Tips to Help Clear Practical Clutter

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Clutter-clearing Tips for Practical Types

The book The New Minimalism by Cary Telander Fortin and Kyle Louise Quilici, identifies four clutter archetypes. I previously shared some clutter clearing tips for the sentimental types. So now it is time for the tips to help clear practical clutter. I am practical. And I am also a lover of beauty and have a high aesthetic value. So I find myself keeping too many beautiful things. I want things to look nice and I want to be practical, but I am often torn between these two driving values. The practical side on its own wouldn’t be so bad. I have a practical friend who only has one set of dishes and feels no urge to have a second set because she doesn’t need it. So in one sense, one might think the practical person who focuses on utility, shouldn’t have a big problem with clutter. But this is where things can go wrong.

Practical types tend to ask the wrong questions when trying to declutter. That question is usually some version of, “Could this be useful someday?” to which the answer will almost always be, “yes!” If this is you, then your achilles heel might be storing duplicates, triplicates or more. For example, “I got a nice toaster for Christmas, but I’ll keep this old one in the attic just in case the new one breaks.” Or “I’ll keep the old one so that when we have lots of visitors, we can make more toast at once.” You’ll find some argument for future use and end up keeping things you don’t actually need and probably won’t use as much as you think.

Practical types are often good at imagining possible future uses for things.

I have twenty-six pretty teacups and saucers on hand in case I decide to throw a tea party for my friends. So far, I’ve used them once, but my friends borrow them every year for their own charity tea parties, so I feel justified in keeping them. At least someone is putting them to good use, if not me! And my aesthetic side takes delight in their prettiness. (My minimalist hubby would have them out in a flash so I keep them out of sight behind a cupboard door.)

I got to thinking about stored duplicates and started by making a list of all duplicates around the house. Numeric limits keeps things reasonable, but one has to be honest about whether or not the space exists to store multiples. I have five different sets of dishes, all of them very pretty, of course. And all of them are neatly stored and accessible, but I am now thinking that three sets would be more than enough for variety. But there goes my utilitarian brain, thinking that my eldest will be off to University in a few years so she might need them? I bet if I ask her, she’ll scowl at me and say she doesn’t want anything to do with my old dishes! 

The cure: set a sensible numeric limit based on actual use.

If you aren’t using it, then let it do some good in the world somewhere else. My daughter may not like my taste in dishes, but someone else might, and that is another goat for Africa. Hooray! I love a triple win: my husband is happy to have less stuff, a charity gets something to sell for free and that in turn will generate money for the good works of charity in the world. It helps to have some compelling reasons to part with my lovely things!

For those of you who are stockpiling extras just in case you (or your family members) might need it someday, will you join me in the challenge of letting those things be genuinely useful to someone else right now? 

Follow the below tips to help clear practical clutter
  • Step 1. Take inventory.

Identify the duplicates in your home. I thought I had three sets of dishes, but I actually counted five. By storing like items with like, you’ll start to see how much you actually have. Take a clipboard around your home and write down where the duplicates are stored and how many of each item you own. Don’t worry, you don’t have to get rid of anything yet!

  • Step 2. Identify the charities you like that want your stuff.

Different charities take different things. Some will accept and come collect furniture in good condition and some won’t. Call ahead so you don’t waste time.

  • Step 3. Decide on a reasonable numeric limit.

Do you have the space to comfortably store and easily retrieve the item? Yes, I could store a full set of dishes in the attic, but I know myself well enough to admit that I’ll never go up in the attic and get them out and cleaned up just to ring in a change for a dinner party. I am going to ask my daughter if she wants the dishes and if not, to charity they go!

If you don’t have the space to store things in a readily accessible way, then out it goes. The utility element is key to keep in mind. If it isn’t handy, you probably won’t use it so let someone else use it instead. Yes, you may have to part company with some perfectly good and useful things, but you can now do that thinking about how someone else with greater need will be using and enjoying your surplus stuff.

  • Step 4. Call the charity to come collect or drop it off and pat yourself on the back for doing a good deed.

Do something nice to reward yourself. Whenever you reward yourself, you start to build positive reinforcement which leads to creating a good habit. Any difficult task, and clutter clearing can be difficult, is easier if you know you have a positive thing at the end to look forward to. Ideally, that reward should not be shopping for more stuff!

  • Step 5. Admire your newfound space and arrange the remaining items so that they have more breathing room and are easier to see and use.

If you have less, you may actually use your beautiful things more often. If in six months you still haven’t used these items, then they can go, too! This might be the incentive you need to actually use and enjoy your lovely things. I am already making plans to throw my own tea party so I can keep those teacups!

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