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A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

11 Signs It’s Time to Let Go of Your Stuff

Don't hold on "just in case." Watch out for these signs that your belongings have turned into clutter.

1 / 11

You only wear a third of your clothes

If your closet is stuffed, you probably don’t wear every outfit—or even have enough days in the year to wear them all regularly. To keep track of which clothes you actually wear, turn all your hangers so the hook is on the opposite side of the rod. After you wear an item, put the hanger back the “right” way. At the end of the season, take stock of which hangers are still backward and consider letting go of them. (Here are more rules for deciding which clothes to keep when you’re organizing your closet.)

2 / 11

You buy souvenirs on every vacation

Souvenirs are meant to be tangible reminders of the great time you had on a trip, but the items themselves don’t hold the memories. Unless it’s a keepsake that you display in a prominent spot or a T-shirt that you wear regularly, don’t hold on to mementos that are packed away or have been pushed to the back of a shelf. After all, you don’t need a ticket stub to remind you that you went to an NFL game or a snow globe to remind you of your favorite national park—what matters most is that you have the memories. (Check out these other items you should finally get rid of.)

3 / 11

You rarely do a full face of makeup

Be realistic about your daily beauty routine. If you just swipe on mascara and foundation before heading out the door, you probably don’t need much more than that—at least not in your precious reachable bathroom storage space. Pull out everything you actually use on a weekly basis, and stow it somewhere convenient for everyday use. Now go through the rest and pick out one or two favorites of each product. For instance, if you rarely wear eyeshadow, keep one palate of nudes for a natural look and another few colors for a dramatic smoky eye, but trash those bright or non-versatile colors that you’re unlikely to miss. Follow up with these steps for organizing your entire medicine cabinet.

4 / 11

You wouldn’t buy those clothes again

Thrift stores are often picky about what they’ll accept from sellers, and you should keep your standards just as high. You wouldn’t buy a shirt with permanent stains, smells, or holes, so you shouldn’t keep it in your closet either. Ask yourself the same of style: if it wouldn’t jump out at you on the rack, don’t keep it just because you already own it. Leave room in your wardrobe to wear more of the outfits you truly love and feel confident wearing. (These are the classic dresses you should keep in your closet.)

5 / 11

Your possessions don’t reflect your lifestyle

Maybe every time you go on Pinterest, you’re inspired to be the hands-on DIYer you see online, so you’ve stocked up on Mod Podge and Mason jars. Or perhaps you bought a food processor and spiralizer for all those home-cooked meals you hope to make, when in reality all your dinners come from either a slow cooker or a takeout joint. If you haven’t touched hobby-related items in the months (or years) since you bought them, you probably won’t make much use of them in the future. Embrace your true lifestyle instead of hoarding items that reflect a life you don’t actually lead. (Related: Borrow these habits from clutter-free people.)

6 / 11

Your socks and undies are overflowing

Consider paring down the number of pairs you have if you’re having a hard time shutting your socks or underwear drawer. You really don’t need any more than you’ll wear before laundry day, so pull out the extra pairs when the rest are in the wash. Toss out at least half of the extras to give yourself a little wiggle room to push back laundry day without running out of necessities. (Related: Try these laundry hacks to make the chore more bearable.)

7 / 11

You have more nail polish bottles than fingers and toes

No matter how many pink polishes you already own, it’s tempting to pick up another bottle of an ever so slightly different shade. But unless you’re into crazy DIY manicures, you probably don’t need more than five shades per season. Set aside your favorite winter darks, spring pastels, summer brights, and autumn neutrals, making sure you can actually open every cap and none are dried out. Toss the rest in the trash, or donate them to a nail-obsessed friend, and dial down on the number of times you refresh your nail polish with these tips for making your manicure last longer.

8 / 11

You love Netflix—and DVDs

The beauty of streaming services is that you have thousands of movie choices at your fingertips without needing to clear out shelf space, which means you can clear out the hard copies of some of your movies. Scan your DVD (or even VHS) collection for your absolute favorites—the movies you would never flip past if you were channel surfing. Anything you’re content watching just once doesn’t deserve to take up storage space in your film collection. Instead, borrow these interior designers’ tricks for stylish bookshelves.

9 / 11

You feel obligated to keep gifts

Accept any gift with graciousness, but don’t feel the need to keep it forever just to avoid hurt feelings. After all, that present will do less good stuffed in the back of your closet than it would in someone else’s home. On the off chance that the giver asks about it, just explain that you appreciated the gift and got great use out of it for a time, but decided to donate it to someone who would love it even more when your tastes changed.

10 / 11

You have four sets of sheets

It’s not a bad idea to have spare sheets for each bed when the main ones in the laundry, but there’s no need to own more than two sets per bed. Do you really foresee any practical use for the stained ones you bought for your old bed 20 years ago? Probably not. Donate extra bedding if it’s in good condition, or chuck it in the trash to clear up space in your closet.

11 / 11
signs_time_let_go_stuff_bulkiStock/Freer Law

You bought in bulk—three years ago

Stocking up when items are on sale or you can buy in bulk makes financial sense, but make sure that your items haven’t gone past their prime in the meantime. Give your fridge and pantry a through cleaning, tossing any expired condiments or spices that aren’t as fragrant as they used to be. In the future, only buy in bulk if you go through the items quickly and know you’ll use them up before they lose freshness. Click here for guidelines on what items you should never buy in bulk.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest

Marissa Laliberte
Marissa Laliberte-Simonian is a London-based associate editor with the global promotions team at WebMD’s and was previously a staff writer for Reader's Digest. Her work has also appeared in Business Insider, Parents magazine, CreakyJoints, and the Baltimore Sun. You can find her on Instagram @marissasimonian.