One of the biggest mistakes we can make is to hold on to everything we own, long after we have outgrown them. Old clothes we will never fit into, torn books, toys from our childhood, old photographs and letter, yesterday’s newspapers, dusty stuffed animals – these are things we hoard and store away in our basements and attics, even when we know we don’t really want them. That’s why reading this how to decide what to throw away guide will help you to keep your house clean of mess and clutter.

There’s always one or more hoarders in every family, the people who simply can’t throw anything away even if they try to. Hoarding is actually a kind of mental illness that can completely engulf a person, make their life a living hell. In others, not being able to throw anything away is an inconvenience they want to grow out of. 

If you have trouble deciding whether you want to throw something out or keep it, here are some tips that can help. 

  • Tackle One Thing at a Time 

A simple, but a good tactic that you will learn in this how to decide what to throw away guide. You can’t clean your whole house in a single day, but you can start from somewhere.  If the task seems very overwhelming to you, try and start from someplace small. You don’t have to sort through everything on the same day, because that will most likely leave you flabbergasted and confused. 

It is better to start from something small, such as sorting through your old clothes. They will be easier to throw away because most of the clothes might not fit you or be too old-fashioned for you. Unless you have sentimental value attached to some of your old clothes, they can actually be of help to the needy. Instead of throwing them away, donating your old clothes might be a better solution to the problem. It could be a form of motivation for you as well, to know that your old clothes will be bringing comfort and happiness to someone in need. 

In this way, start with the smaller piles you need to sort through; pretty soon, you’ll get used to deciding what you want to keep and what you need to donate or throw out. 

  • Remember the Last Time You’ve Used Something 

This is one way to decide if you want to keep something or give it away. Ask yourself, “When was the last time I used it?” If this is a winter jacket that you have last worn 5 years ago, which doesn’t fit you anymore and which is not even in fashion, it is better to give it away to someone who might get some use out of it. If you have baking trays lying around and you haven’t baked a cake for a few hours, they are simply wasting your cabinet space. 

If you haven’t used something for a few years or months, if you don’t really have any use of it left, you are hoarding it in your home and wasting space. Unless these are books that you collect, souvenirs, old clothes of your children that you are saving, and something equally memorable, it is better to give them away. If you feel bad throwing away something that had cost you a lot of money once and given you happiness, try giving them away to donations. Old toys and clothes will help others who need them, and that can be the motivation you need. 

  • Remember How Frequently You Used It 

Was this something that you used every day when it was new – a favourite hoodie perhaps that you loved? A bracelet you wore every day or a ring that never left your fingers? A favourite book you’ve reread more than a few times since you’ve bought it? A DVD that you’ve watched so many times that there are scratches on it? 

If you have used something too many times, you have probably exhausted its use. Even if it had been a gift, it has served its purpose. If you have used something to exhaustion, you shouldn’t feel too bad to give them away. On the other hand, if you feel you can read the book again, wear the hoodie a few more times or watch the movie one last time, you can keep them in the house for a few additional days. Then, when you are finally ready to get rid of it, you won’t feel too bad about it. 

  • Think About How Hard it was to Get

When something was easy to get, i.e. a T-shirt bought at a sale, a paperback you picked up spontaneously while waiting for someone, a dress someone gave you for Christmas that you never really liked, a gift from a distant relative, etc. will be easier to give away. Since you didn’t have to go through a lot of trouble to get them, they won’t be too difficult to part with. 

On the other hand, there are some things in life you have to wait and save for. The book you ordered and waited months to get, the designer dress and purse you bought with your first paycheck, the pair of Italian shoes you almost went bankrupt for, the T-shirt you got at a concert – these aren’t possessions you can easily get rid of. 

The possessions that you had to struggle to get, wait for or save for, or even beg your parents to get – you can most probably make space for them in your home. Most of these belongings have some memories or sentiments attached to them, and you can probably keep them with you. The others, you can probably throw away or donate without a second thought. 

  • Think About How much Storage Space They Need 

Old letters, photographs, and memorabilia don’t take up a lot of space, which means you can keep them stored up in a box in your closet without wasting more than a shelf. On the other hand, if you insist upon saving all your old college textbooks years after you’ve graduated, you’ll be wasting a lot of space on your desk or bookcase. 

So, when you are thinking about tidying up and confused over something, in particular, ask yourself this: how much space am I wasting? If this is a massive winter jacket that is taking up a whole shelf or old clothes that takes up most of your closet, you should definitely think of letting it go. Something small that won’t waste a lot of space is probably worth saving for the future. 

  • Remove what you need to Replace 

When you replace something around the house, make it a habit to throw away the old ones. Be it old towels or old pens, old toys or old batteries, old makeup and expired toiletries, expired medicine, games, and puzzles with missing pieces – they are of no use to you, and need to be thrown away without a second thought. 

This includes everything you know, deep inside, that you would probably never use again. As time goes by, we buy new bedsheets, socks, clothes, gloves, shoes and bags, new phone covers and chargers, etc. for ourselves. Although we don’t really replace them consciously, we stop using the old ones once we buy something new. This is actually one form of replacing our belongings; instead of keeping the old ones, giving them away or throwing them out would be the better solution. 

  • Do it in Two Steps 

When you are new to decluttering, do it is two steps: wait for a while before you are absolutely sure you want to throw something away. While you are going through your old belongings, divide everything into three piles: “keep”, “throw/donate” and “maybe”. Everything you are not sure about, keep in the “maybe” pile. 

After you’ve gone through the whole pile and you have things you are sure you want to give away, do so first. When you have finished with the sorting, the donating and the removal of things you don’t need, you’ll have more space in your home. Based on the space available, you’ll know what to do with the things you have in the “maybe” pile. You can keep them to declutter later if you have the space available, or you can spend more time thinking about whether you really want them or not. 

It’s not easy for some people to throw away something they’ve bought with their own money, even when they don’t need them or when they have exhausted its use. However, never giving away anything with result in a hoarding problem that can soon turn into something very serious. If you have trouble with letting things go, what you need is the right guideline that can help you in the process. Only when you can learn to let go of things, possessions and belongings you don’t need, you can learn to live a simple life.