In one of Gretchen Rubin’s books (I forget which one, but go read them all, each is sprinkled with pearls of wisdom), she describes how identifying the kinds of clutter can help you sort out your things and decide whether to keep them. I’ve outlined a few that she identifies below, but you should definitely read her books because she goes into much more detail.


This is the kind of clutter that reminds you of something positive.  Many times gifts I’ve received fall in this category. I might not use it but it reminds me of someone I care about and the thought they put into giving me a gift. If I ever give someone a gift and they don’t find it useful, I would want them to give it up to make room for something they do find useful. I think people who have given me gifts feel the same way, so this is how I reason through separating with these items.

Conservation Clutter

These are things that are useful, though not to you. For example, I have a slow cooker that I use about twice per year. I also have a cake stand that is rarely used. They are useful things, but if I’m only using them a couple of times per year, they’re probably not useful enough for me to keep.


Crutch Clutter

This group includes worn out things you still hold on to. My favorite pair of sweatpants fall in this category, They have holes and frayed edges but I just keep wearing them.

Aspirational Clutter

These are things you aspire to use. For me it’s a set of barre workout DVDs. I’ve probably only used them once, but my ideal self uses them all the time.

Buyers Remorse Clutter

This includes things that you’ve bought and not used but can’t seem to part with yet. I do this a lot with clothes. I’ve spent money on it, so I feel obligated to keep it, but if I’m not wearing it, it needs to go!

How to Get Rid of It

1. Make sure it’s going to a good home

It helps me to know that my things are going to a good place. If I know someone who can use it, I love giving it to them. I have a neighborhood Buy Nothing group on Facebook where we trade items and I’ve given away a lot of things on there. Otherwise finding an organization you know will benefit from your item is helpful. I also like selling things and using the money toward something I want or need. Ebay or Offer Up are great places to sell.

2. Give yourself a Deadline

Sometimes I try to give myself a deadline on using an item I’m thinking about parting with.  l’ll tell myself that if I haven’t used it by the end of the month, it has to go. Setting a phone reminder is a good way to keep track of that.

3. Hide it

Using the out of sight, out of mind method,  you take the things you’re thinking of getting rid of and hide them in a box or under your bed. If you haven’t used the hidden items within a certain amount of time, you get rid of them. The trick is, you can’t resort through those items once that allotted amount of time has passed. You have to take that closed box or bag and give the items away without looking at them a second time.

4. Keep track of what you use

Another method is the “keep what I use” method. This works well for clothes. You can turn all your hangers and hang all the items hooked toward you at the beginning of a season. Then when you use an item and put it back, you put the hanger back on the rod hooked away from you. At the end of the season you look at the items still hooked toward you and give them away since they haven’t been used.