How to Get Rid of Stuff

office supplies in a junky box

In her 1994 book, Simplify Your Life, Elaine St. James outlined 100 of her tips to slow down and enjoy the things that really matter. The first thing she did is our first tip for getting organized for the new year:

Get rid of the stuff you don’t use anymore.

There are two kinds of people who run small businesses: Those who think this advice sounds simple and those who think it sounds impossible. That’s because the hard part of this advice is not the advice, but the hidden question: How do I know what I need and what I don’t need?

Here was St. James’ advice:

  1. Put all the stuff you don’t think you use in a box and label it two or three years from now. Don’t list what’s in the box anywhere on the outside of the box.
  2. Store the box in a closet, basement or other convenient place that is easy to remember.
  3. Once a year, examine the labels on the boxes.
  4. Pull out any boxes that have dates that are in the past.
  5. Without looking inside to see what is in the box, get rid of it (recycle, give away to Goodwill or the Salvation Army or throw away).

As you won’t recall what’s in the box, you won’t miss it. And you know you can live without it, so you can rest assured, it’s not necessary.

(via: Farnam Street and

(Illustration:, Photo: Nick Johnson via Flickr, CC BY 2.0)