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10 Ways to Let Go of Your Stuff

Erin Rooney Doland, a reformed hoarder, offers her best cures for clutter.

Messy closetFrances Janisch

6. Adapt to your surroundings. I had a used Volvo 740 GLE that was the first car I had purchased after college. Before I moved Washington, I lived in the Midwest, where it was tough to get around without a car. In D.C., however, we lived next to a metro station, and there was a grocery store two blocks away. The price of parking―$150 a month―sealed it: The GLE was G-O-N-E.

7. Just admit that you don't like it. As I sorted through my stuff, I became aware of the fact that I didn't even want some of it. There were things I didn't exactly like but didn't exactly hate―and so lived with them out of pure apathy. This was the easiest clutter to set free. All it took was a little motivation to pack up a few boxes and drop them off at a local charity.

8. Know what you really need. Often what we need is only related to the thing we have. For instance, I had a huge popcorn maker but could easily pop the modest amount of corn we consumed in a small pot on the stove. Out it went. I also had thousands of documents in bulky filing cabinets. But I needed the information on the pages, not the paper itself. I kept just the documents I had to have in their original form, scanned and saved others as digital files, and tossed the rest-eliminating 300 pounds of paper.

9. Let go of the guilt. When my grandparents passed away, I inherited a collection of 27 rusty knives, a warped cookie sheet, and a copper bracelet my grandmother had loved to wear. I kept all these items for more than a decade. Eventually I realized that if my grandparents were alive, they would have replaced the cookie sheet and knife set (and been mortified that my aunts had passed on such dangerous accoutrements). I recycled the kitchen implements, but I kept the bracelet, which I wear and enjoy as much as my grandmother did.

10. Face it: "One day" almost never comes. I justified keeping half my wardrobe on the basis that I would use it one day. The hot pink bridesmaid dress from my cousin's first wedding took up space in my closet for four times the length of her marriage. I hate throwing out potentially useful things. But we couldn't afford a larger apartment; storing all those "one day" items would cost more than they were worth; and, an even simpler truth, I have yet to be invited to an event at which a fuchsia dress with taffeta bows might seem appropriate.
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