I was recently checking the final prints of our Dutch Flow before it went to print, and was reading an interview with Dutchman Jelte Glass. Jelte had built himself a tiny house and had to get rid of most of his possessions as a result, because—naturally—there was no space in his new teeny weeny home. His rule: “Anything that I use for more than three months a year, I will buy. The rest, I borrow.”
Hmmm. Time-rules. That’s a nice—and pretty practical—concept. I reckon I can do something with that too. There’s another, similar, rule I regularly come across on the Internet: the three-year rule. Which reads as follows: If you do not use it for three years, it can go. Think clothing, kitchen utensils, everything that is stored away in the basement, garden tools, and so on. No matter how great, special, valuable or unique an object is; if you haven’t paid it any attention for three years, it’s not worth the space in your home.
Spurred on by good intentions, I tried to apply this three-year rule in our own home. But none of these many many blogs and tips written by decluttering gurus address the ‘reluctant man’. “What do you mean, ‘the three-year rule’?” he laughed at me. “Who came up with that and, more importantly, why would I want to follow it?” I see in declutter-land, all those architects dressed in their black t-shirts and fancy sneakers, happily prancing round their minimalist houses, but unfortunately, that picture simply won’t be replayed in my home. Every now and then, I hold something up in the air and drop a hint at the reluctant man. These are things that I am 300% sure have not been used for four, six or even eight years. Things like: a racing bike that has been sitting idle in the attic, a tripod for the camera, his purple All Stars and the weird old backpack from way back when… Decluttering is one thing, but never dare to enter the ‘man cave’. When it comes to the above mentioned items, there was obviously no discussion to be had.
As for myself, two weeks ago, I put on a pair of pants that I’ve had for nine years. They’re wide-legged, a silhouette that was in style when I bought them and is trendy again now. That’s how it goes with fashion. And it was at that point that I suddenly began to doubt the three-year rule. A: They were a great pair of vintage pants, and B: they still fit. Two pleasing things that no declutter-rule can match.
And to end, here are some time-rules that are circulating the Internet, if you do happen to have an architect-like man at home:
- Clothes that you have not worn for a year can go.
- Boxes that have been sitting in the attic, still unpacked, since you moved house and that you haven’t looked into in the past two years can be thrown out. Unopened.
- Borrow, don’t buy, any items that you only use six times a year.
- If you have not used something for three years, it can also go.
- If you are nervous about the above tips, I found this lovely, reassuring piece of advice from a declutter lady on the Internet: You cannot clean up in one day the chaos that you have created in one year.
Astrid, together with Irene, is the founder of Flow Magazine. She lives with her partner and two children. Each Tuesday, she writes about the sense—and nonsense—of decluttering.
“Week 44 – Time”