Opinion | How to declutter your crap

By Allison Dantinne, Senior Staff Columnist

I don’t know about you all, but watching someone on YouTube get rid of half their bloated, 100-piece collection of liquid lipsticks is one of my favorite pastimes. It makes me feel like I’m back in ancient Roman times, sitting in the Colosseum, gearing up for some high-caliber venatio — a sport entailing the mass slaughter of wild animals by gladiators — except the beasts are Kylie Cosmetics Lip Kits and the gladiators are every woman named Kelly, who now have no time for skin-drying lipsticks.

It really makes my soul feel light. And then immediately heavy again. Because I realize that yes, I have too many things, and yes, I spent money on those things, but also yes, they bring me emotional comfort and joy, even if no, they don’t have any use. And things exist to be used.

So for the past few weeks, I’ve been on a real decluttering kick. Sorting through my belongings, trying to remember the last time I wore a pastel blue open-knit sweater — which was never. I never wore it and will never indulge in pastels in public. If you have too many proverbial pastel blue open-knit sweaters and feel like you need to pare your belongings down to what will actually be used, follow my tips below.

Declutter for who you are, not for who you want to be. What this means if that before you even start, think about who you are and what you do. Are you someone who never cooks, someone who lives a very content life eating pasta with red sauce for every other meal? Then you probably don’t need your crockpot, 15 spices, baking pans and specialty ingredients. Even if you think you’re going to wake up one day and learn how to cook, know that you might not, and that’s okay. This isn’t to say that personal growth isn’t achievable or permissible. All I’m saying is that people have instinctual ways of living, that those instincts form our habits and that habits are hard to break.

Start small. You’re not going to get through your entire home or dorm in a day. That’s silly. And your roommates will probably be ticked off when they come home to everything torn apart, thrown in mounting piles of “things that spark joy,” “things that do not spark joy” and “things that spark joy, but only on a good day.” But you can get through your closet, or your pantry or your bathroom in a day.

Start with what’s bothering you the most, the thing that when decluttered, will have the most impact on your daily life. For me, this was actually decluttering and organizing my computer files. By putting them into easily accessible, consistently labeled folders and getting rid of AP Environmental outlines from four years ago, I freed up space on my computer and can now locate my syllabi, right in time for midterms. It’s nice to have old things to reference for later, but be real with yourself — when are you ever going to use your essay on “The Great Gatsby” from 11th grade English? Hopefully never. You were 17— it probably wasn’t a great essay.

If you haven’t used it in the past year, you’re probably not going to use it in the next year. We’re creatures of habit and habits are what? Say it with me — hard to break. I had a pair of rainboots in my closet for the past three years. And I kept bringing them to school at the beginning of each year, thinking that I’ll wear them when it’s raining this time. But I usually find that when it’s raining, I just end up wearing my regular, everyday, leather boots. Yes, rain boots are useful, and it’s a nice pair of rain boots. But the last time I reached for them over my regular boots was probably three years ago. It was time for them to go. All items deserve to be used and loved.

If something’s expired, get rid of it. No questions asked. I don’t know what else to say about this besides don’t use expired stuff. It’s bad for you. Just replace it with something that’s not expired.

Get rid of your decluttered items soon after you declutter them. The longer you let items you don’t want sit around in your space, the longer you’ll have to think of reasons why you actually do still want them. Before you reach back into the bag you’re going to send to Goodwill to pull out that two-way sequin bomber jacket from Forever 21, stop and think about why you were getting rid of it in the first place. Does it not fit? Do you not actually like it? You shouldn’t like it — two-way sequins are cheap and terrible and the devil’s creation and I will not hear otherwise. So take your hand out of that bag and let someone else enjoy that monstrosity jacket.

Buy your organizing materials after you declutter. Whatever little basket you’re planning on using to organize your streamlined collection of gel pens or drawer dividers for your fun socks, hold off on buying it until you know how many gel pens or socks you have. Don’t let your organizing materials influence how much stuff you should keep. Only let your own feelings about your things and their usefulness influence how much stuff you have.

Lastly, you’re allowed to ignore all of my tips. You know your life and you’re allowed to do whatever you want with your things. Literally who am I to judge you or your belongings? I’m just a lowly writer.

Allison Dantinne primarily writes satire and humor for The Pitt News. This, however, is a serious article. Write to Allison with your serious thoughts at [email protected].