One Surprising Reason to Declutter Half of Your Stuff
For a long time, I loved clothes. They were my passion and my weakness. I went to the mall two or three times a week, and bought something on at least one of those trips. After all, the more you look, the more you buy!
Actually, "clothes" is a catch-all term for "anything I can wear on my body." I bought plenty of shoes, handbags, belts, scarves, and jewelry too. Let's face it – clothes can be hard to get just right, but purses and jewelry always fit, don't they?
The turning point
At some point, I realized the jewelry had gotten out of hand. I had so much it was hard to actually wear all of it. Most of it sat tangled in boxes and drawers, and I found myself wearing a couple of necklaces, a couple of brooches, and a few pairs of earrings all the time.
I discovered that organizing isn't enough. I could get my jewelry untangled and sorted and pretty yet still not use most of it. I bought "storage solutions," and the collection looked sort of cool, but didn't I have something better to do with my time than maintain the display?
Eventually I decided to stop using my credit cards for every little thing that caught my fancy, get out of debt, and remove the things I didn't use or love and wouldn't buy again.
Related article: End Binge and Purge: 4 Ways to Break Free of a Shopping Addiction
An easy start
I decided to get rid of at least half of my jewelry. Even if I worked to keep it all in order, it still mostly sat there like it was in a shop. So I tipped it all out onto my bed and started sorting quickly:
- Pile #1 – Items I actually used (a small number)
- Pile #2 – Items I still liked but hadn't worn in a while (about twice the number as in Pile #1)
- Pile #3 – Items I hadn't used for a while and wouldn't buy again (a much larger pile)
- Pile #4 – Items I hadn't personally selected and didn't use, but kept for sentimental reasons (quite a few pieces)
Sorting was easy, but making decisions would be a bit harder.
It was easy to put away the fewer-than-a-dozen items from Pile #1. I added the items from Pile #2 and decided to start using them right away. I promised myself that if in three months I still wasn't using them regularly, I would donate them.
- Is this my style now?
- Even if this is pretty, is it pretty on me?
- Is this comfortable to wear, or does it pinch, fall off easily, give me a rash, or something else?
- Does this piece need cleaning or repair? If so, am I willing to spend the time and money to take care of it?
- Do I have any memories related to this piece? Are they good or bad?
After considering these questions, I added a couple more pieces to Pile #2, and made the same plan to use them in the next three months or get rid of them then.
I placed the rest of the items from Pile #3 in individual plastic bags so they wouldn't get tangled up, then put them all in a bag to take to the American Cancer Society thrift store. Yes, I felt some guilt about how much money I had spent over the years, but the money was gone, and hanging on to these things wouldn't bring it back. My feelings about that are clearly expressed by author Joshua Becker:
Let your regret about how much you have to [get rid of] reinforce your determination not to buy so much in the future.
Now for Pile #4 – the sentimental items. Most were from my mother and grandmother, and only a couple of things were "fine" jewelry rather than the costume variety.
I decided to keep Mama's wedding ring (a simple gold band) even though it only sits in a drawer. I offered her gold chains to my daughter and niece, and what they didn't want we sold for the value of the metal. My grandmother's pearls, which she treasured and wore to church every week for many years, were imitation – pretty, but not worth anything and not my style. I decided I preferred to keep one of Grandma's letters and a photo rather than any of her costume jewelry.
Related article: How to Let Go of Sentimental Keepsakes
I counted the pieces I was releasing and found that I was getting rid of well over half my jewelry. Success!
The surprising result of owning less
The next morning I was in for a surprise.
When I got dressed and went to pick out jewelry, I found the favorites I'd been wearing plus Pile #2 – several more pieces I really liked which had been "hidden" among all of the excess. I could see my options, and looked forward to wearing a necklace and earrings I hadn't noticed for a while. I felt like had more than doubled my choices.
What? How did getting rid of over half my stuff wind up doubling my choices?
4 ways you add more choice with less stuff
1. You can see what you have.
When you have too much stuff, you "lose" some of your things in the pile. By getting rid of half of it, like me you uncover your hidden gems. You're able to access everything, which gives you more variety.
Several times in the past, I'd looked at the tangled muddle of jewelry and given up. When I had less, it was easier to keep in order, and I didn't feel defeated by a mess.
3. You keep the best and remove the rest.
Decluttering is a fantastic opportunity to curate your style. No matter what fads or whims you went with in the past, you can evaluate who you are and what you love, and keep only the things that suit your current lifestyle.
4. You know what you need.
If you take the brave step of removing half of your stuff, you might discover some holes. I found a necklace with a sapphire pendant (my birthstone, and a gift from my parents). I had previously worn it often, but it had a broken clasp. Once I unearthed it, I made a plan to have it repaired so I could wear it again.
Get rid of it: other categories you might be able to cut in half
Once I got rid of more than half of my jewelry, I realized the benefits I would gain if I did the same in other areas (and that my kids could gain too!):
- scarves (for men: ties)
- kitchen gadgets
- hobby supplies
- picture frames
- office supplies and stationery
In each of these categories where I've gotten rid of half (or more) of my stuff, I can't think of anything I've missed. Most of the things have been donated, so I know that someone else who needed or wanted the item was able to get it cheaply, and what they paid furthered the work of various charities.
Hmmm. Let it clutter my house, or let it be used and enjoyed in someone else's. Why is this even a question?
Today, my passions don't include clothes, jewelry, or shoes. I'm more fulfilled writing or playing with my grandsons than I ever was with the stylish or cute things that caught my eye. Living with less gives me so much more time and energy to enjoy what satisfies more.
Updated July 2023