Don’t give up on getting organized

As much as I like this xkcd comic (licensed under Creative Commons), I hope most people don’t feel they need to “just give up.” The following are some alternative suggestions if you’re feeling overwhelmed:

Adjust for health issues that may be getting in your way

If you’re dealing with ADHD, you might appreciate books that provide organizing solutions tailored to those with attention deficit issues. ADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your Life and Organizing Solutions for People with Attention Deficit Disorder are two that might give you some good ideas.

If you have a chronic illness or disability, you may well be familiar with the Spoon Theory regarding the energy you have available for daily tasks. Some days you may not have any “spoons” available to tackle organizing work, and that’s to be expected. But hopefully you can establish systems that allow you to get and stay organized — perhaps with help from family, friends, support groups, or paid professionals — while minimizing the demands on your energy.

Realize that situational disorganization will pass

All of us are likely to have times when our life situation means we’re not as organized as we normally are and like to be. You may be adjusting to a new job or hitting a particularly demanding time at an existing one. You may be dealing with a temporary medical issue: recovering from surgery, for example. In these and similar situations, it’s important to identify the organizing tasks which must be done, such as making sure the bills get paid. You can then let other things slide for a while, without feeling nervous or guilty.

Experiment with different approaches

Judith Kolberg wrote, “Chronic disorganization is the result of the bad fit between people who organize unconventionally and the very conventional organizing methods which exist for them to use.” If you’ve been fighting disorganization for a long time, you might find some useful ideas in her book Conquering Chronic Disorganization.

More benefits of being organized

Dave just wrote about the hidden benefits of uncluttering, and that reminded me of the stories I’ve been collecting that illustrate the benefits of getting organized.

Many of the stories have to do with saving money. Mike Isaac tweeted about having to absorb a $313 airline ticket change fee because he couldn’t find the receipt so he could get reimbursed by his employer. And it can get worse. Mike also tweeted about forgetting to pay a bill for a few months, having it go to collections, and seeing his credit score take a big hit.

A smaller savings comes from not buying things you already own but forgot about — or couldn’t find. Erika Hall tweeted about an all-too-common situation:

Finally attacked and organized the spice cabinet.
If you have a recipe that uses 137 tablespoons of cinnamon and an equal amount of paprika, let me know.

A while back, as I was dropping off donations at my local non-profit thrift store, I saw someone who was buying a tie because he arrived at a wedding site without one. Since it would be odd for someone to walk out of the house on his way to a formal wedding without a tie, I assumed he had arrived the previous night (or earlier) as part of an overnight stay or a longer trip. If he’d had a packing checklist that he consulted, he wouldn’t have needed to make a last-minute tie purchase, saving a bit of time and money — and avoiding owning another tie that he may not need or especially like. (If that was the case, I hope he donated it back to the store or another charitable organization.)

Being organized can make creative work easier because it’s easy to find (and to put away) your supplies. Louise Hornor is a quilter who lives on a boat, and I enjoy reading about how she organizes her materials in such a small space. For her scrap strips, she’d been using a do-it-yourself approach, working with facial tissue boxes, but recognized that the boxes “don’t nest or stack nicely,” making it a bit cumbersome to “pop one or two strips into the right bin without shuffling the whole stack.” So she adjusted her system by getting better tools:

I treated myself to a set of multi-color Akro bins. Oooo! Aaaah! So pretty! So sturdy! So stackable! So open in the front for easy access, no matter how high the stack!

Another benefit comes about in a situation I hope you don’t need to face: evacuating your home. Someone I know had to evacuate when her large apartment complex had a fire. (Fortunately, the fire didn’t reach her unit.) When she had to leave, she was able to grab all her essential items in about a minute because she knew exactly where everything was, and all her most important things were in one of three places. And being an organized person, she immediately reflected on what she overlooked so she could do an even better job if she ever needed to evacuate again.

Unitasker Wednesday: TriceraTaco Taco Holder

All Unitasker Wednesday posts are jokes — we don’t want you to buy these items, we want you to laugh at their ridiculousness. Enjoy!

