I get this question often as you might imagine. People ask it in different ways.
“Is there a magic number for how long to keep my things? A year or something like that?”
There are two ways I can answer: (1) It depends. (A favorite comment, from a terrific radio show co-host you might listen to, who interviewed me with her co-host.) And (2) Yes, we can come up with your own magic number.
On what the items are. Couple of examples to walk you through it.
Clothing: Sure, yes, a season makes sense. If you didn’t wear it last year during this season, do you need it, want it, love it, still like how it fits and looks? More than a season and it may go out of style – or your style may change, too, especially if your work or lifestyle changes at all.
Toys – kids/grandkids: If they haven’t played with it in a year? Sure that makes sense, unless you have another child who is close to the age for playing with the toy. How about looking at “aging out” of toys.
Store aside the ones which are too old for a younger one coming up the ranks. Keep them, but out of your “everyday space.”
And always, with clothes and toys (and other items), select your absolutely favorite ones – those which are really full of memories. People have saved: favorite stuffed animal from childhood (clients in their 50′s), clothing from high school/wedding (clients in their 30′s), and so forth. So, not all items are created equally, right? That difference is often what simplifying is all about. Still hard but that is the essence.
Books: A year old? No. It depends. Again, the aging out idea can work here. Certain book topics age out – technology, engineering, medical/health reference, history to some extent – any area which has change as part of its goodness and value to us.
But you know what - if you love to read, if you are curious, and a learner by nature- why give up what you love most of all? Yes, you can go through the books and see if any of there are any easy decisions you can make.
Think about whether you want to reread a book. Maybe instead, you want to give that one away, and make space on your shelves for a new interest or new author?
But then … how about simplifying (weeding out) something else in your home, which is not as important to you and who you are instead of the books?
Come up with Your Own Magic Number …That Works, Too
Some people need this and find it a very useful to limit themselves, in effect to take away some of the decisions by using a number.
- I’ll only fill one drawer with pants. I won’t buy any more than that.
- I’ll only own two red blouses.
- I’ll watch one hour of TV at night.
- I’ll spend 1/2 hour on Face book in the morning.
- I’ll only have two backup boxes of that kind of pasta.
- I’ll carry one credit card.
- Four bookshelves is my number.
See how it takes away the need to constantly make hard decisions?
So, yes, sometimes there is a magic number – but it’s not my number.
It’s one that you need to feel comfortable with.
Try it out with a few different numbers and see how it works for you.