Why I declutter my home via Craigslist (2024)

It was nearing 11 p.m. when the stranger finally showed up. A petite woman in her mid-20s, she bounded up the stairs of my Brooklyn brownstone and breathlessly apologized for her tardiness. “I’m soooo sorry I’m late. I had to transfer to the 3 at Atlantic Avenue, and I wasn’t sure where it was, and I just got turned around,” she explained as I handed her a bag containing a heavy, multipart juicer that I hadn’t used—much less looked at—in a couple of years. “Thank you so so much for this!” she exclaimed brightly. “Oh my god—I make this juice that’s to die for, it’s a mix of apples and beets and ginger and kale, sometimes I add celery, depends on what I have around…” I smiled and told her she was most welcome, attempting to politely curtail her juice sermon so I could return to my apartment and go to bed.

Any dedicated Netflix-binger would have noticed when, on January 1 of this year—just in time for all the resolution-makers to get serious about their New Year goals—the streaming platform launched Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. The eight-episode series features the soft-spoken author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up coming to the rescue of homeowners, relieving them of their literal and figurative burdens by encouraging them to part with the majority of their clutter, boxing and bagging up any clothing, furniture, or toys that don’t “spark joy” within them. Participants in the show, by each episode’s end, appear as changed as a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis: wiping tears from their eyes as they take in their newly minimalist quarters, they remark on a newfound sense of calm and promise to never again let those magazine subscriptions or Tupperware collections get out of hand.

It’s a relatable premise: In today’s consumerist world, we all get a little overwhelmed by our stuff sometimes. Who wouldn’t want to live in a tidy, feng-shui’ed-to-perfection space? The buzz surrounding the show, which has far eclipsed the already-considerable attention paid to Kondo’s 2014 book, might lead a person to believe that to attain the “life-changing magic” of decluttering, she’ll need a film crew, an empathetic guide, and a whole lot of oversized trash bags. But for years now, I’ve been getting cheap—indeed free—thrills merely from regularly giving away my possessions on Craigslist.

In New York, where I live, available real estate seems to get smaller and more expensive each year, as the waves of gentrification push ever deeper into the formerly “outer” boroughs. I was lucky, six years ago, to find a cheap two-bedroom apartment that I’m in love with and in which I will undoubtedly live out the rest of my Brooklyn days. Utilities are included and my bedroom boasts a sunny, spacious bay window, but there is, of course, a catch: I have almost no storage space—just one small closet shared between my two roommates and me, and a few cabinets in the kitchen. So as careful as I am to steer clear of stoop sales and thrift stores, it doesn’t take long before I start to feel that I am drowning in my own things.

And so, when my kitchen cabinets begin to spill over with washed and saved almond butter jars, or my cats decide they don’t care for their new food and water dishes, or I’ve propagated a few too many pothos plants, I turn to a website I have bookmarked on my computer: Craigslist Free. A short description and a few iPhone photos later, and my post advertising free stuff to whoever will come take it off my hands is out in the world. And, invariably, my phone and email blow up with would-be takers within a few minutes.

My Gmail history tells me that since 2014, I’ve posted 73 times, giving away everything from a lavender-scented terrycloth eye pillow (I never used it) to a French language workbook (I completed most of it) to a half-empty bottle of Tresemme hair conditioner (it didn’t work for my poofy, frizz-prone curls). At least in New York, where the cost of living is sky-high and inhabitants are constantly looking for creative ways to budget-trim, it’s possible to get rid of just about anything.

Each time I give away a trash bag full of plastic hangers, or a chunky black bracelet I haven’t worn in 10 years, I breathe a little easier. I feel less stressed and more at peace. I feel happier in my home. I feel, I imagine, just like the teary-eyed stars of Kondo’s Netflix show—except I generated these feelings solo, with nary a high-definition camera in sight.

Given the rapidity with which strangers respond to my listings, I’ve concluded that there must be people out there who always have a tab open to Craigslist Free—and in my experience, these people are characters. In text and emails, they tell me they need my unused disposable menstrual cups “desperately,” offer to bring me a loaf of home-baked sourdough to edge out other aspirants to my “well-loved” enameled Dutch oven pot, and share photos of their cooking a few weeks after I’ve gifted them a hodgepodge of near-empty spice bottles ranging from turmeric to Greek oregano.

Corresponding with and meeting these Craigslist characters, in a city that so often feels anonymous, is part of the reason I love Craigslist Free. These men, women, and occasionally children show up at my door grinning, frequently proffering a hug in exchange for my underutilized rice cooker or extraneous pack of playing cards. Part of New York’s charm is its vastness: If you want to disappear into a book—or ugly-cry—on the subway, without being noticed, you can do that here. But sometimes, it’s nice to connect, face to face, with a fellow inhabitant. Craigslist allows me to do that—and I’m not talking about the “Missed Connections” section. So as long as I live here, I’ll continue to go online to part with my unneeded stuff—and spark joy within myself in more ways than one.