We’ve written about taco holders on prior Wednesdays: the Taco Truck and the TacoProper. But I just came across the TriceraTaco taco holder, and couldn’t resist revisiting this subject.

There’s no doubt this is a unitasker, but it also made me grin. So if all of the following statements are true, maybe buying a unitasker wouldn’t be so horrible:

  • You make tacos often.
  • You don’t use the flat-bottomed taco shells that stand up fine on their own (and wouldn’t fit in this holder).
  • You have plenty of space to store this taco holder.
  • You (or your family members) would be delighted every time you used it.

However, it’s also worth remembering that what seems cute at first glance will sometimes wear thin in repeated uses. Would you still like the TriceraTaco on the 20th use?

Erasing old cell phones as you unclutter them

If you have a fairly recent cell phone that you want to sell or donate, it’s pretty easy to remove your personal information (address book, messages, photos, etc.) from the phone before disposing of it. You can get the how-to information from your cell phone manufacturer or cellular provider, or you can find information online from various other sources.

In general, the steps will involve removing any SIM cards and SD cards, doing a hard reset (also known as a factory reset), and setting up encryption if needed (especially on Android phones). To be even more secure, you can load junk data onto your phone and then do another factory reset.

But what if it’s an old phone and you don’t have the charger, you don’t know the password, or both? These phones tend to get shoved into drawers or boxes to be dealt with at a later time — which never comes.

How many old phones do people have laying around? To get an idea, look at what Daniel Otis reported in the Motherboard website:

According to the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association, which advocates on behalf of the industry, 62 per cent of Canadians have an average of 2.1 phones that they’re not using. That equals more than 47 million unused cell phones collecting dust.

If you’re dealing with phones like this and you’d like to finally unclutter them, the following are a few suggestions.

Missing the password? Try the default lock code or just do a factory reset.

Leaving a default lock code in place is a bad idea, but enough people do it that you might as well try it. Many years ago, the person who used the phone might not have been as security-conscious as most of us are now.

The default code on many Nokia phones is 12345. The code on some LG phones is 0000 (four zeroes) and on other LG phones it’s the last four digits of your phone number. Other phones might use 1234.

But the easiest option might be to do a factory reset (which should be possible even without the password), since you want to remove all of the data on the phone, anyway.

Missing the charger? See if someone else has one.

A vendor’s store may have the charger you’re lacking and might be willing to charge your phone enough that you can follow the standard steps for erasing your phone. Or ask around on sites like Nextdoor, where you might find someone who would be happy to lend you the charger you need.

Still stuck? Physically destroy the phone.

If you can’t get into the phone to erase the data, you can always resort to physically destroying the phone. Some people distrust the software erasing process and prefer hardware destruction, even though it could mean a perfectly usable phone gets destroyed. It’s all a matter of what data you have on the phone and how you evaluate the risks of having that data stolen.

While you could attempt to destroy the phone yourself — if you know what you’re doing — many people will find paying a reputable service provider to shred the phone to be the wiser choice.

Some local shredding companies will shred cell phones, including companies with certification from the National Association for Information Destruction (NAID). You can search for a company through the NAID website, although there’s no way to identify which ones work with cell phones as opposed to just paper and storage media such as computer hard drives. Alternatively, you could just use your favorite search engine.

For example, the following are a few companies that provide cell phone shredding services:

How long will it take me to unclutter and organize?

I’m often asked how long it will take to complete an organizing task: organizing a garage, a kitchen, a closet, an office, etc. As with almost everything related to organizing, the only honest answer I can provide is, “It depends.” And it depends on a number of factors.

How much stuff is currently in the spaces you want to organize?

Rooms of the same size and same basic purpose may hold drastically different amounts of stuff. Drawers can be stuffed to the brim or only half full. Garages may have been unable to accommodate a car or truck for years or may have plenty of room for vehicles.

What kinds of things are in the spaces?

Papers take a long time to go through, because each paper must be reviewed, and each paper takes very little space. You’re making a decision about each paper the same way you’d make a decision about a shovel, a toaster, or a couch — but you won’t see results as quickly.

Also, sentimental items take a longer time to unclutter because of the emotions involved.

What kind of decision maker are you?

Some people make decisions quickly: Keep that, toss that, donate that. Other people need more time to make their decisions. Someone might want to tell me the story behind an object before deciding on its fate, and that’s perfectly normal and understandable.

How long can you reasonably work at an organizing task?

When organizing, you want to avoid both physical and emotional fatigue. Uncluttering involves making one decision after another, and you want to avoid decision fatigue — because that’s when you’re likely to make decisions you may regret later. If you find yourself dreading one more “keep or not” choice or your body is getting uncomfortable, take a break or just decide you’ve done enough for the day.

How many people need to be involved in the decisions?

If you live alone and can make all the uncluttering and organizing decisions, things are likely to go more quickly than if multiple people need to agree on the decisions — especially if the people involved have different organizing styles and will need to reach compromises.

What do you want your final organized space to look like?

A number of your organizing choices will affect the time required. For example:

If you’re organizing a new kitchen, do you want to put down shelf liner first? If so, it will take longer than if you decide you don’t need shelf liner.

Do you want all your books organized in a very specific order? If so, that will take longer than if you just want them in general categories.

How do you want to dispose of unwanted items?

The organizing project isn’t really done until the items you aren’t keeping are no longer in your space. If you want to sell them, that’s likely to take longer than if you choose to donate them. But very specific donation goals can take time, too. I know people who have kept things around for months because they wanted to donate them to a specific charity’s once-a-year garage sale.

Unless you need to clear out a space quickly, I’d generally advise working at whatever speed feels most comfortable to you. Once you’ve begun the process, and see how much time it’s taking you to do parts of it, you’ll have a decent idea how long it might take to do the rest.

A double win: uncluttering and helping others

I recently saw a touching story about a previously homeless family that found housing but lacked any home furnishings — until a local charity helped them out. (Click the link to see the short video, including before and after photos.)

Eight-year-old Daerye Neely and mom Dionna Neely walked into their new home in Detroit to find a wonderful surprise – a furnished home decorated for free by charity Humble Design after the co-founders heard about the Neelys’ story of hardship.

Since I’m always looking for good places for people to donate the gently used items they no longer want or need, I wanted to know more — so I started investigating.

Humble Design is “a non-profit helping families transitioning out of homeless shelters by providing furnishings and design services. We turn their empty house into a clean, dignified, and welcoming home.” And given that mission, it takes a wide range of donations: furniture, rugs, artwork, linens, towels, books, toys (excluding stuffed animals), TVs, dish sets, silverware, mugs, and more. Pick-up services are available for large furniture items, although only in certain areas — and there’s a wait list.

I’ve written about furniture banks before, and many of these accept more than just furniture. For example, see the listing for the Furniture Bank serving greater Toronto, Canada. Furniture banks, working with partner agencies, provide a great service for “the previously homeless, unemployed and working poor, battered women and children in retreat, immigrants, individuals with mental or physical disabilities, victims of a fire, robbery, and natural disasters, etc.” And these items are provided at little or no cost.

Organizations like Humble Design don’t identify as furniture banks, but they seem to provide somewhat comparable services. Other charities that seem similar to Humble Design include:

All of these organizations have specific wish lists and standard donation guidelines. None of them want items with stains, odors, rips, or any other major wear. Linens and towels should be washed before donating.

If you have household furnishings to donate — especially furniture, which many organizations don’t handle — furniture banks and organizations like Humble Design are good to keep in mind.

Overcoming procrastination

At the end of last year, I finally did a business-related task I’d been procrastinating on for ages. It was a non-trivial project, but I’d been thinking “I really should do this” for way too long. It felt so good to finally have it completed!

And starting the first week in January I finally started using my Waterpik flosser. I had that thing sitting on my bathroom counter for three months before I read the instructions and began using it. Taking better care of myself was one of my goals for 2018, and this was a nice first step. My dental hygienist can stop bugging me about this, finally. Why did I wait so long?

