Techniques for discarding

One more from the wise folks in the 43 Folders Google group, here's Vicki Brown:

Ask yourself –
      if I lost this, how would I feel?
      do I remember having this?
      does this item give me any good (or bad) feelings?
      do I know someone who could use this?

Sometimes I put things in a box or a file folder for a while. If I don't go back and retrieve them, I know I can get rid of them. My Dad used to clean the house like this. He'd toss things into boxes and take the boxes to the basement. If no one said "Has anyone seen my _______" after a month or two, he'd toss the boxes.

Do you have a chapter of Freecycle where you are? If you feel that someone else will get use out of your "stuff" you may feel better about getting rid of it.  Or, Salvation Army, Goodwill, other charitable thrift shops will often come get things. No extra work for you, nothing in the landfills, and maybe a tax deduction.

What about your junk makes you crazy?

Another good one from the 43 Folders Google group, stevecooper on you & your junk:

Why is the clutter driving you crazy? The answer will probably influence how you decide to go.

For me, when I've done really serious decluttering, it's been a liberating process. It's been liberating because I believe that that too much stuff in my life dilutes everything, stagnates things. Decluttering is like travelling light, without the travelling.

From that, my own principles of decluttering arise; I can make judgements by asking 'does this keep me from making advances in my life? Does it tie me to old ideas of myself I don't want to keep? If I wanted to make a change in my life, would this make it harder to change?' But those are my questions, and they derive from my reason for decluttering.

For you, it may be very different; you may have run out of house space and need somewhere to add -new- clutter. If that's the case, you only need to throw out a box or two to give you more cramming space. Or maybe you're looking to move to a smaller house and need to have simply less stuff. Or maybe you're just tired of dusting all those nick-nacks. Maybe you're a buddhist and believe that attachment to things is suffering. Whatever it is, your reason for dejunking with influence how you make the decisions.

So, tell us more. Tell us what about the junk makes you crazy.

Reasons not to keep it

From a discussion on clutter-busting on the 43 Folders Google group comes this pithy advice from David Douthitt:

Don't save clothes because:
a) they may come back into style;
b) you might need them for a formal party some day;
c) you might be able to fit into it if you just lost a few pounds…. 

Get rid of the clothes you are *not* wearing now…. whatever the reason (except seasonal).

The Drawer

Everyone has "the drawer". Usually it's in the kitchen and it's where the extra pushpins and rubber bands and measuring tape and matches and and and all go.

Today's task is to go through that drawer (or the most over-stuffed one if you have several) and do these things:

– throw out the crap you'll never use or that is just broken junk

– move the things that are really too large for that drawer to a better location

– move the things that actually have a home with more of their kind to their proper spot

– put the things that are alike together, and bag them in zip bags or little containers if that makes the drawer easier to deal with

– throw out the things of which you have too many (10 rubberbands = good, 200 rubberbands = put them in a bag and give them back to your paperboy)

– move the things that you would never think of looking for in that drawer to where you would think of looking for them

Ah, now that's a bit better, isn't it?

Digitize it

You probably have a lot of two-dimensional physical objects around your home or saved in file drawers or boxes which have sentimental value, but which you don't actually want to have on your walls. Children's drawings, posters or flyers from shows you went to, holiday picture cards from friends, etc. can pile up.

You do not need to keep a physical archive of every significant image that comes into your life.

But you may want to remember things and have the chance to look back at them later, so take a picture, back up the digital copy, and get rid of the stacks of papers.

I find that a lot of these things I keep, have a story that goes with them, so I like to put the picture up in my weblog (I use TypePad) or into Flickr, the photo community site where I can write a bit about it. It's also easy for me to share my stories with friends and family that way.

One other nice feature of Flickr is that it is easy to collect things into sets. You could even get a little book printed of those images. A stack of every drawing your kid made this year might be a bit much to hold onto, but a yearbook of your favorites along with other photos of your kid from that time period might be one of the most wonderful souvenirs you could have.

I'd recommend also digitizing the things you do have on display in your home. If it should ever suffer damage, it's nice to know that you have a backup digital copy as well as one you can easily access on the web.

And by the way, you can do this with little tchotchkes too. Don't really want to keep that big collection of refrigerator magnets, but it'd be nice to remember the glory days when it covered the entire front of your fridge? Take some photos, maybe keep a handful of favorites, and sell the rest at your next yard sale. (Just don't set the bag of 'em next to the hard drive where you've got all those backups, okay?)

Habit or Intent?

What do you have a whole lot of? Stacks of clipped articles you plan to read? 87 kinds of fancy mustard? Back issues of magazines? Lots of t-shirts with interesting imagery you never wear anymore? Enough coffee mugs to use a different one every day for a month? A collection of little owl figurines that people keep giving you?

What if they went away? (Or 90% of them) Would you replace them or be relieved?

Look around for that category of stuff you've accumulated out of habit, but which you wouldn't replace if you were starting fresh today.

Today, get rid of half of that stuffclot. Charity, recycling, trash. Whatever. More than half if you don't feel the pull to keep them, but at least get them down to an uncrowded level where you might actually use or enjoy the remaining ones.