Getting past uncluttering stumbling blocks

Some things are fairly easy to get rid of: broken items that will never get repaired, excess food storage containers that are missing their lids, etc. But other items are harder to deal with and might delay your uncluttering project, including the following:

Inherited stuff

You don’t need to keep something just because it belonged to a beloved relative. If it’s something you don’t like and don’t use, and it has been stored in the back of a closet for years, it’s not serving anyone. Personally, I think it honors the memory of that relative much more to get the item back in use, even if the person using it isn’t you. Remember that most relatives, given their love for us, would not want us to be burdened by their things.

Maybe another family member would appreciate having the inherited item. If not, it can be given away, thus taking on a new life as part of someone else’s home. Depending on the circumstances, the new owner might even appreciate hearing the story behind it.

And before you give the item away, you can always take a photo of it to serve as a smaller keepsake.

Potentially useful stuff

These are the “I might use it someday” things. Here you need to evaluate the trade-offs between keeping the item and passing it along. The following are some questions to consider:

  • Is it worth giving this item space in your home today because it might be useful at some future time?
  • How likely is it that you’re really going to use it?
  • If you give it away and wind up needing something like it later on, could you borrow one from someone else?
  • If you had to rebuy it, would that be difficult or expensive?
  • If you wind up needing something like this seven years from now, would the one you have now even be likely to meet your future needs? (Some things are timeless, but others aren’t.)
  • If someone else could make good use of the item right now, would giving it to that person make more sense than having it sit on a shelf in your home, so you have it “just in case”?

Other people’s stuff

This category is often filled with things that belong to adult children who no longer live at home. If those children are still fairly transient and living in a limited space, such as a college dorm room, you may want to keep storing these things for them, for the time being.

But if the stuff is taking up space you want for other purposes and you’ve had it for ages, you may decide it’s time for a change. If the owners live some distance away from you, consider sending them photos and letting them know you’ll be donating any items they don’t specifically tell you they want, and include a deadline for responding to you.

Be sure you also set a date in the not-too-distant future by which the owners will pick up the items they’ve asked you to keep. Alternatively, make arrangements to have the items mailed or shipped to them.

7 Comments for “Getting past uncluttering stumbling blocks”

  1. posted by liz on

    Concerning inherited stuff – as you are writing up your will, you may want to ask people if they want the items that you are thinking of giving them. If they do, great, write it down. If they don’t , then use it, sell it or give it away.

    I have my parents “good china”. I love it and have started using it as my everyday stuff. I’ve emailed my nieces to see if they want it at a later date. If the answer is no, then that’s ok and when I want to get rid of it, then I will.

  2. posted by Christy King on

    One thing I’ve found is that the more you get rid of, the easier it is to get rid of still more. I know it’s counter-intuitive, and I never would’ve believed it, but it’s true.

    I was just telling my husband this morning that I feel like getting rid of yet more stuff when we unpack. We’re getting ready to move to a much smaller home, and over the last several months have gotten rid of about half of what we own.

    I think it’s because I don’t miss any of what we got rid of, and so I feel more confident about getting rid of some of the stuff I initially kept for sentimental reasons or “just in case.”

  3. posted by Libby on

    Love the idea of taking a picture of the inherited item. My grandmother passed away a year ago. My daughter (18 months old) was given her old dolls. Dare I say “Woof!” They are disgusting…and cheap….and ugly…and dirty…and broken. No way she could play or appreciate them. Honestly they creep me out. They are in a grocery bag in the top shelf of her closet. The story behind them is neat (Grandpa WW II vet bought them for her in all the places he was stationed). Think I’ll set them up and snap some pictures for the scrapbook and then say “Toodles.” Thanks for the tips!

  4. posted by Ginger on

    inherited stuff is the worst. My mom thinks you have to keep everything because great aunt whoever touched it. I dread the day I have to clean out her house.

  5. posted by Verity on

    I love taking a positive approach to inherited items.

    1. I USE my inherited items up! In his book “Clutters Last Stand” Don Aslett suggests giving your items to your children. (I have 4 kids 5 and under so plenty of opportunity!!)

    My grandmother left us boxes and boxes of her costume jewelry, I let my 2 and 4 year old daughters dress up in them instead of keeping them boxed. I say “These remind me of Grandma. They are beautiful and fun like she was! She’d love to see you in them.” Much of it has broken and been tossed, but I know they will remember her and being a beautiful and fun person – even though they never met her. (And aside from a couple pieces that I’ve set aside for them when they are older, most will be tossed in the next couple years.)

    2. (I try to choose a few small items – and leave the large items to other relatives with larger houses)

  6. posted by Verity on

    Erin’s written in the past on ‘setting a price limit’

    That was one of the most helpful things I’ve read! I set a price of $10.

    If something could not earn me $10 net, I’d just donate it. It wasn’t worth my time to Craigslist or eBay it.

  7. posted by Jae on

    awesome! super helpful post and the comments too, I just want to say, thank you very much.

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