But procrastination is something almost all of us fight at times. Sometimes we procrastinate for months over something that winds up taking just a few minutes. Laurie Voss tweeted about putting off a phone call for three months that took only three minutes when he finally did it. I relate to that!

I’m very good about taking care of things that are time-critical. But many things on my lists have no real urgency about them. Still, getting them done would have a positive impact on my life.

As I’ve been thinking about the simple to-dos and larger projects that seem to linger on my lists, I’ve decided I’m going to try this approach: Each week, I’ll do one thing I’ve been procrastinating about tackling. If I get inspired and do more than one, that’s great — but one is my minimum.

My lists include substantial projects (get my many boxes of old slides scanned), much smaller things (follow the instructions for fixing my shredder, which has stopped turning off automatically), and things in the middle (update a 400-line spreadsheet listing places to donate and recycle various items). Some of my to-dos are even fun, like seeing some current movies and reading books on my to-be-read shelf. (I mostly read digital books, but in some cases I enjoy having a physical copy.)

For the large projects, I won’t try to do the whole thing in one week — I’ll just take the next meaningful step. For example, the first step on dealing with my slides would be going through the first few trays of slides to decide if they are all ones I want to have scanned.

I also know that making a public declaration of intent is a good way to make sure I really overcome my procrastination. So here’s my declaration — I’ll report back later this year to let you know how things went.

How to organize your books

If you have a substantial number of physical books you intend to keep, how do you organize them on your bookshelves? There’s no one best approach, but the following are some possibilities to consider:

By genre and/or author

These are the most common approaches, and they are often combined. For example, you might put all science fiction together, organized by author. It’s up to you to define genres (and sub-genres) as you wish, depending on how you classify books in your mind and how many books you have. You could also use one of the library classification systems: the Dewey Decimal Classification or the Library of Congress system.

I tend to organize by genre and I keep all books by any one author together. However, that’s as detailed as I get — I don’t organize authors or titles alphabetically. But some people find alphabetizing to be helpful, and some will add a chronological component: organizing books by each author in the order they were released, organizing history books from oldest time period to the most recent, etc.

By color

While this can create an interesting look, does it interfere with finding a specific book when you want it? Not always, since some people remember book covers and colors. You could also choose this approach for the books in just one space — it doesn’t have to be the approach taken for all your books.

By height

This is often a compromise from a genre/author approach, when some books just won’t fit with the others. Or it could be a second-tier organizing strategy, where books within a genre get organized by height.

But you might also choose to organize by height — especially for really tall or really short books — to make the best use of limited bookshelf space. This works best when you can adjust the shelves to just the right height. I have one shelf that’s a collection of super-short books.

And as with books organized by color, some people just like the look of books organized by size, and use it as their primary sort.

By read vs. unread

This would be an approach to use in combination with another one, where all the to-be-reads are kept together (and organized however you wish). All the ones you’ve read and are saving would be kept separately (and also organized however you wish).

By how much you love them

Some readers like to keep all their favorites together, and then use whatever other system they want for the rest. This especially makes sense if you tend to re-read these favorites frequently, or if you often loan them to friends. If you have a guest bedroom, you might want to put some favorites in there.

By language

If you have books in multiple languages, your first sort might be by language. Within each language you could then organize by author/genre or whatever other approach appeals to you.

By personal chronology

I’d never heard of this approach until I saw what James Reynolds wrote about how he organizes books: “by date I got them. simple that way. new books just get added to the end. in this way, you get to trace the story of yr entire reading life – in chronological order.”

Randomly

Some folks know that simply getting books off the floor and onto the shelves is as much as they’re likely to do, so they don’t set up organizational systems they know they’ll never maintain. And other people just enjoy the randomness. For example, Pamela Paul, the editor of the New York Times Book Review, said:

What I like about that disorder is that it allows that element of surprise and serendipity. When I’m looking over my shelves, trying to figure out what I’m going to read next, I don’t know where everything is and that enables me to be surprised.

