Keep or sell stuff – how to decide in 7 steps

We all know the drill. We have taken the decision to declutter our home and to simplify our life in the process. We toss stuff, donate stuff, and sell stuff. Suddenly, between two dusty World War Two lamps, we spot our childhood teddy bear. 

When organizing our home, we come across three major categories of items: the essential, the expendable, and the doubtful. 

The first group contains the items which we use every day as well as sentimental objects. Think of your bed, your most important clothes, your wedding ring, or your university diploma. 

The second comprises all the unnecessary stuff that we have hoarded over the years. Cheap plastic souvenirs, worn-out t-shirts, 10-year old cell phones, and a whole bunch of crappy old magazines. 

The third section is where it gets interesting. The “doubtful” are the items we are unsure about. These might be gifts, antique furniture, or somewhat useful electronic devices. 

Some of these objects trigger an emotional blockade in our minds. We recognize the “good riddance” aspect but we also have some sort of connection with them. 

How we decide to keep or sell stuff is ultimately a thought process. On this basis, here are seven methods to employ in order to make a call on whether you should keep or sell stuff.

Keep or sell stuff - how to decide in 7 steps

Keep or sell stuff – how to decide by asking 7 questions 

Each question is destined to support your decision. In this context, the overall direction of your findings will ultimately shape the verdict. 

In simple terms: if two questions prompt a negative answer but five elicit a resounding yes, you should probably keep the relevant item. 

1. Has it been used in the last 12 months? 

This is a pretty straightforward point. If an item has done nothing but collecting dust for over a year, chances are it won’t be needed in the future. 

In terms of decluttering rules, 12 months might sound long to hardcore minimalists and short to ordinary people. Whichever side you’re on, establish a reference period and check whether the object in question has been used during that period.

2. Does it have sentimental value?  

A mere lack of utilization usually doesn’t warrant binning material possessions. This especially applies to objects with sentimental value. You might not use your grandfather’s gold watch on a consistent basis, but it reminds you of a family member. Your girlfriend’s first-ever gift to you may not be of any practical value today but it recreates memories of your early history as a couple. 

The major question relates to the durability of the object’s sentimental value. Are you gonna feel the same way about it 10 years from now? Is it an emotional connection that burdens you? Is the item linked to a positive experience? 

Ultimately, you’ll have to assess the strength and importance of the sentimental value. If you spot a continuous decrease, the object’s emotional worth might be short-lived.

3. Will its monetary value increase, decrease, or remain stable?

Some objects keep their value, a handful of precious items become more valuable over time, and the vast majority of stuff loses almost all of its value in a matter of years. 

Rare items like limited-edition mechanical watches or well-known artworks can go up in value. Aside from collector’s items, precious metals like gold and silver are often kept as “rainy days insurance”. 

99% of cars, on the other hand, start losing value the minute you drive out of the showroom. Unless you buy a Bond DB5, your car will eat your wallet faster than you can say monthly payment. 

Keep or sell stuff - how to decide by asking seven simple questions

4. Does it add value to your life or is it likely to improve your life in the future?

Most decluttering rules pinpoint the functional aspect of things. Does the item in question serve a definite purpose? You might have five good-looking coffee tables but only one that adds practical value to your living room. 

You could argue that the other four are ornamental. All well and good, but does that fit your definition of “purpose”? If not, it might be time to reduce the amount of somewhat beautiful yet completely useless pieces of furniture in your house. 

5. Is it heavy, bulky, or cumbersome? 

Lots of people think they need more than one couch. Of course, it is always nice to have a few couches for visitors. If you, however, live in a small apartment and don’t throw parties on a recurrent basis, having more than one couch seems extremely cumbersome. 

Heavy, bulky items should be purchased with a lot of care and foresight. In 21st-century America, the average person moves houses 11 times in his or her life

Factoring in cross-border moves, you can see why the decision to keep or sell stuff often boils down to size and movability.

ways to decide on whether you should keep or sell stuff

6. Can it easily be replaced by something more efficient, more durable? 

Picking up on the couches, instead of having two large couches, you could easily have four or five comfy chairs. They will do the same job in a more efficient way and save a lot of space in the process. 

There are efficiency-driven solutions to most keep-or-sell-related problems. In this context, replacing the less-durable with something more long-lasting is usually a good idea. Likewise, switching from large and heavy to small and adjustable usually does minimalist wonders. 

As an example, replacing a cheap discounter bed with a sturdy, space-age Murphy bed will add a ton of space to your apartment and improve the quality of your sleep for years to come. 

7. Does it add joy to your life?

Finally, how much joy a particular item provides is another major factor in the context of whether you should keep or sell stuff. How to decide? The joy element is probably the hardest to quantify. It is an emotional choice and therefore impossible to fully conceptualize. 

The smartest thing to do is to decide on a case by case basis and to peg your reaction in relation to the object in question. If the object brings you joy on a consistent basis, all the other keep or sell arguments might not carry any weight. 

As an example, lots of people still love paperback books. Kindle enthusiasts will argue that they aren’t worth much, easily replaceable, and hardly ever read more than once. 

Old-fashioned bookworms couldn’t care less. The sheer joy of looking at a fully stacked bookcase will always prevent avid readers from going paperless. The same applies to vinyl records.

keep or sell stuff - how to decide - does it add joy to your life?

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