Is it Holding On, or Hoarding? 5 Rules of Thumb When it Comes to Saving vs. Trashing

When attempting to declutter your home or do a bit of spring cleaning, it can be a challenge to sift through the junk and decide what to toss out. You may assume that you’ll use the items again or even feel guilty for throwing out special gifts, but with all of the excuses comes plenty of clutter. If you tend to hold onto things for sentimental reasons or because you figure you’ll use it in the future, you might need to re-evaluate how you clean, and what you truly need. For an efficient way of only keeping what you can use, there are a few questions to ask in the de-junking process.

Saving vs. Trashing


Has It Been Used in the Last Year?

Between clothing to toys, a general rule of thumb when cleaning is only keeping the item if you’ve used it in the last year. If you continue to hold on to it, but haven’t put it to good use, then there may be a bit of attachment that is causing you to hoard it. If the item has true sentimental value, you might not have necessarily used it in the past year, you might just want to hold onto it. If it’s stuffed in a corner or shoved in a box that you never look at or think about, it probably doesn’t have much sentimental value. There might be other items that haven’t been used in the last year, but you use the excuse that you might need to use it one day. In this case, it’s time for a serious reality check—will you really use it in the future. If the chance of using the item sometime within the next ten years is 50% or lower, you probably don’t need to keep it. Plus, you might not want to use the item after it’s been sitting there for ten years anyways.

Do You Have More Than One?

There’s simply no need for two chess boards or an extra set of silverware. Throw out anything that you already have one set of, which will reduce your clutter and allow someone else to find use with the item. If things are still in good condition, you can donate extra items that you have to charity or friends who are in need. Sometimes it can be helpful to have more than one item, but in most cases, you really don’t need a “backup.”

Will Your Children Appreciate It?

Whether you’re cleaning out an old jewelry box or a box full of photos in the attic, it’s important to ask yourself if your children will enjoy the item. Anything that is sentimental and can be passed down should be kept for memories that relate to the family’s history. Remember that when you pass away, your children will be in charge of going through your possessions. Will they find boxes full of important memories and treasures, or will they find a pile of junk that should have been trashed or given away years ago? It can be tough to part with things that hold some sentimental value, but if it isn’t truly important to you and if it won’t mean anything to your children after you’re gone, there’s not much reason to let it take up space in your home.

Will Someone Else Get Better Use of the Item?

You may still be struggling to donate an old high chair that your child once used, but if you’re done having kids and your kid is now a teen, then it’s time to toss it. There are several other people who will likely get good use of the product, so don’t keep it for the “what if’s” of the future. If there are items that you hardly (or never) use, think about those who would love to have the item or get great use out of it. You’ll feel great when you donate the item to charity or give it to a family in need. If the item can be put to better use by someone else, let it go.

Is It Broken?

Items that are broken, damaged, or stained can offer sentimental value, but will likely never be used again. Take a photo if you need to remember the item, but toss it with the other belongings to make progress when reducing the clutter. Be honest with yourself about what type of value the item holds. It might be important to you, but if it doesn’t work or is severely damaged or dirty, does it really have any value? There will likely be broken items in your garage or attic that you said you would fix ages ago. If an item has been sitting around forever and is still broken, you need to be honest with yourself—what is the likelihood that you will actually fix the item. If the probability is low, it’s time to trash the piece.

When organizing your home and working through the piles of paperwork or boxes of clothes, there can be a method to clearing out the madness. By asking yourself the main rules of thumb for decluttering, you’ll be able to keep what’s still needed and toss the items that are only taking up space. It can be tough to part with items you’ve had for a long time, but you’re only wasting space if you hold onto things you won’t use and don’t care about. There is always the question of “what if,” but you can’t keep hoarding things thinking that you might someday use them, fix them, or find a place for them. If it doesn’t have a place in your home or your heart—it’s time to toss! Information for this article was provided by the professionals of The Self Storage Place, who offer storage units in Victoria.

Erin Emanuel