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Decluttering this Spring? Avoid an All-or-Nothing Approach with this Itemized List

Spring cleaning creates the perfect opportunity for self-reflection and, for some, surprising insights into one’s self, past and future. If you’re like a lot of folks, you have a natural tendency to let belongings pile up on you. Regardless of these items’ sentimentality, you find yourself facing a tough question: “Should I keep this or throw it away?” While you have to make a definitive choice for each particular item, beware of falling into an all-or-nothing approach. If you find yourself in a place where you “just want to get it done,” you’re more likely to give tired or trance-like answers that lead to major regrets.

Below is a guide to items you might find while spring cleaning. And know that if you have trouble making it work at the end of the day, you can still get the extra space you’re looking for without throwing away cherished belongings. Take advantage of our spring cleaning storage solutions.

Electronics and Technology

We’ve all done it. You get a new phone or laptop, but in your haste to use your new gadget, you stuff the older version into a drawer. Then, months later during spring cleaning, you find an old, outdated piece of technology. Before deciding what to do with it, ask yourself:

  • Is it still usable?
  • How much did I spend on this?
  • How long ago was this purchased?

If the item is still usable, in decent condition, and fetched a hefty price back when it was purchased, consider trying to re-sell the item. Online marketplaces like eBay, Craigslist, and Etsy are great places to start, but you can always bring it to your local pawn shop. If your item was purchased more than twenty-five years ago, you might be able to sell it to a collector. Early generation technology of well-known platforms can sell for quite a bit of money. 

If your item no longer works, it’s time to let go. However, when disposing of electronics, do not toss it into the trash. More than a third of U.S. states have placed a ban on electronics in landfills. They contain hazardous materials that can seep into groundwater. Instead, find your nearest electronic recycling center, or consult the Environmental Protection Agency’s website.

Verdict: Get rid of it. Unless it falls into one of these niches, there’s probably not a lot you can do with it. Technology advances at a breakneck pace, and planned obsolescence ensures you’ll probably throw away your gadget in the near future.

Books

Maintaining a home library is an easy way to keep your favorite books and references at your fingertips. However, books take up a lot of space, and their size/weight make moving difficult. Before tossing a book, ask yourself:

  • Is this book important to me?
  • Will I read or reference this again?
  • How many copies of this book do I have?
  • How big is it? Does it look nice on the bookshelf?

If the book is important to you—it might have been a gift, or maybe it’s your favorite early-adulthood read—keep it. If you think you might need to reference it, either in a future college or graduate school paper or in a discussion with friends, keep it. You might also keep particular hardcover volumes for their aesthetic value.

If your book is unremarkable, too obscure to reference, and/or large, consider donation. Local used bookstores might be able to offer a few dollars for books, but there’s no guarantee. Organizations like Goodwill and Reading Tree have drop-off center in most major metropolitan areas, and your local library is always willing to take unwanted books off your hands.

Verdict: Hold on to it. There are plenty of exceptions, but if you’re on the fence, we lean toward keeping books. You may end up revisiting the item if you move, but for spring cleaning and decluttering, it’s only large collections of questionable books that make a big difference.

Clothing

Clothing is both the easiest and hardest item to discard. We’re emotionally attached to the items we wear, as they’re often associated with important memories. Before you decide to keep or discard your item, ask yourself:

  • Does it fit?
  • Did I pay more than $50 for it?
  • Will I wear it more or less than ten times in the next calendar year?

If your item fits and you think you’ll wear it at least five to ten times in the next year, it’s probably a keep. There may also be some pile of clothes that you don’t want taking up space in your closet, but which you may be worn again when you have a personal fitness goal, when you’re recovering from a major health condition, or when hand-me downs may be used by younger siblings/generations. Consider storage. This also goes for clothing you want to save for sentimental reasons—a wedding dress, father’s tie, grandfather’s top hat. Otherwise, you’ll want to give that clothing item a good hard look and consider the best way to part with it.

If you want to resell your clothing, follow this rule of thumb: Unless you paid more than $50 for your item, you’re unlikely to get very much from a resale shop. However, if you have a pair of good-quality jeans that don’t fit anymore, try selling them to retailers like Crossroads Trading Co., Buffalo Exchange, or Plato’s Closet.

If your items were under $50 and don’t fit, donation is your best option. Wash your items thoroughly, place them in clearly marked bags or boxes, and contact Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, The Salvation Army, or your closest homeless shelter. Did you find your old high school prom dress? Consider donating it to Becca’s Closet or the Glass Slipper Project. These organizations provide prom dresses for girls in need—you’ll make space in your closet and feel great about your donation!

Verdict: Get rid of it. Again, this is for people still having trouble making a decision. If you’re feeling unsure about how often you’ll wear something, more often than not, the right answer is to let it go. Likewise, maybe you’d rather reward a personal fitness goal with new clothes rather than old ones.

Seasonal Items

For one reason or another, people are quick to dispose of seasonal items. Maybe it’s their tendency to be gauche, or maybe they’re too bulky to keep around. Before making a decision, ask yourself:

  • Will I use it next year?
  • Do I have room for it?

If your seasonal item is too outrageous for you to use again—think: that ugly sweater you purchased for your company holiday party—don’t feel bad about donating or recycling it. If you simply can’t find the space to store it at home, there is another option to consider.

If you see yourself using the item next year but can’t find the space at home, our storage could very well be the solution you need. If you only need enough space to store a few extra blankets and sweaters, know that we don’t overcharge smaller storage projects with an over-sized storage unit.

Verdict: Hold into it. If you can’t store your seasonal items at home, consider renting a storage unit especially for items that would be difficult and/or expensive to replace.

Items in the Interim

This category includes everything from electronics to clothing. Put simply, “Items in the Interim” is that category of stuff you don’t need now, but you will need in the future. Maybe you have an old television your child wants to bring to college in the fall. Maybe you have an old crib you want to give to your sister when she has her baby. It never hurts to think about replacement cost, but more often, the tough question is: Will I use this at a later date?

And this goes back to the idea that the biggest and most successful spring cleaning projects frequently involve knowledge of one’s self as it does cleaning products and home organization tips. For all the gray area that comes with Save vs. Toss, look to Closetbox for your supplemental storage needs.