I have been working with one organizing client for over a year and a half, and we’ve spent much of this summer tackling things in her backyard storage shed. We went through many of these same boxes last summer but we are paring down much more drastically now. This is a pattern I’ve noticed in myself and my clients: the passage of time can make it easier to say goodbye to our things.
Life circumstances change over time and the way we feel about our belongings changes as well. You might have experienced this with regards to completing a degree or training program. When you first reach that milestone the books and notes and projects from your schooling seem so valuable. You are certain you will refer back to them as you start on a new career path. A few years later you can look at those materials with the perspective of someone who knows what is actually important and useful. In my experience, most of my textbooks and training materials have served no purpose in my professional life!
If you have trouble getting rid of specific items, it’s okay to set them aside for now and revisit them later (assuming you are not on a deadline to downsize). You will likely find the things that seem too important to get rid of right now will be easier to part with in six or twelve months. For practical items you can also employ a few tricks to determine what you are actually using:
For clothes, turn all the hangers in your closet around the “wrong” way. When you wear something, put the hanger back the “right” way. In a few months it will be clear which items are getting worn and which are just taking up space.
For kitchen gadgets and tools, take them out of their typical storage space and place them in a box nearby. When you use something, put it back in the drawer or workbench. Over time, those items that never leave the box are the ones that you don’t actually have a use for.
I have found this method to be useful for books and sentimental items as well. I make it a point to go through those collections every six months (usually during my #FiveFiveThirty decluttering challenge), and each time I do I’m able to part with a few more things that seemed too precious last time around.
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