Decluttering is awesome! It helps you make more use of your space, and it makes that space more comfortable. But it’s also important to know what you shouldn’t declutter.
As you’re decluttering, it’s easy to get a little too enthusiastic and start throwing out good stuff. Keep in mind these items that you very well may need again, or might treasure as precious memories someday.
Some of these will seem super obvious to you. But it’s also important to make sure any helpers you have in the deluttering process know what to look out for.
1. Essential Documents
Here’s an example of one you might find really obvious. But it’s possible to scan a lot of documents into your computer and then shred them nowadays, and that makes it important to think about which ones are genuinely irreplacable and important.
State Issued Papers: birth certificates, passports, drivers’ licenses and social security cards should be kept because they’re not easy to replace and sometimes you need them unexpectedly.
Notarized Documents: While online notarization is now a thing, original notarized documents are likely worth keeping, because anything notarized is usually important.
Receipts and Tax Documents: Most financial records and receipts to do with income tax should be kept 3-7 years, depending which accountant you ask. File them and keep them.
2. Sentimental Items
Sometimes a sentimental item loses its emotional value to us over time. A souvenir from the honeymoon of a marriage that’s now ended might seem like a great thing to toss.
But it might also be something one of your kids would value. Or it might be something that will mean more to you someday in the future.
It’s better to find a compact way to store these out of the way rather than get rid of them.
3. Letters and Greeting Cards
They might seem like clutter now, but someday when you’re older and you’ve lost more loved ones, you might treasure every letter or greeting card you ever got from them.
These are easy enough to store in a file or box.
4. Valuable Collections & Memorabilia
If you have a collection of stamps, coins, rare books or toys, make sure you know their value before you get rid of them. You might be surprised. I once sold a collection of movie-related childhood toys for $1400.
They can also hold historical or sentimental value, or be something another family member would like to have.
5. Old Journals
I’ve thrown out a lot of these and ended up regretting it. It can be tempting to think they’re embarrassing (especially from childhood) and you never want to see them again.
But think hard. Store them somewhere for a few years and make sure you still feel the same way before you get rid of them.
6. Tools and Equipment
Decluttering tools and equipment that aren’t working for you is important, especially if you’re low on space to store them. But you should most likely keep any multi-use tools.
Ask yourself if the tool still works. Try to imagine times when you might need the tool or equipment in the future. This can prevent needing to repurchase something just like it down the line.
7. Hobby Supplies
Many of us have hobbies that require specific supplies, such as painting, knitting, or woodworking. While it’s important to keep your space clutter-free, it’s equally important to hold onto the supplies that are actually working for you.
Take some time to organize your craft room or area and see how much room you have for supplies then. This process can help you realize which supplies really are likely to come in handy.
8. Multipurpose Items
As a rule of thumb, hold onto items that serve multiple purposes. Think Swiss Army knives, multi-tools, or versatile kitchen gadgets.
When you’re downsizing, these items will come in very handy!
9. Items with Potential Upcycling Value
Consider the upcycling potential of an item before you get rid of it. Upcycling is the process of transforming old or unused items into something new and useful.
Before decluttering, think about how the item could be repurposed or used in a creative DIY project. This way, you can reduce waste and give new life to items that might otherwise end up in a landfill.
10. Seasonal Items
Seasonal items like holiday decorations, winter clothing, or camping gear are often stored away for most of the year. This is probably one of those that’s very obvious.
But sometimes a box of holiday decorations gets thrown out with a bunch of other boxes. So be aware and make sure your decluttering helpers are aware, too.
11. Personal Achievements and Awards
Awards and trophies often represent milestones and accomplishments in our lives. Or, sometimes, they’re just a bunch of junk left from a time in your life when people got trophies for showing up.
Consider whether the award actually means anything, even if it seems silly – like, good attendance. Even if they don’t mean enough to you to want to display them, they might be something your kids would enjoy looking at someday.
12. Well-Made Quality Furniture
If you’re getting new furniture, or downsizing, it may seem like a no-brainer to get rid of the old furniture. But furniture is being made more and more cheaply these days.
Consider whether you can really replace your existing furniture with something as high quality now before you let go of it.