As I sifted through our clutter, I identified nine criteria for determining which stuff to throw away now -- with no regrets.
1. Does this thing work? It was hard to admit that something was broken and couldn't be fixed -- say, our dud toaster or my daughter's frog clock. Why was I hanging on to those things?
2. Would I replace it if it were broken or lost? If not, I must not really need the thing.
3. Is it potentially useful -- although it never actually gets used? Do I need an over-sized water bottle, a corkscrew with an exotic mechanism, or a tiny vase? How many spare glass jars do I need?
4. Why was I "saving" it? Leaving bath gel in the tube, or hoarding my favorite stationery in a desk drawer, is wasteful.
5. Does it serve its purpose well? We have a lot of "cute" kitchen utensils that don't work.
6. Has it been replaced by a better model? I'm in the habit of keeping broken or outdated versions of tech gadgets, even after they've been replaced. Pointless.
7. Is it nicely put away in an out-of-the-way place? Just because things are nicely organized doesn't mean they're not clutter. No matter how tidily a thing is stored, if I never use it, why keep it?
8. Does this memento prompt any memories? I tend to keep things that seem to be "mementos," assuming that they have some emotional resonance, but many don’t. The attendance trophy from my daughter’s preschool sports class -- out.
9. Have I ever used this thing? I was shocked to find, when I started looking, how many things I owned that we had never once used. Many were gifts, but I promised myself that we’d either put these things to use within a few weeks or give them away.
This article appears in the Winter 2011 issue of ADDitude.
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