How to Know What to Get Rid Of

 Last week, I assigned myself the project of getting all the baby clothes reduced and organized. It was a big task. We'd accumulated so much stuff with baby #1, and I knew there was no way we needed it all for baby #2 (due September 2016). After all, babies only fit into NB size clothes for a week or three, so why did I have a whole dresser full of NB clothes??​ I knew there was a lot of room for letting go, but that didn't necessarily make it easier to decide which items should be passed on.

One of the most common questions my clients ask me is, "How do I know which things I should throw away?" It can be tough to know what to keep and what to declutter, and the difficulty of making that decision holds many people back for years.

Often, clients know that they want to declutter​, but lack of clarity holds them back from making any serious progress. They'll sit down with a pile of things, determined to discard at least half of them, but they can only come up with a handful of things that they really feel like letting go of.

If you've ever felt like this, know that you aren't alone! Really, most people struggle to get rid of things. It can feel wasteful, or just plain scary.​ Fortunately, there really are ways to decide what to let go of, and specific questions to ask yourself to bring clarity to the situation.

The best part might be: it gets easier! When I began my decluttering journey, every. single. item.  seemed impossible to let go of. But the more I discarded, the easier it got. Why? Well, for starters, I was developing a habit of not holding on to physical possessions so tightly. When I saw that I really could let things go (lots of things) and nothing bad happened, it gave me confidence to get rid of even more. Also, the freedom I felt from decluttering was a great, positive incentive that inspired me to continue getting my whole house SORTED.

Let's talk about some specific ways you can get that decluttering ball rolling, to spark those positive, motivational feelings!

0) Start by Sorting

Want 10x's as much clarity, instantly? Start by sorting your things. What started as an overwhelming project got SO much easier after I sorted everything into various categories. First I sorted the baby clothes by size, then, one pile at a time, I sorted them by type (pants in one pile, sleepers in another, etc.). (My living room was FULL of baby clothes!)

When I looked at the initial pile of EVERYTHING, I had no idea what to get rid of. However, when I looked at the pile of 27 pairs of NB pants, it was easy to just pick my favorites and put the rest into the "donate" pile.​

1) Focus on the Positive: Reclaim versus Reduce

You know what is HARD? Trying to decide what to get rid of! There are lots of reasons to hold on to things. When you look at an object and ask yourself, "Should I get rid of this?" your mind is going to come up with at least three reasons why the answer is "NO." (You might need it later, you shouldn't waste it, and you kind of like it.)

BUT, you know you don't need 27 pairs of NB pants, so what to do? Instead, just focus on keeping what you really love, and give yourself permission to let the other things find new homes. You'll feel less weighed down, and someone else will get to make better use of them.​

I sorted each pile into "love" "like" and "dislike." Then, I counted the "love" pile, and decided how many I really needed. There were five pairs of pants in the "love" pile, and I felt like seven would be a good number​, so I then picked out my two favorites from the "like" pile. The rest of the "like" pile, along with all of the "dislike" pile went into the big "donate" pile. The seven pairs of pants went into the "keep" pile.

2) Ask: Does this item make me feel happiness?

Quite simply, if you have happy, positive feelings when you hold an item, then keep it. If you feel anything negative, then let it go. Life is too short to hold on to things that don't make you happy! Some things might make you feel happy because they are beautiful, others because you have fond memories associated with them, and others might bring you joy simply because they are useful.

However, be careful to not just hold on to things because they​ make you "feel something." Things can make you feel lots of different ways, and you can be "sentimentally attached" to objects that have negative sentiments. Do some soul searching and really ask yourself if the object inspires happy feelings.

3) Ask: Is this Item Regularly Useful?

What to do about your broom, flashlight, boring kitchen chairs, and hamper? These things might not exactly make you feel like doing a happy dance, but they do bring joy into your life through their functionality. I.e. without a broom, your floor would be dirty, and that wouldn't be happy. Therefore, having the broom helps you to be happier, so you should keep it.

However, that does not​ mean that you should keep all the brooms. If you have five, then realize that you'd never use five brooms at once. Pick your favorite and let the rest go. You only need one of most anything, except disposable items. You can keep a few pens, because they'll run out, and of course, you'll keep more than one sheet of paper... but for stuff that lasts more than a month or three, just have one at a time. More than that is just clutter.

