Stems and All

My journey to buy less, consume smart, use what's there.

“Use it or lose it”: process to help de-clutter


We recently made the decision to declutter our home and our lives. While the decision was a quick one to make, the actual work is taking time and effort, with definite wins and misses along the way.

The ‘use it or lose it’ concept is one idea I consider a win. The idea is simple: we would either use an item frequently, or we ‘lose it’ and the item had to responsibly leave our home and our lives.

As I went from closet to closet and room to room, I categorized items into different piles: if I wasn’t ready to part with an item, but I haven’t been using it, then it went into a ‘use it or lost it’ pile. Some of the items in the pile were:

– Multi-colored taco shell holders (doesn’t every house need a set?)
– Juicer (expensive paperweight or useful machine?)
– 21 belts (how many belts does one human being actually need?)

Here’s how stuff in the ‘use it or lose it’ pile works…

21 belts to choose from

Which of these 21 belts does he actually use?

Any items in the ‘use it or lose it’ pile are on probation. I set an end-date – no more than 30 days out (with the exception of highly seasonal items). If an item doesn’t get used by the end-date, it goes.

I proactively take items out of the ‘use it or lose it’ probation pile, and try to incorporate into my normal life and routine. Here are some tips:

– Clothing: Take an item that hasn’t been frequently worn, and create an outfit around it. If you end up not wearing the item, or you wear it but don’t feel good about it, it goes.

– Food: Check your fridge and cupboards. Take out that specialty sauce that was a ‘must have’ at time of purchase. The packet of mystery noodles. The jar of something pickled. If the item hasn’t actually expired past it’s edible shelf date, try to create a meal around it. If you can’t, it goes.

– Kitchenware: Yes, even the leanest kitchen most likely has extra tools that aren’t being used frequently. Put a few items on probation for the next 30 days, and see if you can easily incorporate into your routine or not. If not, it goes.

Be honest with yourself. If an item was used with the set time frame, and honestly added value to improve your life, then it stays – at least until further probation.

But if you feel as though you forced yourself into using an item, or didn’t use it at all, it’s time for the item to go.

Once an item was deemed ‘time to go’, it went into one of the following ‘outbound’ paths:
– Re-share
– Re-purpose
– Rot (compostable items)
– Donate
– Responsible recycle

Over time and with practice, this process is becoming easier. I am beginning to know more instinctively if an item even needs a probation time or if it can be fast-tracked to the ‘it goes’ state.

The verdict:
– Taco holders: Went to goodwill giveaway
– Juicer: In use and being well loved
– 21 belts: 16 went to goodwill giveaway. Owning 5 is still too many, but solid progress for this round of purging…

Happy de-cluttering!

Author: Jane Newcomb

“Stems and All” is my personal journey to become a more environmentally responsible human, live a more sustainable life, and practice sustainable consuming habits.

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *.