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On letting go of “stuff”

by Karen on September 16, 2009

storage roomI’ve always been a bit of a pack rat. Not in the pathological sense, but in the sentimental sense. I often hold on to things for which I have no use either because I think I’ll need them or because I can’t let go for “sentimental reasons.”

Books, CDs, electronics, junk from college. I struggle to force myself to let go of things, which has led to an unfortunate amount of clutter stuffed into the closet in our guest room. Among the most embarrassing:

  • My old desktop PC that I haven’t used since I bought my laptop a year and a half ago.
  • A box of CDs that we don’t listen to (those are going to the record store this weekend, I promise).
  • Too many articles of clothing to count that I haven’t worn in probably two years.
  • A footlocker full of sentimental things from high school and college. Some of it is worth keeping (journals and letters and photos), but most of it is just garbage.

I’ve vowed to clear this stuff out of our apartment many times before, but this time I mean it. If it’s junk, it’s not coming with us when we move in 15 months.

If you’re like me, this change in behavior doesn’t happen overnight. Keeping things I don’t need has become a bad habit, but it’s one that I’m determined to break. I recommend the book “It’s All Too Much” by Peter Walsh if you’re trying to break your clutter habit.

Here are the steps I’m taking in the next year to break my habit and clear the clutter from our apartment:

Get a second opinion.

Ask someone who doesn’t have a sentimental attachment to the item whether they can see a use for it. Your spouse or a close friend who doesn’t have a stuff collecting problem can offer you a fresh perspective. If you’re having trouble explaining why you still have your senior prom dress or you feel a little foolish saying that you you might someday wear that bright orange bridesmaid dress again, it’s time to let it go.

Put it to the one year test.

One of my favorite tips for reducing closet clutter is the one season test. At the end of the season, go through each article of clothing, and if you haven’t worn it at all, it’s time to donate it. Try using a similar test for those items lying around that you’re keeping “just in case” you need it again someday. If it’s been stuffed in a drawer or closet for over 12 months and you’ve never had a reason to use it, you most likely never will.

If it’s really that important to you, why is it collecting dust in storage?

My wedding dress has been stuffed in a closet since our wedding day. I saw no reason to have it preserved. I considered selling it, but it’s stained up on the bottom from our outdoor photos and I doubt any bride would want to wear a dress with grass stains. My plan is to use the salvageable fabric to turn it into a baby quilt, but I haven’t gotten around to it.

If you’re holding on to items that you can’t use anymore but can’t bear to throw away, find a way to repurpose them. That box of old photos can be put into a scrapbook; the baby furniture in your attic can be refinished and handed down to someone in your family who can use it; and the stone from your grandmother’s antique ring can be set in a setting that fits your style so you’ll actually wear it. If the item is really that important to you, it shouldn’t be collecting dust in storage.

What are your methods for fighting the war on stuff?

Photo by merrickb

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