Home & Design

Decluttering? Here’s How to Know What and When to Throw Something Away

A cluttered house is busy, and you spend a lot of mental energy sifting through the different things without even realizing it. The thought of organizing everything is often draining and gets worse if you choose to ignore it. Therefore, the real value of decluttering comes with long-term relief on your mental energy. 

But, how do you know when it’s time to throw away something when decluttering? This article explains a workable de-clutter formula and the different questions you can ask yourself before tossing away something. 

The Declutter Formula

When decluttering, the rule of the thumb is to get rid of anything that is not useful. However, the cost of the item, the space it takes up as storage, its sentimental value, and the possibility of its usefulness in the future always conflict when determining what to keep and what to take out. 

The decluttering formula gives a clear framework for going about it and the questions to ask yourself. The acronym for the formula is RFASR – Recency, Frequency, Acquisition cost, Storage cost, Retrieve cost. 

Here is how it works. 

  • Recency – How recently have you used the item? For example, if you minimize the clothes you have, when was the last time you put them on? If it was two years ago, you might consider taking it out. 
  • Frequency – How often do you use the item? You definitely don’t want to throw away something you use frequently. So, if it’s a dress you have not worn for a long time or you wear it once in a while, that makes it a candidate for disposal. 
  • Acquisition cost – Some items are more expensive than others. Also, some are easily available, and you can get a replacement fast whenever you need it, while others are difficult to acquire. So, if you are throwing something, ask yourself, “How difficult/expensive is it to get this?” If it’s difficult or quite expensive to get it, why not keep it? But, if you can order it online in a few minutes, you can toss it away. 
  • Storage cost – The real estate market is becoming more expensive by the day, and you don’t want to waste any little space you have. Therefore, if the item is taking up space and incurring maintenance costs, but you are not using it, you can consider taking it out. 
  • Retrieving cost – With the advancement in technology every single day, items get outdated in a short while, and you end up needing an upgrade. In addition, other items reach their expiry date and are no longer useful. Therefore, if you consider taking out some items from your space, you may want to consider their shelf life or whether they can remain useful even without an upgrade. 

What to Do with Items that Have Sentimental Value

While this declutter formula is great and can work in most situations, it may not do so for items with sentimental value. For example, if someone important to you gave you an item as a gift, you may have difficulty letting it go. Of course, you can keep it as long as you want, but the gift has already served its purpose, and if it has been a couple of years already, it may be time to take it out. 

You may not necessarily throw things away because many people out there may need them. Therefore, you can donate them, especially those with sentimental value, and you no longer use them so that you can have them help someone else. 

Rent Out Some of the Items

Some items cannot be tossed away just like that because of their significance in your life or maybe because they may be useful in the future. For example, a wedding gown has so much sentimental value and emotional attachment that you may not simply fold it in a box and put it out. 

To make it more useful, you can rent it out to anyone who’s having a wedding and fits in the dress. This could be a great way to help them save on the expenses of hiring a gown and bring you some money on the side. 

It works the same if you have quality yard equipment, gardening tools, or other household appliances you may not be using. Instead of throwing them away, you could rent them out to members of your community and make some money from that. 

Some localities have websites where you can list items for rent to people in the area, making it convenient to find people who can rent them. Again, this is a great way to declutter compared to throwing them away or donating them. 

When Should You Declutter? 

The decluttering goal is to take out things that are no longer useful to you to create space for other items. It could also be that you are moving to a new house and you want to move with only those things that are useful to you. 

For example, if you buy a new house in Austin, you may not want to move with all the clutter from your previous house. You’ll need to choose wisely what to carry along and what to leave behind. 

The decluttering formula can help you consider the value of an item and how useful it will be for you even in the future. For example, consider how much shelf life the item has and whether it needs an upgrade or repair, how important it is to you, how often you use it, and whether you can put it to better use. 

Those items that you own in duplicates and you can easily replace should go first in your decluttering list. 


Decluttering is not only good for the house but also for your mental health. It will help you refocus and use much less mental energy every time you think about the clutter in the house and how to organize it. It’s better to have a house with things you like and are valuable to you than to have a lot of stuff that doesn’t help you in any way. 

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