Efficiency 101: Do You Really Need That?

I wrote this last week while I was still packing to move and before the sale of our house fell through.  But it’s all still relevant.

As much as moving is a pain in the butt, it’s an excellent opportunity to go through your stuff and clean out.

Do I sound like one of those reality TV shows that force you to go through crap?  Probably.  They teach a valuable lesson.  See, human beings are, for the most part, just giant pack rats.  The longer we live in a place, the more junk we acquire.  Stuff goes in the closets, under beds, into drawers and otherwise out of sight where we forget about it.

We’ve all got our justifications for keeping stuff.

  • I might use it.
  • So-and-so gave it to me as a gift and I don’t want to hurt feelings.
  • I like it.
  • That was my trophy from Little League in 1988.
  • I don’t want to deal with it right now.
  • If XYZ happens, I’m gonna need that.

People, you’re deluding yourself.  It’s time to be brutal.  So as you’re going through, room by room, packing your belongings, I challenge you to have three other bins in addition to the boxes you’re packing: Toss, Donate, Sell.

Now here are the questions you need to ask of every single thing before you choose whether it’s going into a bin or a box:

  • Do I like it?
  • Have I used it in the last year?
  • Did I even remember I owned it?
  • Is it truly useful? (for example, a toilet snake…I haven’t had cause to use one in the last year but it’s a handy tool, so worth keeping)
  • Do I really want to warehouse it for the next x number of years at the new place?
  • Would I pay money to keep this (as in storage fees, if it came to that)?

If the answer to more than one of these questions is NO, then you need to put that item in a bin.  It’s up to you whether you want to permanently chuck it, donate it for a tax write off or freecycle it, or try to actually sell it if you’ve got the time and inclination for a garage sale or craigslist.  But the point is, if you can’t come up with a YES to more than the first question, it doesn’t need to go to your new house because it’s just cluttering up your life.

8 thoughts on “Efficiency 101: Do You Really Need That?

  1. It is amazing the different results I can have when going through a box of old stuff. Horder frame of mind: almost nothing goes. When my head is on right: I may end up keeping one thing. I recently got rid of ton of trophies from my childhood that have been collecting dust for years. I took pictures of them and got rid of them. Now they are taking up bits of space on my computer versus a large box in the basement 🙂

    Thanks for this post, I have a few boxes to go through and this will help me get into the right frame of mind.

  2. I do that with my clothes every year. Is it still fashionable? Have I worn it in the previous season? Does it fit? Do I really need 14 black sweaters? 😉

    But books? CANNOT LET GO!!!!

  3. Oh, you’ve hit on a subject near and dear to my heart! Once a year or every other year, I go through the house and weed out stuff. It’s amazing how much stuff we collect! I start with a closet, then spread out from there. Just a few minutes every week or so. If I hesitate too long, I put it back. But, after seeing something for the 3rd time? It’s usually gone gone gone.

    Frankly, it’s a relief to have less. I find the things I’m looking for faster. I don’t have as much to clean or dust. I actually fit into most of what is in my closest and clothes are no longer wedged in closets or drawers. Rooms are more open and airy and there’s actually room for monsters to hide in the closest again. 🙂

    My motto? Everything you must have owns you. Choose carefully.

  4. That is a great motto. I’m a packrat. Horribly so. But after I lost weight this year, I went on a tossing spree, getting rid of all my fat clothes. That led to digging through other parts of the house, and we had a pretty good clean out.

    But I can understand hoarding tendencies (except for the people that hoard trash. WTF?). I’m sentimental and hold on to anything with meaning.

  5. I remember going through this when I made a big move from Michigan to Chicago, and I have to admit, while I managed to shuck a couple hundred dollars worth of stuff in a garage sale, I still kept a lot, and have a few boxes being held in Michigan, too. But it is such an interesting feeling and I’m going through it again since everything had to be shuffled around due to flooding and things are still being put back into place.

    And, wouldn’t you figure, I’m watching Hoarders right now, too.

    But having limited resources (one week and only one truck and a small sedan to fit stuff in) definitely helps you realize that stuff is just stuff.

    ALL THE BOOKS CAME, THOUGH. *ahem* (Good to know I’m not alone in that one).

  6. You’ve touched some nerves! I don’t like throwing things out because I thought I might use them. The few times I threw something out, I realized I do need them. However, you’re right. I need to weed out some clothes in my closet, especially if I want place for my new things.

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