Decluttering: The Easy Stuff

I’ve been hard at work on my decluttering project.

First, I took everything off the shelves and arranged them in rough piles by category:


I tackled the easy things first.

I’m keeping my yearbooks. I have a few maps that I regularly use for backpacking. I have a SCUBA certification reference book. These things are keepers.

I also had a large pile of old exercise magazines, manuals from my Toastmasters days, and assorted old clippings. These went straight to the recycling bin.

Slightly tougher to part with were the 12 (!!) pads of paper that I’ve accumulated, plus the pack of printer paper (for which I have no printer). I have a hard time parting with these, because they are ‘useful’ – but I remembered the 20/20/20 rule. I kept a pad of paper (since I do use one), but the partially used and ragged ones went in the garbage. I brought the newer pads and paper to work, where hopefully they’ll get used.

Next came the books. There are several kinds of books I own:

  • Books I’ve started but haven’t finished. Unless I felt a strong desire to finish the book (i.e. I just haven’t yet), it went into my Goodwill box.
  • Books I haven’t opened yet. For the most part, I accepted that I probably won’t ever read them, and put them in the Goodwill box. These are the hardest, because they represent money I’ve spent. But I realize I’ve already spent that money, and even if I need to replace one, it will be a small expense compared to the mental burden of keeping them around.
  • Computer books. Programming languages, best practices, interview strategies, etc. I got rid of most of these: if I need to learn C++, there are great resources online. I kept the C Programming Language for now (in my outbox) – it’s a classic, and I’d like to read it again soon. Some of these I brought to work, others I gave to Goodwill.
  • Instructional books. Some of these are easy: the harmonica music books I haven’t touched in 15 years. Some of these are difficult to decide about, like the drawing books I worked part of the way through a few years ago. These will go in the outbox for now. Some of these I’m dreading a little bit: the giant stacks of guitar and trumpet books that stand unused, but not unwanted. I’ll have to make some tough choices very soon.
  • Sentimental books. The Bible ended up in my Goodwill box. I’m an athiest now, but I have a strong connection to Christianity in my past. Books by my favorite authors, like Kurt Vonnegut, Bill Bryson, and Ray Kurzweil I decided to get rid of. Books are no longer things that I keep just for the sake of it.

I totaled the amount I spent (roughly) on these books, largely unread and unused. Often I got these books from used bookstores or as gifts, but this seems roughly correct. It’s also ridiculous, an embarrassing waste of money over the years. Total cover price of the books I’ve donated or given away: $1100.

One final point about all of these things: for the most part (aside from a small pile of books in my outbox, to decide about later), I dealt with donating and recycling and gifting these things immediately. I don’t want them in my house! I’ve made the mistake of putting these things in a corner before – this is a way to delay making the tough decision to part with them! I’ve already got a small pile of things to decide fates of – I’ll get rid of the ones I’ve already decided about immediately!

Over the next few days, I’ll be making tackling some more difficult piles: stacks of music, binders of CDs, souveniers and knickknacks, signed or more valuable books, and binders of personal documents. Wish me luck.


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