And a note about shelving techniques: There’s been some recent attention to the practice of shelving books backward, with the spines inward and pages outward. While I’ve seen many people deride this, it winds up that some neurodiverse people find this a much less stressful look. I had never considered this, and I’m thankful to C. L. McCollum for sharing that perspective.

Ask Unclutterer: Where can I donate stuffed animals?

Reader Darlene recently asked the following question in the comment section of the post What to do with those old toys:

I have bags of slightly used stuffed animals. I’ve found most places like hospitals and day care center don’t want them because of germ contamination. Where can I find a site that would welcome them? How about for the flood victims in Texas or hurricane victims in Florida or even … victims in California? Give me some ideas please.

Darlene, this is a common concern, so I’m very glad you asked the question. The following are a few suggestions that may help anyone with gently used stuffed animals looking for new homes.

Give them away directly to people who want them

I’ve successfully used my local freecycle group to give away stuffed animals. It doesn’t always work, but it sometimes does. Other similar possibilities are Facebook, Nextdoor, and the free section of Craigslist.

Give them to Goodwill or other thrift stores

While many thrift stores don’t accept donations of stuffed animals, a number of them do!

Each Goodwill chapter has its own policies regarding what it accepts — and some specify that they take stuffed animals, such as Goodwill of the Heartland in Iowa and Goodwill of San Francisco, Marin and San Mateo Counties in California.

The St. Vincent de Paul Society of Lane County in Oregon is another example of a charity that takes stuffed animals for its thrift stores. Again, each local organization will have its own policies, but you might find that yours will welcome your donation.

Note: These policies can change over time, so be sure to check before each donation.

Donate via SAFE: Stuffed Animals for Emergencies

SAFE is a 20-year-old non-profit organization that helps get gently used stuffed animals (as well as blankets, children’s clothes, and other items) to those who need them. You can donate through one of the chapters in Florida or South Carolina. Or you can send them to one of the urgent needs locations that SAFE has identified. Here’s just one of the places currently listed:

Edmund D. Edelman’s Children’s Court is the court that handles all the juvenile dependency cases in all of Los Angeles County. These cases usually deal with abuse and neglect issues. Annually they handle about 30,000 cases, and some of these cases require the children to speak. The courthouse has asked us if we could donate stuffed animals to help ease these children’s fears during a very stressful time in their lives.

SAFE also has good instructions for cleaning stuffed animals (PDF) before donating them.

Donate to police or fire departments

An 8-year-old girl in Colorado who had been in an auto accident donated her stuffed animal collection to the Denver police department to give to other children like herself. You could certainly ask if your local police or fire department would like your stuffed animals to hand out to children in similar traumatic circumstances.

Give them to animal shelters

As reader Monique mentioned in the comments, this is always an alternative to consider. And it will work for toys that have stains (even after washing) that would make them unsuitable for giving to children. Please check with the shelter you have in mind, as not all of them will want such donations. But some, such as Four Peaks Animal Rescue in Arizona, do include stuffed animals on their wish lists.

Little changes that make a big difference

Helen Rosner recently asked on Twitter, “What are some tiny things you’ve done this year to make your life immeasurably better?” She got a lot of responses, and I noticed many of them had to do with organizing and uncluttering.

Lots of people wrote about improving their closets. One person bought 100 identical hangers from The Container Store to replace her old mismatched poor-quality ones. Someone else got “the black velvet ones,” which would be the Joy Mangano Huggable Hangers or an equivalent. “Closets fit so much more, it’s easier to see what’s in there, and clothes don’t get stretched in weird ways from hanging,” she wrote.

While I understand the visual appeal of identical hangers, I haven’t yet gone that route myself — although I’ve been tempted. But I did just buy some more Olka hangers, since they’re the best I’ve found for preventing shoulder bumps. Whatever hangers work best for you, so clothes stay put and maintain their shape, can be a worthwhile investment.

