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Decluttering Tips for “I don’t want to waste this!”

Firstly, I want to validate your feelings if you’re thinking “Decluttering is so hard” because it IS hard and often, the way we’ve grown up or the way we think goes completely against decluttering.

Today, I want to address the question of:

How do I declutter if I don’t want to waste these items?

Together, we will go over some practical ways to address this feeling and also some mindset shifts that you may be able to use to help you along the way!

Some truths:

Wasting something doesn’t feel good

You might feel you are wasting your money if you didn’t get any use out of an item or that you're wasting it if you donate it, throw it out or recycle it.

It’s useful

The item you’re considering might be very practical and still in perfectly usable condition.

I might need this again someday

It’s true - you might end up needing this someday in the future.

So, we’re all on the same page, right? Let’s talk about each of these truths and how I combat those sentiments when I’m decluttering my own stuff:

Wasting something doesn’t feel good

I completely agree with you here. It doesn’t feel good when I’ve wasted my money on something I didn’t use. It also is upsetting when it’s not an item that I can donate or pass along to someone else (ex: an opened jar of food that I didn’t enjoy and is going to expire in the next month). But the truth is, we’ve already wasted our money on the item and regardless of the items outcome (keeping or letting go) - we won’t be getting our full money back. How to address this:

  • Sell: maybe you want to re-coup a little bit of cash. If you have the time and capacity to sell an item - why not?

  • Donate or pass on: I like to think of these as the same thing. Usually, I’d feel pretty content passing on an item to a friend or family member because I only pass on an item that I know they’ll genuinely use… Well why not approach donating with the same mentality? Imagine how happy someone would be to find that perfect item at the thrift store at a great price. You’ve made someone’s day! While the item may not have worked for me or you - it can be incredibly useful for someone else to enjoy.

  • Toss or recycle: At a certain point some items need to just be tossed or recycled (for example, expired food - maybe composted in this case). Just know that the item would not be of any use to any other person and it has “lived” its lifespan.

It’s useful

Normally we only buy items that are useful to us! Maybe not always in the practical sense like a tool, but even décor items have a “use” in our minds. If these items are hard for you to declutter, try to be realistic:

  • Have I used this in the last (insert your timeframe here, ex: 1 year) and will I use it in the next (insert timeframe here)?

  • What needs to change for me to use this? I think this is a tip from Dawn, The Minimal Mom. And it’s so so good. What part of my everyday life needs to change for me to use this item. I use this a lot for my crafting and art supplies. Sometimes I’m just past a crafting phase and my lifestyle and the amount of time that I have to spend crafting has changed.

  • Would this make someone else happy? If I can spread a little joy to a thrift shopper, that makes it easier for me to pass on an item. And it’s best to donate items that are perfect, usable condition - so don’t wait until it’s broken or deteriorated and needs to be thrown out. Take advantage of the item’s good condition and donate it now!

I might need this again someday

Absolutely, you might need this again someday. But I don’t know about you, I can’t read into the future. There’s also the flip side of this question - I might NOT need this again someday… and do I want to be storing it for that time NOT to come? Here, you can weight the pros and cons of keeping the item. The Minimalists coined the idea of the 20-20 rule, which means if the item will take less than 20 minutes to repurchase and cost less than $20 - they give themselves permission to let go of that “just in case” item. That’s a great way to give you very specific parameters and a guide when you’re struggling with letting go of these items. I’ve honestly never had an instance where I repurchased an item that I decluttered following this rule - although maybe in the future I will. But the whole idea is that those “just in case” items tend not to come in handy because the hypothetical situations we play in our minds don’t often happen either.

I hope your decluttering journey is going well and that these tips and mindset shifts are helpful with the items that are harder to declutter.

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