I’ll be moving in a couple of months, and to prepare for the move, I’ve started the decluttering process. There’s nothing quite like a move to get you thinking about the things you own—what you should keep and what would really be better off thrown away or donated to someone else.
Decluttering isn’t always an easy thing for me to do. Getting rid of things that may be useful feels wasteful to me, and as an artist, I often keep things because I never know when they’ll be useful for something that I’m making. It’s easy for me to become emotionally attached to items, even if I never use them.
On the other hand, I’ve spent much of the last decade trying to downsize. It’s only in the last few years, especially since reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, that I feel I’ve become more successful with it.
As I’ve nailed down my personal style and curated a wardrobe that I love, much of the clothes-clutter is gone. Moving to college and back helped me downsize again. Now that it’s time to make my first serious move away from the area that I grew up in, I’m working on one more major downsize.
My aim is to find a level of minimalism that works for me. I already live fairly minimally, but with this last sweep through all the nooks and crannies, I’m hoping to take it one step further.
Throughout the whole process, the question that I’ve continued to ask myself is, “Do I really want to bother loading and unloading this from the U-Haul?”
Here are 9 things where the answer was, “no.”
1. Old Notebooks
This is one of the many items that falls in the “maybe I will use it one day” category. The thing is, I rarely use notebooks, and I had a whole stack of old notebooks with a few clean pages in them. I had kept them for years on the off chance that I’d need the last ten pages of a notebook for some important note-taking, but it turns out I just don’t need them.
Also included in this category was a sizable amount of loose leaf lined paper and graph paper. I don’t think I’ve used graph paper since middle school.
Yes, old, half-used notebooks and pieces of paper could be useful, but will they be? Nope. Out they went.
2. Yearbooks and other memorabilia
I’ve been wondering for several years what I should do with my yearbooks. Yes, I had the whole collection, but no, I never looked at them, I had no desire to, and I doubt I’d ever look at them again. The high school yearbooks just didn’t interest me anymore and the college yearbooks weren’t all that reflective of the experiences that I actually had in college.
Collecting signatures and flipping through the book at the end of the school year brought me joy, but having that stack of books to drag around with me didn’t.
And yet, I felt like I wasn’t allowed to get rid of them.
I went so far as to google “throw out yearbooks” to see if that was a thing that the internet could help me with.
Turns out, there are plenty of people who got rid of their yearbooks and feel completely fine with that decision. Out they went.
In the same vein, I have so many small items that I’ve kept over the years for sentimental reasons, but as I actually looked through them, I couldn’t tell you where most of the items came from or why they were supposed to be special. I certainly wasn’t about to load them onto a truck to move with me to a new place. Out they went.
3. Clothes that I don’t have a reason to wear
For the most part, I’ve done a decent job over the last few years of getting rid of clothes that I don’t like. On the other hand, I still had some clothes that I like but have no reason to wear.
As my life has changed through college, then business casual, then working from home, I’ve needed different clothes. Clothes that I may have liked and worn in previous phases of life are of no use to me now or in the foreseeable future.
Any clothes that I like but don’t have a reason to wear will not be making the move with me.
4. Clothes that aren’t my first (or second, or third) choice
I do laundry weekly. This means that even if I have five pairs of sweatpants that I like, I will only ever wear two or three of those pairs. I only ever wear two or three pairs of sweatpants in a week, which means that my fourth and fifth favorite pairs don’t get worn.
This may not be true for everybody. If you may occasionally choose your fifth favorite over your second favorite when both are clean, keep them all. But if you’re like me and always start with the ones that you like the most, there’s no reason to keep all of them.
Your fifth favorite pair could easily become someone else’s new #1, where they’ll see much more love and wear than they would have had you kept them.
5. Art that I’ve made
If you create things, read this. If you aren't a creator, this may not apply to you.
Throughout my entire life, I’ve been a creator. I’ve created paintings, photos, jewelry, pottery, drawings, and probably half a dozen other kinds of art. Up until recently, I felt obligated to keep everything I made. After all, is it art, isn’t it? You can’t throw away art.
But you can. You can throw away art. If that art isn’t all that great, you don’t want it, no one else wants it, and it’s just taking up space in storage bins, you don’t have to keep it.
Art is meant to be appreciated and enjoyed. If you like the art, display it. Gift it. Get it out into the world where it will be enjoyed.
But if you don’t like it and don’t want it in the world, out it goes. And if you’re anything like me, getting rid of old creations will free up quite a lot of space.
Years ago, I went through a perfume phase. I suspect quite a few teenagers do. I wore it semi-regularly for a couple of years.
After that, I stopped wearing it. I was too busy (or lazy) to wear it through much of high school and college. Perfumes are discouraged in professional environments because some people are sensitive to smells. Now that I work from home, I have no reason to wear it. I know that I could wear it just for my own enjoyment, but I no longer find it enjoyable.
This had left me with an assortment of old perfume bottles that may or may not smell like they were intended to. Time is not friendly to scents. Though I may have paid for them, I know I’d never actually use them. Out they went.
(Plus, most of those perfumes reminded me too much of middle school dances and high school concerts. No thank you.)
In general, I don’t have a ton of books. I’m a big reader, but I donated most of my books years ago and get all of my books from the library these days.
But, as a recentish college graduate, I have a lot of textbooks and other books that I had to acquire for classes. I’ve held on to them because it feels like I should. I spent money on these books and they have good information in them, right? Maybe I’ll read them one day, right? Wrong.
Well, they do have good information in them, even if bits of the computer science textbooks may be outdated already. But I’m not going to read them. Even if the information in them is good, there are so many books that I’d much rather be reading than old school books. Current students need them much more than I do. Out they go.
I know very few people who haven’t amassed a collection of random t-shirts. Everybody loves to give out t-shirts. I have dozens. But, like the sweatpants I was talking about in number 4, I only ever wear my favorites. All of the rest just sit there unused. There’s no point in moving all of them to my new home with me.
Old t-shirts can be used to dry hair. They’re less damaging than towels. They’re good for turning into rags (fewer bad-for-the-environment sponges!). The worst of them are going in the trash and any that are in good shape but that I don’t wear will be donated. I’ll only be taking my favorites with me to continue wearing.
9. Stationery (specifically paper and envelopes)
Many eons ago, I used to be penpals with one of my friends, even though we lived only a couple of miles apart. During this time, I acquired quite a lot of cutesy matching envelope and paper sets. Most of them had girly, childish patterns that would look ridiculous coming from someone in her 20s. On top of that, I haven’t written anyone an actual letter in years.
These days, I only send thank you cards. I have two sets of cards and envelopes, and these will last me for a couple of years at least. All the rest of it? Out it goes.