Unclutter tips

One of the best things about being a blogger (besides unpaid hours editing) is having conversations with people. It’s great because one idea begats another idea which leads to that idea and someone else chimes in and it changes things.

Lauren asked: When trying to get rid of stuff, I just get stuck on the “What if I’ll need this later down the road?” … Any tips on moving past that?

I get a lot of my ideas from the blog Unclutterer which has very specific advice on dealing with all sorts of clutter. If you don’t find an answer try their forums. Another tip is to watch the show Hoarders. You’ll probably start tossing stuff halfway through the episode so don’t watch at someone else’s house!

If that fails answer these questions:

What are the most honest odds I’d use this again?

If you’re saving baby clothes for a second child you’re expecting the odds are pretty good.  If you have your college textbook on communication including a sidebar anticipating the “inter-web” then the odds are bad.

Don’t save things “just in case” – put a very specific purpose and timeline on the item. For example, I’ll save the box for my laptop for 1 year in case of a warranty problem. I have a basket of cards and empty the basket once a year, only saving the ones that truly make me smile.

Is it cheap or easy to replace?

Yellow Post-it Notes: easy
High School Diploma: hard
White athletic socks: easy
Home movie of Junior learning to walk: hard

If you’re on the fence about donating or tossing something but could replace it for under $5 with very little trouble don’t hold onto it. Some things have immense personal meaning or are truly unique – those things you can keep.

Is it easily stored or take up lots of room?

Baby’s footprint from the hospital: easy
12 years of art projects from school: hard
Wood skewers for summer grilling: easy
Turkey deep fryer and 12 gallons of peanut oil: hard

Do you have the room? Remember that everything that takes up space costs you to store (rent or mortgage cost), time and energy. Even if something is “useful” if you resort to storing it behind the toilet, under the sofa, in the dryer when it’s off, or it just sucks your mental energy to look at and takes too much time to clean, move and figure out: get rid of it.

Finally, ask yourself “am I avoiding something?” Are you keeping baby clothes because your youngest is going into high school and you don’t want to accept you won’t have another infant? Does that stack of paintings from college connect you to your lifelong dream of becoming an artist? Can you throw away a leaking pen knowing you have the financial security to buy another if you need it? Can you donate something and accept you made a mistake buying it but that mistake is in the past?

Also beware of saving something “for” someone else. If you never get around to sending it then it’s just holding onto guilt. Before you gather that collection of articles or artifacts for a friend or relative call and ask if they really do need or want it. Information that’s outdated, cumbersome or no longer needed can be tossed guilt free.

Hope that helps Lauren, and as always leave a comment, start a discussion and although your parents hated it: talk back.

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2 thoughts on “Unclutter tips

  1. Great tips! I tend to be minimalist, but even so I struggle with the whole easy-to-replace concept. I figure if I already have it for free, I should hold on to it. But you’re right. I don’t need it cluttering up my life and causing more stress. Too many more important things, right?

  2. hahahahahaha..I LOVE IT. Those lists are so great… I’m laughing because it’s such a simple idea but it had never occurred to me to figure out if something is easy to store or replace or not.

    I think you’ve just shed light on my decluttering decisions! Thanks much!

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