So you’ve decided that it might be time to go through your belongings and try to decided what to keep and what to get rid of? This can be a challenging process, it requires making decisions about the things that we have some attachment to or even love. Unfortunately this is an important activity, we cannot keep buying things without figuring out what we can part with as our homes have limited space. People have such a varied approach to this process: from the person who has no qualms parting with their stuff to the person who holds onto it – dearly concerned with that “might need it one day” mentality. Then there are the ones that fall somewhere in-between, where they hold onto things for a while and then seem to reach a point where they are fed up and are happy to purge with ruthless abandon. Regardless of where you find yourself, there are questions that you can ask yourself as you tackle the sorting and purging process.
1. Do you love it?
2. Do you need it?
3. When was the last time you used it?
4. When is the next time you anticipate using it?
5. How hard would it be to replace?
6. How many do you have like it?
7. Do you have room for it? Are you willing to make room for it?
8. If you knew someone would love/need it more, would you give it away to them?
Some people believe that the first two questions are the only ones worth asking. This is especially valuable if you live in a small space. If you do not love it and you do not need it, it needs to find a new home. I understand this philosophy, and in many ways these are the two most important questions to ask yourself. They encourage you to think twice before simply keeping that gift you secretly dislike. You do not actually love that gift, and you certainly don’t need it, so how do you handle that non-cherished gift? If you do not need nor love something, is there ever a good reason to use your valuable space to store it?
It can be hard to part with everything that does not pass the criteria of the first two questions. Questions 3 through 6 can help you whittle down things further. Maybe you really like something, but when you start to think about it, you realize that you have not used it in 5 years. Then it can be easier to decide to pass it along to the next person. Answering these questions as well helps you see what you might be keeping that is simply taking up space without giving you much value.
I like asking people whether they have room for it. The ultimate goal of going through things is so that your things are uncluttered. You want to be able to find and get the things that you need and want. Yet, we all have our own values and cherish things that someone else might look at with a puzzled expression. I see how I can cling to certain things, and no one else seems to understand. With this in mind, if you can make room for it, then keep it. When we are reluctant to part with something, the next question is to figure out what you would rather give up in order to make room for it. I think I have shared the story of getting rid of shoes to make room in the bottom of the closet for books. This is a good example. It was an unlikely place for books, yet reflects the value of them and the lack of need for excess shoes. It directs you to figure out where your priorities really are, and what are you willing to do in order to make space for what you determine is important enough.
I will briefly talk on the idea of passing along your things if you knew someone else would cherish it more. Sometimes the idea of simply dropping your belongings at the local thrift store seems like an amorphous thing. Does it become less so if you posted it (or had someone do it for you) on FreeCycle? When people use FreeCycle, there is little doubt that the person requesting that very item you listed wants or needs it. You often have the option of picking from several people. You know that it is going to be appreciated instead of potentially sitting on a store shelf for a while. You could apply this to friends and family as well if you knew there was a need.
There may be other questions to ask yourself. Any question that will make you pause or even stop to think about the value of keeping the item is valuable. It is too easy to gloss over the process and simply keep the things. The truth is that if you have room for it, uncluttered and functional space, until there is a drive to go through it, it can stay as it is for the time being. I am an advocate of working with the space that is available and limiting yourself to that space. If or when that space needs more breathing room, that is the time to start the process of going through it. Then these questions can help you with making the decisions about what stays and goes.