Dude, did you get robbed?
This is a phrase I hear occasionally the first time someone comes over to my place. Why? I simply don't own a bunch of items just to fill a space. I've grown an appreciation for a wide open and clean room. It is relaxing to me to not be surrounded by stuff and clutter. However, I don't get weird about it like sitting down to thank every item for the value it brought to my life. I come in more like a contract killer and quickly put the item in a donation bag. If an item isn't bringing value to your life regularly it isn't worth keeping. Find a way to sell it, gift it or donate it if possible.
When you're thinking more about the usage rate and the milage you'll get out of an item the less stuff you'll likely end up buying. Short-term use items should be avoided if at all possible.
DVD, CD's, Blu-Ray, etc.
My rule for movies is if I haven't watched them in the last calendar year they go out the door on January 1st. Like most people I have a handful of favorite films. At one point I owned upward of 150 movies on my shelves, but living this rule for the previous five years I have narrowed down my movie collection to around 40 films. Playing into this has been the growth of platforms such as YouTube, Vudu and Netflix competing for my time.
This is admittedly a bigger challenge for me than the movies. I say this because over the years I've probably had a bit more of donation regret. I don't allow myself to keep any more books than I think I could read in a normal year. For me that is around 40 books total. If I were trapped on a tropical island what books would I want with me? Haha, outside of survival books. Currently, I won't buy a book brand new unless I've already read it and loved it. If I buy books it is almost always second-hand books. Rarely do I pay more than $5-$6 for a book. If I am going to experiment with something I haven't read I rely on the local library system to do so.
We're creatures of habit. We tend to eat the same things every week and find ourselves filling up our carts and baskets with the same items every single week. So why do we have pantries and basements full of pre-packaged food. It is one thing to have grown and canned your own food to use throughout the winter, but why do you need 96 granola bars and 3 economy sized bottles of Ranch dressing? I think that getting a good deal has outweighed the practicality of what you actually consume. In the United States we throw away nearly 40% of the food that we buy. This is a number we all need to work on. Buy local and maximize your food.
The way I think about this is "How much time do I have between each wash/dry of my clothes?". Seeing that I still live in a coin-operated world my timeline is washing about every two weeks. With this in mind I keep about two weeks worth of clothes in my closet and drawers. This is the way people should be thinking to maximize the use of their clothes and minimize the cost associated with something you won't wear. Anything that goes beyond what you wear in a two week window can be donated. The process will get harder the closer you get to the budgeted number, but believe me you'll be amazed at the space you have and how little you miss the items.
I also have four scenarios I dress for: work, home, gym and dressing up. This is where you could react a lot of different ways to what I have:
"The United States has 3.1% of the world's children, but 40% of its toys"
This is a stat that blew my mind. As a full disclaimer, I don't have any kids. However I have many friends and family that have kids and totally believe the stat above. Many family members and close friends want to spoil little kids, which turns into huge mountains of presents at birthdays and holidays.
A good rule of thumb I've learned here is to teach kids about budgeting early. Not from a financial standpoint, but if a kid only has so much space to store their toys. Whatever they don't place in a toy box or chest gets donated to children who could play with it more. Let them decide what is and isn't important to them. Let them know that their toy isn't being thrown out, but is finding a home where they can be better appreciated.
Something I've heard that is a pretty cool idea is the gym membership concept brought to toys. A play space is created and loading with all the newest and coolest toys. Families pay a membership fee and have access to all of the toys in either the space or checking them out like you would a library book.
We face it all of the time. I work in marketing, so it isn't unusual for me to get items that grease the wheel from sales reps. When I go to a baseball stadium occasionally they have a giveaway item they're handing out to fans. It is really easy to accept everything handed your way. What if you don't really need it or know someone to immediately give it to? Why not just walk out wide and not pick up the items. Why not say "no thanks" to a gift bag? This stuff piles up in homes and offices everywhere. I avoid giveaway items like the plague.
This is a bit more of a challenge, because some kitchen tools you have are simply for one particular dish. Think of a pan you'd put a turkey in during Thanksgiving. For 363 days a year it collects dust in a basement, cupboard or attic.
My situation kind of works itself out naturally. Over time items just collect dust or see minimal use and are pretty obvious that I don't use them. Whatever rarely sees the light of day gets loaded into a donate bag. It keeps my kitchen uncluttered as much as a small kitchen can be.
This is much of the same approach I take towards tools. In my experience I don't use a great number of tools on my car, at home or camping. Most of what I use can be placed in a single toolbox. If I need larger items we have local access to a collection of tools that you might need for a one-off job or you can rent them from home improvement stores.
About the Author
Andy Rupert is a Penn State (B.A. John Curley Center for Sports Journalism 08') and a Southern Miss (M.S. Sport Management 09'). He has spent his whole career working in sports and tourism digital marketing and metrics.