10 questions to help you reduce

(or how to part with your sacred clutter)

10 Questions to help you reduce

I have a lot of sacred clutter. If you read my blog much, you already know that, since I’ve been obsessively writing purging, antiques, and heirlooms for about two years. Next week, I move into a different house; I’d say “new” house, except that it’s the oldest house we’ve owned. I’m super-excited about the move.

Let me re-phrase. At least I will be when it’s over. After a year of purging and integrating family heirlooms into my household, I find that I am sorting and purging and donating and selling all over again, because frankly, some things aren’t worth loading into your car or paying someone to put them on a moving truck.

Sorting and purging also happens around the holidays–usually in January–when you realize that to accommodate the new stuff you just bought, you’ll have to get rid of some old stuff.

I have found that these 10 questions have helped me get rid of things and re-prioritize what to keep:

  1. When did I use it last? With the exception of the turkey fryer, Christmas decorations, and beach chairs, a lot of what we keep is for “just in case” situations. If you want to reduce clutter, get rid of everything in the I-can’t-remember-when-I used-it-last category.
  2. Have I gotten my money’s worth out of it? If you’ve used something a lot and used it well, it’s probably time to chuck it. I wore a $10 sweater dress the other day that I’ve had for years. It’s starting to get all those little fur balls on it. I think I can take it to our thrift store in good conscience.
  3. Would someone else love it more than I do? Sometimes, I donate or give away items that I use but I know they will bring someone else a lot more joy than they do to me.
  4. Is it out of style? Yes, everything comes back. But most likely, you won’t be that size by the time the style re-circulates, or your things won’t be the right color, or whatever. Unless it’s worthy of a costume party, chuck it.
  5. How many of these do I have? We all have a bent toward collecting the same types of things: 5 black blouses, 3 same-style tennis shoes, 2 copies of the same book, excessive amounts of cleaning or office supplies. You must ask yourself if multiples of the same thing are really necessary. If you lose one or run out, will it be impossible to find more? This is why we have houses that are bigger than what we need.
  6. Will the person who gave it to me be offended? This is tricky if you’re a sentimentalist. My answer is nearly always No and They won’t even know.  But that’s not always true, especially with spouses and children. Maybe parents, too, but they are probably used to you not liking what they pick out for you. If you must keep it, keep it for a while and then get rid of it (this is assuming that you don’t like it/can’t use it/etc.) Chances are, if you’ve had it for a long while, the person who gave it to you has long forgotten about it.
  7. Is this a part of my legacy that I want to remember? Heirlooms and keepsakes can bring up good and bad memories. Keep the ones that make you feel happy or make you remember a loved one. Pictures might be an exception, so you’ll have to think about that one a bit.
  8. How can I use this or re-purpose this? If you want to keep something sentimental, but you have no use for it, re-purpose it into something you can use. Use a pitcher as a vase, make a table out of an old trunk or a quilt out of old baby clothes. I’m having an old bed made into a cushioned bench right now–can’t wait!
  9. Will my children want this? and Will my children throw this away after I’m gone? If you don’t know, ask them, and tell them to be honest. Dollars to donuts, they don’t want Great-Grandma’s china, silver, or Victorian tables. They just don’t. And if you don’t want them, sell them, donate them, or re-purpose them now. Why keep it?
  10. When I move into the old people’s home, what will I want to take with me? While you’re probably a long way from downsizing this much, it’s a good question to re-focus your attention from all the stuff in your house to the few things that actually mean something. Prioritize those things, and give yourself permission to sell or donate everything else when the time comes.

Don’t be a slave to your stuff. You can’t take it with you when you die, and unless you’ve built a terra cotta army or inherited George Washington’s desk, your stuff isn’t going into anyone’s museum. Try to detach yourself from everything. Your stuff does not define you.

It’s just stuff.

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