Other people wrote about the benefits of owning duplicate toiletry items: one for home and one for the travel bag. For those who travel a lot, this can be a time-saver and a stress-reliever. But while Kirk England wrote, “Best $40 ever,” Bryna Levin wrote, “Except for women it’s $100-$500.” I don’t think it’s just gender that defines how expensive it would be to duplicate the toiletries — I don’t use all that many products so my cost would be well under $100. An alternative approach, for those who don’t want to make the investment, would be to develop a good packing list.

Someone else’s travel organizing change was using packing cubes. As Beth Skwarecki explained, “They let you rummage through your stuff without getting everything mixed up! They take up very little space themselves but help you pack more efficiently. I roll my clothes inside one cube, put underwear and toiletries in another, etc.”

Other small purchases also helped people be organized and save time. Leon Overweel did the often-mentioned trick for avoiding mismatched socks: “I ordered 50 pairs of basic black socks off alibaba for $22 (including shipping) and removed all other socks from my drawer. Now every morning I blindly grab two and just put them on. No more orphan socks or matching socks in the laundry!” While 50 pairs of socks is more than many people would buy, the basic concept is sound — assuming you often wear basic solid-color socks rather than more flamboyant options. Someone else added a towel hook closer to the shower. And a number of people mentioned the benefits of buying long charging cords for their mobile phones, to work around inconvenient outlets. I got a long charging cord back in 2015, and I find it invaluable.

Uncluttering was another big theme. Haley ED Houseman did what she called a “product purchase cleanse” where she used up (or gave away) the consumable products she had before buying any more. (Things that were too old got tossed.) Cathy Lanski said she “donated a bazillion sample sized products to a women’s shelter. They were sitting in a basket stressing me out, but were probably a treat to them.” A lot of these were “not quite right products from subscription boxes.” If you’re one of the many people with a large collection of toiletries, this could be the type of change you’d like to make, too.

For those who get overwhelmed with letters or email asking for donations to worthy causes (and can afford to make some donations), this change might be a good idea: “I set up recurring donations to the charities I feel strongly about, so I don’t feel bad about ignoring most of the fundraising mail I get.”

And I was delighted to see one person write, “We use grandma’s good china.” If you’re going to own “good china” it’s wise to actually use it and enjoy it.

Not everyone agreed about all the suggestions. There are the fervent bed-makers and those who feel that making the bed is a waste of time. There was one person who was delighted with her new honeycomb shaped drawer organizers for her underwear and those who refuse to fold undergarments. That’s only to be expected — organizing solutions are very personal.

My own small change this past year was storing some things more conveniently for my cat sitter — which meant the things were also more convenient for me. I just needed that “cat sitter is coming” push to get me to do some rethinking.

Four ideas for creating New Year’s resolutions

Are you considering some resolutions related to uncluttering and organizing? I always find it interesting to see how other people have approached this, because other people’s ideas can inspire some of my own. I’m hoping some of the things I’ve seen recently might inspire you, too.

Ask others for their ideas

A recent Mutts comic strip had one character who made a list of resolutions — for another character, not for himself. While that’s obviously not what I would recommend, it made me think that sometimes other people who know us well may have helpful insights and suggestions.

Consider resolutions to minimize your shopping

In The New York Times, Ann Patchett wrote about her 2017 “year of no shopping.” She did indeed shop for groceries and such — and as an author and a bookstore owner, she also bought books. But she didn’t buy things such as clothes and electronics, and only bought things like shampoo if she had used up everything she had on hand. She obviously comes from a life of abundance, but perhaps her experiences could still inspire others. The whole article is worth reading, but the following are a few excerpts:

My first few months of no shopping were full of gleeful discoveries. I ran out of lip balm early on and before making a decision about whether lip balm constituted a need, I looked in my desk drawers and coat pockets. I found five lip balms. …

The trick of no shopping isn’t just that you don’t buy things. You don’t shop. That means no trawling the sale section of the J. Crew website in idle moments. It means the catalogs go into the recycle bin unopened on the theory that if I don’t see it, I don’t want it.

