Is it Clutter?

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This is the companion article to The Original Clutter Flow Chart. It answers these questions: What is Clutter?  Why can’t I part with my clutter?  What should I do with my clutter?  What if, despite my best intentions, I am still living with clutter?

Clutter is anything you don’t use, love, or need to keep. For any object, ask yourself:

Do I use it? Really? How often? Be honest.

Do I love it? Consider this: If you love it so much, why is it out in the garage in a box where it may be deteriorating, and you can’t even get to it, much less enjoy it?

Do I need to keep it? OK, but can you find it when you need it? How many do you need to keep? How difficult/easy would it be to replace if you didn’t keep it and really needed it later?

If the answer is yes — you use, love, or need to keep it — wonderful, it stays!  Just be sure to display it, enjoy using it, or store it in an organized manner.

Why can’t I part with my clutter? Here are some reasons why this is difficult for many:

It was a gift. Great, so it’s yours to do with what you want, right?

I inherited it. Is it a priceless family heirloom? Or is it an everyday object that just happened to belong to a loved one? How many other things do you have to remember them by?

I paid good money for it. So what? Don’t clutter your present with past mistakes!

I’m saving it for my children. They probably don’t want it…but if they are adults, now is the perfect time to ask them! If they do want it, tell them to come get it, or send it to them.

It reminds me of a good thing. Great! Why not use it or display it? Or take a photo to remember it by, and then donate it?

It reminds me of a bad thing. All the more reason to get rid of it now.

My friend/neighbor/coworker might want it. Great! Ask them. Give it to them now.

I might be able to sell it. If you are already an avid eBay- or yard- or re-seller, great! However, if you aren’t, save yourself the hassle and just donate it.

My favorite charity might want it. OK, great! Just keep in mind that the more individual charities you have in mind for donating specific items to, the less likely it is that you’ll actually get your stuff to any of them.

The bottom line: If you don’t use, love, or need to keep it, it’s clutter.

What should I do with my clutter? This one’s easy: Toss, Recycle, Sell, Gift or Donate it. All of it.

What if, despite my best intentions, I am still living with clutter? If a month (or other self-imposed deadline) has gone by since you decided to try to find the perfect home for it, or try to sell it, and you haven’t managed to do so, ask yourself: Is it in good enough condition to donate to Goodwill, or another default (maybe not perfect) charity that takes a wide variety of donations? If so, pack it up and take it there TODAY! If the answer is no, it isn’t good enough, throw it in the trash or recycle it NOW!

Congratulations, you are on the road to becoming clutter-free! If you need help, call a professional organizer. It is a myth that a professional organizer will make you get rid of all your stuff. A good one will help you identify what you use, love, and need to keep, and will help you store or display it in an organized manner.

Copyright 2010 by Hazel Thornton, Organized For Life.
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  1. Janet Barclay on October 21, 2011 at 9:54 am

    I love this: “It was a gift. Great, so it’s yours to do with what you want, right?” I’ve never heard anyone put it quite that way, but it makes so much sense!

    I remember visiting a newlywed friend when we were in our 20’s, and I asked her why she still had her stereo, since they were using her husband’s and hers wasn’t even set up, and she told me her parents had given it to her for her 16th birthday. I was stunned: Jewellery you might keep for sentimental reasons, not electronic equipment!

    • Hazel Thornton at on February 25, 2012 at 9:44 am

      Gifts with strings attached are not truly gifts. But sometimes we add our own strings!!! We keep stuff that the giver never intended us to keep forever!

  2. […] in New Mexico with a background in both Engineering and Fine Arts. Her blog post titled ‘Is it Clutter?‘ helps answer additional questions such as:  What is clutter? Why can’t I part with my […]

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