Know when to give it up

Many have a hard time letting go and it really doesn’t have to be that way. Now, I’m not talking about the letting go of a person whom you love and he no longer loves you. That’s a boo hoo, hard kind of letting go and it takes time. I’m talking about de-cluttering. As far as de-cluttering goes, I used to have a hard time letting go, but I don’t anymore because of a test question I ask every time I get stuck holding onto an item that needs to go.

I’ll tell you what that test question is in a minute. First, I want to tell you a little story. Because of a contest called Project CHAOS (Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome), I’ve been in more than 100 homes that were crammed with too much stuff. My sister and I would pick a winner in a city and armed with TV cameras, newspaper journalists and photographers; we’d go into the home of the winning family and de-junk a room. The “befores” and “afters” were always media fodder.

I remember one specific winner vividly. She was a physician (even doctors can have too much stuff) and she wanted us to help her with her personal walk-in closet. It was jam-packed with fashions spanning two decades and four sizes. She dressed well. Her clothes were purchased at high-end dress shops and department stores, and most were designer brands. One of her biggest roadblocks was remembering what she originally paid for each garment and in the beginning it was hard to get her to let go, especially with garments that had little wear.

It seems like when we pay a good price for something and then we don’t wear it, we’ll keep it just in case, by some miracle, we’ll change our mind. Not.

The doctor had gained about 50 pounds in 20 years and we explained even if she lost the weight, she wouldn’t want to wear stuff that was out of style, and besides if she lost the weight she certainly deserved to get a brand new wardrobe. With that realization, the closet emptied like we’d pulled the plug on a bathtub full of water. But what about old shoes, purses, scarves and jewelry? She still wore the same size shoe and purses, jewelry and scarves don’t have a size. This is when I thought up “the question.”

I had her hold each item, one at a time, and ask this question: “If I were at a second-hand store, such as Goodwill or the Salvation Army, would I buy this?”

The question made her focus as we do when we shop, and when she really scrutinized a pair of shoes for example, suddenly the worn heal or frayed strap jumped out at her. A purse, well-past its expiration date, moaned, “I’m tired, let me go.” It was a real eye-opener to keep that question in her mind. So with that story, the next time you get stuck holding onto an item that needs to go, ask it, “Would I buy you at Goodwill?” If the answer is “no,” get rid of it.

When you go about your daily routine, you might want to keep those Goodwill eyes open for any items that need replacing.

Now, go to your kitchen and look at your dish clothes, dishtowels and hot pads and ask the question as you hold each one. It just might be time to let go and get new!

For more from Pam Young go to You’ll find many musings, videos of Pam in the kitchen preparing delicious meals, videos on how to get organized, lose weight and get your finances in order, all from a reformed SLOB’s point of view.