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Decluttering is massive right now, especially in the #debtfreecommunity – I guess the two go hand in hand. You want to have more money to throw at your debts or other financial goals, so selling your unwanted possessions is a logical step.
For me personally decluttering isn’t about the money – though you can bet I’ll try my damnedest to sell something before I just get rid. It’s about creating the calm, home environment that I envisage when I think about my ‘perfect home’.
Decluttering doesn’t come naturally to a lot of people, it’s human nature to form strong attachments and we become almost as attached to things as we do to the people we love. It is funny how an inanimate object can have such a powerful hold over you, so obviously when you’re just starting out with decluttering it can be difficult because it feels so foreign.
So why declutter? Before we get into the nitty-gritty of the questions to ask when decluttering, let’s take a look at the reasons why you should declutter.
The obvious benefit of decluttering is creating space. It is amazing how much stuff we can accumulate in our houses and as someone who has moved house several times in the past few years, believe me I am shocked each and every time I come to pack up our belongings by just how much stuff we’ve managed to collect.
Decluttering allows you to take back control of your home and create space instead of more storage to house even more purchases. There is nothing more stressful to me than opening a messy, chaotic cupboard that’s full to bursting. Decluttering allows us to strip out the rubbish that we have been keeping for who knows what reason and allows us the space to keep the items that are actually needed and loved.
Having less things allows you to be more organised and to find a home for everything rather than cramming something into the nearest available space. When you pare back what you own, you are able to create systems that work for you and your household allowing you to access and find what you need when you need it. Having everything in its place means you’ll never have to stress and waste time looking for important documents. You will never lose your car keys or your wallet because they’ll be in the spot they should be.
Less clutter means less things to clean and to clean around. I used to have so many things on my kitchen worktops, it would take ages to move each thing and clean under and around it. Now the clear surfaces simply need a wipe down, which means it is much easier to keep on top of.
Sell your unused and unwanted items and recoup some of the cash you wasted in the first place. Try selling online (ebay, facebook, gumtree etc) or have a bootsale. You will clear the clutter in your house and have some money in your pocket to boot. Win-win.
The ultimate goal for me is to create a peaceful home environment. Somewhere I can relax after a hard day of work. Not somewhere that is constantly messy and disorganised and causes me even more stress. I want to spend less time cleaning. I want to find what I am looking for. And I want to smile when I walk into a room, not feel overwhelmed at the sheer volume of stuff in front of me.
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When you start decluttering, some things will be easy to get rid of – you might find yourself blazing through the house filling bags of stuff to sell or donate with ease. But what about once that initial spark of motivation has gone and deciding what to discard isn’t coming so easy anymore? What about when we come to the areas that we know we need to pare down but struggle with – like clothing. We keep so much that we don’t wear but why? How do we address the reasons we’re hanging on to things we clearly don’t need and make the decision to get rid?
Never get rid of something you love because you feel like you have to! Our homes should be filled with things that make us happy and serve a purpose. If you love it, definitely keep it.
As above if something is being used, then we should simply keep it.
Sentimental items are tricky. Sometimes we keep things out of guilt because it reminds us of someone or because it’s been handed down to us. How does it make you feel when you see it? If it makes you sad but you feel you can’t part with it, then pack it up and store it in the attic – you’ll know it’s always there. If it’s something you’ve inherited but you don’t like and you’re keeping out of a sense of obligation, consider selling it and putting the money towards something you love instead. That way you’ll still be reminded of the person and will have something that brings you joy not something you’re holding onto begrudgingly.
For example, a piece of jewellery that isn’t to your taste – sell and buy a piece that is and think of the person you inherited it from whenever you wear it. I’d much prefer to have someone have something they love that reminds them of me than something they feel ‘urgh’ about.
Photos etc – can you digitalise them? Can you create a beautiful album or storage system that will make them easier to access or display? I personally love printing photos over digital. Every now and then I’ll make a conscious effort to print them off and fill an album.
