The act of reducing is a neverending process in our lives.
Think about how we change our toothbrush every couple of months, unfollow accounts on social media we no longer are interested in, and listen to new songs once we’re tired of our current playlist.
We add value to our lives by subtracting what no longer serves a purpose.
The same principles should apply to our material possessions as well because a lot of us own a bunch of crap that we don’t need, considering that the average U.S. household owns around 300,000 items.
While I’m confident that you don’t own that much stuff, I’m sure that you have a good amount of junk collecting dust and taking up space that could better be used.
Recently I had donated a BUNCH of clothes, some with tags still attached. Some were impulse purchases of t-shirts that looked cool on the mannequin, but not on me. The rest were clothes gifted by family — either one size too big, or had a tacky design that didn’t fit my taste.
They were taking up so much space to the point where it would be an eyesore every time I would open the dresser to pick out one of the 7 or 8 shirts I wore out of the dozens I owned.
It was clear as day what I needed to get rid of.
However, minimizing isn’t always a clear cut process — particularly with items that we have an emotional attachment to, hindering the decluttering flow.
What we need to realize is that as our lives change, so will our needs.
If you happen to be conflicted about what does and doesn’t fit those needs, I highly recommend looking out for these 4 red flags that suggest it may be time to toss those items away — into the donation, recycle, or garbage bin.
1.) It gets in the way more than it gives the way.
Our possessions are supposed to make life more convenient, not inconvenient — isn’t that the reason we bought that item in the first place?
If you constantly find yourself looking for your favorite shirt through a pile of clothes you no longer wear, wouldn’t it be easier to get rid of those old clothes and replace them with shirts similar to your favorite one?
If you constantly find yourself digging through your makeup bag for the same items, wouldn’t it be easier to get rid of the old makeup you no longer use?
The stuff we own should give way, not get in the way, of the routines of our day.
If the things you’re contemplating about tossing out act as the haystack hiding the needle, then I think it’s time throw those suckers out of your house. We shouldn’t burden ourselves with treating our favorite possessions as a treasure hidden beneath a pile of junk wearing the facade of a “need.”
2.) You’re keeping it for “Just in case” moments.
I’m not talking about emergency items such as jumper cables or a fire extinguisher.
I’m talking about items that you’re holding onto for “Just in case” moments that have nothing to do with survival or life-threatening situations. Here are a few instances:
- “I’ll keep this $500 handbag I don’t like but got as a gift, just in case I have a future daughter — who probably won’t like the handbag either.”
- “I’ll hold onto these 20 fancy neckties that I never wear, just in case I decide to run for president and get elected.”
- “I’ll keep every school yearbook in this drawer full of other books I don’t read, just in case I get the random urge to analyze every name and picture of all 800+ students sometime in the future.”
Nearly every time, these “Just in case” moments are imaginary instances we make up as an excuse to not detach ourselves from the stuff we know that we’re better off getting rid of.
The next time you come across a possession you’re iffy about throwing away for the sole reason that a “Just in case” moment may come about — get rid of it anyways. You’ll find that you will feel much better about it afterward.
If not, you can always purchase that item again if that “Just in case” occasion arises, right?
3.) It doesn’t follow the 90/90 Rule.
Aside from first aid kits and fire extinguishers, another exception to the “Just in case” fallacy are seasonal items. Winter coats, rain boots, umbrellas, swim trunks — stuff like that.
The “90/90 Rule,” otherwise known as the “Seasonality Rule,” was created by The Minimalists as a way to help us decide which possessions are worth keeping.
The “90/90 Rule” urges us to ask ourselves:
“Look at a possession.
Have you used that item in the last 90 days?
If you haven’t, will you use it in the next 90?
If not, then it’s okay to let go.”
By asking ourselves if we’ve used an item in the past 3 months, or plan on using it in the next 3 months, is a genius idea.
It forces us to question whether or not the items we are storing for seasonal events, such as a beach-outing or snowy days, are being utilized for the reasons we have for keeping them.
If we find that they don’t fit the standards of this rule, perhaps it’s okay to let go.
4.) You’re asking whether or not it’s worth keeping.
Simply put, you will never need to question something’s value if it provided just that.
Think about your Wi-Fi router. We wouldn’t question the value it provides (unless it’s hella slow) because it gives us the ability to browse through the internet — a tool that the 21st century revolves around.
Or for blurry-visioned folks like myself, we wouldn’t question the value that our glasses or contacts provide because, without them, we’d be living life cluelessly like an unfocused camera lens.
The items that serve a true purpose to our lives should never prompt us to ask, “Is this worth keeping?”
Most of the time, if you find yourself asking this question about the same thing(s) over and over, you may have already answered your question.
Own Your Possessions, Don’t Let Them Own You
“As our lives change, so will our needs.”
I don’t have all the answers to how somebody should make this decision because it is ultimately up to the person. However, I would suggest everyone consider at least one of the above red flags if they are conflicted about the things they should get rid of.
If our possessions begin to own us, then perhaps it’s time that we minimize those items from our lives before they continue to possess our minds.
Making the tough decision on what to keep and what to remove isn’t just a matter of minimizing material possessions. It’s a matter of developing the confidence to live life on your terms, not on others or the possessions trying to convince you that your happiness is out of your control.