CLUTTER = Any item that does not serve a valid purpose. 

The most elementary guideline for decluttering is to delete all items that haven’t been used in the last year.  On the surface it makes perfect sense.  If it’s not being used, why keep it, right?

But sometimes, even if we haven’t used it in years (or ever), we still want to keep it.  We hope to use it someday.  What if we delete it and then decide to use it later?

To give a few examples from my own life . . .

– The one time I used our pasta maker, it was great!  The pasta tasted much better than the boxed kind, it was healthier, and the kids had fun using the machine with me.  But it takes so much time and effort, I haven’t made fresh pasta in over two years.  Is the pasta maker clutter?

– These three formal dresses still look nice on me.  I have heels and jewelry to match each one, and I really like them.  But my husband and I haven’t been to an upscale occasion in five years.  Are these dresses clutter?

– I would love to read each of these 20 books on my shelf.  They would certainly help me grow intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually.  But I still haven’t finished the book I started last year.  Are these books clutter?

Just hearing these examples probably brought to mind a few things in your house that fit into this same category.  You haven’t been using it, but you hope to some day.  Here is one strategy . . .

Give yourself a Declutter Deadline: Use It or Lose It!

– I have three months to make home-made pasta at least once.  If I can’t find the time, if I don’t have the energy, or if I simply don’t care enough to follow through, that’s okay!  I will say goodbye to the pasta maker and enjoy the extra cabinet space.

– My husband and I have six months to do something fancy enough for me to wear one of these dresses.  If it’s too expensive, or if we decide would have more fun doing something more casual, that’s okay!  I will choose my favorite dress (just in case), let go of the others, and enjoy the extra closet space.

– I have three months to finish the book I’m currently reading.  If I don’t have the time, the mental energy, and the motivation to finish one book, that’s okay!  I will choose my top three books, let the rest go, and enjoy the extra shelf space.

That might be easier said than done . . .

We may feel guilty about buying something we never used. 

We may feel ashamed that we set out to do something and didn’t follow through. 

We may feel sad that we don’t have room in our schedules or budgets to do everything we want.

But please hear me:

Getting rid of these items does not mean we have failed. 

It simply means we have decided that something else in our current season of life is more important.

Maybe the reason we haven’t been reading is that we are devoting our mental energy elsewhere.  Keeping up with the learning curve at work.  Or homeschooling our kids.  Or navigating difficult relationships.

In the future as our lives ease up, we hope to have the mental energy to read more.  When that happens, the bookstores will be waiting.

In the meantime, instead of being taunted by all those titles staring at us from the bookshelf, let’s donate them to the library, and put that shelf to better use!  Create a more functional mail-sorting station, or finally get your kids’ coloring books off the kitchen table.  

That is the beauty of the Declutter Deadline:  Regardless of the outcome (whether you wind up using it or losing it) you will be confident in your decision!

For a more comprehensive set of guidelines for decluttering, downsizing, and organizing different areas of your home, check out the Home On Purpose Lesson Series. 

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