Not Used It In a Year? Let It Go.

by Nov 16, 202112 comments

Your home is living space, not storage space. 

Francine Jay

Use it or Lose it

Free the Space. Clear Your Mind.

One of the reasons that clutter accumulates so readily in our homes, is that we fear we will miss things if we let them go. It is an easy rationale to justify.  It might like it makes economic sense to hold on to something that you have already bought and might need down the road.   But holding on to those items can have a higher cost than the cost of replacement if you do need it again.  Keeping items for ‘just in case’ means that you have to move and maintain and also means building on the stress of visual clutter  (5 Benefits of Minimalism). 

Read on for some ideas about using the one-year rule in your decluttering efforts.

Why a One-Year Rule

One rule of thumb that you can use to guide difficult decisions is to consider whether you have used the item in the last year. Using the mark of one year ensures that you have gone through the full cycle of a year and all the seasons so if you were going to use the item, there would likely have been a call for it. If you haven’t used it in a year, chances are you won’t need it in the next year either. Use that mark to let it go. If you find you do need the item, you can replace it and, in the meantime, it will not be taking up valuable space in your mind. Keep in mind that you don’t have to own something that you need that rarely – you can borrow or rent instead.

Other Considerations

When implement the one-year rule, there are some questions to ask yourself to make the decision easier. If you are unsure about whether or not to purge something, ask these questions:

  • Can I name three different times / ways that I can use this in the next 6 months?
  • Will I have a chance to use this within the next two weeks?
  • Is this something unique that does not duplicate another item that I own?  If it is a duplicate, do I prefer this to the other item?

Be honest and realistic. If you answer ‘Yes’ to all these questions, keep it; if not discard it or put it in a ‘possible’ or ‘defer’ box to reconsider – within a limited timeline. If you answer ‘no’ to even one of the questions, that should help you feel better about discarding or donating it.

assorted Christmas ornaments


Naturally, there are some things that you might not have used in a year but that are worth keeping because they are likely to be used again. Things like seasonal items could fall into this category. Depending on the time of year, something like Christmas decorations might have been used in a year but will be put to use during the season. You might have a formal dress or a tuxedo that is used rarely but still fits and suits you for a special occasion. If it is classic and quality, hold on to it if you realistically believe that you will wear it again. Also, seasonal items like winter clothing and accessories might not have been used in a year but will be needed in the coming months; you don’t want to get rid of those. If at all possible, store your out-of-season clothes in a different location so they do not clutter your everyday space.  Rotate your clothes each season. At the same time, take the opportunity to purge items that are damaged or no longer fit or suit you.

Memory Boxes

Some items are more emotionally fraught than others and can be a challenge. get rid of things that are not emotionally significant. Digitize drawings, certificates, and photos when possible. You might also print some and create a display, which could be on a rotating basis to highlight different work and/or family members. Involve all family members, including kids on a discussion of execeptions. Have each family member curate their own work, art and other mementos and keep favourites in a box with their name and custom touches.. Give each family member a box of the same size – a banker box works well but decide what works for your family but everyone should have the same amount of space. This will help contain how many ‘exceptions’ each member of the household can claim. The owner has the right to choose hat will be kept in their box of treasures; if the box gets full, something will need to go to make room for new additions. Help family members to record the stories of items that they have to let go.  They might do that with pictures or stories.  Of course, parents can reserve the right to save some of their children’s milestone items in their own box if their child decides to discard something.

Take Action

Give these ideas a try to help you reduce the amount of stuff that you rarely use, if you use it at all. If it has been unused for a year, you might even have forgotten that you have it, which makes it even less likely that you will miss it.  In any case, if you have not used it in 12+ months, it will probably feel good to let it go.

Challenge Questions for Day 16

Do you use the one-year rule?  Why/ Why not?  Will you try it [try it again] now?

Do you have a treasure box?  Have you curated its contents in the past 12 months?

If you do not have your own treasure / memory box, start one today. Find a decorated box you love or make one of your own.  Follow the guidelines described in this post.

Declutter Challenge for Day 16

Seasonal Ornaments

Take out your holiday ornaments, clear your holiday ornaments and prepare to donate or give away any that you haven’t used in recent seasons or no longer need.  Maybe one of your siblings has a different decorating style than you and would better appreciate some of the family ornaments that you have saved.

The timing on this challenge might seem early if you are thinking Christmas decorations but the timing is important. Places like thrift shops and church sales are usually only able to sell these items in the 6 or so weeks leading up to the holiday season. Otherwise, they have to store them – and often trash them to save space. Donating holiday decor at this time of year will mean it has a better chance to go to home and family that will appreciate it.

Banner Photo by Julia M Cameron from Pexels

Winter clothes by Couleur from Pixabay 

Memory box Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

Mary Elizabeth O'Toole

Mary Elizabeth O'Toole

Educator, Artist, Storyteller


  1. Tamara

    Excellent tips, and frankly nothing I haven’t heard before. Still the purging process is hard. I have business clothes I won’t fit in unless I lose 20 pounds. I actually managed to do exactly that a few years ago, so there’s a chance of it happening again. So I’ll hold on to my favorite jeans. The pant suits can go. I paid good money and would like to get at least a small amount for them. However… the second hand shops won’t take them because they’re not the latest fashion (geez, they’re classic!!), and I don’t have the patience to post them on Craigslist. Strange people will call, ask a million questions, make a date to pick stuff up, not show up… Ugggh. End of rant.

    • Mary Elizabeth

      LOL Feel free to rant away. I completely agree with you and it is frustrating to not be able to get some return on quality stuff. People saying they will show up and not makes me nuts but I think my pet peeve with Craigslist and similar is people who do show up after you have an agreed price and saying they didn’t bring that much with them and ask you to take less since they are there with money. Argh. Hmmm – seems I had a bit of a rant there too. Good luck with the purging.

    • Mary Elizabeth

      Thanks Roy – good point and one that I often forget!

  2. Kebba Buckley Button

    Mary Elizabeth, I am so with you on the freedom found by releasing Stuff! I have only ever regretted one donation– a cantaloupe-colored knit top, and that was about 1979. Fortunately, most of my relatives are also on a decluttering regime, so we release as soon as we identify something we don’t need any more. It will bless somebody else! Thanks for all this discussion of minimalism!

    • Mary Elizabeth

      I find there is always one thing that is missed but console myself with the reminder of how much better it feels letting go of everything else. Sometimes those certain items do stick with you though don’t they? Thanks for joining me on the minimalism journey.

  3. Cheryl

    I just bringing up the Christmas decorations. I will go through and donate what I didn’t use for the last two years (2 because last year was a total waste). I need to do the same thing for all the clothes I have. Thanks for the post.

    • Mary Elizabeth

      it is a good time of year to do a purge of some holiday items, which I traditionally have found hard to reduce. I feel better about it when I can pass it on to someone who wants them. And you are definitely right that the last year threw off so many of the guidelines we usually rely on – and we are still dealing with lots of uncertainty. Thanks for commenting.

  4. Jeanine Byers

    I use the one-year rule when I am moving, and occasionally, when my purpose is decluttering quickly. But I should use it more often. Those are great questions for us to ask ourselves!

    • Mary Elizabeth

      Thanks for your comment. I find that I am not using the one-year rule as much now because I don’t have as much that I haven’t used for that long. Where I find it really helpful is clearing boxes that have been stored away – it makes it a lot easier when I can say I haven’t used it this long, I’m not going to miss it.

    • Mary Elizabeth

      I know the feeling – there is always something on the list :). Thanks for your comment. Good luck on the action.

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