Don’t Use it, Need it or Enjoy it? Unload it!


What would you do if you had to actually use—or at least enjoy—everything you own?

Truth be told, most of us will never live long enough to accomplish such an overwhelming task. Instead we pack it, stack it and pile it away—even pay rent to store it—and keep right on accumulating, acquiring and attaining even more. More doesn’t add to our joy the way we thought it would. More stuff only dilutes the quality of our lives.


Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian economist, “discovered” the 80/20 principle in 1897 when he observed that 80 percent of the land in England (and every country he subsequently studied) was owned by 20 percent of the population. Pareto’s theory of predictable imbalance has since been widely proven and applied to almost every aspect of modern life including the things we own.

So let’s think this through: If 80 percent of what we use comes from 20 percent of what we own, 80 percent of the space in our lives is occupied by stuff we never use—it’s clutter! 

It’s difficult to fend off that nauseous feeling when you calculate clutter’s actual cost in hard-earned cash. Of course there’s that original price tag. But then there’s the cost to own it.

One woman who finally had it with all her clutter loaded it up (it filled two pick-up trucks) and headed for the flea market. Excited that she could possibly net $800 to $1,000 for one weekend of selling, she quickly changed her attitude as she realized her prices were about one-tenth of the price she paid.

Her mind went to the time she’d spent earning the money to buy all this stuff, the time spent shopping, lugging it all home then storing it until moving day. She figured that even if she made $1,000 on this effort, that means she’d spent at least $10,000 (probably more!) purchasing it. That day she vowed to never buy anything again unless it was absolutely necessary.

Ask yourself a series of questions to determine what stays and what goes:

Does it work? So much of the clutter in our homes is made up of broken things we plan to fix someday and clothes that don’t fit any more but we hope they might someday.

Do I really need it? The answer will be clear as you imagine the impact of this item disappearing from your life.

Do I enjoy it? If this item brings beauty and joy to your life, it is not clutter. Sentimental belongings should be treated with great care and respect—not forgotten in the attic.

Am I using it now? If it doesn’t fall into the 20 percent of things you use on a regular basis, it is suspect.

Once you’ve earmarked the stuff that needs to go, move it out. Sell it, give it away or throw it out. Of course one of the best solutions for “good stuff” is to give it to someone who really wants or needs it.

Decluttering will calm your spirit, clear your mind and increase your ability to enjoy your current situation, your family and relationships—your life!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Beck

    One should ask this question of others too when purchasing gifts. I have a lot of stuff I was given as a gift over the years that I couldn’t use so on to Goodwill it went. Gift cards or cash is best in my book you can spend or save as you wish. I especially like Olive Garden or other restaurant cards I know I won’t be cluttering when I use it.

    • I N

      My problem with gift cards is the overhead. We frequently pay to buy them, then if they’re not used in time, the receiver starts losing value on the card, they get lost, or the receiver doesn’t frequent that store/restaurant. And when there’s a couple of dollars or cents on the card, it’s hard to use, or it gets tossed into a pile. Or it’s not even in their town. It’s a HUGE money making source for the vendors.

  • brandi

    Amazingly, i am reading abt the 80/20 lifestyle right now!!! Awesome post!!

    • Vonnie

      Is it a book?

      • brandi

        Yup – living the 80/20 way- I bought it on my nook – great book!

  • Sandra

    Mercy, great advice especially as I’m in midst of downsizing, selling, moving and buying anew. I’ve been giving stuff away to folks in need and no, I receive no financial reward but knowing a child isn’t sleeping on a mattress on the floor is a greater than financial reward.

  • g8isgr8

    A Big AMEN! I have asked my friends and family not to search for a special gift unless I talk about needing it. Or make a charitable contribution in my name for bday, Xmas, etc. If they absolutely feel they must spend some money take US out for tea or a meal. Help the grandkids cook or bake or knit or sew or paint or draw somehing for for me. Just try to make it consumable and cut flowers are wonderful- plants, too, if they are not too exotic and need care I can’t provide.
    Slowly trying to find homes for the inherited treasures I’ve acquired when my parents & grandparents passed. I try to include a short note about who owned it (with photo), when & where they lived and how are related (for grandkids, especialy those in Europe who are part American.)


    I have observed over the years that the world is made up of two kinds of people: those who save things, and those who dispose of things. Neither understands the other. While the savers do need to declutter, and the questions above are a sensible way to overcome the emotional need to save things, it’s not the whole answer. Frankly, I’m tired of hearing the mantra that, if you haven’t used this in the past year, month, week (yes, WEEK), you should throw it away and you’ll be happier. I don’t believe it, especially if someone else is forcing it on you. My alternative suggestion is, if you haven’t used it in a while, USE IT. Rediscover the reason you bought it and put it to use. Go “shopping” in your closets instead of the store. I truly get pleasure out of rediscovering lost items and putting them to use.
    If the object is a gift that doesn’t suit you, let go of the feeling of obligation you may be laboring under, and get rid of that item. Gifts are usually given from a sense of obligation and thrift, and not from a desire to make a person happier. And for those of you whose mothers laid enormous guilt trips on you for being wasteful for getting rid of something that has finished serving its purpose, let go. Remind yourself that items have a natural lifespan, and this item has finished serving its purpose. You’ve gotten your money’s worth out of it, now be at peace with letting go.

  • Catherine Wood

    I would love to give, toss and sell 80% of my stuff! Two roadblocks: I’m not a self-starter and my husband is a hoarder of broken, too small and duplicate items. When I wish to give something away, his excuses for keeping it are astonishing. Warning to brides: never move into his house.
    It will always be his, never “ours”!

  • NF

    I whole heartedly agree with the above article. After moving from small home to a larger home, to an even larger home and then back down to a small home with a limited income, i realized how much “crap” i really had. for 4 years i’ve been decluttering “stuff” and have made my home more user friendly. i apply the “how long does it take me to pay for this on my current hourly wages” calculation and when I think that it may take me so many hours of shipping such and such at work, it stops me in my tracks. I miss none of the things I’ve gotten rid of and rediscovered my mathematical abilities. I even apply this to food shopping. Sometimes potato chips or soda cost more per pound/ounce than gasoline. I still have too much stuff and will continue to declutter, but I truly want for nothing. We eat well, waste little, my home is easier to clean and when/if, we move again, it will be much easier. check out 365 Less Things site. It really has helped with the emotional side of decluttering.

  • NF

    And I love gift cards! Best things since cash…