There is a freedom that comes when you get rid of the clutter in your home.
Everyone has clutter. It’s a fact of life. As we go about the business of living, we accumulate stuff. We buy clothes, home decor, office supplies, kitchen gadgets we use once and never again. We subscribe to newspapers and magazines. We get mail every day—a lot of it junk—and pile it, unopened, on the kitchen counter, table, or desk. We have a dozen screwdrivers, but never the one we need. Can’t find something? Forget it—we don’t even know where to start looking for it.
Merriam-Webster defines clutter as “a crowded or confused mass or collection.” When I think of the word clutter, I think mess. I think of stacked newspapers in a hoarder’s house or a sink full of dirty dishes or a kitchen counter so crowded there’s barely enough room to work or a wall of boxes collapsing the minute you open the closet door. Sometimes houses appear orderly because the clutter is hidden from view behind that closed closet door . . . or tucked away in drawers . . . or stored in the attic or basement where no one ever goes.
In most cases, clutter is basically an accumulation of unnecessary things that need to be cleared. If something is useful or you love it—because it’s beautiful and enhancing your life and lifestyle, holds special meaning, has sentimental value, or invokes memories that are precious to you—by all means, keep it. The whole purpose of decluttering is to surround yourself with the things you need and love.
Some questions to ask yourself
- Do you need it? Is it essential? Does it enhance the quality of my life? Identify (1) what it is you do every day, and (2) what you enjoy doing. No, these are not the same. You might go to work every day, but not enjoy it . . . or you might like going to movies, but don’t do it on a daily basis. Once you’ve identified your lifestyle, determine how the item relates to it. I love a cup of coffee first thing every morning, so a coffee maker is a must-have. Candlelit evenings require candles and candle holders. I rarely bake, so why keep all the pie pans?
- Does the item work? Anything broken or unusable, goes. This includes out-of-date medication and vitamins, rusty tools, dead batteries, pens that don’t work, torn clothing, stained tablecloths.
- Does the item get used? Our crystal stemware is lovely to look at, but we don’t set a table with water, wine, and champagne glasses.
- Is it a duplicate item? You only have to unpack four complete sets of fine china to know you have three sets too many. If you’ve ever combined households, like we did, you can count on finding duplicates.
- Would you replace the item if it were broken, damaged, stolen, or lost? If the answer is no, it can’t be all that important.
- Are you saving the item for someday? This applies to just about all of the “heirloom” items we were hoping to pass on to the kids. Do they even want the stuff? A wake up call came when my daughter said, Why would I want such expensive wine glasses when I can get some for $10 each at Crate & Barrel; and, if they break, I can go back and get more?
- Does the item serve its purpose well? No matter how decorative or cute, knick knacks are generally unnecessary and do nothing but sit on shelves collecting dust.
- Has the item been replaced by a better model? Inexplicably, we keep broken or outdated versions of tech gadgets, even after they’ve been replaced. Pointless.
- Is the item being stored away in an out-of-sight place? Just because the kids’ baby blankets and christening clothes are neatly folded in the cedar chest, it doesn’t mean they aren’t clutter. No matter how carefully a thing is stored, if you never use it and have no plans to use it, why keep it?
- Does the souvenir or memento actually prompt memories? Storing boxes of the kids’ kindergarten drawings or A+ arithmetic papers is nothing but hoarding. We never look at the stuff, the kids don’t want it—get rid of it all. Oh, and that Employee of the Month plaque from a job I didn’t like much is now gone with the wind.
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