Not shopping saves an astonishing amount of time. In October, I interviewed Tom Hanks about his collection of short stories in front of 1,700 people in a Washington theater. Previously, I would have believed that such an occasion demanded a new dress and lost two days of my life looking for one. In fact, Tom Hanks had never seen any of my dresses, nor had the people in the audience. I went to my closet, picked out something weather appropriate and stuck it in my suitcase. Done.

Patchett has decided to continue her no-shopping approach for now, even though the year is ending. That sure sounds like a resolution that worked well for her.

Look for things to stop doing

Oliver Burkeman, writing in The Guardian, had a list of three suggested resolutions for the new year. I’m not usually a fan of such lists, but this was one I liked. The following was his second resolution:

Select something to stop doing this year. … I mean something worthwhile, but that, if you’re honest, you don’t have time for. In our hyperbusy era, there’s an infinite number of potential things to do: emails to read, groups to join, ways to become a better person, parent, employee. Yet still we proceed as if “getting everything done” might be feasible. It isn’t. … Quit your book group; stop struggling to make dates with that hard-to-pin-down friend; accept you’ll never be a good cook. Not because those things are bad; because it’s the only way to do other things well.

I also liked his third idea: “Resolve to cut everyone a massive amount of slack, including yourself.”

Note: One of my own 2018 resolutions is to get back to reading more books, and I’m definitely not quitting my book group. But if I’m going to read more books, that means I need to figure out other things to stop doing.

Keep doing what works

Louise Hornor had a line in her quilting blog that resonated with me: “I resolve to keep on doin’ what I’m doin’.” If you have found ways of managing your stuff, your papers, and your time that work well for you, there’s no need to change.

Avoiding one-size-fits-all uncluttering rules

Apartment Therapy recently ran an article by Shifrah Combiths entitled 9 Things No One Needs Anymore and Should Declutter. The list includes DVDs, DVD cases, CDs, file cabinets, a stockpile of pantry and household items, wall calendars, physical inspiration (mood boards, etc.), paper lists, and take-out menus. The recommended alternatives were almost all digitally focused: streaming services for movies, Amazon’s Subscribe and Save service, scanned papers, etc.

The good part about this list is it can challenge you to think about whether the physical items you have are indeed the best answer for you. Maybe you really do want to eliminate one or more of these things from your space and use other options.

But I can think of many situations where eliminating these items isn’t the best choice. Combiths acknowledges some of these, noting that people may want DVDs for road trips and CDs for playing in the car. Some people’s minds work better with wall calendars, and they also help some families.

But the following are some other reasons people may want to hold onto the items that “no one needs any more:”

  • They aren’t comfortable using digital options. My father, who is in his 90s, is not going to scan his papers and keep them in the cloud, as Combiths suggested.
  • They live somewhere with slow internet connectivity. Streaming movies just isn’t a good option for everyone.
  • They have budget constraints. Streaming services cost money. Keeping some DVDs and CDs (especially ones that children play repeatedly) and borrowing others from the library may be better options for some people. A good scanner costs money that people may not have, too.
  • They just work better with paper, at least in certain circumstances. Some people really like their paper lists, even if they acknowledge the benefits of digital ones. You’ll still find a wide variety of paper lists for sale: to-do lists, shopping lists, and more — as well as paper planners that include both calendars and lists. And not everyone is going to find that a Pinterest board works as well for them as a physical vision board.
  • They have a real need to stockpile at least some items. I stockpile a lot of water, some food items, cat litter, and more because I want to be prepared in case of an earthquake.
  • They are movie fans who like all the supplementary material that comes with DVDs and usually isn’t available from a service like Netflix. They may also like more obscure titles that aren’t readily available through streaming services.
  • They have disabilities that make digital options less attractive. For example, not all websites work well with screen readers. And Hulu was recently sued because it didn’t provide the audio description tracks that are available for many movies and TV shows, describing what’s going on for those who cannot see it.

So yes — you may well find that you don’t need all or most of the items in the Apartment Therapy list. But it’s perfectly okay if you do if you do need or want some of them. Lists like this are useful if they get you to reconsider what you’re saving, but you’re the ultimate authority on what works for your particular situation.