Declutter 101: What is Worth Keeping?


I’ve talked a bit about how to decide what stays and what goes by thinking about cost, value, thing and experience. But even after you’ve evaluated those, there are some things that still aren’t easy to judge.

The difficulty comes in things that have value to you because they’re associated with a hobby or interest. For example, the last game I completed for the Bargain Games Club was Lego Marvel. Now I could sell this today and be done with it, but Mr T loves all things Marvel. He did an extended project in college on comic books and their development and history. Lego Marvel has more value to him than it does to me. But sometimes we are misled by the value we place in things. Is Lego Marvel really worth keeping?

The thing about Lego Marvel is it’s a PS3 game. It’s only small, not exactly going to be a massive problem to store or cart around. So in terms of the answer to that question, in this case, it’s probably a yes. But if I wasn’t talking about a PS3 game, what factors can help you decide? Here are some questions to ask.

1. Is it small/easy to store or move?

If the answer to this is yes, that’s a good start. If it’s not going to take up a massive amount of room, you don’t have to work hard to justify its existence. If it’s large and oddly shaped, it’s going to have to much more valuable to you to be worth the effort of keeping.

2. Is it in good condition?

Yes, some things have a sentimental value that make them worth keeping long, long after they’ve stopped looking their best. But really, we work so hard to make our homes nice – is it really worth keeping something that’s actually a bit horrible to look at? (I will get on to an example on this in a moment!)

3. If you got rid of it, would you miss it in six months time?

Whenever I have a difficult thing to do, I try to take the long view. In six months, is anyone going to care? If you don’t think you’d miss the item in question in six months time, get rid. And if you think you might, keep it and in six months, be honest about how many times you’ve used/thought about it. If it’s none, or next to none, then it will be easier to get shot of then.

4. Is there someone else you can give it to who will get more use from it?

A good way to get rid of treasured items without having to feel bad, is to give them to someone else who actually needs them, or might enjoy them. I used to do this with books all the time. Because I would have, once upon a time, kept every book I was ever given, I used to give them to my sisters or friends so I didn’t have to keep them. It was nice to imagine them being read and enjoyed by someone else.

5. Will you ever use it again?

This would be my key argument on Lego Marvel. Are you ever going to use it again? Realistically, the fun in a Playstation game is playing it through the first time. Even epics that have several different alternative endings and storylines are usually not as fun the second time through, so a game that only has one storyline isn’t exactly going to be worth playing again. Not when there are loads of new games out there to buy and enjoy.

An Example

The Boyfriend is a terrible hoarder. He loves it when I clear out my stuff, but he can’t abide going through his own. I remember when we were moving out of the flat into our current house, and he had three boxes of things that were in the garage. And had been in the garage since he moved into the flat three years before. I was all for just putting them in the car and putting them in the skip – if you haven’t looked at them in that long, there’s nothing of value in there that’s worth keeping. But he insisted on going through them, and got so stressed as I tried to get rid of the tat inside, that he actually laughed with delight when his alerter went off and he had to leave for a fire call.

Later, he went back and sorted it through himself. He went from three boxes to two. They lived in our spare room for another year or so.

Periodically, I’d try to thin out the stuff in the spare room. It was a massive mess of all the stuff we didn’t have a place for as we went through and redid the house one room at a time. But I knew eventually we would get round to it and I did not want to have to accommodate the two boxes of rubbish from the flat. Over a few sessions, I managed to talk the Boyfriend down to a single box – a smaller one that was inside one of the larger boxes, in fact. Inside the box was some jewellery he’d been given by various relatives – a couple of watches and a St. Christopher – a few other bits and bobs and a towel.

The Towel.

I hate the towel. It’s an old swimming towel that he had when he did lessons as a very small boy. It’s got those badges you used to get sewn to it. The towel is far too small to be of any use to a grown man – not that you would want to attempt to dry anything sensitive with those badges on it – and it’s in terrible condition, eroded by chlorine and use over many years. And it’s a horrible mint green colour.

Wars have been waged over this towel in our house. I want it gone, and have done for years. The Boyfriend can’t bring himself to throw it away.

The other day, he surprised me by saying he’d gone through the box and cleared it all out. The box itself was in the recycling as proof. I was over the moon – finally, the rubbish had been cleared out. The watches were going to be sold and the towel was gone.

Only then, like something out of a nightmare, I saw a hint of mint green on the table…

Definitely not worth keeping...

Definitely not worth keeping…


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