4) Consider When You'll Want the Item in the Future

"I'm sure I'll need this. Someday." Oh, the things kept "just in case"! 99% of the time, "someday" never comes.​ But you know what does come? Clutter, clutter, and more clutter. Give yourself permission to buy the item in the future if you actually end up needing it. You'll save yourself SO much energy by not having to manage all that stuff in the mean time. A great investment!

Keep those things that you know a specific time within the next year that you'll need them. If you don't know exactly when, or that "when" is more than a year out, then let them go for now. Someone else will have a more pressing need than you. When the time comes that you do need the object, you can always reacquire ​it (or get by without).

5) Sentimental Items

As discussed above, really consider what sentiment​ an item gives you. Only keep those things which really give you happiness, not just stuff that makes you feel "something."

Even those things which do make you happy, consider if keeping the object​ makes you happy. Even if you let the item go, you'll still have the memory. The object isn't really what gives you happiness, but rather, what it reminds you of. If you like having the object to remind you, then keep it, but if you'll remember fine without the thing, then consider letting it go. I'm not saying that you should let it go: I'm just saying, consider how that would feel. If you would regret it, then don't. But otherwise, you might want to give yourself a little more clean, open space in your life.

6) When You Really Can't Decide

There might be a few items (or more than a few)​ that you just "can't" decide about. Stuff that you think you probably should get rid of, but you really don't want to. That's okay. If you want to practice being brave, then I encourage you to throw it away anyway! Life will go on, and you'll be okay. I promise. 

However, on the flip side, if you just need to feel secure for now, that is alright as well. Discard those other items that you feel more sure about, and commit to doing another round of decluttering soon (set a specific date). When you give those "maybe" items a second or third pass, you'll likely have a change of heart.

When I was getting our home SORTED, I went through most all our possessions at least two or three times, and each time I did, I got rid of nearly half our stuff. It got easier every time. There were things about which I thought, "I could never get rid of that​," but later I realized I didn't need or want them at all. Give yourself grace, and the freedom to let go of whatever is weighing you down. Focus on what brings joy into your life.

SORTED Book
How to Know What to Get Rid Of

Last week, I assigned myself the project of getting all the baby clothes reduced and organized. It was a big task. We’d accumulated so much stuff with baby #1, and I knew there was no way we needed it all for baby #2 (due September 2016). After all, babies only fit into NB size clothes for a week or three, so why did I have a whole dresser full of NB clothes?? I knew there was a lot of room for letting go, but that didn’t necessarily make it easier to decide which items should be passed on.

 

One of the most common questions my clients ask me is, “How do I know which things I should throw away?” It can be tough to know what to keep and what to declutter, and the difficulty of making that decision holds many people back for years.

 

Often, clients know that they want to declutter, but lack of clarity holds them back from making any serious progress. They’ll sit down with a pile of things, determined to discard at least half of them, but they can only come up with a handful of things that they really feel like letting go of.

 

If you’ve ever felt like this, know that you aren’t alone! Really, most people struggle to get rid of things. It can feel wasteful, or just plain scary. Fortunately, there really are ways to decide what to let go of, and specific questions to ask yourself to bring clarity to the situation.

 

The best part might be: it gets easier! When I began my decluttering journey, every. single. item.  seemed impossible to let go of. But the more I discarded, the easier it got. Why? Well, for starters, I was developing a habit of not holding on to physical possessions so tightly. When I saw that I really could let things go (lots of things) and nothing bad happened, it gave me confidence to get rid of even more. Also, the freedom I felt from decluttering was a great, positive incentive that inspired me to continue getting my whole house SORTED.

 

Let’s talk about some specific ways you can get that decluttering ball rolling, to spark those positive, motivational feelings!

 

0) Start by Sorting

Want 10x’s as much clarity, instantly? Start by sorting your things. What started as an overwhelming project got SO much easier after I sorted everything into various categories. First I sorted the baby clothes by size, then, one pile at a time, I sorted them by type (pants in one pile, sleepers in another, etc.). (My living room was FULL of baby clothes!)

 

When I looked at the initial pile of EVERYTHING, I had no idea what to get rid of. However, when I looked at the pile of 27 pairs of NB pants, it was easy to just pick my favorites and put the rest into the “donate” pile.

1) Focus on the Positive: Reclaim versus Reduce

You know what is HARD? Trying to decide what to get rid of! There are lots of reasons to hold on to things. When you look at an object and ask yourself, “Should I get rid of this?” your mind is going to come up with at least three reasons why the answer is “NO.” (You might need it later, you shouldn’t waste it, and you kind of like it.)

