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Hallie Declutters After a Lifetime of Yard Sales

Category: Home and Garden

Our thanks to the NY TImes best-selling author HALLIE EPHRON for allowing us to reprint this amazing story from Decluttering, ridding out, downsizing, whatever you want to call it, is hard. This is a wonderful and touching tribute, thank you! Note: Jerry, with whom I share a birthday, was one of the most interesting people I have ever met.

 HALLIE EPHRON: My husband and I reached a detente early in our marriage. He could go to all the yard sales and buy whatever he wanted (mostly books), and I wouldn’t nag him about it, as long as I didn’t have to look at his piles of stuff.

He celebrated this arrangement in one of the anniversary (our 30th) cards he drew for me.

When Jerry died, with my daughters’ help I gave away his clothes. I enlisted a used book dealer (of Antiques Roadshow fame, Ken Gloss) to take his sizeable and variable book collection.

“Then I went upstairs and stared up the attic stairs into the darkness. And closed the door. I couldn’t face it. Not that, or the clutter that filled our the basement. Ditto what was in the garage.”

Hallie Ephron

Most of what was there I hadn’t touched or clapped eyes on in years. I shut the doors and vowed not to think about it until I was ready.

It took me a year to feel comfortable with–embracing!–the idea of liquidating all of it. Push a button. POOF! Ready, Set, GO!

I made my way through the three cluttered spaces, moving elsewhere anything I wanted to keep. It was a meager pile. A stained glass window, because you never know when you’ll need one. A box of old family photographs. Of course. Scuba gear. Just because. It really didn’t amount to much.

I got in touch with my friend Kathy Vines (Clever Girl Organizing), a professional organizer and member of NAPO (National Association of Professional Organizers) and she recommended a local service, “Clean Out Your House“.

I took pictures of the 3 areas I wanted cleared out (“It all goes!”) – here’s the basement. (If you do this be sure to use PANO on your cell phone to get a panoramic shot.) They got back to me with an estimate which seemed reasonable.

A few weeks later two trucks and a dumpster arrived along with a team of extremely polite and sturdy young men.

Within about 6 hours, here’s what that basement looked like. Likewise, the attic was completely empty.

They came back a few days later and emptied the garage.

I feel 30 pounds lighter. And no, I do not think I’ll miss the life-sized porcelain cat or the early Apple computer and two nonworking printers or the piles of student grade books from my years of teaching and and and…

Last minute, I did rescue this dollhouse for my grandkids and a box of family photographs. But otherwise no regrets.

My fantasy right now is that someone else’s husband is pawing through the stuff in the dumpster and marveling: How could anyone throw this great stuff away?

Have you contemplated a great cleanout or is one awaiting you in the future? Or are you one of those disciplined people who resists yard sales and actually gives (or throws) things away?

Comments: Please share your thoughts about decluttering in the Comments section below. There are many interesting comments to Hallie’s original article at JungleRedWriters as well.

About Hallie Ephron: Hallie is a Best Selling New York Times Author of Suspense. She has written many thrilling books, including her latest, “Careful What You Wish For“, which portrays a professional organizer who helps people declutter their lives; she’s married to a man who can’t drive past a yard sale without stopping. He’s filled their basement, attic, and garage with his treasures.

For further reading:

Posted by Admin on October 25th, 2022


  1. I can relate to this story. My Hub and I have lived in a 3 bedroom average size house for 47 years. We built our home and moved into it in 1975. We moved from a one bedroom apartment and had barely enough furniture to fill 1/4 of the house. Flash forward…we have accumulated and accumulated. I have had only one tag sale and it was big. I have given tons of stuff to Goodwill. I have given tons of stuff to Vietnam Veterans. We have given stuff to Animal Welfare. We have rented around 4 giant dumpsters over the years and on top of that we had some junk luggers come and remove stuff. We donated a lot of professional culinary books to a local non profit Culinary School. I have sold lots of stuff on Ebay too. Our house is still full and we are only two people with no kids. When my Mother passed away, I contacted a charitable organization who came and took about 95% of the entire household. She had tons of stuff. The two guys who came and removed the stuff said they had never seen so much stuff in a small house! My Hub and I worked all day long aside these two guys non stop. There were a few things they could not take so I hired some junk luggers to come and take that stuff to the dump.

    We have a paper shredder, and the Hub will take piles of paperwork to shred. Our senior center usually has a once-a-year free shredding event which we sometimes take advantage of.

    My dog died almost 3 months ago and was almost 19 years old. I still have some prescription dog food, some of his pills, crate, dog bowl, sweaters, leashes. Did get rid of his toys and he didn’t play with them for years anyway. I keep saying no more dogs but could easily be swayed. He was with us so long; it is hard to get rid of some things. I want to donate the food. It was very costly. I need to get rid of the pills too.

