Six reasons to let it go

Are you trying to decide if you should keep or get rid of something? These are six reasons to trash, recycle, sell, or donate an object:

  1. You don’t use it, love it, need it, or want it.
  2. It’s broken, busted, damaged, or destroyed and you haven’t fixed it in six months or more.
  3. You have multiples of the same object, and the other one is vastly superior in quality.
  4. It’s expired.
  5. You don’t have anywhere to store it.
  6. It doesn’t fit in the life you desire.

38 Comments for “Six reasons to let it go”

  1. posted by Jen on

    Great rules of thumb! I will have to show this post to my husband, who is definitely a “collector” who has a hard time letting go. He insists that if we technically have space for something, it should stay in case we need/want it again someday. I say if it’s been hanging around the house for months or even years without ever being touched (an electric shoe shine kit comes to mind) then it should go. He just has a hard time letting go of things that “should” be useful and are in perfectly good condition. But what he doesn’t realize is that even though they may be perfectly useful, they aren’t perfecly useful to US. Maybe hearing this from an unbiased third party will help πŸ˜‰

  2. posted by Dennis Wurster on

    Another one: Someone else needs it more than you do.

  3. posted by Mercedes on

    Or Maybe that should be: “Someone else could get more use out of it than you” (Like Jen’s Husband’s electric shoe shine kit! ;-))

  4. posted by [email protected] on

    What great timing – I am decluttering my desk at home and this post popped up – I will keep this post up whilst I continue. I was just thinking the more I let things go the more I want!!

  5. posted by Erin Doland on

    @Jen — I don’t know if I’m unbiased πŸ™‚

  6. posted by Dawn on

    How about: It costs too much to maintain and/or store it (in relationship to how much you love/use/need it).

  7. posted by Marjory on

    The object(s) now are worrisome burden(s) in your life – what if broken, stolen, lost?

    I have some antique porcelain inherited from my mother. I’ve broken a smaller piece during a move – the movers had to pay an astronomical reimbursement. Now I just worry about it – doesn’t suit my home, my life, and not personal enough to keep as a heirloom.

    I’ve made arrangements to have it professionally appraised and then will sell it.

  8. posted by Sky on

    Excellent, simple list.
    The only thing I would add is:

    7. Too much trouble to keep clean.

  9. posted by Lose That Girl on

    I have a really hard time getting rid of necessities… such as towels. I have a cupboard full and I’ve never, ever used all of them. I do have a fear that if I get rid of some of them, I will need them. My washer will flood, my dog will get really filthy and need an endless supply to get her clean…. I wish that I could part with them (and I do know that my vet could really use whatever I choose not to keep)… but still having issues.

  10. posted by Julia on

    Towels. Aargh.

    I am preparing to pack a small box full of “guest towels” in case I ever have (overnight) guests again – it’s something I try to avoid – then I’m weeding down to a couple of sets for my use, and everything else is going to the animal shelter.

    I have so many dish towels I can’t get the drawer shut. I need to pick through them, keep the ones I like, and add the rest to the animal shelter box.

    This I vow to do…thanks, Lose That Girl!

  11. posted by Carol in Mpls on

    I totally agree with the master list (and additions). My personal nemesis is “paper issues.” If I can find the information on the internet, then I can get rid of all those clippings, ideas and papers that are just clogging up my files. I also keep a notebook just to jot down the idea for reference, then go online to do my research.

    I love the idea of opening up a drawer not filled with stuff, maybe even have nothing inside!

  12. posted by Teresa on

    this combined with your “just in case” blog is going to make a huge difference for me!

  13. posted by Vanessa H. on

    It took me a while to realize that just because I have two perfectly good items that are identical that I didn’t have to use one up and then use the second one.

    I had two containers of jewelry cleaner in my bathroom cupboard for years that were taking up valuable space. Then one day it dawned on me that I should get rid of one because jewelry cleaner is the kind of thing you can’t use-up. So I decided to pour one down the drain and then recycle the container. It was a revelation.

    Look around and see what you have multiples of and then donate them if you can or recycle them. It will double the available space you have and will get rid of some of the guilt you might have for not using the thing.

  14. posted by Living the Balanced Life on

    It doesn’t bring you joy…
    I used this when decluttering my decor.

  15. posted by Jacquie on

    “1. You don’t use it, love it, need it, or want it.”

    Problem is, define “need”, define “want”.

    A hoarder both needs and wants all their stuff. They may not “love” individual things, but that’s probably because they have forgotten exactly what they have. Finally the things they “use” might be few but it’s convincing them they won’t eventually use all of them at some time in the far distant future that is the difficult bit.

  16. posted by Erin Doland on

    @Jacquie — Our site isn’t written for hoarders. Hoarders have a disorder or multiple disorders that need to be treated by licensed medical professionals. Our content is targeted to people who struggle with clutter, but for whom clutter isn’t a danger to themselves or others. A list like this wouldn’t be used when working with a hoarder because it doesn’t address the underlying disorder.

  17. posted by Nana on

    “Have nothing in your house you do not know to be useful, beautiful or loved — preferably at least two of the three”
    Scottish designer (whose name I’ve forgotten). I keep this one posted at my desk at home; and it’s a BIG help in decision-making.

