Musings of a Recovering Clutterbug, Episode 5: What to Throw Away

OK, so far I’ve been largely philosophical.  Now to be a bit more formulaic.

There are probably lots of people and websites and advice on what to keep and what to toss.  Honestly, I disagree with a lot of this advice, because it tends to revolve around time limits for keeping things rather than what function they might serve now or in the future.

One last homage to philosophy:  if you want to keep something, keep it.  It isn’t junk if you want it.  Find some way to store whatever it is or display it.  I think the ultimate example of this is ticket stubs.  Some people like to keep  the little torn scrap of paper that the usher hands back at events.  How to keep track of them and contain them?  Get a shadow box with one glass side and a hole in the top like a piggy bank and deposit the stubs in the shadow box.  The stubs can be viewed through  the glass and removed through the panel in the box.  Eventually, if the person wants to sort through them and create some kind of display, they are in one place and safe and contained until and unless that day comes.

But sometimes you’ve got to be cutthroat.  So, without further ado, my list of things that go:

1.        Relics of ex-significant others, boyfriends, girlfriends, spouses, live-ins. 

Not only do I include gifts in this, but also things that were acquired in furtherance of the relationship—home electronics, sports gear, clothing, home accessories, jewelry, etc, that was purchased to fit into the other person’s lifestyle, participate in their hobbies or otherwise get to know them.  Keep in mind, if you bought it yourself, you are free to dispose of it in any way possible; if it was a true gift, whether for a special occasion—engagement, birthday, anniversary, just because—decorum, practicality and, in some cases, the law require you to check with the person and see if they want it back before you dispose of it yourself, even if you literally plan to dispose of it.

If it is yours?  If it is worth something, go ahead and sell it.  If there is life in it but you don’t want the hassle of selling or it is not worth that much, take it to a Charity resale shop and get a tax receipt.  If you really like it, I would still suggest getting rid of the item from the relationship era and get something new—an upgrade, an updated style, something more suited to your personal needs now that the SO is out of the picture.  If the SO was on different level of economic footing and bought you something really nice or expensive, like a car, I really would suggest trading it in if they don’t want it back.  Maybe you can get a more fuel efficient model, something that is cheaper to take care of, something that accommodates your dogs, small business, wheel pottery hobby.  Or maybe you really don’t need it and can use the cash for something else.

What if the relic is an apartment, condo or house, and because of down markets, where the kids go to school or some such other you *really* *can’t* *sell/move*?  Make it your own.  Redecorate big time—sell the furniture, paint, recover the floors, get rid of household items.  Ladies, turn an entire bedroom into a closet/dressing room, paint stuff pink, orange, bright blue, buy a plush purple chair; gentlemen, display your sports stuff that she hated, buy one of those hideous oversize overstuffed leather couches women always hate, install a bar.  One woman turned her whole house into a tribute to Classic Trek, another woman painted her bedroom closet door and wall to look like the TARDIS moving through Space-Time.  Why not?  Bozo is gone and it’s all yours.

What about tokens—cards, letters, pictures, etc?  Realistically, I would suggest disposing of perhaps not all, but the majority of these, even if normally you are inclined to keep such things.  Maybe don’t do it right away, but probably best.  Shred or burn, though, to protect privacy.  Don’t put stuff like that in the trash as is.  Not these days.

2.        (Related) Relics of any other past failed, terminated, dysfunctional relationships. 

Ditto above for stuff still hanging around in your life that dates to friendships that went sour or have simply faded away entirely, roommate situations that have ended, past jobs or past social networks that no longer are a presence in your life and are unlikely to be part of your future.  Keep stuff that serves a function, like your offer letter from an old job that dates when your employment started and the paperwork about your pension benefits.  (Seriously, do not throw out documentation of retirement and pension rights from old jobs.)

3.        “Gifts.” 

OK, this one you see everywhere.  We all get tons of “gifts” every year for various holidays, occasions, events, thank yous, please attends, etc.  Whether it is handmade sweaters from Grandma or premiums from a charity walk, don’t get caught in the “gift” trap.  Do you wear the sweater?  Does it still fit?  Is it the only sweater Grandma made for you or one of a dozen?  Would it make sense to pass it on to a younger relative who never got a sweater from Grandma and might like one and whom it might currently suit better?

I’m not suggesting you surrender family heirlooms or the last thing Granny ever gave you.  But think about how the item functions in your life now.  As to other true gifts, appreciate them for what they are, but let them run their course.  As to “goody bag” stuff, I am completely cutthroat with that kind of stuff.  I try to avoid picking it up at all if I don’t think I can use it, and if it winds up at home, I tend to throw it away ASAP.

4.        Expired stuff

Particularly if it is ingested or otherwise consumed or used internally, get rid of any expired food items, medications—prescription or over the counter, or health and beauty products.  Place the items closest to their expiration date where they will be used, store extras in order of their expiration.  Note the items that you throw away partially used and buy less often, buy smaller sizes in the future, buy single use packages, buy on an “as needed” basis, or share around, if possible.

5.        Items that have expired from your life

Old keys can be donated for metal recycling.  Spare parts to cars, lawn and garden equipment that is now gone, appliances that have been disposed of, etc, can be sold or donated to salvage places.

Gave up your house for apartment living?  Forget about hoses, weed wackers, snow shovels, etc.

Moved from the beach to the mountains?  You probably don’t use that surfboard much any more.

Have a stack of cell phones and other electronics that have been superseded in your life by upgrades?  Cell phones can be passed on to victims advocacy groups—any cell phone with power reaches 911, or pass on to relatives, friends or others who have less money or inclination for toys and can actually use that old phone, computer or accessory item.

6.        Catalogs

You’ll get another one, trust me.  You can always bookmark the website in your browser, and save a coupon code by tearing that page out of the catalog and keeping it with your coupons.

7.        Multiples

Do you have three dining room  sets, four living room groups, five computers, four pairs of rain boots?

Sometimes this is justifiable—you live in a house with a formal dining room, a kitchen dinette area, and you have a dining area in your walk out basement/ rec room.  OK.  Three dining areas, three dining sets.  If you live in a one bedroom apartment, get rid of at least one, prolly two, loan one or two out or put them in storage until you are in a larger space and they are needed.

You have Wellies for the garden, rain proof hiking boots, nice rain boots for your commute to your office job and the old pair of nice boots for slumping around the neighborhood on weekends.  Makes sense, particularly if you live in Seattle.  If you live in Phoenix, you can probably get rid of a few pairs.


As you start to dispose, note what goes, note what stays.  Keep it in mind next time you are shopping.  Declutter is as much about what your bring in as what you throw out.  Preventive care for the Soul.

About missbodie

The Dragon Lady is a life long tea drinker. Her first coffee shops were Big Boy and the Oriental Diner in downtown Milwaukee. She lives in our Nation's Capital with three bicycles and an energetic tabby cat.
This entry was posted in People, Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s