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  • When I am going through my possessions with a goal to reduce and minimize, I often find that there are two very powerful barriers that prevent me from making good judgments when accessing to keep or toss items.

     I am sure they are also the two most common barriers for you.

    1. Usefulness
    2. guilt

    In order to be successfull at cutting the clutter I need to understand these barriers and have a strategy for dealing with them.

    The following strategy will make help you look at each item through a new lens and more easily determine if it’s worth keeping or tossing. It will be especially helpful if you have hit one of the two most common barriers to reducing clutter.

    Many people have heard about Marie Kondo by now. She is growing increasingly more popular after the release of her Netflix show. If you have read the page here at Pine Tree Farmhouse titled Meet Andrea you know about how she has influenced me in my journey. I first learned about her during her first round of popularity after she released her book The Art of Tidying up. The thing she might be best known for is her hallmark phrase “does this item bring you joy?” She encourages her clients to touch each item they own as they are trying to reduce clutter and ask that very question.

    While I found this advice helpful in some categories, it wasn’t so clear in many other areas of my home. When I sort through items that I have needed and collected that don’t bring me joy but  are useful, like power tools, extra hardware,  office supplies, and many kitchen gadgets I can’t say that they bring me “joy.”

    This leads us into our first barrier usefulness.

     When you come across an item that you don’t love the look, or have somewhere to store it and it’s useful, it triggers a particular type of thought pattern.

    You start to think to yourself, what if I get rid of this item and then need it again later, or I don’t like it but I need it. Most often I find this to be a big issue for me with art supplies. I just never know when I might feel like working on a particular type of art project and if I get rid of it I might not have the money to replace it. The same thing could be said for me about fabric.

    The following is several steps to help you decide if a useful item is worth keeping around and storing.

    Remember, the storage of items is not free. There is a cost to storing excess even if you are not outwardly paying for storage units.

    1. Consider how often you use the item.
    2. Consider if you have another tool or item that could do the same job- for example, do you really need a food processor, high powered blender, and kitchen stand mixer?
    3. Consider the cost to replace if you decide you really need it later on.
    4. And then revisit number 1 and honestly ask yourself if you will actually use the item for its intended purpose (this is important, especially if you answered rarely or hardly for question 1). A good rule of thumb is have I used it in the past year? Have I used it in the past 5 years? Have I ever used it?

    Once you have considered all four questions to the “useful” item you can then be more objective about if it is actually serving you to keep it.

    If you find that you really do use the item, but you don’t particularly like the item, you need to make a plan on how to fix your feelings about it. Do you need to replace it with something you like more?

    For example, my husband used to have this circular saw, we bought it new and it was a really nice brand. For some reason that saw just always frustrated him. He claimed it didn’t work and was really difficult to use. I felt frustrated because it was expensive and we have never had a ton of money to throw at anything, let alone tools. We eventually ended up replacing it with an old hand me down generic saw that a friend gave us from some yard sale.  Now we use the saw all the time and there are no more problems. The older cheaper saw works better for us and it’s a much better situation.

    It’s OK to switch a possession you own that is useful, that you don’t like, with something different or new that you love.

    Don’t feel guilty for wanting to enjoy working with your tools or using the items you need to accomplish tasks. If something is useful and you love it you will be far more likely to use it more often.

    This brings us to the second barrier listed in the beginning of the post guilt.

    So many times I have wanted to get rid of an item, or get a different item I like better and I have been stopped in my tracks for feeling guilty. I know this is a very common problem for everyone trying to reduce their clutter and live more minimally. There are many things that can influence us to feel guilt when considering what to keep and what to toss. The easiest items to feel guilty about are gifts, and items that hold dear memories but are useless to us otherwise.

    Let’s take a minute to consider gifts. 

    Think of a gift, or imagine a gift that was given to you by a loved one. The gift giver can either be alive or have passed. Think of that person and then consider the item along with the following questions.

    1. Do you really like or use the item or do you only keep it because it reminds you of that person?
    2. Is that item the only thing you have to remind you of that person?
    3. Would that person want to give you something for you to feel burdened by it?
    4. Did they give it to you with the intention of you keeping it forever, would they care if you donated it?
    5. Can you take a picture of the item to help you remember the specific memory and then let the actual item go?

    Most of the time you will find that if you are even considering the item in this manner you don’t really like it and would rather not have it anymore.

    You are likely only temped to keep it because of your guilt.

    Often you will have other items to remind you of the person who gave the gift to you. If it is really the only thing you have to remind you of them, and you still don’t love the item, then it’s OK to keep it for that reason alone. Consider making one small to medium sized box with a label “keepsakes” for it and other items like it.

    When most people give gifts they don’t intend for the recipient to feel burdened by the gift. In many cases they might not even remember they gave it to you unless they see it to spark the memory. Try to remember that most people give gifts out of love and they are meant to be enjoyed for the moment in which they are received. They move on and look forward to the next present they will buy for you.

    Sometimes you may feel guilty over the money spent.

    If this is the case consider if the item has resale value and sell it. You can also have a conversation with the gift giver about things that you need or would love to be gifted in the future that you both could feel good about. In our home we try to keep toys minimal. I feel so guilty when the grandparents buy the kids toys and then they break, or end up getting donated shortly after receiving them. We have started asking for season passes to places we would like to frequent but can’t afford ourselves. It has been a great compromise for us, as we are no longer feeling like we are just collecting clutter and we are getting something we love and cherish while they get to feel good about giving.

    Above all, try to remember that gift giving gives the most joy to the giver.

    If they want to go shopping and have a wonderful time thinking of you and buying for you then that is what they should do.

    The gift serves its purpose in the moment you receive it. It tells you they love you and thought of you and spent time on you. After that the purpose of the gift fades. Show them love and be grateful and let go of your guilt if you don’t want to keep the item forever.

    As far as items that hold memories but are otherwise useless like children’s school papers, or old clothes and toys consider keeping only the best of the best. The rest you can take pictures of and store on a CD or in a file on the computer. Remember that “keepsake” box from earlier? Keep only enough items that will fit in a medium or small box. Focus on making new memories, and not living in the past. This can be hard to do sometimes, especially if we have lost loved ones or feel nostalgic for times past but your life is meant to be lived. You are meant to feel joy. Focus on that and move on towards your goals.

    If you can blast through these two barriers there will be nothing stopping you from achieving your dreams.

    Like I always say, living simply is a process. Take it one step at a time and stick with it. You have got this; I know you can do it!

    Leave me a comment and let me know how you break though these barriers when reducing clutter. I would love to hear from you.

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