One woman’s trash is another woman’s treasure

Arriving at a basic definition of clutter is paramount to successfully clearing space in your place

“Release the clutter in your life and set yourself free! Make room for what matters now!” Ahhh, who doesn’t want to savor that vibe! But wait a minute…what in particular are you supposed to get rid of? How much is too much? We are all different with what we’ve got stashed and stored in our homes. It follows that the reason(s) we hang onto certain items will likewise be unique.

Indeed, there is no one-size-fits all approach to decluttering! So before you start pitching things, let’s step back and figure out what clutter truly means! Sure, there are always the obvious things that need to hit the curb. Think expired, worn-out or broken items. But for everything else, let’s agree on a universal description. From there, you can then further define your own personal parameters for what to keep and what to let go.

A definition of “clutter”


What do you think about that? I mean, really: if you don’t want it or need it, it’s just occupying valuable space! On the other hand, if you love it or use it, that definitely stays! When we have a clear idea on how to view clutter, it becomes so much easier to identify it in our homes. Additionally, it also makes for a smoother process to part ways with clutter.

Going a little deeper now

Two more terms to define
What is “Want”?

Still with me? Here’s where we’re really getting to the crux of things! When we say we want something, it generally means we see value in it playing a role in our lives. We could be talking about something that makes us smile or inspires us. Something that represents an important person, place or experience. And again, the items that we want will be unique to each of us. This personalization is what makes our house a home!

However, the key to maintaining a practical quantity of things is this: do we still feel this way now…not just 10 or 20 years ago! For example, I had quite a collection of small bone china animals when I was a child. Every time my family took a trip, I usually picked up a new one. They made me smile every time I looked at them neatly displayed in my bedroom hutch. But fast forward 40+ years, they are long gone!

Now don’t get me wrong: they could be a great reminder of the wonderful family vacations we enjoyed. If I saw them now, I’d say, “Oh, yeah! I sure loved those little animals!” But I have photos from those trips which I’m opting to save instead. And those collectibles don’t fit with my current decor. With all due respect to Marie Kondo, dare I say they no longer “spark joy”?

What is “Need”?

When we say we need something, we are affirming that something is supporting where we are at in our lives. It makes our daily routine easier, it gets things done or it creates positive vibes for us. One person may “need” a blender because they regularly whip up smoothies. Another may “need” two dozen towels because they frequently have overnight guests. So we’re talking about items that support our lifestyle now or the one we are heading towards.

On the other hand, do we truly “need” a 16-piece place setting if we never entertain a large gathering anymore? Do we “need” those As Seen on TVgadgets which are languishing on the shelf? What about the dozens of blouses and shirts that never make it out of the closet? In other words, we should view our belongings with a critical eye and determine if they truly deserve a place in our homes. In fact, if they are sitting idle, imagine the negative energy they emit, causing guilt…and who needs that vibe in their home?

Ezamples of clutter

Here are things that epitomize clutter:

The dirty dozen clutter categories
  • It’s trash (broken, expired, missing parts or worn-out)
  • There’s no room for it now (or in the space you may be moving to)
  • You never use it (or likely never will in the near future)
  • It’s not your style
  • It doesn’t fit, flatter or feel good
  • You have too many duplicates
  • It was an impulse buy, now collecting dust
  • It’s for “some day” or “just in case” (when is that day, anyway?)
  • It’s kept out of guilt
  • You started it but will never finish it
  • It’s no longer your interest or passion
  • Your kids don’t want it
Now what?

Phew! How many things on this list are in your house right now? Oh, I get it: it’s so easy to have clutter creepage in our homes! Mail of all types still arrives daily (and don’t forget about emails, too)! We leave things on the counter “for now” and they remain there. We have clothes from 10 or 20 (or more) years ago that we hope to fit into “some day” or just never release. Our furniture is a mashup of colonial meets modern farmhouse with a nod to Tuscan villas. Makeup samples, expired medications and frayed towels are crammed in bathroom cabinets or hallway closets. Actually, many things could be in perfectly good condition…but you just don’t care for them, use them, or even need them now or in the near future.

The bottom line

Choices we’ve made about the stuff in our homes can be overdo for examination, particularly when we reach our 50’s. Most of us are ending one phase of life and poised to start another. And don’t you think that a new direction or focus calls for releasing the clutter…letting go of the stuff that doesn’t serve a purpose anymore? After all, decluttering clears space for layering in new items which truly support your next season!


More Resources

Each of the 12 clutter categories really warrants a separate blog post. And I will methodically address each one in the near future, promise! But for today, let’s ponder about what is presently in our homes. Take some time to walk through your house. Open your closets and drawers. Look at your belongings with fresh eyes. You can start to see a pattern with what you have that might be overdue for releasing.

Check out this post for how the Swedes approach midlife decluttering (hint: it’s a national pastime!)

Circle back to this post for basic decluttering steps before buying organizing systems:

And in case you haven’t gotten the memo yet, here’s how many Millennials feel about inheriting your stuff:

Your turn!


Before starting your decluttering journey, take time to look at what excess stuff you have in your home. Reflect upon whether it supports you now or where you want to be. Understanding your “why” is critical to recognizing what can go and what should stay!

  • What kind of clutter do you seem to hang on to?
  • Which room seems to be your Achilles?
  • Any insights on releasing clutter that you’d like to share?

Drop us a line or two below…and thanks for stopping by!