Illustration by Nathan Xa

Out of sight, out of mind

In which I stop waxing philosophical and just give you some practical tips.

By Lola Olvera, Lead Copy Editor

If you clicked on an article about decluttering, chances are you really need to declutter. Not owning excess material items is one of the hallmarks of minimalism, and a healthy purge to embark on whether you subscribe to this pseudo-cult mentality or not. Owning too many things can be a hassle. The visual stimuli can distract you from other tasks, maintaining everything clean and organized can be time-consuming and thinking about all the money you wasted on things you never even look at on a daily basis is...depressing.

I’ve decluttered to an arguably excessive degree, but ever since I began this ongoing process I’ve felt much more comfortable and motivated in my environment. Keeping only the items that I use regularly, ones that improve my quality of life, really helps me focus on the things that are important to me. I use every single thing I own and I value it more so because of that.

Having said that, decluttering is hard. It takes time and physical and mental energy, but I think the feelings of letting go and starting from scratch are worth it. Here’s a few tips to get you started.

Go paperless.

Whether it’s embarrassing middle school journals or folders full of old documents, paper really accumulates. With notable exceptions, such as original copies of your birth certificate or tax returns, you could really do without tangible copies of things like receipts or fliers. Take an afternoon to sort through your paper pile, sorting out the things you want to keep. Then scan each document and save the files on your computer or an external hard drive. You can access the documents anytime and reprint them whenever you like. Conversely, you could try these really cool DIY projects to turn your paper memories into decoration. 

Train yourself to not attach feelings and memories to objects.

One of the hardest things is parting with items that have memories attached to them, or were gifts from someone special. But here’s the thing: the memories don’t inhabit that item. Your loved ones do not inhabit that item, unless the item is haunted and/or an ash urn. You will still retain all your memories whether you own the item or not. Absolutely need it for visual inspiration? Take a picture.

Recycle your e-waste.

I’m guessing I’m not the only one who accumulates a sad pile of broken or unwanted devices and electronic accessories. We know it’s not okay to throw these items away with the other basic trash, but we never seem to work up the energy to go recycle them at Best Buy. Do it now. Or, mail them in. Places like Target and Apple will even offer you money back for recycling some of your still-working, fairly recent gadgets.

Sell things.

Knowing you can get cash can often be a determining factor in whether or not you decide you want to keep something or not. Books, especially textbooks, can fetch some money on Amazon Trade-In or Book-Off. You can sell your clothes at buy-sell-trade stores such as Buffalo Exchange or Plato’s Closet. Open up a Mercari or Depop account, where you can sell your items easily without the hassle of sites like Amazon or eBay.

Give to others.

Take a look at some of the items you don’t use and determine if there’s someone in your life who could have a use for them. Does your friend need a new curling iron? Is a classmate going to need one of your old textbooks for next semester? Tell your friends to gather their unwanted items and get together one evening for a swapathon. You can donate what’s left over; charities like Hope Services will pick up donations right from your door.

Part with gifts without guilt.

I’m among one of those people who feel really awful giving away an item that someone gifted to me. I’d be hella embarrassed if they asked about it and I didn’t have it anymore. But try and think of it this way: if someone cared about you enough to give you a gift, they’d care about you enough to respect that your life would now be improved without feeling forced to own it. If someone asks you what kind of gift you’d like, be direct—let them know what you really need. They’ll be so happy watching you genuinely enjoy and use that gift for years. If you can’t think of something you want or need, ask people to donate to a good cause in your honor.