Store or Toss: Knowing When to Let Go of Your Belongings


One of the first steps of Spring cleaning is de-cluttering. This is the time to survey your belongings and classifying which items should remain in your household, which should go into storage and which you should sell, donate to charity, recycle, or throw in the trash.

While it’s easy enough to make decisions about belongings that you use on a regular basis, making the decision between putting an item into storage or getting rid of it can be a hard one. These items are typically things that you don’t use often, but do have some value.

To help you with this conundrum, here are some questions to ask yourself while sorting through your things:

When did I last use this?

If you haven’t used something in a year, is it really of any value to you?

When will I use this again?

This can be a tricky question: For example, your child may have moved from a crib to a bed. If you plan to have another child within a year or two, keeping the crib might not be a bad idea. If this is your last child, and you don’t anticipate grandchildren for a decade or more, offer the crib a new home.

Does it need repairs or upgrades?

Upgrades and repairs can be expensive and time consuming, but can also be less expensive than buying a replacement. You might want to go back to question #1: If an item has been damaged or broken for over a year and you haven’t bothered to fix it, it’s probably not worth repairing or keeping around.

 Does this have any monetary value?

You’d be amazed at the sort of things that people collect these days. Before relegating old appliances, clothing or decorative pieces to the garage-sale pile, look them up on eBay. You may have a few treasures that can earn you some money.

How much will this cost to store? How much will this cost to replace/rent?

If you have a large, bulky item that you’ll need to store in an off-site storage space, calculate the cost of storage. Then figure out how much it will cost you to replace the item.  It may be that storing that lawnmower or dishwasher for the year that you’ll be living in corporate housing is a better deal than buying a new one when you move back into a place of your own.

Can I store this item in a non-physical format?

Old letters, photographs, records, and videos can easily be scanned or copied, freeing up space in your home. The same goes for older books: If it is out of copyright, you can often find free e-book editions online.

Does somebody else need this?

If you are ambivalent about keeping something, yet you know that it could be put to good use elsewhere, take this as a sign from the universe that it’s time to let go. By donating the item to a non-profit organization, you may even be able to get a tax deduction.

What is my attachment to this item?

There is nothing wrong with wanting to keep your wedding dress, high school yearbooks or first teddy bear. But if you’re filling drawers, closets and even rooms with “memories,” you need to set some boundaries.

When deciding to store or get rid of an item that has sentimental value but little practical use, be honest with yourself. Do you often interact with this item? Does it trigger happy or unhappy feelings when you see or handle it? Does access to the item bring you more pleasure than having extra space because you chose to sell or donate it?

If all else fails and you still can’t make up your mind, get an outside opinion. Ask family members or roommates to vote on whether or not you keep an item. Getting feedback from others can motivate you to get rid of clutter while also re-gaining space and order in your living environment.

How do you make decisions about keeping or storing your belongings?