A Decluttering Task for You

by Katy on September 14, 2011 · 27 comments

After years of working on decluttering, organizing and decorating my house, my energy for the project sometimes wanes. (Okay, who am I kidding here, it always wanes.) But I have an easy, no brainer delcuttering task for you:

Return everything that doesn’t belong to you.

That’s right, return those library books, give back your mother-in-law’s leftover containers and if you have tools, dishes or anything else in your home that doesn’t belong to you — take them to the person they do belong to!

Because it’s hard enough to stay on top of your own possessions without having to deal with everyone else’s as well.

So, what are you waiting for? Go do it. Now!

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”

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{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Cate September 14, 2011 at 4:20 am

This is a GREAT tip. We have a long wire shelf above our washer and dryer, and I’ve set aside a portion of it for “Things to Return.” Right now it’s stocked with picture books I borrowed from my mom, leftover containers from my mother-in-law (you got me there), and egg cartons to give back to the farmer we buy our meat and eggs from.

We check out so many library books that the ones we’re done with have their own home in a shallow drawer in our entry table.


Mary Kate September 14, 2011 at 4:21 am

A related, and more problematic, issue for me is to get the stuff you’re giving away out of the house. I have stuff that is going to one friend for a thrift shop she is indirectly involved with. I have stuff that needs to go to s person doing a scout service project. Finally, I have stuff to give to another friend that will be passed on to an immigrant family that does not have a lot of money.

But we are actually pretty good about returning items.


Barb @ 1SentenceDiary September 14, 2011 at 4:57 am

I second Mary Kate. I’m pretty good at returning items that don’t belong to us. But I have been known to keep the boxes that are headed for donation for (embarrassing to admit) years. I’ve been much better about that lately. Moving is a great motivator!


ListfulWistful September 14, 2011 at 5:32 am

That is a great something I can work on today. Thanks for the suggestion!


Jenne September 14, 2011 at 7:04 am

In my family we call this Slime. It’s stuff other people have left behind in my house, often children, like the trail of goo snails leave behind them wherever they go. Often I will take something of my mom’s to my sister’s house because I know she will be there, but then my mom will leave it again, which is known as Double Sliming. Right now, the Slime is all piled up on my front table, waiting to be returned. I really should find a less conspicuous spot for it, but then it would NEVER go away!


marie September 14, 2011 at 7:36 am

I only have a friend’s book to return and she lives an hour away so I’m waiting until the next time we get together.

Anytime I have stuff to return, like a tupperware, or book, I put it on a shelf in my living room so that I can’t forget about it. For example, I wouldn’t put a tupperware I need to return with my own because then I’d forget about it. Same with books, I don’t put it in my bookshelf.


Sheryl September 14, 2011 at 7:43 am

I’m good about returning borrowed items as well. Donation items go right out into the trunk of my car (as long as they fit, of course.) I’m more likely to drop them where they need to go if they are truly in my way. It only gets problematic with larger items. I have a small-ish four door sedan, and the chairs I need to get to the Oregon Community Warehouse can’t ride around in my car until I make it there. Right now they are outside, under my covered patio (driving me nuts!)


Margaret September 14, 2011 at 9:47 am

I think what Katy is suggesting is to make this a priority… today. So, move around the silly stuff in our schedules, and MAKE THE TRIP over to wherever and get rid of this stuff once and for all!

GREAT IDEA! Thank you!


Green Bean September 14, 2011 at 9:49 am

Great tip! So easy to do. I have an “out box” for this purpose. I think I’ll empty it today. 🙂


HeatherS September 14, 2011 at 10:11 am

My problem is getting my parents or in-laws to take back the stuff we might have borrowed. Suddenly it becomes ours whether we want it or not! Sometimes I want to just sneak over and leave it on their porch and run away!


Sheryl September 14, 2011 at 2:19 pm

Heather, my parents do the same thing–I borrow it, they let me keep and store it, and they just borrow it back when they need it. And promptly “return” it to me, of course! CRAZY.


Jackie September 14, 2011 at 10:18 am

Yes! I have been doing this lately, and it is great!!! I’ve also submitted a proposal to the board of the co-op where I live about instituting a “Sharing Shelf” or “Stuff Swap” in our giant laundry room…a place where residents can place unwanted items, and other residents can find things they need. Freecycle of the most local variety possible, if you will. I have promised that when the shelf becomes too full, I will manage the items and take them to be donated, or we can sell them in our annual co-op yard sale! Hopefully they will accept my proposal!


