Decluttering: When to Hold ‘em and When to Toss ‘em

Is it possible to be a hoarder and a minimalist?

I hope so, because that is me.

I act on both ends of the spectrum, and watch out! — it changes fast. Suddenly, a post-it note that reads Soup’s on the counter and remote’s on the couch. Feel better babe! becomes a piece of history I want to save and document forever. In the next moment, I look at the box of my wedding planning stuff and want to chuck it all in the garbage in the name of Simplification.

The frugal and resourceful side of me struggles with throwing things away. I ask, What if I need this later? I will have to buy it again! The minimalist in me says, Oh forget about it! If you haven’t used it in a month, be gone! Depending on my mood, I am bound to make some rash decisions and keep things that need to be tossed and toss things that really should be saved.

Maintaining a House is Hard WorkTo help my bipolar tendencies, I decided to put together a comprehensive list of everything I want to keep and toss. My rules for decluttering, if you will. At first this was just a small little list of things I was on the fence about, but I just kept writing and it got a little out of control (or under control, depending on how you look at it.)

In the next few weeks I am going to do some serious Spring Cleaning (J and Leia, you’ve been warned), and these rules will help guide me when my hoarder or minimalist tendencies start to drive me crazy. An important piece I will need to keep in mind is having a designated spot for everything. This is going to take some serious organizing. A lot of things in the keep pile, I will have to donate in order to fit in its designated spot. For example, I will be donating a lot of office supplies. It’s good to have on hand, but two shoeboxes full of pens is a little much. If it doesn’t fit in our desk drawer… off it goes!

Rules of Decluttering

CLOSET & BATHROOM | CLOTHES & BEAUTY

KEEP:

  • Buttons, in a jar
  • Hair ties and bobby pins
  • Old towels (to use for cleaning or Leia), so long as they fit in my designated bag (otherwise donate)
  • Clothes, shoes and bags I’ve worn in the last year

TOSS or DONATE:

  • Any clothes that are damaged or have pit stains
  • Dresses or skirts that require a slip (I never wear slips, and probably won’t start anytime soon)
  • Summer dresses and shirts that are low-cut and require a camisole underneath (this is a personal preference… I wear light-weight clothes in the summer to avoid extra clothing, so when if it requires an undershirt for modesty’s sake, it feels uncomfortable and never gets worn)
  • Clothes that are see-through or too tight
  • Clothes too big, even if I think I will may wear it if I’m pregnant
  • Wool sweaters or socks (I never wear them)
  • Hats that look funny on me
  • Shoes that are uncomfortable to walk in or worn down
  • Bags I don’t like or never use anymore
  • Old make-up, lotions or hair products I don’t use
  • Missing socks or earrings

KITCHEN & LAUNDRY ROOM | entertaining & cleaning

KEEP:

  • Grocery bags that can fit in my pantry bag-holder (otherwise toss)
  • White fast food napkins
  • Vases, pitchers, outdoor pots, etc.
  • Platters
  • Paper plates, unless they are ugly or flimsy

TOSS or DONATE:

  • Recipes that weren’t good from my recipe binder
  • Expired food
  • Expired medication or old prescriptions
  • Grocery bags that don’t fit in my pantry bag-holder
  • Cleaning products with chemicals
  • Cookbooks that are too complicated or require expensive ingredients I’ve never heard of
  • Ugly or outdated mugs I never use
  • Any kitchen spatulas, etc. that are broken or have too many duplicates

GUEST ROOM & OFFICE | organization, decor & hobbies 

KEEP:

  • Pens, paper and post-it notes that can fit in my desk drawer; all others get donated
  • Arts and craft supplies that fit in my designated drawer
  • Baskets and storage items, unless broken or ugly
  • Yearbooks
  • Fabric, ribbon, wreaths and seasonal decorations, unless it’s ugly or never used
  • Paperclips and clothes pins
  • Financial documents from the past 5 years in an organized folder
  • Unused plain picture frames for future gallery walls
  • Magazines from the past 4 months (put all recipes I want to make in a recipe binder)
  • Half or full marathon medals
  • Manuals or programming directions for technologies or electronics we own and use, saved in a file folder
  • College diplomas

TOSS or DONATE:

  • Magazines older than 5 months
  • Books I will never read, don’t care to display or have duplicate copies
  • All bulletins, wedding invitations, or announcements after the date from acquaintances or extended family.
  • Unused ugly picture frames
  • Financial documents older than 5 years old (shred)
  • Scrapbooking stuff (at this point in my life I won’t be doing any)
  • CDs or DVDs that skip or never watch/listen to
  • College notebooks (if it has a lot of great content, store it in my office at work)
  • Empty notebooks (at this point I’ve created a notebook for everything I need, and if I need to buy one they’re like $1)
  • Manuals or programming directions for technologies or electronics we don’t use, would never consider returning, selling or having a question about
  • Expired coupons or giftcards
  • Trophies, medals or certificates that aren’t important
  • Retail receipts we don’t need
  • High school or earlier diplomas
  • Pens or markers that don’t work
  • Old calendars and planners
  • Wrapping paper or gift bags I would never use
  • Used tissue paper

