Decluttering Guide: 15 Things to Let Go of Now
The biggest catalyst for a disorganized home is a surplus of clutter: a constant influx coming in, and very little consistently going out. If clutter is your issue and decluttering doesn’t happen first, you’re really just pushing piles around.
But this isn’t a new idea. Millions of well-intentioned people know this, and attempt to eliminate clutter from their homes, unsuccessfully. They’ve used the “Does it spark joy” method, and cleared out entire closets. They’ve hired organizers and housekeepers and watched Hoarders and immediately purged.
Yet, many of them are bogged down by the clutter that continues to overwhelm their home.
Here’s why. Clutter is sometimes tricky to identify. When it comes to decluttering, there are three simple questions we encourage you to ask yourself regularly:
- Do I love this?
- Do I need this?
- Do I use this?
If you limit what you own to items you love, need and use, organizational systems are much easier to create and maintain. But most of us think we love, need and use way more than we actually do.
Items that don’t meet these three conditions often slip through the cracks and take up real estate in our homes because of perceived value rather than true value. Over time, a build-up of perceived value adds up to clutter overload.
This decluttering guide is designed to help release you from the anxiety, fear, guilt, and indecision around decluttering with intention.
If you do not LOVE, NEED, or USE an item that fits the descriptions below, we give you permission to let it go. Here’s our Decluttering Guide: 15 Things to Let Go of Now (plus free checklist).
1. GIFTS YOU WISH YOU NEVER RECEIVED
e.g. That ugly sweater from your mother-in-law, that china you used that one time, that piece of “art” that someone gave you because obviously, “you are an artist” – It’s your right to own and keep only that which enhances your life in a real and demonstrative way. By being grateful for the thought that went into that gift, and giving it to someone else who’ll use it, you are fully honoring that gift. Let it go.
2. ITEMS YOU ‘SHOULD’ USE (BUT DON’T)
e.g. The treadmill collecting dust in the garage, the clunky juicer that’s difficult to clean. We’re all guilty of holding onto items that we think we ‘SHOULD’ be using, but never have and never do. If you’re not using it now, chances are you won’t in the future. Design your environment for who you are today, and you will be shocked to see how much more time you’ll have to develop new habits and hobbies for the future.
3. ITEMS YOU “SPENT GOOD MONEY ON” (BUT NEVER USED)
e.g. That out of style parka, and your eighties leather settee- Knowing that you wasted money can sting. So when you bring something new and shiny home and never use it, it feels like a failure. But many things are like cars. Once you drive them off the lot, they immediately lose value. If you spent too much money on something you never/rarely use, forgive yourself. We’ve all done it! You have to think about the bigger picture. If your end goal is to simplify, it’s time to let it go.
4. ANYTHING BROKEN, STAINED or INOPERABLE
e.g. that game with missing pieces, containers without lids, that Cuisinart from the 70s that “only needs one piece” – Here are the three tricky beliefs that we use to convince ourselves to hold onto these pesky items.
- I’ll finally have the time or money to fix it soon. (If you haven’t already done it, it’s not that valuable to you!)
- The missing piece will show up eventually. (Psshhh… sorry, to break it to you, but it probably won’t!)
- I’ll replace the missing item. (Don’t kid yourself! it’s less time intensive to just replace it.)
5. HEIRLOOMS THAT EVEN THEY DIDN’T LOVE
e.g. your grandmother’s teacups that even she’d tell you to toss, that hideous framed photo of “who is that again?”- It’s beautiful to remember your loved ones through sentimental items. However, many of us onto hold belongings of the deceased because we’re scared of dishonoring their memory. Remember that they are not that vase. You honor them by cherishing their memory, not their things. We encourage you to be selective and keep a couple items that they loved. Put them on display or in a box that you visit regularly, and appreciate them often. Let the doilies go.
