Keep It or Toss It: When It’s Time to De-Clutter

by Ben SanfordOctober 12, 2018

Dealing With Your Inner Hoarder

Over the years of your life, you’ve probably managed to accumulate a few possessions. It’s only natural to want to hang onto things for their utility, their sentimental value, or their sheer beauty. But no one wants to end up on the show Hoarders because their need to hold onto things got way out of hand.

We love our possessions – in many ways, what you choose to hang onto can even define who you are to your guests, your family, and your friends. But the things we carry with us through life should never take over our lives, much less our homes.

Unfortunately, it can be challenging to know what to hang onto and what to toss, even if you’ve made the decision to de-clutter your life (and home). It can be done, though. You can let go of many of the things that are cluttering up your house and free up physical, mental, and emotional space by doing so – you just need to do in a systematic (and unrelenting) way.

home organizing

Let’s Start in the Kitchen

Most Americans center their home lives in the kitchen, and whatever room is closest to it. According to celebrated cook and television personality Alton Brown, nearly every piece of equipment you’ve purchased and faithfully stored in your kitchen was a complete waste of money. He says that you can get by with a couple of good knives, a cutting board, and a good set of pots. And in some ways, he’s right.

Here’s how to de-clutter your kitchen, pain-free. Go through everything and if you haven’t used it in the last year, then donate it to your local thrift store or charity. That alone should free up tons of counter space and several drawers so that the things that you use can enjoy a little room (and they’ll be easier to locate).

Many of us accumulate kitchen equipment that collects dust as we repeatedly use the same small amount of items. Make it an annual purge so you don’t end up swimming in gadgets and utensils that won’t get used.

home organizing

Let’s Move on to the Living Areas

For most of us, the room nearest the kitchen is either the almost-never-used formal dining room or the living room. Setting aside the dusty showroom for your great grandmother’s china collection, we’ll focus on the living room.

In most contemporary North American homes, the living room is a place to relax, put your feet up, and engage in recreational activities like reading, watching screens, and conversing. If anything in this room does not directly contribute to these activities or provide decorative value, it probably needs to go.

If you can’t bear to get rid of it (because it’s a board game you play once a decade, or something similar) put it in storage so it isn’t cluttering up the place.

The Closet, Bed, and Bath

We could devote an entire article to your closet, and you probably already understand that. Instead, we’ll keep it simple—barring what you might be hanging onto for the odd formal occasion (for some men this may be that one ill-fitting suit), if you haven’t worn it in a year (and it has no strong sentimental value), you won’t miss it. Yes, you might be able to fit into those jeans from college again someday, but they won’t be in fashion by then anyway. Let them go.

As for the bathroom—beauty products, shampoo, conditioners, lotions, supplements, medicines, etc. all have expiration dates. If you simply got rid of everything that’s already expired, you would likely have three times the space you need in the cabinets to easily organize what remains.
home organizing

Finding Balance and Finding Peace

Finding peace requires a bit of rigidity; it’s counter-intuitive that way. Discipline in maintaining enough uncluttered space in your life to be able to think, to feel, and to be can be achieved if you value that space over the objects that are currently residing in it. You can do it if you want to – just start in an easy place and make some strong decisions. Then take the next step. You’ll balance out, eventually.

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About The Author
Ben Sanford
Ben is a real estate agent and freelance writer. He's lived on the east coast his entire life and is just as "at home" on a snowboard as he is in the office. When not writing about local real estate markets and researching hot new tips for homeowners, he can be found working on his home renovation projects with help from his wife Melissa and their kids, Josh and Cheyenne.