MEMORIES | MISCELLANEOUS

KEEP:

  • Bulletins, wedding invitations or announcements only from my immediate family or closest friends in a designated box
  • Anything from my wedding or early dating of significance
  • Photo albums (for now until I can create a digital version)
  • Tickets that have significance (this list is small)
  • Childhood journals

TOSS or DONATE:

  • All tickets that have no significance (which is most — such as plane, bus, concert, game tickets)
  • Old photos that are unflattering or poor quality
  • Church study guides (unless it was a really good one I wrote a lot in)
  • Post it notes, birthday cards, letters that don’t have any significance

Whew! I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me. I know these rules are a bit over-kill and most of the stuff is intuitive, but having it written down is going to help me immensely. I’ll let you know how it goes in the next few weeks. :)

What would you do differently?
Do you tend to tend to be a minimalist or hoarder?
How do you decide whether something is worth saving for later?



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  • Kelly

    I’m so glad to know I’m not the only one like this! You described my problem exactly. I definitely think it would help to make a list similar to yours, thanks for the idea!

  • Ann

    So glad I’m not the only one who does this “Clothes too big, even if I think I will may wear it if I’m pregnant”

  • http://www.thenorwegiangirl.com/ The Norwegian Girl

    this was a great inspo to me. I have a big storage room that´s filled with stuff I don`t even know what is any longer. I always find it difficult to part with things that have memories attached, even if the very item isn`t in use in any way. I´m very nostalgic and since I´ve moved so much in life, there are a lot of things that`s gone missing, so I`m always afraid of tossing out things..

  • rhitter1994

    Thanks Ginna! This came at the best time!

  • Amy

    Toss “Cleaning products with chemicals”??

    Do you plan to clean with just photons now?

    I clean with H2O, C2H4O2, NaHCO3, NaCl, C3H8O and sometimes NH3, C3H6O or NaClO. Or water, vinegar, baking soda, salt, alcohol, ammonia, acetone, or bleach. All chemicals. All dangerous in the wrong situation. All really great and safe cleaners in the right situation.

  • http://myprettypennies.com ginna

    Perhaps I should have clarified that! I recently have been using Norwex products (a natural cleaning line) and hope to get rid of most of my chemical-heavy cleaning products like windex, etc. And I definitely agree with you on using those ingredients in the right situation.

  • http://myprettypennies.com ginna

    I agree — it’s so hard!

  • http://myprettypennies.com ginna

    Haha, me too. :) I have a pile that I have been saving for “one day” but they’re getting so dated I’m sure even if they fit me when I am pregnant I won’t want to wear them.

  • http://myprettypennies.com ginna

    Feel free to steal the list! I printed it off and will be altering it as I need to when I go through stuff this weekend. :)

  • Amy

    That’s what I mean, Windex is mostly ammonia. The companies that make modern cleaning products undergo so much internal and external safety testing, that it’s safe to use. There’s safety factors built in, there’s end-of-life analysis done, there’s disclosure of ingredients to poison control and emergency contacts… these products are highly controlled to be safe. They’re not edible-safe of course, but then neither are most “natural” cleaners. The natural ones often use process chemicals that are also highly regulated, but don’t come out in the final product in any reportable amount. Sorry I went off on a tangent, it’s a great post and I plan to use the inspiration when I do my spring cleaning this weekend, I just get distracted when I see chemophobia.

  • Jamie LaFuze

    I completely agree with you on going crazy with tossing things yet wanting to keep others forever. Right now I’m trying to reign in the organization in our house, and finding a place for everything is key. Your lists helped me see what I really need to let go of!!!

  • M Ripples

    I have a tendency to keep way too much just in case. But I’ve been finding as I’ve started my spring cleaning, having so much stuff is costing me more because I forget what I have. Just in the last week I’ve found 3 brand new containers of disinfecting wipes, 2 belts, 2 filters and about 7 bags for our vacuum, 2 bottles of leather protector and a whole box of summer clothes that I forgot I had for one of my daughters. So I’ve been trying to get more organized and get rid of a lot. I just have to do it a little at a time. I can only get rid of so much in one cleaning session. Once I’ve hit my mental limit, if I take a break and go back to it a few days later, I can usually find more stuff get rid of.