6. KEEPSAKES YOU DON’T LOVE
e.g. those plastic trophies from your high school basketball days, those swag totes from Comicon – We think one day our kids or grandkids will want to look back at our history and see all the things from our past. Sorry to break it to you, they probably don’t. Often times, kids and grandkids feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stuff they have to deal with once their loved ones are gone (or while they’re alive). Do them a favor now, and curate only the most special artifacts from your life. They will love you for it!
7. KID CLUTTER
e.g. the train set they loved but grew out of, the Barbies with missing parts. We asked a housekeeper today, “what are the things that parents have the hardest time letting go.” Her answer? “Baby books and stuffed animals. If only they could keep one special thing that their kids could remember throughout their whole lives.” Wise words. Here’s the thing, they will never donate all those books and stuffed animals themselves. Try to encourage your kids to partake in the decluttering process, you may be surprised. And one day, when your child says, “I’m donating this because I want other kids’ to experience joy” you’ll know you are on the right track.
8. DUD DUPLICATES
e.g. the black sweater that never looked as good as only black sweater you wear, the poorer version of that photo from the dog park – We typically hold onto extra items because it’s perfectly okay. But unfortunately, we own something else that serves a similar function that we like more and therefore use every time. If you find that you never use a specific blanket because there’s a softer, prettier one that you always grab for, chances are it’s not going to ever win first place. Let it go!
9. THE ‘INESSENTIAL’ SURPLUS
e.g. boxes of fabric scraps that you’ll likely never get to, 100 pens, 70 purses (sorry girls) – We think we’ll eventually use it, or that it’s good to have a backup. But the truth is, you should only have a surplus for items that you consume quickly: Toilet paper and paper towels, sure! A million manilla folders… no. Keep a best of the best selection, and limit it to what you actually love, need and use.
10. EXPIRED ITEMS
e.g. expired cosmetics, old spices, canned food from a decade ago – We forget that it’s even there, and we haven’t checked the dates in ages. Get in there and check expirations, look up shelf life, and toss what’s expired! This one is a no-brainer!
11. ANYTHING UNCOMFORTABLE
e.g. that chair that’s hard as a rock, that scratchy sweater, or the heels that give you blisters (and squeak)! – We tend to think we should keep things because they are expensive or beautiful, but you should love to wear and use the things you keep! If it’s uncomfortable to use or wear, chances are you’ll avoid it or even despise it. Let it go, and go for comfort!
12. DOCUMENTS YOU CAN FIND ONLINE
e.g. appliance manuals, takeout menus – We think that the physical reference is needed when in actuality, you’ll probably check the information online because it’s quicker and easier. Try to digitize anything that cannot be found online by scanning it into your phone with Genius Scan, and toss or shred the physical copy! If you really need instructions, check to see if you can find them online quickly and if so, we give you permission to recycle the hard copy.
13. BUSINESS CARDS
e.g. that stack of business cards from the last conference you went to – If you didn’t input it into your phone or computer, it’s time to do that NOW. If you are backed up to a could (and we hope you are) you do not need the physical copy. Input it now, and toss it immediately!
14. OLD CORDS & ELECTRONICS
e.g. obsolete technology, ethernet cords, random adapters – Nothing clutters up the home like the cords and cables you keep for a generation. It’s worth the time to figure out what device the cable goes to or let it go. You won’t break the bank if you need to order another one on Amazon.
15. BOOKS & MAGAZINES YOU’LL NEVER READ
e.g. the book you started but never finished, those quarterlies you’ve never read, that leaflet from last year’s Christmas drive– Books that we already read, but don’t reference are often kept because we believe we ‘should’ keep a personal library. If you’re not an avid reader or book collector, try giving some books to a friend who is. If you own books that you think you ‘should’ read but don’t really want to, donate them. There’s a reason you haven’t read it yet, and all it’s doing is making you feel guilty. Life is too short to read books you don’t want to!
For more on how to declutter your home using our simple step-by-step process, please check out our 10 Steps to Declutter and Room like a Pro. And download our free checklist as you work through decluttering your home.