This Inverted Decluttering Strategy Helped Me Get Rid of Even More Stuff

published Aug 3, 2022
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I’m always amazed by new decluttering strategies that strike a chord and make me realize that I can probably get rid of even more stuff. It makes sense, though, because being able to let go of things is largely a matter of perspective. 

Take this conversation I had with my mom the other day. As I was telling her about unpacking my office, specifically my desk supplies, I was bemoaning how much junk I still had to sort and purge and put away. “Just make sure you won’t need it first,” she said. My alarm bells went off because I’m in the mode of thinning out my belongings, not finding reasons to keep things I don’t need in my current life! I shared with her my way of looking at the office supplies that I’ve been carting around for years: “What’s the cost of keeping it?” 

I felt like I was already paying the cost in the time and energy required to deal with it all. The worst-case scenario — if I got rid of something I ended up needing down the line — was maybe having to pick up another highlighter. (Doubtful since I haven’t used a single one from the multi-pack I got probably a decade ago!) The peace of mind, empty space, and, most valuable of all, time I gained by donating my unused supplies now is more than worth that hypothetical trip to the store down the road. 

In addition to high-level ways of looking at things like the story above illustrates, more granular strategies that help you decide what to keep and what to say goodbye to are where the rubber meets the road. I recently picked up a new one while listening to Gretchen Rubin’s “Outer Order, Inner Calm.”

I’ve found Emily Ley’s strategy of choosing to keep the “best, favorite, and necessary” helpful over the years. Additionally, always a Marie Kondo fan, I still employ the “sparks joy” criterion regularly when waffling about whether or not to keep a certain item. Rubin’s strategy, completely new to me, inverts this approach of pulling out the best things to hang on to and getting rid of the rest.

Instead of plucking the favorites out of a pile, she suggests subtracting the worst (or least favorite, or what doesn’t spark joy, as the case may be) and putting those items in your donation box. This tiny shift in perspective can have big decluttering dividends and help you spot the extra things you’re hanging on to unnecessarily. 

I tried this inverted technique as I was putting clothes away in my dresser. I noticed, because I was sorting my clothes by color, that I had six white shirts. Six! Seeing them all together made me realize that I really didn’t need all these repeats. While I could find things I liked about each of the slightly different shirts, giving myself the parameter of having to get rid of two felt right. So I looked for the two white shirts I liked least and pulled them out.

Instantly, my drawer was less crowded and I was left with the best of a certain category. While the end result was the same as choosing to keep my favorites, subtracting my least favorites helped me see what my favorites actually were. Now I have fewer items to maintain and, yes, from this outer order, an increased measure of inner calm. 

This post originally appeared on Apartment Therapy. See it there: I Tried A New Inverted Decluttering Strategy and It Helped Me Get Rid of Even More Stuff