Deciding what to keep

Dear Home Ec 101,

I need a strong person to help me resolve to get rid of old shoes, belts, purses and scarves, even though I don’t use any of them. Some of the scarves and bags are really nice ones (if a little bit old lady-ish) inherited from my m-i-l. Some I bought in England and have happy memories attached. Some are Euro comfort shoes from when I had plantar fasciitis from running on pavement. They weren’t cheap, and what if I develop it again?

See my problem? What can I do to get my closet back?



Ivy says:

That can be hard to decide sometimes. I think you have to ask yourself questions when you’re determining whether to keep stuff or not. I have 3 main questions:

1. Does it have to be stored in my closet?

Often you can store things you might need later, or only once or twice a year, somewhere else. But your closet may be the best place. It’s just something you need to consider. If it would be better stored in the garage, basement, or attic, put it there.

2. Is it something I have some kind of emotional attachment to?

This one you have to be really careful with because you could probably form an emotional attachment with just about everything in your closet. I try to keep 5 items of emotional attachment or less in my closet. I have stuff like my high school letterman’s jacket and my grandma’s awesome purple dress that I’ll never fit into again, but love like crazy. Just keep a set amount of what you can keep depending on your closet size and you’ll be fine.

3. Which is worse, this item taking up space in my closet or the idea of never seeing it again?

It’s interesting, the same thing this year that you can’t bear to part with you may have no trouble at all getting rid of next year. I keep a box that are questionable items. Sometimes when I get really froggy I’ll toss the box out entirely without even looking in there. I’ve never lost anything that I truly regretted.

My Aunt Marjorie always said she only wanted to own enough stuff that she could put it all in a suitcase and just pick up and go whenever she wanted to. She consequently had one of the most uncluttered houses ever. Naturally, she owned more than a suitcase full of items, but thinking of that kept her uncluttery. I try to think of that, too.

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  1. robe de cocktail on October 21, 2009 at 6:48 am

    I actually have helped several friends and family members organize and clean out their homes and this book has been a great source of information and encouragement to everyone involved.

  2. Sally Parrott Ashbrook on April 15, 2008 at 1:00 pm

    When I went through the same emotional sequence as Stumped, I decided to donate the things I didn’t need to a nonprofit that transitions homeless people into apartments. It’s amazing what I could convince myself to happily give away when I imagined it making someone else’s life more joyful. It was also amazing how much lighter I felt once it was all gone. There have been a couple of things I wish I’d kept (like I gave away about half my wine glasses), but I just borrow those things from friends if I need them. Life goes on.

  3. Eyebee on April 6, 2008 at 11:51 pm

    An Idea for bloggers who wish to have a clear out.

    Find one item each day to get rid of. (Trash, goodwill, family member – it doesn’t matter, but it has to leave the house).

    Take a photograph of it.
    Blog it…
    Call it something like “today’s item”

    Of course more expensive stuff could go on eBay, or you could offer it to your blog readers….

  4. tammy on April 5, 2008 at 1:48 pm

    For anyone trying to declutter/organize, I would love to recommend the book “It’s All Too Much” by Peter Walsh. I actually (unprofessionally) have helped several friends and family members organize and clean out their homes and this book has been a great source of information and encouragement to everyone involved.

  5. KJ on April 4, 2008 at 11:12 pm

    Phooey, I had a great comment written up here that didn’t get saved because I didn’t know email was a required field. Bummer.

    Anyway – here’s the nutshell: If you’re donating, make sure you read up on the new tax laws:

  6. Need A Nap2 on April 4, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    Scarves – take a picture of each one or all of them. Then get rid of it! 🙂 A picture takes up a lot less room and you can treasure the memory without the clutter. That’s what has helped me let go of a lot of old clothes, at least I have a picture of it.

    I like all of the suggestions. Thanks from a working-on-it packrat!

  7. tink on April 3, 2008 at 10:54 pm


    Start with another area in the house. Somewhere that has far fewer items that you “might need someday” or items that have memories attached.

    Then, be brutal with that area. Ask yourself, Do I love it? Do I use it? Do I have another one I like better?

    If the answer to any of those is no – find it a new home. You’ll bless yourself (with more space) and you’ll bless others who may really need those things that are sitting there doing nothing.

    The reason I suggest starting elsewhere is because I, a 100% certifiable packrat – started in a back closet full of “stuff” – I was (what I thought at the time) was brutal and bagged up everything that didn’t pass those 3 questions.

    Decluttering is addictive.

    That new spot you just decluttered will look so awesome, that you’ll want another spot to look like that too. You’ll want another spot that you no longer have to dig to find a specific item.

    So then you’ll move to the next place.

    The thing is, what I “thought” was brutal at the beginning of my decluttering obsession, by the end, I knew wasn’t nearly brutal enough, and went back through the first spaces and probably got rid of just about the same amount of stuff.

    Sorry for the novel here, but honestly, decluttering my home was an amazing journey . It gave me the gift of more time in my day because now, everything has a home and when I need something, I can lay my hands on it in moments.

    When someone else needs something, I can direct them to exactly where it is without having to get up and go hunt for it myself.

    My husband says “In 18 years she never threw ANYTHING away, now I’m afraid I’ll wake up and find my butt in the dumpster”

    Me, the packrat, is actually organized! Sounds silly, but it’s given me more peace in my life than I ever could have imagined.

    Good luck, be strong, you’ll be giving yourself a wonderful gift.

  8. Carol on April 3, 2008 at 9:26 pm

    What a difficult decision to make. We have people collecting for a local charity next week, and they accept about anything. It is a good cause, and helped me get in gear and clear out stuff. We have about 10 bags of clothes and a few misc. odds and ends ready to go, and we still have a week left to clean!

    Knowing that I am helping other people, really made my decision a lot easier about what to keep and what to get rid of. The tax deduction for next year helped a bit too 🙂

  9. Mrs.W on April 3, 2008 at 8:07 pm

    Can all those scarves be re-purposed somehow? How about a quilt? Then you could enjoy them on your guest bed or hung on a wall.

    As for the shoes… well, donate them to a charity! They could really be a blessing for someone who can’t afford to buy shoes for their foot problems. If you need another pair later, you can always order something else, right?

    Other items can be passed on to other family members, who might also have an emotional attachment to things and have use for them.

    Lastly, remember that your memories of special people and places you’ve visited are in your heart and mind (and photos), not the “stuff.”

  10. warillever on April 3, 2008 at 12:44 pm

    I love your Aunt Marjorie’s sentiment.

    Maybe we could make that one steamer trunk per person?

  11. Connie on April 3, 2008 at 12:17 pm

    I want to be uncluttery! (oh, and it’s a pretty cool word, too!)

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