Disclosure: This is a collaborative post.
Humans are, generally, sentimental creatures. This is often said as a mild criticism of our tendency to cling to things more than we should, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing. We hold on to things that have meaning to us, because it helps us to remember what matters. And so when it comes to decluttering our homes, we do want to be relatively ruthless in terms of what we keep and what we don’t – but we also should keep in mind the above, and our reasons for holding on to things.
When it comes to creating space in our home, it’s generally advised we keep four categories for everything we look at. Naturally, there is “Keep”, and also “Throw Away”. Between those two options, there are a further two: “Store” and “Give Away”. It’s relatively obvious what all of these boxes mean, and below we’ll give some guidance on what factors should see you put items in each box (metaphorically or literally).
What to keep in your home
This category obviously and automatically applies to anything that you still regularly use – decluttering is all about removing items that are not serving a function beyond taking up space. Beyond items that are still in use, the “keep” section is for those most treasured pieces. Items relating to friends or family members who have passed on or have moved away, for example, but also things like your first purchase as a family or as a homeowner.
What to store
Storage is for those items that you don’t want to lose control of, but at the same time don’t really have space enough in your house for, and nor can you justify keeping them close by. What you store will also depend to some extent on the size of storage space, and you’ll want to be up with the latest self storage news to know how much space you can afford (and for how long). Appliances that aren’t often used, collectibles and things like camping or sporting equipment (when you’re out of season) will be best going here.
What to give away
Consider all of the items that you don’t want to throw away, but can’t practically explain a reason for keeping. Try and think about who might like to have things like old books, quality clothing that doesn’t work for you anymore, and furniture you’re looking to replace. This can also be a solution for old tech: if you know someone who likes taking things apart and fixing them, then they’ll appreciate the chance to practice on the laptop you had a few years ago, which sort of works but is never going to be much use to you anymore. If you don’t know anyone specifically to give these things to, goodwill will always be interested.
What to throw away
The final pile is all of the stuff that you don’t use, don’t see yourself using in the future, and can’t really see anyone else using either. Be honest with yourself on this: you might feel like something could go to goodwill, but would you be happy to pass it on to a friend or family member? If not, don’t cramp goodwill with it. Don’t keep anything that tangentially connects to a time you’re nostalgic for – if we did that, then none of us would ever have space in our houses.