Life and Marriage

June 25, 2019

How To Ruthlessly Declutter Without Guilt

Have you ever had an item you never use but don’t have the heart to get rid of? I’ve found myself in this situation too many times where something holds a memory or value, and yet it’s completely useless to hold on to. When this starts to happen, our house starts to get cluttered and feels cramped from so much stuff all around.

About five years ago, I found myself living in a 750-square-foot one bedroom apartment in, starting my life over after moving to Orlando, and I had to make important decisions on what to take with me when I moved. Extra items that just took up space weren’t an option with little storage and space, and over the next few years with several moves to different sized apartments and homes, I found a need to learn how to ruthlessly declutter my stuff and love a more minimal life. This has been one of the best practices that I still use today, and often work on clearing out any extra physical stuff in our home to create room and clear our mental and emotional space to grow.

Ruthlessly decluttering can be hard, especially when something holds a memory or emotional value, but truly assessing the importance of an item can help you determine if it’s a keep or a remove item without the guilt of getting rid of stuff. Here are the top five ways to assess if something should stay or go that I use to help relieve myself of the guilt while decluttering our home.

Is it sentimental and is it something I will show my kids one day?

It’s ok to keep items for memory and sentiment purposes, but if you’re not going to show it off to future generations and are just holding onto it for yourself, do you really need it? We have a tendency to keep more items than we should simply for memory purposes, but memories will always be in your head, so sometimes items can be purged.

Five years ago, I loved to hold onto every last concert ticket I had for the memories, but found that they just sat in a big box and I didn’t need them to reflect on the fun times I had, so it was ok for me to get rid of them. If you have a loved one who passes away and you inherit a collection of items, think about maybe keeping only some important pieces or only a few items versus everything. When my great aunt passed, she left a large collection of jewelry, but I only kept pieces that I would actually wear and donated the rest. Although I felt guilty being that it was a group of items she wanted me to have, I knew that the jewelry would better be used my someone else rather than sit in a box in the back of my closet to never be used anyways and taking up space simply out of sentimentality.

Have you used this item in the last 6 months and will you use it in the next 6 months?

If you don’t use it, why are you holding onto it? Maybe it’s that collection of clothes you hope to fit into again one day or an excessive amount of jewelry – make a point to get rid of it if it’s not something you see yourself using any time soon. We can all hope and dream to fit into those clothes again, but if you haven’t used it in the last 6 months, the chances are you probably won’t in the next 6 months either, with the exception of seasonal clothes. If something doesn’t fit or is outdated, don’t hold onto it waiting for it’s time to come around again for you to use it again. Take time to really clean out these overflowing areas of life and get rid of outdated or unused items ruthlessly to clear space for new items. If you’re feeling guilty, treat yourself to a few new items to replace them that you know you will actually use, like a new set of earrings or a new outfit that fits.

Am I holding onto it because of someone else?

I cannot count how many times I’ve been given a gift and simply hold onto it because someone gave it to me and not because I actually use or want it. Don’t let someone else’s desires and emotions drive clutter in your space. Just because an item is a gift or was given to you doesn’t mean you have to keep it and you shouldn’t feel bad for getting rid of it. You need to make your home a space that works for you, and a cleaner space makes a clearer mind and soul, so remember that getting rid of these items are beneficial to you in the long run and not to appease someone else.

Will it better serve someone else over me?

Most items that I decide to get rid of are donated to others, so if it will be serve someone else over myself, so I really need to keep the item? It all comes down to use and care. If I don’t have time to keep up with something or don’t use it, there’s someone else in the world that will probably value the item more, which helps me to relieve the guilt of getting rid of it. Look into local charities that accept donations for what you’re getting rid of and give the item purpose rather than it sitting in storage.

I loved my prom dress, and it was a very sentimental piece to remember this turn-of-age experience in my life, but ten years later and no need to wear it again in sight (especially since I’ll never fit into it again), I found a local charity that accepts prom dresses to give to local students in need, and I have the item purpose again instead of letting it sit and take up space in my closet. Now, I have space to treat myself to a new evening gown to wear to weddings and other special events that actually fits and is a more modern style that I would actually wear.

Where To Start

If you’re not sure where to start with your decluttering journey, here are a few ideas to help get the ball rolling:

  • Take all your clothes out of your dressers and closet, and sort them into two piles: worn in the last 6 months and not worn in the last 6 months. Then, go through the items you haven’t worn and purge anything that isn’t seasonal, doesn’t fit or is out of style that you won’t wear again.
  • Pull out everything from a storage room or box and figure out what you need to keep, want to keep and what you can get rid of. Then, try to get rid of half the items in the ‘want to keep’ pile that you don’t use or have plans to use in the near future.
  • Use organization bins or storage boxes to sort small items in spaces like cabinets and closets. Write the bin contents on a post it note and use clear packing tape to secure it to the front of the bin for easy access. Do not keep items that do not fit into the bins or that will not be removed from the bin/used in the near future.
  • Clean out any half used or unused beauty and personal products from your bathroom. Discard anything not used in the last 3 months.