How to Clean Out Your Closet Without Regret

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The Neat Freak shares her best tips for getting rid of items you’re on the fence about

By Perri Kersh


In all of my years of letting go of stuff, I’ve had very few regrets. In fact, the only thing that comes to mind is a pair of beautiful elk skin cowboy boots I purchased directly from the original J. Peterman in Lexington, Kentucky. I owned them for two years and wore them only once. Before we moved back to North Carolina, I decided to consign them because they seemed excessive, and I figured someone else would love them. Once we moved I found there were numerous occasions when I would have loved to wear those boots. Fortunately, I found another pair I loved just as much, so I was out some money for the replacement, but it wasn’t the end of the world.

When faced with tough decisions, my clients will often argue that they should keep an item “just in case.” The fear is that they will need the item later or find an occasion when they could use it. And that’s a real possibility! However, if we use the “just in case” excuse over and over, we’ll find it’s hard to let go of anything. We’ll continue to be surrounded by things we don’t frequently need, use or love. This leaves us feeling stuck and unable to move towards our organizing goals.

I encourage people to find their comfort zone that exists between “just in case” and “when in doubt, throw it out.” When I notice that someone is struggling to decide what to do with an item, a great question to ask is, “What is the worst thing that will happen if I let this go?” Often times, there is very little chance that you’ll miss it. But even if you do, most items are replaceable.

While there might be a cost to replacing an item or two, there is a cost to keeping it as well. It could be the cost of the space that item takes up (square footage is money!) or the cost of maintaining the item or even the emotional or psychological cost of being surrounded by too much.

If you’re really struggling to let something go, put it in a box, seal it up and set it aside, writing a date six months from now on the outside of the box. Once that date comes around, if you haven’t found yourself opening the box to seek out that item, take it straight to your favorite thrift store, and don’t look back. If we want to live a simpler, more purposeful life, our mantra must shift from “just in case” to “no regrets!”

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