10 Ways People Have Been Paring Down Possessions During the Pandemic

This past year gave many of us an opportunity to look more critically at the stuff cluttering our homes.

The Pandemic Downsize

Boxes in a pile with a clock sticking out of a box

The more time we spent at home this year, the more we realized how badly we wanted our spaces to both inspire and calm us. The first step toward this goal was often to rifle through our belongings and get rid of anything that was just taking up space. In the end, getting organized became a mindfulness practice, a type of self-care we desperately needed throughout 2020. Here, we’ve rounded up 10 ways people used their pandemic time to cut the clutter and create a healthier home and mind. Maybe these ideas will inspire you to simplify your life in the coming year.


Unused Kitchen Supplies

Overhead shot of cheese grater, rolling pins, cutting boards, and other kitchen supplies

Whether it’s that additional slow cooker you thought you might need for a big party, a bulky waffle maker you’ve never used, or mismatched utensils, unused kitchen items take up space and get in the way of organization and functionality. With all the time spent this year cooking for ourselves and our families, many of us ditched the useless clutter and learned that a cleaner, leaner kitchen makes everything easier.


Office Clothing

Close up shot of collared dress shirts hanging in a closet

This year, blazers, slacks, pencil skirts, heels, blouses, and button-downs collected dust in our closets as the pandemic caused us to rethink office attire. With the work-from-home surge, people opted for more comfortable clothing. In the process, they pared down their workwear, simplified their wardrobe, and regained control of their closet space.


Forgotten Hobbies

Young black woman doing a paint by number piece on her living room couch/coffee table

Remember the beginning of the pandemic, when everyone bought instruments, sports equipment, gel nail kits, and knitting supplies? By summer, much of that new-hobby paraphernalia was gathering dust in closets and drawers. While many of us have since passed these things along to others, some of us may be holding on to them in the hopes that we’ll pick them up again someday. Be honest with yourself: Sort through any unused hobby supplies, think realistically about how you truly enjoy spending your free time, and get rid of anything you’re unlikely to use again.


Old Cosmetics

Close up of old/used lipsticks and other cosmetics

There’s no denying that most of us have veered away from glam this year. As more women sported the au naturel look, they started tossing their dried-out or expired cosmetics. If you haven’t already, take advantage of the new year to sift through your medicine cabinets and drawers, and get rid of your old cosmetics. Ditch those bright eyeshadows and full-coverage foundations, and make room for glowing creams, fresh routines, and new possibilities.


Excess Canned and Frozen Food

Overhead shot of the top of canned goods

If you spent the spring waiting in long lines to fill your shopping cart with frozen foods and canned goods you had never purchased before, or at least not in such bulk, you’re certainly not alone. The beginning of the pandemic triggered panic buying, but now that the year is coming to an end, some of that stockpile is merely taking up space in our pantries and freezers. Eliminate the clutter by pulling together your excess stores and donating them to a local food bank.

Related: The Best Freezers for Extra Food Storage


Old Linens

Close up of a linen closet packed with towels and other linens

For some reason, no other spot in the house gets cluttered as quickly as the linen closet. Every time you pull out a towel or a pillowcase, you seem to mess up the whole system. The pandemic lockdowns offered many of us the chance to get the linen closet under control, but if yours could still use some taming, tackle it now: Go through your linens and pull out those you don’t use, especially ones that are tattered, worn, or dated, and donate any that are gently used. 

Related: Weekend Projects: 5 Easy Ways to Build an Outdoor Movie Screen


Junk Drawers

Open drawer with junk in it

In our busy lives, it’s too easy to throw things in a drawer just to get them out of the way. This is why every house has at least one junk drawer, a catchall for items you simply don’t know what to do with. Endless hours spent at home forced us to confront this disorganization, and many of us have since learned that most of what’s in that junk drawer can just be thrown out! Takeout menus, spare screws, broken pencils, and scribbled thoughts on loose scraps of paper take up drawer space that could be used for items that you actually need. 

Related: 9 Things Always to Keep in Your Junk Drawer


Old Technology

Shot of old computers and other outdated technology

You thought you might use that old VCR again. You kept that iPhone 5 around, just in case. But have you touched them recently? Many people used their pandemic downtime to finally say goodbye to old technology that was stealing valuable storage space. If you still have old phones, TVs, or other unused electronics lying around, get rid of them. If they work, donate them; if not, drop them off at an e-waste collection point near you.


Leftover Paint

Overhead shot of open paint can with paint brush on top

The pandemic inspired many homeowners to clean out their garage, including leftover paints and other remnants from home improvement projects. Although properly stored leftover paint can last several years, it’s likely that some of those cans languishing in your garage or workshop have not experienced ideal conditions. If that’s the case, take some time to go through your old cans of paint, and toss any that are more than two years old, dried up, or no longer usable as a result of faulty storage and temperature shifts. While you’re at it, get rid of any brushes and rollers that are caked with paint.


Broken Furniture

Broken furniture on a curb to be discarded

The more time we’ve spent at home, the more we’ve realized just how annoying that broken chair or that wobbly table really is. Why hold on to damaged items that are uncomfortable to use and that you don’t intend to fix? Take a serious look at any broken furniture in your house and either fix it or get rid of it. And if you have a stash of broken furniture sitting in the garage waiting to be repaired, painted, or otherwise rehabbed, either fix it, sell it as is, or simply say goodbye!


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