I have a hard time letting go of things. If there’s a possibility of saving it, I will. (Just ask all of my DIY projects. I’m the queen of saying, “I can make that instead of buying it,” buying the supplies, then never making it.) So I have to practice great restraint when I try to get rid of items that no longer serve me.
Everyone has heard “If you haven’t used it in a year, get rid of it,” or, “If it was in the back of the closet, clearly you don’t remember you have it, so get rid of it.” But I have a different set of criteria when I’m organizing. I think they help me to be better organizer. I don’t know if anyone who has been in my house would agree, but I say it works for me!
When I need to organize and pare down, I ask myself these five questions.
Can this be used for its intended purpose?
At some point, I adopted an Alton Brown-ian philosophy that everything I bring into my house should have multiple purposes. If you don’t know, he has an adage, “The only uni-tasker in the kitchen should be a fire extinguisher,” meaning everything else should do at least two tasks.
If it can be used for its intended purpose, and you still have use for that intended purpose, keep it. Just make sure it has a place to live and you put it back in that place.
Can I do something with it?
This is the question I struggle with the most. I feel so bad getting rid of something just because I’ve upgraded or no longer am using something for its intended purpose. If you’re looking at something saying, “Well, I have a new wine rack, so I don’t need this old one anymore, but it’s good so I don’t want to get rid of it…” see if it can fit elsewhere.
For a long time, I used a 12-slot wine rack as a shoe organizer. It was small and compact and it provided some extra storage space on top, too.
That said, if you can’t re-purpose it naturally and it would be an even bigger hassle to tinker with it to turn it into something else, get rid of it.
Would someone else want it?
On the other hand, if it’s a good piece and you just don’t have a need for it, see if someone else wants it. Put it online, ask your friends, or do what I did and send an office-wide email saying, “Hey, I have a houseful of stuff that’s gotta go. If you need something, let me know!” I felt so much better knowing that items that were perfectly good just no longer use to me would be taken home with someone who needs it.
They save money, we both get to practice Reduce, Reuse, Recycle…win-win, right?
Do I have space for it if I save it?
This is a biggie… Let’s say your wine rack is perfectly good, but you don’t use it anymore and no one wants/needs it. Maybe you want to try to re-purpose it elsewhere, but it’ll take some time to figure that out. Do you have space to store it?
Trying to pare down my father’s house is proving such a challenge and storage space is going to be at a premium if and when he moves. This is a big question when trying to figure out which serving platters are staying or going.
Do I already have these?
Okay, I know I can’t judge here. I have backup pairs of my favorite jeans so when one wears out, I can jump right into a new pair. But, if you’re looking at something and debating whether to get rid of it, see if you already have something that does a similar job. If so, keep the one you like better and try to let go of the others.
No one will get me out of my gray t-shirts, though; yes, I need multiple pairs.
What are your organizational rules?