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Decluttering On The Road

As Published In WBCCI Blue Beret Magazine
Decluttering On The Road

Let’s face it — even as RVers and nomads, we love our stuff! From birth, we’re taught to be a society of consumers, but that urge to acquire runs directly counter to our innate sense of wanderlust. The more weighed down you are, the harder travel becomes — so let’s have a talk about clearing out the clutter before you hit the road.

Asking Yourself The Hard Questions

The key to trimming down clutter is being honest with yourself about what purpose that item serves in your life. If you can’t conjure up at least one plausible scenario requiring the use of that green shag toilet-seat cover or dot-matrix printer from 1988, you may want to ask yourself if it’s worth hanging on to. Try to provide solid answers to each of these questions:

  • Why would I need it? (try to come up with one occasion when you would need that particular item again — what would have to happen in your life for it to be useful, relevant, and valuable to you)
  • Where would I need it? (if the item in question is only useful up north and you now live in Miami — or only useful in a corporate environment and you’re now self-employed, why keep it?)
  • What would I need it for? (what purpose does this item serve? are you still involved with that activity? no reason to keep letterhead from an old job or tap shoes if you gave up dancing)
  • Who would ask me for it? (people seem to hang onto stuff because they are afraid someone will ask them for it someday — if it’s the IRS or the police you can keep it, if not you might want to think twice)
  • When would I need it? (okay, you might need it “someday” — but when will that day arrive? Three months or 35 years from now? is it worth hanging onto that long?)

Worst-Case Scenario

When my clients are anxious about discarding an item, they are really saying, “I’m afraid of what might happen if I got rid of it.” This is simply fear of the unknown — uncertainty about the consequences of their actions. So I get my clients to let their apprehensions run wild, asking them, “What’s the worst thing that could happen if you got rid of it?” Will the world end if you toss out that ring binder you haven’t used since college? Probably not. This knowledge helps dissipate the fear and makes letting go a little easier.

So let’s say you do get rid of something, and then decide that you need it six months later. If we’re talking about an expensive or hard-to-find item, you are certainly justified in thinking twice before tossing it. But if it’s just an old butter tub or an extra stapler, it’s not such a big deal. You have to consider cost versus benefit — it may cost you more (in time, space, energy, or money) to keep the item than to replace it if and when you ever need it.

Quit With the Excuses

Artist William Morrison developed the most effective way to determine if an item truly serves a purpose — ask yourself if the object is “beautiful, useful, or loved.” I teach this phrase to my clients like a mantra, repeated over and over and over (actually, they get a bit sick of it after a while) — and if an object doesn’t fit into one of these three categories, then why are you keeping it? I know, I know — “It was expensive.” “It was a gift.” “I’ve had it since I was a child.” “I might fit into a size six again.” “But what if it comes back in style?”

After you’ve been doing it for a long time, holding onto clutter becomes a habit — and habits (especially bad ones) are hard to break! I’m here to respond to each of these rationalizations with a bit of cold, hard reason — hopefully allowing you to see that you can let at least a few things go and you’ll be none the worse off for it:

  • “But it was expensive!” — You may say that you are keeping an item because you spent a lot of money on it, and you can’t stand to see it go to waste. I hate to burst your bubble, but if you aren’t using it now, isn’t it still going to waste? These objects are nothing but high-price reminders of purchasing mistakes you made in the past – better to let it go and move on, and perhaps you can sell it to recoup some of the expense.
  • “I might be able to wear it again!” — Does keeping a garment that is too small encourage you to lose weight or fill you with shame because you still haven’t reached your goal? We already heap enough guilt onto our heads every day without creating additional pressures — isn’t it healthier to focus on feeling better about your appearance now? Why not take your old wardrobe to a consignment shop, then spend your profits on clothes that fit and make you feel attractive just as you are?
  • “Aunt Rose gave me that. She’d be disappointed/hurt/angry if I got rid of it!” — I can only respond by asking, “Who runs your life? You or your Aunt Rose?” The idea of keeping something that you have no use for, just so you can drag it out when your relatives visit, seems a bit dishonest — and I firmly believe that once you receive a gift, that item is yours to do with as you see fit, even if you choose to discard it. We place too much importance on “stuff” as it is, without creating an unnecessary sense of obligation.
  • “I’ve had it a long time!” — Not to be rude, but so what? If it has no sentimental or historical value, I’m not convinced that longevity is the best reason to hang onto something you don’t really care for anymore or use. Your lifestyle and interests change over the years, and it’s entirely natural that some of your belongings are going to become obsolete — they’ve had a good life, but now it’s time to let them go and focus your energies on your current interests.

Now go forth and declutter with a clear conscience!

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Ramona Creel is an award-winning 15-year veteran organizer and member of the National Association Of Professional Organizers. As well as having birthed “The A-To-Z Of Getting Organized,” Ramona is also the author of “The Professional Organizer’s Bible: A Slightly Irreverent And Completely Unorthodox Guide For Turning Clutter Into A Career”—and the creator of more than 200 “quick-start” business tools and templates for use by productivity professionals. She writes seven different blogs, has worked with hundreds of clients, and has delivered scores of presentations on getting organized. Ramona resides on the roads of America as a full-time RVer—living and working in a 29-foot Airstream. Learn more at and

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