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Early Retirement Extreme 21-Day Makeover: Day 2: Decluttering and Managing Stuff

Early Retirement Extreme Blog: Why downsizing and voluntary simplicity?

Simple strategies for decluttering:

  • One in, one out - For any new object you acquire, discard an object you already own. This doesn't declutter, but rather prevents clutter from building up. You can also skew it to declutter: for each object you acquire, discard two objects.
  • Wait/Wishlist - Most purchases are impulse buys. Put them on a 'wishlist' and force yourself to wait 30 days before buying. After 30 days, check to see if you still want to purchase the item. In many cases, putting it on the wishlist will satiate the desire to 'just buy something' and by the time you reconsider you realize it just isn't worth it.
  • Box it up - Take items that you don't use very much, and put them in a box, with the date on the side. If, after 6 months (or some other period of time) you haven't used anything in the box, donate it without re-opening it.
  • Usage check - Keep track of what you're actually using such as by putting all your hangers backwards until you wear what's on the hanger and starting with things on one side of a shelf and sliding it to the other side after you use it. After a given time period, re-evaluate whether you want the things you haven't used.
  • Photograph mementos - Take pictures of items that have sentimental value. Save the pictures on a computer, external hard-drive, and dropbox/other online file storage. You now have 3 copies of the sentimental object. In some cases, you just want the memories and not the object, so you can sell/discard/donate it.
  • Moving - Moving frequently, or acting as if you move frequently, will quickly help you decide whether it's worth owning something. If you have to travel with it more than a few miles, and/or if it's heavy, you'll find it's easier to get rid of.
  • Item goal - Decide on some arbitrary number of things you can own, e.g. 100 items.
  • Volume goal - Own only as much as you can fit into a predetermined volume, e.g. a backpack (for traveling), a duffelbag (for sailing), a suitcase, two suitcases, the trunk of a car, etc.
  • Value goal - Acquire and keep only things you love and use. Create a list of attributes that an item must have such as durability, usability, size, beauty, and ease of upkeep.