When was the last time you needed it? What would be the worst case scenario if you got rid and then did need it? Could it be quickly replaced? I found myself doing this a lot with clothes, especially dresses – but I could wear it to a wedding. In reality it actually doesn’t look that nice on and I’d probably shop for a new outfit anyway. Don’t keep things just in case. We have almost instant access to anything we could possibly need so use the shops storage space not your own house for ‘maybes’.
Argh, this is another one I struggle with. I feel guilty getting rid of something I know someone has spent money on. However, think about if you were the gift giver – would you want your present sat in a drawer untouched because the recipient feels obliged to keep it? I wouldn’t particularly want someone to tell me they don’t love it and they got rid of it, but I wouldn’t want something to bring someone feelings of guilt either. You would’ve thanked the gift giver when you received it and have been grateful that they thought of you, so think of the actual act of giving as the gift and be thankful for that, rather than tying those feelings to the object.
It took me a long time to realise that the money was already wasted the day I bought it. Hanging onto it isn’t going to change that. Sell it or donate it, cut your losses and learn the lesson. Then move on.
I can see how some people see the act of decluttering as wasteful but there are ways you can reduce the waste. Try selling or rehoming in the first instance. If the item isn’t reusable then look into how it can be recycled before just taking it to landfill. Don’t feel guilted into keeping something. Again, learn the lesson and move forward.
Anyone else do this? Well I’ve been meaning to start this project and it’ll be used for that. I’ve been meaning to redecorate. I’ve been meaning to lose weight. Etc. It hasn’t happened so far, so what’s going to change? Get rid.
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If you’re questioning whether you should keep something or not, then you should probably get rid. The fact that it’s crossed your mind means that something inside you is telling you you don’t need it. But let’s take a deeper look at why you might keep it and how to know if you should get rid.
If the first benefit of decluttering is creating space, then the first reason we are questioning whether we should be keeping something is probably because it’s taking up space. For example clothing, how many times have you said you have nothing to wear, yet there is a wardrobe almost buckling under the weight of what’s squashed inside? If something is taking up too much space, we need to consider other things – do I need it? Do I use it? Do I love it? If the answer is no – get rid. If the answer is yes then keep it and think about how you can reorganise the space to make it more usable – can it live elsewhere? Would a different storage system be more user friendly? Could I swap it for something else?
If it is broken – can it be fixed? Can it be easily replaced? Is it decorative even if it isn’t useful anymore? If it is broken and can’t be fixed, or would be easier to replace or live without, then just get rid. When I was decluttering my kitchen, I found a broken iron in the back of a cupboard, why? Because I was too lazy to deal with it and just get rid so instead shoved it out of sight and out of mind.
Easy – get rid. Sell it or donate it, we all change and so do our tastes. Pass it on to someone new and give it a new lease of life with someone who will like it, don’t hold onto it just because you did like it once upon a time. If it doesn’t make you happy anymore, say goodbye.
Where is the pressure coming from? From yourself? Why do you think that is, is it because you know you don’t really need or want it but you just don’t want to deal with it? Is another member of the household telling you to get rid? Or maybe it’s the pristine, minimal houses on Instagram and Pinterest that make you feel like your home needs to look that way.
The important thing here is to really think about how you feel, rather than other people’s opinions or how you think you should feel. Ask yourself and answer honestly why you feel the need to declutter this particular item or group of things. If you love it and/or it serves a purpose to you, then don’t feel forced to get rid.
As previously mentioned, our tastes change. Sometimes we feel like our space can do with a refresh and a new look. If something doesn’t go with the décor but you do still love it and use it – can it be moved to a different place? Can it be upcycled or adapted to fit in with the décor?
If not, can you live with it as is? Yes, keep it. If it’s really bothering you – get rid.
Get rid. Donate it. Sell it. Give it to someone who could use it.
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I started Katie Saves while on Maternity Leave to document our adjustment to living on less. Now back in work - I blog about all things money with a little life organisation thrown in for good measure. Join me!