I remember the first time I decluttered my closet.
I was about 15 years old. Up until then, decluttering simply meant getting rid of things I had outgrown. But as my growing slowed down, I had accumulated much more than I needed.
Now, I was looking at an over-stuffed closet filled with clothes that technically still fit. How should I decide what to get rid of?
That’s when my mom gave me the “One Year Rule.”
She said, “If you haven’t worn it in the past year, get rid of it.” Makes sense, right? As a 15 year old jeans and t-shirt kinda girl, my wardrobe was pretty simple. If I hadn’t worn it in a year, that meant I didn’t love it as much as the rest.
Unfortunately, this decluttering rule only applies well to very specialized cases, like a 15 year old’s wardrobe. Or maybe your spice cabinet? I wouldn’t want to use year-old oregano!
But in the vast majority of categories, for the vast majority of adults, it just doesn’t work.
Here’s what’s wrong with the One Year Rule:
Problem #1: The rule doesn’t consider the future.
- They haven’t used that crib in two years, but they’re trying to have another baby.
- We didn’t use our snowboards for the three years we were stationed in Hawaii, but we expected to be transferred to either Colorado or Virginia.
- I haven’t cracked my old college textbooks since I became a stay at home mom, but I plan to go back to work in the next few years.
- She hasn’t worn that fancy dress in over a year, but there are some upscale events coming up, including her 10th wedding anniversary.
The One Year Rule doesn’t leave room for any of this!
In the Home On Purpose world, it is far more important to consider the probability of using something in the future, than whether you have used it in the past.
Problem #2: The rule doesn’t consider your emotions.
No, I haven’t read that book in a few years. And realistically, I don’t see myself reading it again any time soon. But it is still one of my favorite books, and I like owning it.
She doesn’t know when she will ever have time to get back into painting, but that was the easel her father gave her just before he passed away.
Baby clothes, old yearbooks, my grandmother’s jewelry . . . who cares if I haven’t “used” them?!
Sentimental value and emotional attachment matter.
There are other problems, but these two make it clear that the One Year Rule is completely insufficient.
So, what rule does work for decluttering?
When you go through the dusty bins up high in the garage, and the boxes hidden in the corner of the basement, and those baskets in that back closet, how will you decide what is worth keeping?
You might be annoyed by my answer, but . . . there is no rule.
Your life is complicated. Your belongings are unique. Your emotions matter.
Trying to come up with some universal rule would over-simplify the process, and homogenize what should be very personal decisions.
Instead of “rules” I use strategies and guidelines.
In the LONG-TERM STORAGE LESSON SERIES, for example, one of the guidelines I give is: “Decide whether the item brings enough value to your life to merit the space and work it requires.”
Then I dedicate an entire lesson to sharing strategies for how to evaluate the value of an individual item. I show you how to navigate every obstacle from limited storage space, to sentimental categories, to disagreements within the family.
You will find this approach throughout the Home On Purpose program.
I don’t tell my clients what they should get rid of. I offer proven guidelines and effective strategies, and allow you the freedom to make your own decisions.
This way, when you do let something go, you will not be blindly following a stranger’s advice. You will be choosing to do so on purpose.