Many of us are spending a lot more time in our homes right now as we’re social distancing or sheltering-in-place due to the coronavirus. If you find yourself feeling antsy for a new project around the house, now is a good time to take stock of your belongings and declutter!
While we are huge fans of decluttering (obvs), it’s not without its challenges, of course. A lot of people struggle with letting go or deciding what to keep, and this process can stir up all kinds of surprising emotions.
First of all, be gentle with yourself. It’s okay to feel emotional or indecisive, and it’s okay to give yourself a grace period. If you run across items that you’re not sure you want to keep but can’t let go of just yet, getting some emotional AND physical distance from them can help. Try boxing up those items and storing them out of sight for a few months. If you don’t need them or miss them during that time period, your decision might be a little bit easier to make down the line!
We always encourage making mindful decisions when decluttering. If you’re having a hard time, or just need some guidance, here are five questions to ask yourself while you’re decluttering:
When was the last time I used this item?
If it’s been a year since you’ve used (or even seen!) an item, it’s probably time to let it go. There might be a few exceptions to this rule – for example, seasonal or specialty items. But in most cases, if you haven’t used something in a year or more, strongly consider putting it in the “donate” bin. If you’re keeping something “just in case” you might need it one day, remind yourself that if you really do need a specific item in the future you will find a way to get it, either by borrowing or repurchasing. Allowing “just in case” items to take up valuable space in your home just isn’t worth it in the long run.
Is the item damaged, stained, or in need of repair?
Sometimes we use the “I can repair it!” excuse to hold on to things longer than we should. Be honest with yourself about your capacity or willingness to repair a damaged item. Give yourself a deadline of one month. If you haven’t repaired the item by your deadline, let it go, recycle it (if possible), or give it to someone who will repurpose it.
If I saw this item in the store today, would I buy it?
If the answer is no, it’s probably safe to donate it!
Do I have a home for this item?
Tidying expert Marie Kondo says that preventing clutter is “simply about putting things back where they belong.” Do all of your items have their own clear, logical homes in your house? Are you able to find things when you need them? If there are items that just don’t belong, open up some space for the ones that do!
How do I feel when I look at this item?
How does this item compare to the things in your home that definitely make you happy? Are there negative feelings or memories associated with it? Are you keeping it out of obligation or guilt? Any negative emotions surrounding an object are good reasons to let it go, even if it was a gift. You can appreciate the gesture and the giver, but receiving a gift isn’t a life-long contract. You don’t have to keep it forever if you don’t enjoy it or it’s not useful to you. Same goes for expensive items. The money you spent is a sunk cost, and keeping an item you no longer love or need doesn’t return that value to you. You lose money when you buy something, not when you get rid of it. Appreciate the lesson this item taught you, and let it go!
When we declutter mindfully by asking ourselves these questions, we learn a lot about ourselves – about our needs, our shopping habits, our lives. This is important information that can serve you in the future and help prevent clutter from building up again!