Getting rid of stuff can just seem so darn overwhelming. So what’s a person to do?
If you’re feeling intimidated by the thought of a thorough detox, here are six tough questions to ask yourself. We guarantee they will help if you answer them honestly.
1: Is this something I use regularly?
You’ve probably got things in your attic that you haven’t seen, let alone used, in years. When going through boxes and bags of unused things, ask yourself: When was the last time I used it? If you can’t come up with a recent example, then toss it or donate it immediately. You clearly don’t need it cluttering up your life.
2: Is this something that adds value to my life?
Ask yourself if this is something that you love and that adds value to your life. If it does, and some examples are pieces of art and holiday decorations, then by all means keep it. Simplifying your life means removing the things you don’t love or use, so that you can use and appreciate the ones you do.
3: Do I have duplicates?
Do you really need to have one in every color? By getting rid of duplicates, you are creating space for what you currently have to be used effectively. If after you’ve used something to the point that it wears down or breaks, you can always go out and buy a replacement. In the end, if you buy replacements as needed instead of storing duplicates, not only will you be more organized, but you’ll also probably save a lot of money.
4: Would my life be easier if I got rid of this?
Wouldn’t an organized box of kids’ school supplies be a heck of a lot easier than trying to find a glue stick hidden somewhere in a big pile of half-used construction paper, a gazillion crayons and old dried-up markers? When you eliminate extra stuff and organize what you have, you’ll find that your life gets easier. You can locate the things you need and find that you don’t have to buy things you don’t need.
5: Am I keeping this as an obligation to someone else?
Wedding gifts fall into this category. Who wants to give away something associated with one of the best days of your life, even though you have no use for it? Get rid of it, move it out. Don’t think of it as betraying a memory. Instead, think of it as sharing your good memories with others.
6: If you are a chronic clutterer, what are you hiding behind all that clutter?
Is there an insecurity in your life, a deep wound that was never healed? Did a parent leave when you were young? Did your family fall on hard times and you can’t give up the fear that it might happen again? Did someone hurt you by calling you stupid? If so, that could account for a sometimes-irrational need to collect things. You might be saving everything your child ever made in school to prove that you are a good parent. Collecting bread tabs is not such a big deal, because they just might come in handy someday, right? And by collecting books, you might be trying to prove to yourself and others that you are not dumb.
It might require the guidance of a professional therapist or a friend with a very good ear to work through some of these issues. If you’ve tried and tried to get rid of the clutter and you find that it constantly sneaks up on you, it may be worthwhile to begin digging into your past to see if that clutter is trying to serve the purpose of protecting you from something.
The writers are co-founders of Buttoned Up, a company dedicated to helping stressed women get organized. For more columns, go to shns.com.