The Ultimate Guide to Deciding What to Keep or Toss When Decluttering (2024)

When it comes to decluttering your home, it can often become difficult to know what to keep and throw out so you have a tidy space by the end of your organizing. Whether it's clothing or shoes, paper clutter, or miscellaneous items, you don't want to hold onto any items that no longer serve you or your space.

To help make the decluttering process easier and faster, we've rounded up seven questions you can ask yourself so you can decide what's worth tossing or keeping.

  • 01 of 07

    Will This Be Important to Me in the Future?

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    If you've held on to old invoices, bills, or resumes from 10 to 20 years ago, they're only wasting space. Sort through which ones are worth keeping and shred and toss the others that aren't.

    Examples of documents you need to keep in a safe place include wills, warranties, financial papers, tax returns for the past five years (or seven years for complicated returns), various licenses, and insurance papers. Protect the valuable documents in fireproof lockable storage boxes that you can access in case of emergency.

  • 02 of 07

    Has It Passed Its Expiration Date?

    The Ultimate Guide to Deciding What to Keep or Toss When Decluttering (2)

    An expiration date can also relate to whether an item has outlived its usefulness. Before sorting through your closet and drawers, create different bins and label them as seasonal clothes, donations, and throw away. This way, you'll be able to better handle each pile after you've organized them into their categories.

    For seasonal clothes, feel free to break them up into four seasons so you can store away what you won't currently wear. This way, you'll be able to easily swap out the boxes when it gets warmer or colder in the upcoming months.

  • 03 of 07

    Do You Have Sentimental Attachment to the Items?

    The Ultimate Guide to Deciding What to Keep or Toss When Decluttering (3)

    The items you love are part of what makes life joyful. You may love looking at certain photos or feel nostalgic towards an item of decor. The trick is to not turn beloved items into sentimental clutter. Go through your decor, photos, and antiques and see which ones can be used to refresh your shelves or mantels (you may be surprised what you come up with).

    If you no longer want to keep the item but want to be able to remember it, consider taking a photo so you can always have a memory of it.

  • 04 of 07

    Do You Have Duplicates?

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    Choose wisely if you want two or more of one particular item. Do you need more than one coffee maker? Is one of them in need of repair?

    Duplicates of items take up precious space in your home, especially if they're stored in prime storage spots, such as a hall closet or the kitchen. If you must keep duplicates, store them out of the way to free up crucial living space.

    Continue to 5 of 7 below

  • 05 of 07

    Do You Use It Regularly?

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    Do you use the item consistently or could you get along without it but still don't want to toss it? Toss items you can get along without or rarely use, which may include:

    • Sale items you thought were too good to pass up
    • Items purchased you thought you'd use one day
    • Things bought while on vacation that you thought you'd never find elsewhere
  • 06 of 07

    Was It a Gift You Wanted?

    The Ultimate Guide to Deciding What to Keep or Toss When Decluttering (6)

    If you received a gift you can't use, it's appropriate in many instances to regift or recycle the item. Graciously accept the gift and send a thank you note, but you aren't required to keep or use it.

  • 07 of 07

    Could You Put It to Better Use?

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    You may have an item that your gut tells you to keep. Perhaps you can put it to good use after all. If you have any antique glassware hidden away, sort through them to see which ones can be brought out to be used for daily meals or gatherings.

    Maybe you have items you can lend out to friends and family who may be able to use them. Items like this may include:

    • Quality yard equipment and gardening tools
    • Expensive kitchen gadgets and appliances, such as bread makers or stand mixers
    • One-of-a-kind formal gowns and special occasion clothes
    • Costly camera equipment, sporting equipment, wedding gowns, party tents, kayaks, and skis

36 Cleaning and Organizing Hacks to Conquer Clutter

The Ultimate Guide to Deciding What to Keep or Toss When Decluttering (2024)


How to decide what to throw away when decluttering? ›

  1. Anything that doesn't add value​ Fields Millburn says to ask yourself: “How might my life be better with less?” ...
  2. Just-in-case items​ To the Minimalists, “just in case” are three dangerous words. “ ...
  3. Photos and paper​ ...
  4. Actual trash​ ...
  5. Damaged items​ ...
  6. Extras/duplicates​ ...
  7. Stuff you never use​ ...
  8. An abandoned hobby​

What is the 20 20 20 rule for decluttering? ›

Then we tested our hypothesis: the 20/20 Rule. Anything we get rid of that we truly need, we can replace for less than $20 in less than 20 minutes from our current location. Thus far, this hypothesis has become a theory that has held true 100% of the time.