  18. posted by chacha1 on

    Nana, that’s usually attributed to William Morris as “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” It’s kind of what I’m shooting for. πŸ™‚

  19. posted by *pol on

    Excellent timing!!!! I was just hoping for exactly that kind of list today… now to go put it to work.

  20. posted by Teri on

    I always asked my daughter, “Are you willing to dust it?”

  21. posted by Gal @ Equally Happy on

    I think rule #1 is pretty much all you need. The others are just ways to see if rule number 1 applies πŸ™‚

    I’m currently preparing for a move and I’m getting rid of a lot of things (through freecycle or goodwill). If it’s broken, hasn’t been used in 6 months, I have too many of it and so on, it just means I don’t need it which means it’s gone.

    I would add that the only exception would be emergency supplies but even there you need to see what you actually need and will use versus that cool mirror / whistle combo that you got as a gift from the boy scouts…

  22. posted by Linda on

    Or if it’s not permanent press.

  23. posted by Another Deb on

    Would you pay to replace it?

  24. posted by Karen on

    If it works for ex-boyfriends, it’ll work on anything else. πŸ™‚

  25. posted by Lisa Zaslow on

    Great list! Love “are you willing to dust it?”

    A few others:

    You don’t have time for it (esp. good for people who are keeping tons of magazines – would take weeks of time to read).

    It’s extremely unlikely that you will use it in the forseeable future. (vs. “I might need it someday”)

    The only reason you are keeping it is because of guilt (e.g. it was a gift; I paid a lot for it)

  26. posted by Laurizona on

    Regarding the antique dishes, heirlooms etc. — how about either just keeping 1 plate or place setting and getting rid of the rest, or even just taking a photo of a representative piece as a keepsake? After having my mother die, then grandmother, and recently my mom-in-law, and inheriting ALL of their “good china” etc. I am still sifting through all their stuff (not to even mention my own) and am now leaning towards having an individual place setting of each set to create a memory table.

  27. posted by Winning Ideas on

    Simple, yet crisp post πŸ™‚
    It makes sense to let go the things which we don’y feel we need them anymore. This list is surprisingly enormous πŸ™‚
    It could be our inbox,our household things or our unused gadgets.


  28. posted by Angie on

    Thanks. I need this kind of motivation twice a day!

  29. posted by Onixx on

    I absolutely do not agree. I have some things I did not take very long. And then suddenly, I want them to get and use. For example, equipment for photography. If I do not have the inspiration to photograph the whole year, will throw light boxes and spotlights, I’ll have a year to buy new ones. And that is expensive.

  30. posted by Jacquie on

    OK Erin, hoarder was a bad word.

    My comments still apply to many pack rats who aren’t suffering from multiple disorders. You may not be working with hoarders, but your site will be one that is often found by people with serious uncluttering problems and who’s to say exactly where the crossover line between pack ratting and hoarding lies.

    It is the difficulty in differentiating between the things you really, really “need and want” and the things that you don’t, that causes the build up of clutter.

    I just felt that for people who have already made a start with uncluttering your comments are excellent to keep in mind, but for those who are near the start of the process, your first suggestion could just as easily be used as the justification for keeping many of their things.

  31. posted by anon on

    i often find myself not being able to live up to the expectations of certain purchases.
    when i was young and bought my first few lipsticks and glosses i often found my hair stuck to my mouth or color on my face when the hair pushed away. how glamorous was that?
    moving on to jewelry meant having to feel uncomfortable and unsafe that i might get mugged, let alone dressing to showcase these items.
    well you get the picture.
    having to alter my life for an object is madness.
    so now i look at things and wonder if i have to live up to them or to myself.

  32. posted by RebeccaL on

    @Laurizona- I love the idea of a table w/ mixmatched settings from your family-what a great way to honor all of those women. (I hope you use them for every day!)

    Erin- thanks for this list- I’m printing it out, and will refer to it often as I challenge the basement “dungeon” (my last decluttering hurdle)

  33. posted by Peter Bryenton on

    Good thanks. Very applicable to downsizing too.

  34. posted by Rob on

    This list is going to come in handy when I try to reorganize my office this weekend. Kudos to you, and thanks for making this task seem a bit easier.

  35. posted by CM on

    Seems like so many decluttering problems could be solved if people had an easy way to give things to others who need them and could use them right away. Joining freecycle was great for this. We also have a message board at work where I’ve given away things. It takes a little more effort than just shoving it in your basement, but it’s worth it — you get that electric shoe shine kit out of your house and the satisfaction of knowing you made someone else happy!

  36. posted by rftmarigold on

    @Vanessa H–I sympathize totally (because in the past I’ve gritted my teeth while grimly finishing item #1 just to have one less container to store) and admire you for also recycling the now-empty container!

    I just want to remind all readers that some home-use chemicals should be taken to a recycling facility rather than putting it into the trash or pouring it down the drain–assuming that the local government has already established this service and will continue to offer it during economic hard times.

    Of course, everyone will continue to just go DUMP if it’s too hard to dispose of stuff responsibly (no facility, no way to get there, looming deadline to move, etc.) Either we or our helper says “we’ll save the world another time” and out it goes! Hopefully, we’ll continue to improve the world so this happens less and less.

  37. posted by rftmarigold on

    P.S. Erin, great post–I’m clipping it out to post near our largest piles of “MUST BE SORTED and MOST MUST GO.”

  38. posted by Debbie on

    #6 reason is brilliant.

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