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How to Decide What to Keep and What to Get Rid of When Decluttering

Every item you own takes up valuable space, and the clutter could be distracting you from living life to the fullest. Once you get rid of unnecessary things in your home, you have more time, energy, space, and freedom to do what matters most to you in your life. Having more stuff does not equal more happiness. If anything, a cluttered home can cause stress and make you unproductive. It can be challenging to decide what to keep or what to get rid of, but here are a few tips and questions to ask yourself when starting the decluttering process.


1. When was the last time I used this?

Whether it’s a kitchen appliance or a piece of clothing, ask yourself when the last time you used this item was. If you can’t remember, or if it wasn’t in the past 6 months, it’s probably time to get rid of it. The 80/20 rule suggests that people only use 20% of what they own 80% of the time, and the rest takes up space and gathers dust. This is definitely something to consider when decluttering!


2. Do I have too many of these?

Maybe you have two of the same sweater, or excess throw pillows on your couch that always end up on the floor. These are items that probably won’t be missed in the long run. If your bookshelf is cluttered but you’ve already read half of the books, getting rid of those is an easy way to create more space, since you probably won’t be reading the same book twice.


3. Do I really love this?

It’s important to keep the things you need, but what about the things you want? If you really love or want to keep something, it’s okay to keep it! Just keep in mind that you can’t do this with everything, so it’s important to decide if this item adds value to your life. If you find yourself wanting to keep everything, make a “want” pile and sort through it separately, only keeping a few things. Just liking or wanting something isn’t good enough, you have to really love it!


4. Does this have an expiration date?

Food, beauty products, and medication all have expiration dates. These are easy items to get rid of because you can read the labels and see what you need to throw away. The decision is already made for you! Documents and paperwork can also have “expiration dates,” and you don’t need to be keeping old paperwork from 10 years ago. Anything that’s not useful anymore has outlived its expiration date.


What to do with unwanted items

So you started decluttering and now you have piles of unwanted items! What’s next? Choose whether your items would be best to donate, recycle, sell, or throw away.


Donating is a great option because you’re helping others. There’s someone who wants or needs what you’re getting rid of, so the items will still be put to good use. You could go to Goodwill, Salvation Army, or a local drop box. Do some research in your area and see what’s available!


For furniture, auction, or real estate items specifically, you could post them in your neighborhood Facebook groups or donate to a local furniture bank. Some local options in the Boston area include Household Goods in Acton, Restore in Dedham, or New Life Furniture Bank in Walpole. If you don’t want to move the furniture yourself, you could hire movers at an hourly rate or reach out to Presidential Junk Removal to remove all the items from your house, donate usable items, and dispose of the rest.


There are also many local recycling drop-off centers, depending on what items you have. Mass.gov has great resources on where to drop off, what items are best to recycle, or how to properly dispose of things.


Selling items can be a bit more complicated, but if they’re new or in good condition it’s a great way to make a few extra dollars. Facebook Marketplace, Threadup, or local swap shops are some good options! These are definitely worth checking out if you have higher-quality items you’re getting rid of. For the Boston area, search “Boston clothing swaps” on Facebook, Event Brite, or Google to see what’s close by.


There will be some things you just have to throw away. For example, anything expired or unusable, such as cleaning products, food, spices, old toothbrushes, and broken makeup or nail products. It’s better to donate or recycle items if you can, but don’t be afraid to dispose of what you need to.


Decluttering your home allows everyone in your household to breathe easier, knowing there’s space to be productive and grow. It’s okay to toss things that are no longer adding value to you or your family’s lives, and understanding when it’s time to get rid of these items is all part of your decluttering journey. Decluttering is a skill, and practicing it over time will only make it easier!


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