Tips On How to Declutter Your Home in McHenry County

Five years ago we moved less than 2 miles. While the distance wasn’t very significant and we didn’t even change school districts, there was one extremely big change that came with this move. Space. And by space, I mean the amount of space we gave up.

Whether it is purely a human nature sort of thing, I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure it’s at least a very American thing to do, and that is, our tendency to fill whatever space we have. We certainly weren’t immune to that and recognizing that is half the challenge.

Got Too Much Stuff?

Here are some signs that you might have too much stuff:

  • Your home is cluttered and messy.
  • You have to constantly move things around to make room.
  • You can’t find things when you need them.
  • You have things that you don’t use or need, but you’re reluctant to get rid of them.
  • You feel stressed or overwhelmed by your possessions.
  • You’re constantly buying new things, but you don’t have enough space to store them.
  • You’re spending a lot of money on storage costs.
  • You’re feeling guilty or ashamed about your clutter.

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then it might be time to let go of a few things.

Now, don’t panic. You don’t have to move to declutter, but it is one sure way to force the issue. We had already started clearing out some things before we decided to move and fully downsize. But buying a home that only had 50-60% of the space of our previous house turned the whole process up to 11!

This wasn’t just about square footage, but usability within a smaller home. We ended up having to sell off some furniture that we hadn’t exactly planned to simply because it was too big for the space we were moving into.

You Don’t Have to Go to Extremes

Like I said though, you don’t have to uproot your family and move. Decluttering can be done wherever you are today. And doing so might help you to appreciate and better utilize your current home, or help you from needlessly having to upsize your home!

This can be a daunting task and people often aren’t entirely sure where to begin. That’s why we pulled together some tips to help you along the way.

Tips and Tactics for Decluttering and Downsizing

Assess Your Spaces

Start by assessing your space. Go room by room and assess each room individually.

Think about each space. What is the space for? How is it currently being used today? How do you want to be able to use the space?

Now, start listing what is preventing the space from being used in the way you want. It’s okay to list functional issues, such as the need for shelving.

But also look for content issues…stuff that is broken or no longer used, stuff that belongs to someone else, stuff that only has sentimental value, or maybe stuff that doesn’t belong there but there isn’t any room to keep it where it should be kept.

Various shirts, sweaters, and jackets on hangers on a rack.

Categorize Your Stuff

Now sort your items into categories such as clothing, books, electronics, memorabilia, etc. Also qualify each item in some way that works for you, like whether it is usable or needs to be fixed/mended, whether it is in great or poor condition, etc. This will help you see the extent of your belongings and make other decisions easier.

Create a Plan of Attack

Determine where you are going to start decluttering. You might want to start with a room that isn’t filled with deeply personal items and memorabilia. You might want to pick a space that isn’t highly trafficked so that you can ease through the process, or a highly trafficked space that has to be tackled within a day might help keep you on track.

You might also benefit from starting with a room that is highly used so that you can appreciate the results and use that as a motivator to keep going. Or perhaps start small, like a linen or coat closet or a bathroom to get a quick win under your belt. Ultimately, you’ll need to figure out what works for you.

Cardboard boxes.

Work Your Plan

Use the “Four Boxes & a Bag Method.” It’s like that movie, but with less swearing…well, maybe.

Finally, something to use those giant Amazon boxes for. Label the four boxes as “Keep,” “Donate,” “Sell,” and “Recycle.” And get a giant trash bag for things to toss out.

Pick a place to start, maybe anything in the middle of the room, to help make room for the boxes. As you go through your items, place them in the respective boxes. Then start near the door and move your way around the room, continuing the sorting process.

The key is in the sorting process. You really need to be honest with yourself.

If you are keeping clothing because it’s a size you haven’t been able to fit into for a year or more, is it really very likely that that is going to change anytime soon? If you are thinking of keeping something that needs to be fixed or mended, how long has it been needed to be fixed and how likely is that going to happen anytime soon?

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Demo business listing card.

Act On Your Boxes

Before you move on to the next room, toss out your trash bag and clear out your boxes. For the things you are keeping, make a home for them in the room you just decluttered, and if it belongs in another room, move it to that room.

Yes, if you haven’t decluttered the room it is going to, that means you’ll have to sort it again, which also means you’ll have a second opportunity to determine whether it really is a keeper.

This might also be the time to address some of those functional issues. Maximize your space by utilizing storage solutions like shelves, bins, and hooks. This will help keep your remaining items organized and easily accessible.

