Decluttering items, whether or not they’re sentimental, is still one of the toughest things I see clients struggle with. It can feel impossible ‌to rid yourself and your home of something that has been around for a while.

Part of what I teach is learning to reset your space, to transform it into something livable, comfortable, and tranquil. And yet when decluttering certain items, clients freeze up. They stall and they hesitate.

One of the biggest reasons we hang on to stuff is because of our sentimental attachment to it. And we’re not just talking about big things. You can become quite attached to a kitchen pot. That’s why I felt today would be good to share with you some ways you can determine what to declutter.

And it all comes down to learning what no longer adds value to your home and life.

Here are 4 ways you can tell when something stops adding value

Everything in your home should add some kind of value. It should have a purpose. As Marie Kondo says, it should “spark joy.” So how do you know when something stops adding value? How do you avoid decluttering mistakes such as keeping things that don’t serve a purpose? Here are four ways you can tell.

#1 — You haven’t used it for over 6 months

One of the quickest and easiest ways to tell if something has stopped adding value is knowing when the last time you used it was. Clothes, for example. It’s said that we only wear 20% of what’s in our closets. 

How often do you reach for the same pair of leggings or sweaters to lounge in? How often do you wear the same type of trousers to work? How often do you actually wear that statement piece buried deep in the back of your closet?

It’s easy to keep clothes because how much room do they actually take? But if you keep every single article of clothing, including the things you haven’t worn in years, your drawers will fill up before you know it.

One way you can tell something has stopped adding value is if you haven’t used it in 6+ months. This can be anything from clothes to cookware, sports equipment to books. Even holiday decorations fall into this category.

If you haven’t put out a certain decoration in years, it might be time to declutter it. And decluttering items like this, while hard, will grant you more breathing room and space.

The main thing you need to do is take a hard look around your home and be honest. If you haven’t touched that pasta maker in nine months, chances are you never will. If you haven’t worn that itchy sweater you bought last year because you liked the color, you never will. Even with buyer’s remorse, you need to let go of these items.

#2 — It’s broken and you haven’t bothered fixing it

Another common decluttering mistake is keeping things around that are broken. While it happens that something gets a little worn, if you don’t take the time to get it fixed, chances are it stopped adding value months ago.

Think about the shirt with the hole or the tea kettle with a cracked lid. Maybe you have a few water-stained books or a wobbly nightstand storing shoeboxes in the corner of your room. 

Whatever the item in question is, if it’s broken and you haven’t bothered fixing it — and it’s been months — you don’t care for it as you think you do. What does that mean? It’s time to declutter it.

But what if I get it fixed one day? I’m sorry to tell you this, but if you didn’t take it to be fixed a few days after you noticed it was broken, then that “one day” will never come. 

We’re all busy. We all have things going on that keep us from doing mundane tasks. However, if it’s something important or important to you, you’ll always find the time. And if you haven’t taken a day, or an hour, to take something somewhere to be fixed, it’s time to declutter it.

If it’s something that means a lot, replace it with a newer version. But if it’s something that you have little to no interest in, don’t replace it. Like that itchy sweater, for instance. If the material isn’t comfortable, don’t replace it with something similar. Get something different or stick with the current sweaters you have.

#3 — You don’t reach for it as often anymore

When you buy something new, chances are high that you make it a priority in your life. Say you bought a new pair of jeans. You’re going to wear them everywhere because they’re new and fit you like a glove. Or you signed up for a new workout subscription service and you’re doing really well, working out three times a week with it.

But a few weeks down the road, something changes. You find a new pair of jeans or you got more into outdoor running. You don’t wear the old pair anymore and you keep the subscription on the off chance you’ll return to it one day.

All that’s doing is taking up space in your closet and burning a hole in your wallet. That’s why another way you can tell if something stops adding value is if you don’t reach for it as often anymore. 

This goes hand-in-hand with the haven’t touched it in 6+ months guideline, but this refers more to items you still grab, just as much as you used to.

Decluttering items like this means being honest once more. Consider your dining ware. Are there any dishes or glasses you used to use all the time, but haven’t touched in months? 

The reasons don’t matter. Perhaps you don’t like the style anymore or you found ones you like better.

What matters is being able to say, “I don’t reach for this anymore. I should declutter it.” If it’s still in good shape, bringing it to your local donation or consignment store is a great idea. If it’s seen better days, recycle it.

#4 — You never really liked it in the first place

Gifts can be a difficult thing to declutter because you don’t want the person who gave it to you to feel bad. I get it! We’ve all been there. We’ve all received gifts that either aren’t our style or we just don’t like.

But that doesn’t mean you’re forced to keep it. Decluttering items such as gifts can be one of the hardest things because you’re afraid the gifter will ask about it. Truth is, chances are really low that the person who gifted you that knickknack or sweater is going to ask you about it.

Think about gifts you’ve given to people. Do you ask them about it? Do you ask your sibling how they’re loving the shirt you bought them for Christmas three years ago? Probably not. So you’re off the hook. Meaning, you can declutter gifts that you don’t like.

Obviously, don’t announce to the person who gave it to you that you’re getting rid of it. Just do it. No one needs to know. Re-gift it, sell it online or donate it. I guarantee you the minute it’s out of your house, you’re going to feel better. You may feel a tad guilty, but it’ll pass.

Gifts should add value, but you can’t ensure that every single person who gives you something is going to know exactly what you want. Unless you tell them. So when decluttering items like gifts, don’t worry about hurting someone’s feelings. It’s yours now. You get to do with it what you want.

When it comes to the items in your home, if it doesn’t add value, it’s time to consider decluttering it. If straight decluttering is hard for you, then put everything you’re debating about in a box or bin. Take an hour or two one day and go through everything inside. One item at a time.

Consider the above tips and if the item in question falls into any of those categories, declutter it. Trust me, it’ll be hard at first, but you’ll feel better in a day or two. And if you need some more tips about decluttering items, especially sentimental items, check out some of our other blog posts here and here.

And know that I’m always here to help so feel free to contact me today with your decluttering questions.

What’s something you find hard to declutter?

Patricia Ramos

Image: Stephanie Harvey

Decluttering Items When They Stop Adding Value to Your Life and How to Know

January 30, 2023

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