 20 and up, I head into the holidays and the new year determined, even if not completely ready, to purge the old and declutter and simplify my life. 

Why is it so hard to dispose of all this stuff? I recently watched my in-laws struggle to get a hold of 54 years of memories and pack up their lifelong belongings to move to a warmer climate. It was an arduous task, one in which the adult children combed through hours and hours of stuff to simplify and reduce boxes of treasures.

This inspired me to try and get a handle on my own decades of clutter, now.

COVID captivity has been tough, and may be particularly unbearable for some in cold climates heading into winter. But what if we use this time stuck inside our homes to our advantage? Maybe this is the time we can finally wade through boxes of memories and cull down that which is truly meaningful. How to start this colossal task? Here are two ways to help make room for new memories and a more clutter-free, less-stressed future. 

Two ways to become more clutter-free

1.Come up with a realistic plan

Tackling the entire house can be overwhelming. Concentrating on smaller areas will help set you up for less frustration and more success.

Both of my kids came home for Thanksgiving and will be home for at least a month. This creates a prime opportunity of manpower to go through piles and closets still filled with childhood memories. My plan is to first tackle the family room closet. The one loaded with games spanning decades, from Chutes and Ladders Limited Edition, to Scrabble Deluxe. Hulk smash game and Jenga and one of my all-time favs, Hungry Hungry Hippo. 

Next up will be that one random kitchen drawer filled to the brim with plastic cups. A hologram Chicago cup, from the time we celebrated a special birthday with dinner and a Broadway show. One orange and one green UMiami cup from an admitted students weekend years ago.

Each piece of plastic tells a story, whether it be the “Girls Rule” mug my daughter begged for at a rest stop during a long road trip up north or the giant Buzz light year plastic cup from a magical family trip to Disney World. And although I’m embarrassed to admit this, we still have sippy cups. The plastic inserts have long gone and the choo choo and bear designs are fading away. They haven’t been used in a ridiculously long time.

But the sippy cups remain in the plastic drawer like some kind of connection to the past and I struggle to get rid of them, as sometimes the past is hard to let go. But with the ushering out of 2020, I will be glad to welcome a new year and a new drawer.

2. Make it a family affair

As I stare at the mountains of clutter I stagnate. Too. Much. Stuff. Too emotional. Enlisting the help of your family members will help make the seemingly unbearable bearable.

As soon as the kids are ready, I will be emptying the contents of entire game closet onto the floor. One by one we will play the games. Yes, even Chutes and Ladders! As a family then we will decide to keep, donate or discard, depending on the condition of the game and the likelihood of it being played again in the near future. This will allow for a fun and family goodbye and stroll down memory lane together, and will ease the transition to a true empty nester home. 

I will also completely empty out the plastic drawer so the kids and I can enjoy the memories of the cups.  Maybe we can even have a happy hour, plastic cup style, and make room for all the kick knacks that my in-laws gave me from their move. 

Change can be scary, but it’s time

Change can be scary. Change during COVID can be super scary. Going through old stuff can feel like a monumental task. I recently opened a box filled with my own childhood memories. A tiny Barbie makeup case and a Fruit Loop patch. Barbie blush completely intact and a faint smell of fruity goodness still lingered on the patch.

I snapped a picture and sent it to my sister. Her excitement and memory of these items helped me smile and reminisce. Then I knew after 40 years it was time to let go. 

So this holiday season, give yourself the gift of less clutter and more serenity. Two things we can certainly use heading into the year ahead. Just make sure to feed the hungry hungry hippos before they go.

More to Read:

Once My Nest Emptied, I Just Started to Unclutter EVERYTHING

About Shari Bender

Shari earned her BA in Communication from Stanford University and freelances all things Communication and Marketing. She is a cat-loving spiritual vegan and former admissions interviewer. With two grown children. Shari is happily and sentimentally embracing her Empty Nest
along with her husband of nearly 30 years. Her musings delight parents in numerous publications and online platforms, including Grown & Flown and

Read more posts by Shari

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