How to Get Rid of Clutter

I’m getting rid of clutter right now. Clothes, furniture, dishes, etc. are all going. I don’t know if I will ever get to the point where I have exactly the right number of possessions, but I keep trying.

The way I look at it, if something in my house is taking up space, then it should serve a purpose. It should either be useful in some way, or it should add beauty or other value to my life. Otherwise, it’s just cluttering the room. Usually, a clean, calm space is more valuable than the thing itself.

Here’s how I know when it’s time to get rid of something:

1. I got a new version of the thing, thus replacing it. No need to have two of most things.

2. I haven’t used it in at least a year. Obviously it is not necessary, then.

3. I am sick of it. It have no qualms about dumping something if it annoys me.

Still, sometimes it’s a little hard to figure out what to get rid of. You know your closet is overflowing, but you’re not sure what’s useful and what’s not. When that happens, I start by reorganizing the closet in question.

As I do this, I ask myself the following questions:

1. Do I need this? Yes, keep it. No, then ask:

2. Do I like this? Yes, keep it. No or not really, then ask:

3. Can this have another use? Is there some other way this can serve a purpose or is there a new way of looking at it that makes it interesting again? Yes, keep it. No, then it’s time to get rid of it.

If I’m still not sure, I put the item aside for a week and then look at it again. Something about that space of time clarifies the issue and I will know whether to keep it or dump it.

Usually, I dump it.

Now. Sometimes clutter comes from having too many of something useful–too many mugs, too many pencils, too many towels, etc. This can get tricky because, technically, these things have a purpose, so it’s hard to balance how many you really need. Here’s a couple of question I ask myself in that situation:

1. How long is the life of the item? If the thing can be used up, then you might as well keep it. For example, if you have too many bars of soap, the smart thing to do is store all of them and stop buying new soap until they are gone. But if you have too many purses, say, they will not get used up, so it may be time to consider getting rid of some of them.

2. How many will I use? Think of the scenario where you will need all of an item and do a count. Someone gave me a giant box of wine glasses, way more than I can ever use. I thought of the biggest party I would have where I would break out wine glasses. I figured about 12 people. So I kept 12 glasses and got rid of the rest.

3. How much space do I have to store these? I had a bunch of teapots, but only one small part of my kitchen cupboard to store them in. Since I don’t need multiple teapots, I forced myself to get rid of some. Turns out, I didn’t even like them that much and it’s nice to not have teapots falling on me whenever I open the cupboard.

Annd three more thoughts on getting rid of clutter:

1. I don’t keep things out of guilt. It is silly for your own possessions to guilt you. I don’t like it when I make a mistake and buy something that I didn’t end up needing, but that isn’t a reason to keep the thing in question. (Instead, I look at why I made the mistake in the first place and try not to repeat it.) Likewise, while I appreciate when people give me presents, I won’t keep something just because someone gave it to me. Possessions should serve you, not the other way around.

2. I want a clean, serene space. As mentioned above, when you are de-cluttering, you are trying to gain something of value–space, cleanliness, and calm–in exchange for the things you are getting rid of. It’s about having a nicer life by keeping only the things you want and need around you. It’s a good thing to keep in mind.

3. I have never missed something after getting rid of it. Okay, once. In college I sold a green cardigan that I sort of liked and then later wished I still had. That was 10 years ago, and it is the only time I have ever missed something after getting rid of it. So I must be doing something right.

What are your de-cluttering tips?

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4 thoughts on “How to Get Rid of Clutter”

  1. Looks like we’re into the same project!
    I LOVE de-cluttering. I only wish I had more time to do it. My thing is that I typically need to go through, say my closet, like 3 times before I feel like I got rid of stuff for real. everytime I go through it, my sentimental value to certain things lessen until I don’t care anymore.
    I also agree with you, I never regret I got rid of something. The only time when it happens, it’ normally around Halloween, when I think I kept some waky dress or shoes but didn’t. I’ll live 😉

  2. Great post! I have re-prioritized decluttering as Resolution No. 1, and am working on it in shifts. Today I tackled papers (where both guilt and confusion came into play). Plus, I’m using my effort (in a 1-bdrm apt) to spur my mom into doing the same (M&D have lived in the same 2000 sf house for 35 years…).
    I also recognize your wisdom in the resale market- I’ve tried most of those avenues, as well as Freecycle, which has about a 50% success rate for me at this point; pickers-up can be flaky since it’s free, I find.
    It’s good to keep in mind that goal of a clean, serene space. “Imagine it, and it will happen!”


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