    This article has sparked my interest to start cleaning out again!

    by Louise — October 26, 2022

  2. We are planning to retire & move in a little over a year. I have always been a declutterer – I use the donation app in “Turbo Tax” and as I’m clearing out and putting things into bags, I keep track. (We are usually able to deduct about $200+ annually.) I also put several items (clothes, etc.) out when I had Bunco at my house recently and gave friends “free shopping” for whatever they might like to have. Hopefully, when we move it won’t be so painful.

    by Sharon — October 26, 2022

  3. We have had several folks lately ask how they could get in contact with another person posting on this blog. Here is our response:
    We don’t encourage people to post their email address on the Blog as that could encourage scammers. But if you want to contact someone tell us who, and I will forward your request to them. You can respond to one of our newsletters or use the Contact Us form.

    by Admin — November 3, 2022

  4. I have about 6 giant garbage bags full of things to donate and can definitely fill up 4 more without problem. Plus, I have two cart type things on wheels. Vietnam Veterans of America will come to your house and pick up so no need to even drive it to a donations site. !0 bags are about all they take at a time, and they usually won’t take anything that one person can’t lift as far as small furniture goes. The other thing that they ask is that you put a label on each bag with VVA written or printed on it so they can come and remove it from your driveway if you are not there.

    by Louise — November 4, 2022

  5. Louise, If you still have your prescription meds and food for your dog, I recommend donating them to a local rescue. When I had to say goodbye to my beloved little Maltese girl in June, I took all of her meds to a small rescue where I volunteer. They could use almost all of it. I have also heard of people donating meds back to the vet so that they can give them to clients who don’t have the money for expensive meds.

    For general stuff, I waited until another local rescue held a garage sale to raise money. They came and picked up a truckload of stuff.

    Now I’m trying to get rid of silver place settings, candelabra, coffee and tea service; Waterford crystal; and Limoges china. Definitely not garage sale stuff and not stuff I want to donate to Goodwill or Salvation Army or the local thrift. Ideas, anyone?

    by JoannC — November 4, 2022

  6. My problem is we have a storage unit and physically can’t do anything but need to either move some if the things out to our new home and donate the rest. How do you do that if you no longer live near the storage unit??

    by Areti11 — November 5, 2022

  7. JoannC, I may donate the medicines and prescription dog food to a shelter. My friend used to be in a dog rescue group and previously a lady (whose dog died) gave me some cancer drugs my dog was using. They were the same dose and name brand. I also exchanged another prescription with her my dog was no longer using. We were both grateful and the cancer meds were so very expensive. I gave the names of the leftover drugs I have to my friend to see if any of her rescue friends might need them but no one expressed interest. Still working on this!

    With your crystal and china items, why don’t you see if you have Pickers in your area. We used to have a few in my town before Covid. They usually sell the stuff and get a 40% commission and you get 60%. The Pickers we had here would take one item or whole households and sell what they could and after a certain period of time would contact you to pick up the stuff that didn’t sell or they usually donate what can’t be sold or throw it away.

    Areti11, have you tried contacting the storage facility? Maybe you could ask them your questions and they may have suggestions. If you no longer want the items, maybe they can sell the entire unit at auction.

    by Louise — November 6, 2022

  8. Storage units are an interesting discussion topic. We know so many people who have rented them and then later had the same issues that Areti11 brings up. Many times they are necessary because there is an interim between moving from one place to another and the stuff has to go somewhere. But in other situations the storage unit is really just a delay tactic – someone can’t decide what they are going to do with their things, with the thought that, “Well, someday we’ll need this stuff or maybe our kids will.” When a better decision might have been to get rid of it and avoid years of rental fees, buying it again if needed.
    In the case like Areti11 brings up, one solution might be to hire someone to sort out what is moved, sold, and given away. At least that way you can end the rental fees. One of those online helper services might be the answer.

    by Admin — November 6, 2022

  9. Yes, I have contacted the storage company but they don’t provide any services. It looks like we have to hire a company to pick up things we don’t want and movers to pick up the rest to bring to our home. I’m paying $180 per month!!

    by Areti11 — November 6, 2022

  10. Areti11, you should check into some local Pickers in the area of your storage unit. Maybe you could make a deal with them to sell the contents of your storage unit. Or if you want to donate the stuff, look into charitable organizations that might be interested in taking all the stuff away. You could use the value of the used items as a tax deduction. You might also consider putting the word out to all your friends and family to see if they know any young struggling couple or single person who might be in need of what you have in your unit. You could also contact Goodwill, Vietnam Veterans of America or Salvation Army to see if they would take the stuff. Maybe contact some churches to see if they know of needy people who could use the stuff.

    by Louise — November 7, 2022

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