Matt Paxton, host of A&E’s Hoarders and the Emmy Award–nominated Legacy List with Matt Paxton on PBS, where he helps people declutter and transition. He is author of Keep the Memories, Lose the Stuff. MyLegacyList.com
Create a plan to tackle your decluttering—whether it is your home or that of a deceased loved one…
Map out the room-by-room “route.” Don’t start in the garage (too overwhelming) or in the home office (too emotional).
Choose a room or a category of objects with the least emotions attached, perhaps china and crystal.
Set a timer for 30 minutes, then stop for the day. You can gradually lengthen each decluttering session over time. Expect it to take weeks or longer to declutter an entire home.
Take one of these actions with each item…
1. Keep: Your decisions about what to keep should relate to life planning. Are you staying in the home and want to make it more livable? Are you moving or planning to travel most of the year and need to downsize? To help you decide, put everything you’re attached to through the lens of time. If you no longer need items that were essential at ages 20, 30 and 40, let them go.
2. Bestow: Give away legacy items now so you can see your loved ones enjoy them while you’re still alive. Explain why the items are significant to you, but be aware that your loved ones may not want these items. That’s okay—be generous of spirit, and ask what they do want.
3. Sell: You will need time to do this, and you won’t get back what you paid, whether the items are Longaberger baskets, Hummel figurines or Beanie Babies. Your things will sell only for what a third party is willing to pay.
There are always some hot categories, such as stamps, comics, coins, vinyl records, Legos, some mid-century modern furniture and vintage clothes. And you may make some money by selling clothes through consignment shops or sites such as The RealReal or Poshmark. For other high-demand items, look for category-specific websites with an online option to attract people from around the world.
For most other things, Facebook Marketplace is easy, local and a great poor man’s appraiser—look for what similar items have sold for. Rule of thumb: If no one shows interest in an item within two hours, it is priced too high. Reduce the asking price by 25% each day until the item is sold.
4. Donate: Donating is your best option for things that haven’t sold after three days and anything else that is not worth selling. You’re also likely to get more emotional value from giving things away than you would by recouping a mere 10% to 20% of their original costs. In addition to the usual places like Goodwill, search online for a buy-nothing group in your area—these emanate from the Buy Nothing Project, an international network of local gift economies designed to reduce trash and protect the environment.
5. Junk: Call a paid pickup service for what’s left. 1-800-GOT-JUNK? and College Hunks Hauling Junk & Moving top the list. Depending on the city and the amount of stuff, it can cost anywhere from $250 to $500.