What to do If You Can’t Tell What’s Clutter

When it comes to organizing our homes, one of the biggest steps we need to take is decluttering. That doesn’t sound too hard right? Just go through your things and get rid of anything that’s clutter.

But what happens when you don’t know if something is clutter or not? What do you do then? I have a trick I use that’s been a tremendous help on my decluttering journey.

A Quick Tip to Help You Decide If Something is Clutter or Not.

When you're not sure something is clutter, it can be hard to know what to do with it. Make a clutter box and let it help you decide if something truly is clutter.

Getting rid of clutter is the first step to leading a more organized life.  Now, I know what some of you are thinking, I’ve been in your shoes before.  

“I don’t have to get rid of anything, I’ll just organize it all!”  

As a recovering clutter bug, I’m here to tell you that just won’t work.  

You can sort it, shuffle it, stick it a box and slap a label on it, call it organized and yet it will still be clutter. Now it’s just hidden clutter.  All the professionals and even the amateurs will tell you,

You can’t organize clutter!

And I’m here to tell you they are right!  

I know, I know!  

I moaned and groaned and, yes, shed a few tears of frustration when I came to this realization.  Because even though it’s clutter, it’s still our stuff right?  

Let’s be real for a minute. We’ve worked hard to accumulate it all.  We’ve purchased, thrifted, and created items.  We were given precious gifts that mean the world to us because so-and-so was thinking of us when they bought it.  We’ve allowed items to be passed down into our waiting homes to make sure they don’t go to waste.  

Getting rid of clutter can be emotional, and if you’ve never really done a big purge before, it can be really hard, the first time, to know what it clutter and what isn’t.

What Is Clutter?

The general rule of thumb is, if you don’t love it, use it, or find it beautiful (and have ROOM for it) then it’s clutter.  

But two of those are really subjective guidelines.  What if you love it all, or find what you’re not using to be beautiful?  

It can be really tough to let go, so I thought I would share with you something that really helped me.

Enter the clutter box!  

Whenever I’m stuck trying to decide if something is clutter I make a clutter box. It’s really easy to make one, all you need is a box, a marker, and a label or paper to write on.

As you declutter, when you come across an item you’re not sure you can part with, or if you’re not sure you’ll need it, stick in the box.  At the end of your decluttering job, close the box, but don’t seal it yet.  

Stick the label on top, and decide when it must leave the house.  Give yourself a reasonable amount of time, say 30 days.  Now, decide what you’re going to do with the box when the time is up.  

Are you donating the items?  

Selling them?  

Giving them away?  

Or they garbage?  

Mark it down on the box, and don’t forget to mark where it’s going or who it’s going too.  Now, put the box somewhere you won’t forget about it.  By the front door is a good spot.

When the date arrives, don’t open the box, just seal it with packing tape and take it to where it goes.  Mark your calendar, plan for the errand, whatever, but DO NOT reopen that box.  (Unless you are selling the items.  If you’re going to try to sell the items, I recommend taking pictures and writing up a product description after you’ve decluttered, and before you close the box.  That way, listing them is super easy when the day arrives.)

The Purpose of the Clutter Box

The idea behind this is to give you time to

  • think about the items, mull them over a little bit
  • to see if you truly miss those items.  

If you haven’t missed them in a month, then you probably won’t miss them if you pass them on.  

The only exception to this is seasonal items.  For seasonal/holiday questionable items, you can put them in a box and label it too, for the next time that season or holiday comes along. If you don’t go into the box during that time, let the items go.

Printable Clutter Box Labels

To make creating a clutter box even easier, I whipped up some labels top use.  

Print them out, cut in half and attach to box.  

Simple, quick, easy!

Clutter box labels are used for creating clutter boxes. Print them out and fill them in so that you know where the items in the box need to go.

Each label has space for you to write the date the box needs to leave your home and sections for quickly marking what happens to the contents in the box.

Some More Tips to Help You Declutter

If you’re still having a hard time letting go of items, don’t beat yourself up.  It takes time to process sometimes.  Here are some things that I’ve found that can make it easier to declutter.

Passing family items onto other family members.  

When my little niece was born, I went through all my boys’ storybooks.  I’d been wanting to get rid of some, but since almost all of them were from when my brother and I were kids, I just couldn’t bear to part with them.  

I gladly passed at least half of them on to my brother so that he could enjoy them with his little girl.  Total win and it was so easy to pass them on.  Spread the joy!

A local crisis can be a great time to pass on items you no longer need.  

A few years ago, there was a massive fire in our town.  A whole apartment building was left gutted.  Families lost everything.  

When I heard that a local thrift store was accepting donations for anything and everything for the people who lived in the building, I went through our home with ruthless determination.  

Extra sheet sets, towels, the vacuum I never used, (we had two) spare dishes, you name I sorted through it. Even toys and teddy bears. I was a woman on a mission.  

And you know something funny?  It felt good to have a purpose to passing this stuff on, and we haven’t yet missed ANY of it!

The more sentimental items you hold on to, the less they stand out.  

I used to keep every gift given to me.  I had a ton of items from my grandmothers who have all passed on. I never wanted to let go of them all, but once I did, I noticed something amazing.  

I had spent years surrounded by items of ‘meaning’ and never really appreciated the meaning behind them all.  With just the few items I have left, I find I’m more likely to stop and remember and appreciate that moment.  

Give your sentimental pieces the weight and honour they deserve by keeping only those dearest to you.

Find Encouragement

As I’ve mentioned before, I joined the 365 Items in 365 Days Challenge!  And I have to tell you, it’s been GREAT!  

The Facebook group is full of amazing, encouraging, positive people who make it easy to keep the momentum going.  If getting rid of your clutter is something you struggle with, or if it’s something you’ve just been putting off, I strongly encourage you to join the challenge.  

If you’re still not sure where to start.  If you’re feeling overwhelmed, then really think about joining the 365 Items challenge. 

Tell Me What You Think

Is a clutter box a tool that you might find useful? Do you have your own trick you use to help when you’re decluttering? Drop me a line in the comments below, I’d love to hear about it.

What have you been decluttering lately?

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  1. I made a folder in my mobile and keep saving pics of things which I am not sure whether I should dispose or not.
    When I am free,I look at the pics and decide.

    1. ScatteredSquirrel says:

      That is a fabulous way to assess items Vini. It allows you time and space away from your undecided items without them being totally forgotten.

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