The De-Cluttering Curse of "What If?"
Getting organized can be an emotional experience. Deciding when is the right time to get rid of something is one of the biggest challenges for people trying to get organized. Many times this paralysis of uncertainty dooms their hopes for success before they even get started. Inevitably, when they do start to sort through their things, they might think like this. “Well, I may need this one day” or “I could use that in the garden (when I have a garden)” or “I’ll fit in to that again some day.” But often some day never comes, and in the meantime, life just keeps adding more stuff to their piles.
That is why I believe if you have something that you haven't used, touched or even looked at in the last six months, the odds are slim to none that you ever will again, and you should get rid of it. Pass it onto a friend, sell it on Ebay or donate it to charity. Having a rule helps create a benchmark that can eliminate some ambiguity of what to do. I know this rule sounds ruthless, and that is the point. The Six Month Rule is meant to put into focus the things you really use, in order to show you what you really don't, with the goal of lessening the clutter in your life.
Now, this doesn’t apply to seasonal items. I am not suggesting that you throw out your summer clothes in winter or holiday ornaments in July. Sentimental keepsakes get amnesty as well, as long as they are organized and manageable in your living or storage space. The rule though, does apply to everything else.
Rules of thumb when organizing clutter
Paperwork is somewhat of a special category. Tax-documents, pay-stubs, banking/investment statements, reference manuals (with warranty information), receipts for big ticket purchases, and all other legal documents should be kept and well-organized in an easy-to-access archival system. Even though a lot of information is available on the web to research your account histories, etc., I think having a paper copy at home is the safest way to go.
Some things however, are not safe the longer you keep them. Make-up, medications, certain food items that you consider non-perishable for an undetermined amount of time will go bad eventually. Everything has a “pull-date.” Get used to looking for the pull date on things and use that as a guide to purge the excess from your closets and pantries. If something you have doesn't have a date on it, refer to the web for information about its product use and specifications.
A good baby step solution for getting organized
Lastly, if there are items you are on the fence about getting rid of. If you have something you haven't used in awhile. And you aren't ready to get rid of it. I suggest you create a “maybe” box/pile. Set yourself a mental deadline of three or six months. If you still haven’t come back to the box, then let go of it with a clear conscience. Don't even open the box. Odds are you won’t remember what was in it.