Topsfield Triad Council has desginated October as Decluttering Month, not just to motivate local residents to get rid of unused and unwanted items, but also to promote safety.

Topsfield Triad Council has desginated October as Decluttering Month, not just to motivate local residents to get rid of unused and unwanted items, but also to promote safety.

In October, TRIAD — a partnership between law enforcement, community groups, and older adults — gave a program on decluttering. In November, the organization followed up with a clutter pickup at the Topsfield Fairgrounds. Going forward, TRIAD plans to hold these two events every year, with donated items going to the Epilepsy Foundation.

According to TRIAD Chair Ramona Donahue, the decluttering effort, which is offered free, has been very successful in its first two years.

“We did one last year and Topsfield residents were so happy with it, and pleased with the way it was organized and taken care of. They wanted us to do it again,” she said.

During this year's clutter pickup, Donahue said, Ipswich-based Junk Junk Baby filled two trucks with the items people dropped off. 

"Items that they [Junk Junk Baby] definitely knew they couldn’t use were put aside," she said. 

But, even those items were taken care of. By 1 p.m. that day, TRIAD had found places where they could be disposed of, Donahue said. 

According to Donahue, decluttering “is a huge safety problem in homes.” While TRIAD is made up of police officers, firefighters, the county sheriff's office, and Board of Health and Council on Aging staffers — people who work to save lives — clutter can make their jobs difficult. There have been some instances in which people died because the police and firefighters “weren’t able to get through the clutter in their homes to help them,” Donahue said. 

“Something has to motivate people to finally find some way to clean up their homes,” she said.

That's where Dave Downs, of Downs Entertainment, comes in. Downs has given the presentations leading up to the clutter pickups. He is a retired educator who has developed entertaining programs for libraries, senior centers, historical societies and other community groups. Donahue said that during his presentations, Downs covered various topics, such as, “What is clutter," and "How come we have it?”

Donahue said sometimes people end up with clutter in their homes for a number of reasons. 

“They have big houses and the clutter ends up in another room,” she said, or sometimes they have “under-bed storage, and it was put there when it was used, but now it is no longer used."

During the clutter pickup, Donahue said, people got rid of their musical instruments, clothes, sports gear, bikes, lamp stands, blankets, kids toys, and furniture. Last year, the program could also take electronics, but that wasn't the case this year.

The clutter pickup happens a month after the decluttering program, she said, so people “have time to think about it and get their goods together, and they are able to leave it for free for an organization like Goodwill or Salvation Army and usually the Epilepsy Foundation.” 

Donahue recalls one tip from Downs' presentation: “If you look around and see the things you aren’t using. If you haven’t used something for three years, get rid of it.”

Rosemary Nabukeera is a student at Salem State University. She wrote this story as part of an internship.