How to know what to keep when decluttering? ›

How to Decide What to Keep or Toss When Decluttering
  1. 01 of 07. Will This Be Important to Me in the Future? ...
  2. 02 of 07. Has It Passed Its Expiration Date? ...
  3. 03 of 07. Do You Have Sentimental Attachment to the Items? ...
  4. 04 of 07. Do You Have Duplicates? ...
  5. 05 of 07. Do You Use It Regularly? ...
  6. 06 of 07. Was It a Gift You Wanted? ...
  7. 07 of 07.
Nov 1, 2023

What is the core 4 method of decluttering? ›

The Core 4 Organizing Method breaks down the daunting task of decluttering and organizing into 4 simple steps: Clear Out, Categorize, Cut Out, and Contain. It's an approach that countless professional organizers swear by and use every single day in their work, and it's one that you can adopt in your very own home.

What is the 90 90 rule for decluttering? ›

Have you used that item in the last 90 days? If you haven't, will you use it in the next 90? If not, then it's okay to let go,' write Joshua and Ryan on their blog. The 90/90 rule isn't limited to the wardrobe (in fact it's applicable to many areas of the home) but it's definitely a good place to start.

What is the golden rule of decluttering? ›

Take it room by room: Start decluttering one room at a time to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Focus on a specific area before moving on to the next. Sort methodically: Divide items into categories (keep, donate, sell, discard) and work through each category systematically to prevent decision fatigue.

What should you not do when decluttering? ›

What NOT to Do When Decluttering
  1. Avoiding decision making. ...
  2. Taking on too much at once. ...
  3. Getting stuck on the details. ...
  4. Letting your emotions control the process. ...
  5. Organizing Before You Declutter. ...
  6. 4 Comments.

What should I remove first when decluttering? ›

Start by clearing off your bathroom counters, emptying drawers and completely cleaning out linen closets in or near your bathrooms. Some experts recommend decluttering multiple bathrooms at once to really get an idea how much excess you have. You may have enough soap to last you for two years and not even know it!

What is the 333 decluttering method? ›

The idea behind Project 333 is simple: Wear only 33 articles of clothing for the next 3 months. All clothing, accessories, jewelry, outerwear, and shoes count towards your number.

What is ruthless decluttering? ›

Be ruthless by picking out just a few items to keep that are your most favorite, and consider parting with the rest. Give yourself grace as you go through sentimental items. You won't be able to do it all at once, and it may take several sessions to decide which difficult items to keep or let go.

What is the quieting decluttering technique? ›

The concept involves taking every single item out of a room and then, slowly, replacing only what you really want, miss, or need. The results contain absolutely nothing that doesn't contribute to your happiness. With nothing to weigh you down, you and your room are quiet, just like the name of the practice promises.

What is the rule of 5 decluttering? ›

The 5 year rule

If someone hasn't used an item in five years, they will probably never use it. It is important to note that this rule is helpful for people who are stuck or have a hard time letting things go. ' This rule is good when organizing attics and basem*nts where clutter builds up over time.

What is the 5 second rule for decluttering? ›

What is the five-second rule? The five-second rule is a widely-adaptable technique from organizational coach Mel Robbins, who advocates for it in her books. According to Robbins, you should make major decisions in under five seconds, actually counting down five, four, three, two, one.

How to figure out what to get rid of? ›

How to Get Rid of Stuff: 9 Tricks for Making the Task Easier
  1. Get inspired. ...
  2. Use a decluttering calendar. ...
  3. Examine your motivation. ...
  4. Follow the 80/20 rule. ...
  5. Make a list of acceptable “must-keep” things. ...
  6. Come up with a concrete way to use the items. ...
  7. Move it out before you toss it out. ...
  8. Start out in a simple spot.
Feb 25, 2023

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