Katherine September 14, 2011 at 11:09 am

In January I got rid of 5 things per day (I am trying a goal a month for the year- that was January’s goal) and no joke a TON of the stuff to get rid of was simply returns. Library books, borrowed clothing, cd’s- stuff that had been sitting in our apartment for months. It feels good to give it back!


Sue September 14, 2011 at 11:43 am

I agree with Cate, EXCELLENT suggestion Katy! Not only does that lessen the Stuff underfoot, but anyone waiting for those items will really appreciate their return.


Shannon Breen September 14, 2011 at 12:59 pm

Oh, those pesky library books! I’m SO bad about being a library hoarder. They’re free, right? So…if I come across a book review I get the book transferred to my branch and then I bring it home and then it sits with the dozen other books I did the same thing with. Yeah, I need to learn how to make a list.


Tracy September 14, 2011 at 2:59 pm



Karen September 14, 2011 at 4:48 pm

Oh, me too. I was almost glad our library ran into budget problems and put a limit on how many books we can request at a time: 5 only. I need limits!


Karen3848 September 12, 2015 at 7:58 am

Are you familiar with http://www.goodreads.com? It’s free; it’s a website that lets you create “shelves” for any category of book you want. I use it more to keep track of which books I have read, for prolific authors with series (i.e. Stephen King Read) and then you could also have Stephen King TBR (to be read). I find it really valuable. I wish there was a comparable service for movies!


Rebecca September 21, 2015 at 12:12 pm

check to see if your library online system allows you to make a list. I had 20 books out for the allowed 12 weeks at a time and went on a book diet earlier this year. I’m down to 5 (plus 2 my kid is reading for school) and to keep it that way whenever I see a book rec I might like, I can add to an online list through my library. When I open up a space in my allotted 5, I randomly pick one off my “someday” list. It’s a little bit like Christmas when the book is ready for pick-up.


Jenny September 14, 2011 at 3:30 pm

Oh, I don’t think I have anything except one Netflix True Blood dvd I’m going to watch tonight. Hey, that almost makes me feel organized.


Trish [ modern thrifter ] September 14, 2011 at 7:08 pm

This is such a good reminder. I always hate making special trips to drop things off, and I usually hang on to items until I know I’ll be seeing the person to whom they belong. The problem is that I usually forget to put the items in the car on my way out. I think it would be much more efficient to just pick a day and pile everything in the car, map the best route, and return everything at once.


Ann September 14, 2011 at 8:02 pm

Returning what you have borrowed promptly (or what has been left at your home -as in potluck pyrex dishes, etc) makes you such a good candidate for borrowing the next time. When I was a young wife, I found out (from a blabby sister in law) that I irritated my mother in law with how slowly I returned tupperware or pyrex dishes. I returned them, but not on her schedule. I realized that the lender has limits, too. So, in order for that not to be on a list of items “against” me, I began to take her dishes back to her promptly – within the next week. AND I added a bonus “treat” to thank her. That made a difference in our relationship.


Safraknit September 14, 2011 at 10:49 pm

Sigh…I need help with this…I have a paperback book I was loaned several years ago…the back cover got bent (pages are fine) and I feel guilty, so I never returned it! Well, what do I do? (I could cover it with clear contact paper to make it look better…)


Carolyn September 15, 2011 at 2:22 am

This is so true! I see it all the time with my organizing clients.


Lisa @ Just here. Just now. September 15, 2011 at 4:22 am

Great tip. And maybe the people who I’ve loaned books to will read this and finally give them back! I always love a great simple idea for decluttering, thanks for sharing!


Carol Johnson September 12, 2015 at 12:11 am

Unfortunately, doesn’t help much. I don’t borrow things. If I do, I return them same day or within an hour or two of finishing with it. It’s a great idea for those who borrow things because that is needless clutter esp. if it’s something big and bulky.


Betty Winslow September 12, 2015 at 6:35 pm

I have a sideboard in our (mostly unused) dining room that is where I put things that need to be returned/mailed to people. Stuff for my kids can sit there for weeks. Grrr. I need to designate a less visible spot. Plus, if only I could come up with a plan to get the DD to take all her craft/sewing stuff she left when she moved out…. her brothers have (for the most part) taken everything they wanted, I just need to get rid of the left-overs.


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