The Very Logical Decluttering Tip I Learned from My Friend Who’s Always Moving

published Jan 6, 2022
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Woman watering her plants in the process of moving house
Credit: Getty Images/ Justin Lambert

Unless you’ve spent time thinking about it and plotting ways to harness it in your favor, you may not realize how much your mind is involved in the cleaning and organizing tasks that have to get done. From finding the best cleaning routine that works for your household to mustering up the gumption to finally clean your oven before holiday cooking commences, there are a lot of mental gymnastics involved in the chores we do to keep our homes the way we like them.

Decluttering might be the most mentally complicated home-keeping task we undertake because there’s often a heavily emotional component. We grapple with letting go of sentimental items and we struggle with the fear of letting go of something we might need down the road. We feel guilty when we “spent good money” on something that we never used or no longer need, and we contend with feeling like we’re wasteful or ungrateful for what we have.

But we also know the tremendous psychological gains we make when we’re able to send our items off to new homes. We breathe easier with more space and we reclaim the time and energy that’s been siphoned off by managing so many things for so long.

The key to bridging the gap between these two states of mind is adopting a perspective that helps us put those sticky items in the giveaway pile. I’ve taken on several helpful mindsets over the years, including asking myself the famous “Does this spark joy?” along with keeping only the “best, favorite, and necessary” and deciding that my home will not serve as a storage unit.

A friend in the middle of a recent move shared something with me that I’ve added to this arsenal of decluttering mantras. She has moved many times and is the best declutterer I know. As she was describing selling and donating items as she and her family downsized, she offhandedly mentioned, “We got our use out of them.” And I had an aha moment.

I don’t need to feel guilty when I donate things that no longer serve our family. Paying to use someting while we were using it makes our expenditure worthwhile, whether or not we hang on to it through new seasons of life. In fact, not letting go of these types of items that take up space and do little else transforms our money-spending for something once useful into a sunken cost for something that only weighs us down.

Realizing that it’s normal and acceptable to buy and use items for part of our lives, rather than maintaining a mindset of holding on indefinitely to everything we get, is a game-changer. Telling yourself, with gratitude, that you got your use out of whatever-it-is loosens the grip you have on your stuff so that, ultimately, your stuff loses its grip on you.

This post originally appeared on Apartment Therapy. See it there: The Perfect Decluttering Tip I Learned From My Friend Who’s Always Moving