Spring is almost here and with the warmer temperatures comes the desire to clean and organize. I love to open my windows, turn up the music, and clean out, organize and deep clean all the spaces in my home.
My problem, as I would guess that many of you have as well, is that it is hard to part with specific items. We are an accumulation generation - we store things that we don't need now, but may need "one day," and online shopping makes it easier than ever to add to our "collections." I can organize and decorate a space well, but until a year or so ago, letting things go wasn't always easy for me.
When we moved into our home a little over four years ago, we had to rent two of the most massive moving trucks that we could find, and still loaded our vehicles down too. Guess what?! We paid to move stuff that we never used. We moved into our home and used an entire two car garage, a 350 square foot bonus room, and a whole attic space to store all of our stuff.
In the last year, we have reduced the number of items that we hold on to by nearly 60%. I am currently working on lowering that percentage by another 15-20%. Why?! Well, I have realized that I don’t need it and that the only thing that our extra belongings are doing is causing stress and chaos. When you have fewer items, choices are easier to make, and the maintenance of your space is more manageable.
As you work on reducing clutter, ask yourself the following five questions:
1. Is this bringing joy or stress to my home/space?
Do you have decorations that are no longer your style? Do you have clothes that you no longer wear or no longer fit? Do you have bookcases that are overloaded and cause you to no longer desire to read like you used to? Do you look around your home/space and feel overwhelmed with all of the items that you have? Look through each area of your home and remove all the things that no longer appeal to you.
2. How often do I use this item?
When was the last time that you used a specific item? Do you use it at least 1-4 times a year? If you do not use an object often and have the ability to do so, then store the item in a storage room to free up the space that it was initially saved. There are cases that this may not apply - if you have children and you pass down clothes, if your size fluctuates, or if you have a specific bin for the storage of particular keepsake items for your children, yourself, or your spouse. However, I also recommend that you do not store things that are more than one size larger or smaller than the size that the person is currently wearing. If you are storing clothing for younger siblings, I recommend saving any clothing that your child will wear within the next year.
3. Would I pay to store this item until I use it again?
As you sort through your piles, this is a great question to ask yourself for your "maybe" pile. Look at each item and ask yourself if you would be willing to pay to have it stored long term. Could you easily replace it if you need it in the future? Some people hold on to items because they do not want to have to purchase it again in the future, so they hold on to it as a "just in case" item. If you feel that the item is irreplaceable, then I suggest storing it away from its usual space with a date on the storage bin. Set an appointment in your calendar to go back to the container in a year. If you have not thought of that item or needed to use it by then, then donate it.
4. Can this item be used to benefit someone else?
I suggest that you learn about the various donation sites in your area. Find one that you are excited to support. For me, I love to donate clothing and furniture to a local thrift store that helps people recovering from drug and alcohol addictions. I also give craft and project items to a local reuse store that provides the community with materials to repurpose into art. When you believe in the mission of a local thrift shop or reuse store it gives you excitement to give your items as a donation. Letting go isn't always easy, but the knowledge that your precious belongings can go on to benefit another (or a group) can be a gratifying feeling.
5. Will this item be something that is worth passing down to my loved ones (and would they even want it)?
We all tend to place a higher value on our belongings than someone else may. As you go through your home/space, ask yourself if this item that you are looking at would be of value to someone after you pass away. You may be young, and you may see this as a question that doesn't apply to you, but thinking of the purpose behind holding on to certain belongings is of value to people at any age. If you do feel that the item is of importance to pass on (especially in the case of someone who has an older teenager or adult children), then ask them if they would want the item when they leave home or at a specific time. Do not offer to store the item for years to come unless you genuinely have space. You may want to consider having an itemized list added into your will for things that you do keep in your home and wish to pass on to your family and friends in the event of your death.
As you go through your items, ask yourself these questions make sure that you are honest with yourself. We can often convince ourselves of the value an article holds, but when we dig a little deeper, we often find that a picture of the object, donating it, or gifting it to someone else is a better option over keeping it.
Ridding your home/space of clutter is a process, often an emotional one, so be firm in your decisions, but give yourself grace. If you are not sure, then hold on to it and re-evaluate it during a future purge.