 

BUT, you know you don’t need 27 pairs of NB pants, so what to do? Instead, just focus on keeping what you really love, and give yourself permission to let the other things find new homes. You’ll feel less weighed down, and someone else will get to make better use of them.

 

I sorted each pile into “love” “like” and “dislike.” Then, I counted the “love” pile, and decided how many I really needed. There were five pairs of pants in the “love” pile, and I felt like seven would be a good number, so I then picked out my two favorites from the “like” pile. The rest of the “like” pile, along with all of the “dislike” pile went into the big “donate” pile. The seven pairs of pants went into the “keep” pile.

2) Ask: Does this item make me feel happiness?

Quite simply, if you have happy, positive feelings when you hold an item, then keep it. If you feel anything negative, then let it go. Life is too short to hold on to things that don’t make you happy! Some things might make you feel happy because they are beautiful, others because you have fond memories associated with them, and others might bring you joy simply because they are useful.

 

However, be careful to not just hold on to things because they make you “feel something.” Things can make you feel lots of different ways, and you can be “sentimentally attached” to objects that have negative sentiments. Do some soul searching and really ask yourself if the object inspires happy feelings.

3) Ask: Is this Item Regularly Useful?

What to do about your broom, flashlight, boring kitchen chairs, and hamper? These things might not exactly make you feel like doing a happy dance, but they do bring joy into your life through their functionality. I.e. without a broom, your floor would be dirty, and that wouldn’t be happy. Therefore, having the broom helps you to be happier, so you should keep it.

 

However, that does not mean that you should keep all the brooms. If you have five, then realize that you’d never use five brooms at once. Pick your favorite and let the rest go. You only need one of most anything, except disposable items. You can keep a few pens, because they’ll run out, and of course, you’ll keep more than one sheet of paper… but for stuff that lasts more than a month or three, just have one at a time. More than that is just clutter.

4) Consider When You’ll Want the Item in the Future

“I’m sure I’ll need this. Someday.” Oh, the things kept “just in case”! 99% of the time, “someday” never comes. But you know what does come? Clutter, clutter, and more clutter. Give yourself permission to buy the item in the future if you actually end up needing it. You’ll save yourself SO much energy by not having to manage all that stuff in the mean time. A great investment!

 

Keep those things that you know a specific time within the next year that you’ll need them. If you don’t know exactly when, or that “when” is more than a year out, then let them go for now. Someone else will have a more pressing need than you. When the time comes that you do need the object, you can always reacquire it (or get by without).

5) Sentimental Items

As discussed above, really consider what sentiment an item gives you. Only keep those things which really give you happiness, not just stuff that makes you feel “something.”

 

Even those things which do make you happy, consider if keeping the object makes you happy. Even if you let the item go, you’ll still have the memory. The object isn’t really what gives you happiness, but rather, what it reminds you of. If you like having the object to remind you, then keep it, but if you’ll remember fine without the thing, then consider letting it go. I’m not saying that you should let it go: I’m just saying, consider how that would feel. If you would regret it, then don’t. But otherwise, you might want to give yourself a little more clean, open space in your life.

6) When You Really Can’t Decide

There might be a few items (or more than a few) that you just “can’t” decide about. Stuff that you think you probably should get rid of, but you really don’t want to. That’s okay. If you want to practice being brave, then I encourage you to throw it away anyway! Life will go on, and you’ll be okay. I promise.

However, on the flip side, if you just need to feel secure for now, that is alright as well. Discard those other items that you feel more sure about, and commit to doing another round of decluttering soon (set a specific date). When you give those “maybe” items a second or third pass, you’ll likely have a change of heart.

 

When I was getting our home SORTED, I went through most all our possessions at least two or three times, and each time I did, I got rid of nearly half our stuff. It got easier every time. There were things about which I thought, “I could never get rid of that,” but later I realized I didn’t need or want them at all. Give yourself grace, and the freedom to let go of whatever is weighing you down. Focus on what brings joy into your life.

3 Comments on “

  1. Hi Gill,
    I found this to be more interesting of the two articles. Probably because we do have so MUCH clutter. One of the biggest issues I come across is, most things in the house are not mine to get rid of. Although the clutter weighs down on mom, it weighs on her even more when I suggest we get rid of some. I do think however, that I find it helpful for sorting my own things, when I keep my own things in order it cuts down on the overall clutter and at very least I can breath easier.
    Concerning the other article I believe it is a logical followup to the morning routine, and that it indeed is a helpful reminder how much can be done with consistency and just a few minutes of cleanup.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.