Cardboard box with Donations label.

Donate Responsibly

For the items you decided to donate, be sure they are donation-worthy. Are they really in a usable condition? Before you haul off all your donations, make note of which items may be accepted wherever you are donating them.

Different organizations may have different guidelines on what they can or will accept. Also, be sure to make records of what you are donating if you may be reporting these for tax purposes.

Thrift Shops & Donation Centers in McHenry County



Crystal Lake




Sell, Consign, or Auction

You may have set aside some items for selling or auctioning. This may primarily be for high-value items that are in good condition, but there might be other items that are lower in value that might be worth the effort.

It helps to decide where that threshold is and then research how much similar are being sold or listed for. You can search eBay and get an idea on how much items are selling for. Keep in mind the impact of offering free shipping, commissions, or selling fees though in these amounts.

While you can sell most things on Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist for free, remember that it may be a much smaller audience that is interested, which may not command the same sale prices on eBay. Then again, there may be less “supply” in a local market which can help command higher values.

Garage sale sign.

Looking to hold a garage sale, yard sale, or any other kind of sale? We have some general tips on that as well as.

And, you can post it on our Events Calendar for free. Click the button below for more information.

And if you have enough items, and time, you might want to hold your own garage or yard sale. If you go that route, then be sure to list your sale here on McHenry Life, which you can do so for free. Be sure to see our Post Your Garage Sale for Free article on how to do that and some garage sale tips.

Start taking clear photos, writing up detailed descriptions, and determining pricing strategies for the items you are going to list for sale.

Another option here is to take items to a consignment shop. In this way, someone else handles the selling part.

Each consignment shop operates in its own way, not only based on what types and conditions of items they will consign, but also on how they pay out (e.g., cash vs. store credit) and what happens to items that don’t sell.

Cushion with various pins and brooches for sale.
Consignment Shops in McHenry County


Crystal Lake


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Just like your donation box, you may need to research how to properly recycle some items in your recycling box. For items that are broken or no longer usable, check local recycling centers or waste management facilities to properly dispose of them.

Recycling electronics or hazardous materials may require special handling. Again, each center will have its own requirements, and in some cases, that could be based on where you live.

And depending on the items, some of these things might have scrap value, so you might be able to get a little, though probably very little, money back as well.

We’ve pulled together a list of recycling locations that cover a fairly “broad” range that should help with general decluttering, but be sure to see the additional information below that provides additional resources for more unique and specific need cases.

Crystal Lake



For special recycling drives and other resources on recycling specific items, be sure to check out these recycling resources our friends at the Environmental Defenders of McHenry County.

Click to Submit Others, Information, or Corrections

Did we miss one or include one that is no longer relevant? Or maybe you have information to add or we need to correct our information? We greatly appreciate any help that others can provide. Please provide as much information, including links to other sources, as you can in the form below. Thanks!

Messy room.

Rinse and Repeat

Maintaining a clutter-free lifestyle is the most critical task. Now that you’ve gone through all this effort, congratulate yourself, but also remember all of the effort to remind yourself how you don’t want to do it again. The reality is that this is an ongoing process that never truly ends.

However, adopting habits like regular decluttering, minimalism, and mindful purchasing, can help to keep this a much easier and more manageable task.

Remember, decluttering and downsizing can be a gradual process. Take your time and focus on creating a space that brings you joy and functionality. As I said, we started over 5 years ago! It can take time and it’s an iterative process.

If you are lucky, in addition to the peace and greater enjoyment of your space, you may find it saves you a lot more time and money.

Less stuff requires less time and money to clean, move, store, and maintain. Likewise, if you are one of the many who have had to turn to off-site storage, you might be able to eliminate that need and expense.

And if you do find that you are able to downsize, you might free up considerably more time and money. A smaller home often has smaller needs.

It may take less to heat and cool, as well as require less costly equipment and maintenance to heat and cool. It will take less time or money to clean. It may require less time, money, and equipment to maintain a much larger yard.

It might also result in a much lower property tax! Happy decluttering!

President and Founder of Identity Developments, LLC, the parent company of the McHenry Life website. My hope for McHenry Life is to create a resource and destination for the residents and businesses of McHenry County alike. A place where residents can discover new places to explore, fun events and ways to spend time, and then share those experiences with others. A place where businesses can connect with existing and potential customers, and not simply market their businesses, but share their own unique stories.

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