Decluttering Tips for the mobileWOMAN

by Wendy Crawford

The New Year is an exciting time, a fresh start to new beginnings, goals and plans, however it is difficult to begin the new chapter when your life is cluttered with objects from years passed. Since many of us live in cold climates and are stuck inside, why not make this a productive time to purge? After you go through these steps, you will feel surprisingly revitalized, energized and ready to tackle 2016! Now, take a deep breath and let’s do it!

1. Medication:
When you open your medicine cabinet, do prescription bottles tumble out and fall onto the counter and into your sink? If so, it is probably a sign that you need to sort through your medication. Any important medication should not be used passed the expiration date. First, remove labels off the bottles or scratch out all personal information.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) advises against flushing medication down the toilet and to crush medication and mix with coffee grounds, kitty litter, baking soda or a substance that will absorb them. Then place the mixture in a sealable bag or bottle with a screw on lid and throw in trash. Another option is to take advantage of community drug take-back programs that allow the public to bring unused drugs to a central location for proper disposal. Call your city or county government’s household trash and recycling service or check with your pharmacy to see if a take-back program is available in your community.


2. Medical Supplies:
Throw out useless medical supplies or donate, if still in packaging. There are organizations, such as Colorado-based Project C.U.R.E. (
https://projectcure.org) or Donate Medical (http://donatemedical.org/), that accept certain supplies for donation. It's easier than you think and doesn't matter where in the U.S. that you live.When there's the option, of course it's always best to help those in need because many people can benefit from medical supplies that you may be looking to discard.

3. Medical Equipment:
Donate medical equipment that you can no longer use. The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation has compiled an extensive list of international organizations to which you can donate used wheelchairs and other medical equipment:  Click here to see the list.

4. Paperwork and Mail:
Yes, this is the time to go through those dreaded leaning towers of paperwork, perched on the corners of your desk, since tax season will be here before you know it. Toss or recycle the flyers, junk mail and magazines that you don’t have time to read. However, be sure to keep important receipts for equipment and warranties. One suggestion is when you get a new piece of equipment, it often comes with a manual, warranty, even sometimes unique tools, so put everything in a resealable bag, label it and file the entire bag. It’s prudent to keep medical bills at least one to three years, in case there is a dispute. Medical records for major medical events should be kept indefinitely. Also, keep insurance information intact, easy to locate and labelled in case of a medical emergency. Whatever you do toss, make certain that you shred it because it has personal information that you don’t want in the hands of undesirable criminals.

5. Exercise Equipment:
We start off with good intentions when we purchase the equipment or video and you may have pieces that you use on a regular basis, but often some of it is sitting, collecting dust or is used as a laundry hanger!  Evaluate the equipment – is it something you're still able to use and willing to use? If so, work with your physician and/or physical therapist and set realistic fitness goals to work out. Make it a priority in your life – this is probably one of the most important commitments that you can make for the new year. If you know it is not something you're going to use, look into selling it. Extra cash is always helpful and it's wonderful to free up space in your home.

6. Clothing:
Let’s face it, we all have that clothing in the closet that we purchased because it was “a good deal” but have never worn.  Or we may have the clothing item that we loved online and thought it would work while sitting in a wheelchair, but it just doesn’t look well. Whether it's the sweater with the ribbing at the bottom that is constantly riding up or the stiff jacket that looks like it’s still on the hanger even when you are wearing it, now is the time to give such clothing pieces to a friend of family member, to donate or sell in a consignment shop! There is a learning curve to finding the right pieces that work best for you. Stick to the pieces that are comfortable, functional, and flattering.

7. Shoes:
This is a tough one because when you are in a wheelchair, shoes look brand new even if they are 15 years old! This has its advantages if you still love them and they are classic styles, but if they are outdated or you haven’t worn them in the past year or two, get rid of them!

8.  Your Pantry and Refrigerator:
If you thought numbers six and seven were tough, this might be even worse! Start with checking expiration date of products both in your refrigerator and in the pantry. Yes, even canned goods can get outdated. It's time to rid yourself of processed foods that are high in sodium, unwanted fats, a bunch of stuff that you can't even pronounce and low in nutrition. Don't keep it for your kids or anyone else, for that matter. Throw it away. There are so many online resources for healthy recipes and meal suggestions using lean proteins, whole grains and vegetables. This is a choice that could literally save your life and your family’s down the road.


9. Cosmetics and Beauty Products:
Chances are that most of us are using expired makeup and beauty products. Cosmetics are not required to list an expiration date, but some of them do, so check carefully. Usually mascara will become clumpy and can even smell strange, which is when you know it's time to toss it. This is an important one because expired eye products can cause eye infections. (Also, throw it out if you sense that you have a stye in your eye or any slight infection). Expired foundation won't make you sick if you use it, but you may get skin breakouts or rashes. Lip gloss only lasts one year and two years for lipstick. (Once again, toss any of the ones that you have used if you have a cold sore or some sort of infection on your lips.) Blush and eyeshadow should be thrown out after two years, but that's a tough one to follow! Lipstick, lip liner, eyeliner are good for one year. Once perfume and body lotion start to smell funky, then it is time to go!

10. Electronics:

Do you have a drawer full of wires, charges, cords, adapters, headphones and more? Throw out which seem to have no source and, for the others, tie them up nicely or hold them  together with a rubber band, twisty tie, velcro or hair elastic, and put them in a labeled resealable bag. Old phones and outdated pieces of electronics can be recycled or, if you feel the need to keep an antique, put it in a shoe box or suitable sized box as organized storage. Also, you can donate your cell phones to many worthwhile charities that benefit soldiers overseas, victims of domestic violence or just go to American Cell Phone Drive where it will direct you to a local dropbox and benefits over 5,000 important charities. Electronic equipment gets outdated quickly these days, so go through what you have and, even if you don't need to save the piece as a whole, there may be parts that can be used for something you're currently using. 

Let 2016 be the year that starts off just a bit more simply and more organized than last year. Follow the steps above, and branch out to declutter in ways we haven't mentioned, but that will help in your daily life (and others when you donate!). The key is to go one step at a time, try not to get overwhelmed, and don't rush. Each step you complete, will bring you closer to a feeling of peace and accomplishment.

Feel free to share your photos once you declutter! Share them on our mobilewomen.org Facebook page at www.facebook.com/groups/257147710969355/ or tweet @mobileWOMEN. We look forward to your results!

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