Lauren Rothman is a freelance journalist based in her hometown of Brooklyn. Follow her cooking, home improvement and cat-owning adventures on Instagram: @laurenoliviarothman.

Why I declutter my home via Craigslist (2024)


What is the golden rule of decluttering? ›

Take it room by room: Start decluttering one room at a time to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Focus on a specific area before moving on to the next. Sort methodically: Divide items into categories (keep, donate, sell, discard) and work through each category systematically to prevent decision fatigue.

Why do I declutter so much? ›

To try and relieve your feelings of stress, you can develop the urge to constantly declutter your space. Decluttering can temporarily relieve anxiety. When we can't get rid of our stress, getting rid of other things can help us feel better.

Why declutter your home when selling? ›

Data shows that homes that are well-organized and clutter-free tend to fetch higher offers as a whole. Decluttering can highlight the home's best features and make spaces appear larger, both of which are key factors in attracting potential buyers to view your home, and ultimately to submit an offer.

Why is it so hard to declutter house? ›

Our stuff is tied up in our identity

One of the reasons it can be hard to get rid of clutter is that our belongings can be tied up with our identity and self worth. We are led to believe that our possessions are what make us who we are.

What should you not throw out when decluttering? ›

10 things you should never throw away when decluttering - 'these are the things you'll regret later down the line'
  • Organization tools. ...
  • Items that don't belong to you. ...
  • Photos. ...
  • Important documents. ...
  • Anything actively useful. ...
  • Keepsakes. ...
  • Emergency supplies. ...
  • Family heirlooms.
Nov 12, 2023

What happens to your brain when you declutter? ›

The actual act of cleaning and decluttering can boost your mood, help you move your body more, improve focus, and help you feel more in control of your surroundings.

What is the root cause of clutter? ›

Signs That the Root Cause of Your Clutter is Transitional.

Transitional Clutter is usually a temporary, albeit overwhelming dilemma that occurs as a result of a major life change. Some examples of transitional clutter can be a move, a divorce, an illness, a job change, or a family member's death.

What is clutter a symptom of? ›

"Excessive clutter and disorganization are often symptoms of a bigger health problem, such as attention deficit disorder (ADD), depression or obsessive compulsive disorder," says Hurtado. "If this is the case, the behavior needs to change versus the logistics of the home, like space or layout."

What causes obsessive decluttering? ›

People that have compulsive decluttering disorder think that any items around them are cluttering or disrupting their everyday lives. Throwing these items away gives them satisfaction, and gives them the idea that they are in control of their lives.

What does a cluttered house do to you? ›

Clutter can affect our anxiety levels, sleep, and ability to focus. It can also make us less productive, triggering coping and avoidance strategies that make us more likely to snack on junk and watch TV shows (including ones about other people decluttering their lives).

Do decluttered homes sell faster? ›

Decluttering your home before selling not only improves the chances of a quicker sale but also makes the moving process more efficient. When you remove excess items, you'll have less to pack, organize, and transport to your new home.

What happens when you declutter your home? ›

Reduce Stress and Encourage Peaceful Living

Clutter in homes can create a more stressful way of moving through life. Decluttering and organizing your home can help you feel more in harmony with your living space and make doing tasks easier. Not being able to find that one item you need can be frustrating.

How long should it take to declutter a house? ›

If you decluttered for just 15 minutes a day for one year you would have 91 hours of decluttering done. I have helped a lot of moms declutter their homes in just 4 weeks. You don't need 91 hours. You just need a plan, accountability, and to have some fun while you make this happen.

How do you truly declutter? ›

Here are several interesting decluttering tips to get you started on decluttering your home:
  1. Start with 5 minutes at a time. ...
  2. Give one item away each day. ...
  3. Fill an entire trash bag. ...
  4. Donate clothes you never wear. ...
  5. Create a decluttering checklist. ...
  6. Take the 12-12-12 challenge. ...
  7. View your home as a first-time visitor.

What is the one touch rule for clutter? ›

This rule is “so simple, yet so life changing”. Simply by dealing with an item immediately, whether it is your shoes, incoming mail, or your used coffee mug, less clutter will be created. One touch, one movement, equals less effort overall. This rule can also be applied when you are purging, editing, and organizing.

What is the 333 method of decluttering? ›

The 333 styling method is a minimalist fashion challenge encouraging individuals to select and wear only 33 items for 3 months. This includes clothing, accessories, jewelry, outerwear, and shoes, aiming to simplify wardrobe choices and promote sustainable fashion habits.

What is the 12-12-12 rule for decluttering? ›

The 12 12 12 rule is a decluttering strategy that involves three simple steps: finding 12 items to throw away, 12 items to donate, and 12 items to return to their rightful place. This method helps reduce clutter while promoting a sense of accomplishment by achieving small, manageable goals.

What is the 20 20 20 rule for decluttering? ›

Then we tested our hypothesis: the 20/20 Rule. Anything we get rid of that we truly need, we can replace for less than $20 in less than 20 minutes from our current location. Thus far, this hypothesis has become a theory that has held true 100% of the time.


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