Bookish Thoughts: Strategies of Discarding


There were some stand-out quotes and ideas from the book “The Art of Discarding: how to get rid of clutter and find joy” by Nagisa Tatsumi that did not fit in with my review format, so I decided to make my perusal of this text into a mini-series. For this post I will be listing Tatsumi’s decluttering suggestions and discussing my thoughts on their effectiveness.

1.) Don’t Look, Throw!
Tatsumi suggests to get rid of something without giving it another look. In some cases this is feasible, like with junk mail or a magazine from last summer. But to toss out a box stored in your basement without looking through what is inside is not what I call a good idea.

I do admit I have been tempted to keep random things of no purpose because I did open an unknown box, however I also have a box of china given to me by my great-grandmother in my parents’ basement that I fully intend to use once I stop travelling and get my own place. I would be devastated to lose those because no one bothered to check inside the box before trashing it.

Strategy Rating: Use with extreme caution

2.) Chuck It There And Then
Tatsumi suggests that when you come across something, get rid of it immediately. Junk mail shouldn’t be tossed on the table, but put in recycling. A random electrical cord should be disposed of rather than stuck into the junk drawer. Leftovers you don’t plan to eat should not be put in the fridge, but in the compost bucket.

While you may not feel like going downstairs to put something in the recycling bin, doing it when the item is in your hand keeps you from forgetting, from things piling up, and from having to hunt the object down later. Basically, taking three minutes now, saves you a half-hour later.

Strategy Rating: Challenging for the lazy and procrastinators

3.)  Discard When You Exceed A Certain Amount
Tatsumi’s suggestion of setting a limit based on space is a really good way to decide what you need. When you run out of room, it is time get rid of some things rather than start a secondary location. This is incredibly logical as most people cannot afford to just buy a bigger house when they have too much stuff for their current home. Personally, I’d rather just buy another bookcase than have to get rid of any of my novels, but I have nowhere to put one. If I want new books, something has to go!

Strategy Rating: Even a kindergartener could do it

4.) Discard After A Certain Period Of Time
Similar to the amount limit, Tatsumi suggests setting a time limit. Some items already come with expiration dates (milk, electronic warranties, coupons), but you should create one for items that don’t (one week, one month, one year). This date is not necessarily when you should throw something out, but when you should reassess its usefulness and decide whether it should be kept or can be disposed of.

For someone who cannot remember when she bought an eyeshadow palette that expires in six months, this tip is a bit of a challenge for someone like me. It takes an extra step, but for things like makeup I could easily write the date on a bit of tape so I know when to toss it.

Strategy Rating: Requires a good memory

5.) Regular Discarding
Tatsumi also suggests an alternative of setting a specific day to assess whether things can be thrown away.  You can pick any date —like the second Saturday of each month— to assess your belongings. By doing this, be it once a week or once a month or whatever, you don’t have items accumulating for years.

While this means you’re not perpetually in a state of daily discarding like the previous tip, it can take an entire day and leave you exhausted. While you’ll still be trying to recall how long ago something was last used, you only have to think back for a specified amount of time. It is like a mini KonMari tidying to help keep up with decluttering incoming items.

Strategy Rating: Have to plan around it, but at least you have plans

6.) Discard Things Even If They Can Still Be Used
While this may seem eye-roll inducing, Tatsumi suggests changing your mindset regarding items that aren’t broken but you no longer need. There is no point in keeping something you’ll never use again just because it still works, and we should not feel guilty about getting rid of it once we are done using it. The object did what you bought it to do, so you have used it to its full potential, and therefore has not gone to waste. Such items as this are perfect for donating to opportunity shops, because it will continue being used rather than go to a landfill.

Strategy Rating: Easy once mastered

7.) Establish Discarding Criteria
Tatsumi suggests creating a specific standard to follow regarding when you get rid of things. This makes discarding a lot easier and requires less on-the-spot decision making, which is perfect for indecisive people.

It combines a few of the previous suggestions, but it used on the type of item (ie clothes, crockery, books) rather than each individual item (this shirt, this plate, this novel). You decide on a set amount you want to keep of items, a set date for discarding items, to discard something after a set number of uses, to always discard when you buy a new one even if the last one still functions, etc.

Strategy Rating: Advanced decision making, but multiple future applications

8.) Have Plenty of Disposal Routes
Tatsumi says that disposing is not always tossing it in the bin, but just getting it out of your home. It can be giving it to a friend who wants it, selling it in a yardsale or online, donating it to an opportunity shop, recycling it, going to an electronics drop off location, etc.

By knowing an object isn’t just occupying a landfill, it can help alleviate that feeling of guilt. Also, discovering how to correctly dispose of items causes less stress because you already know how to deal with it when you are ready to discard.

Strategy Rating: Research once, use for all subsequent declutterings

9.) Start Small
Tatsumi suggests choosing a specific space to begin your decluttering and then go from there, so you will not feel overwhelmed by the whole of your house. Tidy your linen closet, then your bedroom closet, then your bedroom, then your dining room, etc.

While this does break things down into “bite-sized” sections it has its own problem that The KonMari method solves. While tidying your possessions by category rather than location might cause bigger piles, it does prevent you from having multiple items in multiple rooms and not realizing it.

Tatsumi also suggests deciding on one space that you will not put anything on, such as a tabletop (it is a reverse decluttering by not actually putting anything there to begin with). Keep adding locations to not put things  —the desk, the top of the fridge, the bathroom counter— until only the locations that you want things has things.

Also, be determined to never put items in places they do not belong, which means never putting something into the nearest drawer just because there is space (ie shoving a cd into your desk drawer because it doesn’t fit in the entertainment unit).

Strategy Rating: Only works if you live alone

10.) Decide Responsibilities
According to Tatsumi, divvying up duties to establish who is responsible for disposing what is another great way to make tidying manageable. For personal belongings this is simple, each individual has to organize their own stuff. For shared areas dole out responsibilities by type rather than by room, as one person may feel it unfair they have a larger room to tidy. Have one person deal with newspapers and magazines while the other files bills and tax receipts; one person deals with eating utensils and the other deals with cooking utensils, etc.

However, just because you don’t want to read a magazine doesn’t mean you should toss it before your spouse even knew it was there. Be sure to ask if they would like to see it and, if they say yes, ask that they recycle it once they are through. Also be careful not to nag the other person; if someone struggles with tidying a certain item type that you’d be good at, offer to swap for one of yours.

Strategy Rating: Requires compromise and being considerate

Would you use any of these decluttering methods? Tell me what you think!


Author: JaimeKristal

JaimeKristal is a freelance editor and writer. She started her book review blog "Tales of a Booklover" for the enjoyment of sharing her love of reading, writing, and editing.

One thought on “Bookish Thoughts: Strategies of Discarding”

  1. I really like #1! Too often I overthink things and start reading books and papers first rather than eliminating the things that are truly not worth keeping anymore. I think #9 is worth a try for me too because I do well at attacking small spaces rather than the overall big picture. But 2 is definitely hard, I store too much junk mail to open all at once!


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