About three or four times a year I get into this crazy mode where I want to pull everything out of our closets and drawers to organize and reassess whether we should keep or donate items. For me, when things aren't organized, my stress level goes up. The biggest inhibitor to organization is owning too much stuff, and the biggest inhibitor to getting rid of said stuff is the games we play in our minds. Very rarely have I regretted donating an item, but it's still a struggle sometimes. These are some questions/tactics I use to help myself get over the hurdle of whether or not to purge:
1. Would you be willing to buy this item if you saw it in a store today, and if so - how much would you be willing to pay?
Basically, how much value would you assign this item if it was not yours? Studies show that we place a higher value on things that we own simply because we own them. This question helps me to be more objective when deciding between keeping or giving away.
2, How does the item make you feel?
I can't tell you how many things I have kept over the years that I hated because "there's nothing wrong with it". If you don't love an item, whether it be clothing or a gift you were given (and you feel guilty not keeping it)....find a home for it where it will be appreciated.
3. Put the item out of sight for a period of time- did you miss it?
I do this regularly with papers and crafts my kids bring home from church/school. First I leave it out on the counter for a couple days so they know that I appreciate their hard work, then I move them to the top of the fridge for a few days. If the girls ask about it, I can bring it down and show them. Inevitably, they forget about it and the item goes in the trash (unless it was a special piece that I want to keep in their memory box). We enjoyed what they made for a time, and then it's done. This same principle can work for things that I'm having a hard time parting with but dont use/wear. Put it in a special box for a few months to a year, and if you didn't open the box- give it away!
4. Do you need this many?
How many times has the thought "but I might need it someday" kept you from getting rid of something? This is a mindset that plagues me when trying to get rid of something....often things that I have too many of, because in a future hypothetical situation, "I might need 3 picnic blankets" etc. (That may or may not have been a real life example.) When we first married, I registered for a ton of bath towels......I think I had close to 20. When we bought our current house, I got rid of half.....because in 12 years I have never hosted 20 people, and that many guests would not even fit in our house. We also do not have a ton of storage space. Another example is the wooden place setting holders I was given (leftovers from a friend's wedding). After holding on to them for years, I realized the likelihood of me hosting a sit down dinner party for 25+ friends was slim. If that hypothetical future thing even happened, whose to say that I would still like them. Meanwhile, these were taking up space in my home and life.
5. Is it damaged in any way, and if so-is it worth fixing?
Whether it's a stained piece of clothing or furniture that's broken- if you have been storing it "to fix it someday", decide to do it this month or give it away if it's not worth it to you. Also under this category is expired spices and medicine (get rid of them).
6. Is this item simply a "filler" item or do you actually love it?
So many times we fill our homes with cheap pieces until we find the right piece. There are a few times we have to do this out of necessity ("we need a kitchen table right now and this is all we can afford"), but even those times I think shopping vintage/used is a good answer. I would suggest getting rid of the filler items and having an empty space that's ready for the right piece. Empty rooms are fine!
7. Have I used the item in the past year? While sometimes there are exceptions (looking at you, pregnancy), generally speaking if the item you are considering keeping/giving away has not been used in a year then it's probably collecting dust somewhere and should be given away.
8. Is it beautiful or useful (preferably both)?
This can vary from person to person. What is useful to me is not to someone else- but take note of what you aren't using (kitchen utensils are a good example), and consider if it should be taking up a spot in your home.