For the past several weeks, we have been focused on identifying the excess stuff in our house and getting rid of it. Yes, it’s been a regular party around here! We’ve gone through every room and asked ourselves the following questions:
1) Do we use this on a regular basis? (We defined this in different ways depending on the type of item—for kitchen utensils, at least once a week; for cosmetics, I looked at whether I’d used it within the last month) . If not, it goes. Lots of old electronic chargers and cables, a sugar dish, and several very cute dresses that no longer fit my lifestyle (sad face) had to go. We did, however, give ourselves some breathing room. There were a few items that we use on a semi-regular basis and couldn’t agree on–my husband tends to be a ‘keeper’ and I definitely am not. We decided to pack these things away in the basement where they will live for 3 months. After that time, we’ll get rid of anything we haven’t needed badly enough to dig out.
A note on sentimental keepsakes: Obviously, most of these don’t fit the criteria here. No, we don’t use our daughter’s tiny hospital wristband on a regular basis (or at all anymore–thankfully), but we just can’t bring ourselves to throw it away. On the other hand, the entire box of goofy bar coasters and matchboxes that my husband and I collected on our travels have a certain nostalgic charm but probably don’t warrant the space they’re taking up in our small apartment. Our solution? We have a designated ‘memory box’-a small plastic box that we keep under the bed for sentimental objects and cards that we can’t bear to part with. For everything else, we use a tip from the author of Zero Waste Home. We take a photo of the object, and then get rid of it. This strategy has helped us to let go of many a trinket that we would previously have allowed to clutter our space for years!
2) Is this a duplicate? If yes, choose one and chuck the rest! I think this has made the biggest difference in our bathroom where we had inexplicably ended up with 5 different tweezers and 3 pairs of nail clippers, yet could never find any of them when we needed them. Now we have one high-quality pair of each tool and know exactly where they live. We also applied this to toiletries like body wash and sunscreen. For whatever reason, my husband and I have always had “his and hers” versions of these types of things, and since we’d added baby-specific products to the mix, things were really getting out of hand. It seems to me that our collection of ‘family-member specific’ products are just another way of accumulating stuff in a mindless way. It’s so automatic to think that you need something just because everyone has one. We’re still working on reevaluating what our true needs are, but we have decided on a few products that work for the whole family: liquid castille soap (in place of shower gel, hand soap…and toothpaste!), jojoba oil (in place of makeup remover and facial lotion), and coconut oil in place of just about everything else (deep hair conditioner, body lotion, mouthwash, diaper rash cream for the babe).
3) Does it contain any harmful ingredients? I recommend The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep website or app for cosmetics. You just enter the name of the product into the search engine and it gives you a hazard score based on recent research of the ingredients. The EWG also has some great consumer guides on sunscreen, cleaning products and food. I got rid of anything that didn’t get a green light.
There are several more questions we could add–this checklist looks different for everyone. And as our family and lifestyle evolve, our criteria will inevitably shift. These are the ones that we started with. Now…what to do with all of the things we have decided to get rid of?