organize clutter

6 Steps In Dealing With Inherited Clutter

Decluttering can cause a lot of stress. This stress is magnified when it’s inherited clutter.

Pressure can mount when you are faced with the decluttering task of things that are not yours or are left to your care.


Because simply, this isn’t your mess! Yet you have to clean it up!

It’s an emotional and sometimes physical burden, that can be made easier when equipped with the right tools and mindset to tackle it.

Let’s focus on two main things.

  1. Knowing what items to keep
  2. How to deal with items you decide to let go.

Steps When Dealing With Inherited Clutter

Before we start our steps, we are going to program our mindset to Miss/Mr/Mrs Practicality and take note of the following:

  1. You cannot keep everything.
  2. You cannot keep everything.

If you think you may need a little pep talk before you start decluttering, check out this post: 7 Myths That Keep You Stuck In Clutter

Got it? 🙂 Remember, You Cannot Keep Everything! Let’s start!

6 Steps In Dealing With Other People’s Clutter

1. Itemise Things

Itemising things can reduce the feeling of overwhelm and keep you moving forward. It allows you to make fast decisions and maintain momentum throughout the task.

For example: Cleaning out the children’s stuff after they have left home

Grab a bunch of boxes and label them with things like:

  • School Papers
  • College Papers
  • Toys
  • Games
  • Photos
  • Clothes
  • Music
  • Throw
  • Donate

As you systematically work through the items, you can toss them into the appropriate box. The benefit is you touch each item once, and once only.

You can easily sort out the Throw and Donate boxes. The other boxes are dropped off to your child, with a big smile and pat on the back for you!

2. Let The Owner Choose

If you are helping someone move home or downsize from a large home to a small home, they’ll probably need to feel in control of the move (even though they’ve asked you to take charge).

To help you and them, set limits or boundaries that can ease the owner into a better mind frame.

For example: Moving a parent into a care facility

Explain things to your parent like:

  • Space restrictions
  • Need Vs Want Vs Have
  • What benefits the new facility offers
  • Letting go is all part of taking the next step

3. Take Photos

Often, space restrictions will dictate what stays and what goes. Some items may hold sentimental value, monetary worth, or family history.

Making decisions about what to do with these items can be made easier by taking photos of them.

A beautiful photo display book can be printed up, detailing a history of the items that have been tossed. It’s a lovely keepsake book holding vast memories that will be more valuable and space efficient than the actual items themselves.

For example: Moving from a large home to a small home

Take photos of:

  • Rooms, places, spaces that hold significance
  • Furniture, toys, belongings that won’t fit in the new place
  • The person in their favourite spots. By the garden. In the kitchen. Out the front.

4. Re-gift or Pass On

Passing much-loved items on to people who will make good use of them is rewarding for the giver.

For example: Think of times someone has admired something in the home

Family, friends, or even neighbours may have admired or commented on something over the years. Perhaps return a gift that was received from a special someone.

Considering others who may love the opportunity to have the item and continue to cherish and care for it will be easier for the owner to let it go.

5. Toss Or Donate

The decision to toss or donate can be made simply if you follow some basic steps.  Follow our special Declutter Clinic: Should I Sell, Donate, Or Throw It Out? here.

For example: Sell, Keep or Donate

Sell it if:

  • It’s worth more than the cost of selling and
  • You’re motivated enough to organize the sale.

Donate it if:

  • It’s in good condition and
  • The question of donating versing tossing won’t immobilize you.

6. Sell Items Online

If you have the time and the motivation, you can try selling items online.

Some people find a lot of success in selling online. Other’s find it a compete headache! If you are inclined to give it a try, start small to avoid feeling overwhelmed. There can be a lot of questions and upload work getting the item ready to sell.

For example: Selling good, unwanted items online

Sell it if:

  • You’re motivated enough to organize the sale
  • The owner is happy to pass the item on to someone else
  • The owner genuinely feels the item can be used or enjoyed by someone else

As the person charged with the task of decluttering someone else’s belongings, try to remember that relinquishing much-loved items can be overwhelming. Be patient. Be understanding. Be kind!

Please share your experiences in dealing with a loved-ones clutter.

6 thoughts on “6 Steps In Dealing With Inherited Clutter

  1. Dinah says:

    We had to move in with my mom and I’ve started putting things in categories to sell. I’ll leave some things for after mom is gone. But I’m trying to sell what I can now. I just am trying to gear myself up for the giant garage sale. But I found the garage sales were very successful if I used facebook marketplace or craigslist . I listed the big items separately and lots of photos of everything. I would focus on selling online while my husband ran the sale. So far I’ve had one and still planning another in the spring. It helps pay for the repairs on moms house. We are trying to get it in the best sellable condition.

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