Watch any season of A&E’s Hoarders , and you’ll see people waylaid by too many possessions, whether it’s a great aunt with an innocent angel figurine habit gone clinically overboard or a couple who owns a 4,000-square-foot house but still has to rent a storage unit for overflow.
Perhaps to keep up with their mountains of stuff, the average size of an American home has ballooned from 983 square feet in 1950 to 2,300 in 2019. Even with our pantries, attics, basements, bonus rooms, and mudrooms, there are apparently still not enough spaces to keep up with our contemporary consumerist tendencies: The U.S. feeds a $40 billion storage unit industry. And apparently, despite our ability to hide away Grandma’s furniture and our outsized collection of clown paintings at offsite facilities, all of our possessions are stressing us out: Nearly half of all Americans report being overwhelmed by clutter.
Add in that an average of 10,000 baby boomers will turn 65 each day for the next eight years, eventually requiring an offloading of things when they downsize, and collectively we’ve got a lot of stuff to get rid of. The COVID-19 pandemic and its months of stay-in orders and working from home only emphasized how ingrained our national hoarding tendencies are, and how much we’d all like to do something about them: Goodwill and other thrift stores saw a record number of donations in 2020.
So how do you decide what should stay or go? In the articles below we run through some of the most popular and effective strategies for sorting through your stuff, whether you’re a wannabe minimalist or a clotheshorse just looking to corral some of your pumps and frocks. (And no, one method doesn’t always fit all.) We share ideas for what to do with all the stuff you want to jettison, from books to electronics to sporting goods to toys. Want to outsource selling your stuff or unload a literal house load of belongings? We also offer advice on hiring an estate-sale business, and we discuss clothing consignment options.