Clutter accumulates, almost clandestinely, while you’re preoccupied with decorating, renovating, celebrating the holidays, living your life, or keeping up with the Joneses, those celebrated influencers of conspicuous consumption. You accumulate clutter during well-intentioned activities like accepting gifts or from holding on to an item when it’s well past its usefulness. Sometimes the clutter accumulates from shop-til-you-drop sessions and Black Friday sales. The reason for the clutter is not what’s important. Fighting the clutter is what’s important.

To declutter, then, is to fight, and the fight can be an ugly one. It’s OK to fight, even though society doesn’t look favorably on those who exhibit aggressive tendencies. This fight is completely acceptable because you’re fighting to maintain balance and sanity, and to keep your living space from turning into a overcrowded, eclectic storage facility with emotional purchases and questionable acquisitions strewn about.

Since minimalism is my goal I must make a change by fighting clutter in my space and preventing the future accumulation of more things. In decluttering the kitchen I focused on a set of white dinnerware. This set included four dinner plates, four salad plates, and four bread plates. Everything was new and didn’t have any scratch marks from knife and fork usage. Oddly, there were two additional salad plates in an antique white finish that I don’t remember acquiring, yet somehow they ended up with the set.

Here are the three reasons why this dinnerware set was targeted during this kitchen declutter:

  1. They sat in their place in the cabinet for more than a year untouched. They were neither taken out of the cabinet, nor were they used. A fine layer of visible dust had settled on them.
  2. They sat below another set of white dinnerware, which had been used infrequently during the same timeframe.
  3. They were intended to be used when we invited guests over to eat. Unfortunately, this real-life social activity didn’t happen for a variety of reasons ranging from scheduling to interest.

When I considered these reasons I decided there was no justifiable reason to keep an additional, unused set of dinnerware. So, out with the clutter. I believe in being responsible while decluttering so there are four options I consider when I get rid of items during my decluttering sessions:

Gift the Items to Friends and Family: There’s usually someone in your sphere of influence who could utilize the goods you’re parting with. They may even know a needy family or person who could use the items. Enterprising individuals may even be able to repurpose your discarded items (I once repurposed someone’s discarded wooden crates into floating, wall-mounted bookshelves). It’s a great idea to ask friends and family first so the item can find a new home with someone who will use the item and not let it contribute to clutter like you did.

Initiate a Curb Alert: In this option the unwanted items are placed outside safely and unobtrusively and you let whoever is willing to take the items away have them free of charge, no strings attached. Different cities have curbside restrictions for discarding items that you’ll have to respect and you’ll have to clean up anything disorderly left over when interested and curious individuals explore the items. You can even make a free listing on local websites to inform the neighbors what you’re discarding, or make a simple handwritten sign to attach to the items that you leave outside.

Donate to Charity: You can donate your discarded items at your donation center of choice and receive a tax benefit. Typically, you package your merchandise and deliver the items to the donation center. They will give you a receipt, upon request, that you can submit to your accountant to factor into your tax return.

Throw it Away: Sometimes the only reasonable option is to eternally part with the item. Perhaps the item is soiled to the point of being unusable, or irreparable, or expired, or unsuitable to give away. Maybe it’s something embarrassing or the remnant of an emotional scar and you want power over it by personally throwing it away. Own your reason for throwing it away. Commit to your decision and take action.

It’s said that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure and I’ve found the saying applicable when decluttering. Someone, somewhere, will benefit from the dinnerware that I was holding on to. The items that contributed to my clutter will be able to provide relief to someone else and the decluttering will help me along my minimalist journey.