Minimalism is on-trend, and countless people are purging the clutter from their lives like never before. But there are some things you shouldn’t chuck without careful thought. To avoid decluttering regrets, don’t get rid of these irreplaceable items unless you have no other choice.
This seems like a no-brainer, but hear me out. Often, we get rid of things we like (or that “spark joy,” if you’re into the whole Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up method) simply because we don’t currently have a place to put them.
If you really like a piece of wall art or furniture that doesn’t fit in with your current décor, try to find a way to hold onto it. That might mean it lives in a closet, attic, or basement. Or maybe it means a family heirloom gets to live with a different relative for a while. Basically, don’t let temporary circumstances make you get rid of something you’d otherwise keep.
You never know when something might come in handy in the future. For example, there are some college essays I wish I’d kept for future writing reference. And I’ve discovered that it’s essential to keep unofficial school transcripts on hand for job applications. But did I keep those things? No, I did not. Because I thought that I’d never need them again.
A single file box won’t be the thing that makes or breaks your grand decluttering scheme. Neatly organize your personal papers so that you can find something when you need it. That includes things like copies of your lease agreement, pet adoption paperwork, and other handy papers that you might otherwise lose.
You know that sweater you lived in during your 20s? Or the band t-shirt you wore until it was threadbare? Think twice before tossing them into the Goodwill bin. Vintage pieces in good condition (and that still fit) can find new life in your closet. If the clothing is better left as a memory, consider using the fabric to make a pillow or throw blanket.
Can you imagine accidentally giving away a real gold and gemstone necklace along with a box of costume jewelry? It happens! If you’ve inherited pieces from family members, make sure that you absolutely know the value of anything you decide to declutter.
And if you suspect that you might have a real treasure, bring in a professional appraiser. Original artwork, vintage clothing and accessories, and (of course) jewelry might be worth a lot more than you think.
You’ll have a much different perspective on the things that are worth keeping when you’re 20 than when you’re 50. Before you get too wrapped up in a minimalist frenzy, ask yourself if Future You might want the items.
That’s especially true for personal memorabilia. At the very least, scan photos before you get rid of them. Once those pictures, birthday cards, and other pieces of ephemera end up in the garbage, you can never get them back. And decluttering regrets, unfortunately, last a lifetime.