Should It Stay or Should It Go?

15 Dec

When it comes to organizing, downsizing, simplifying or just plain ‘spring cleaning,’ I think what overwhelms people the most is the sheer number of decisions to be made about what to keep and what to let go of.

With this in mind, I’ve come up with some criteria to help with the ‘stay or go’ decisions.

If you are ever trying to clean out your home and can’t decide what stays and what goes, consider the Three Fs:


…Does it fit in your home?  Does it fit with your lifestyle?


…Does it have a function in your life?  Can you use it?


…Does it bring a feeling of joy to your life?

Ideally, items will meet all three requirements.  This can happen with a really comfortable mattress, a favorite sweater, or a flat screen television.

However, many items will work for only two categories, and are still keepers.  Consider tax forms (small and useful, but bringing no joy at all) and sculpture (it fits and you love it, but it doesn’t do anything except collect dust).

Only one requirement?  That’s where things get sticky.

The FIT of an item is truly essential.  It should fit your life, and fit in your home, even if it means giving up something else to make space.

But… something that fits without being useful or joyful?  Forget it!  So, you need at least two of these requirements filled in order to keep an item.

If you have another system for deciding what to keep, I would love to know what works for you!

A Clean Surface
…Make Space for your Life!

19 Responses to “Should It Stay or Should It Go?”

  1. bigsheepcommunications December 16, 2010 at 4:52 am #

    Great guidelines – I’ll be sure to share them with those people in my life who have a hard time letting go of useless stuff. Personally, I hate clutter, rarely feel sentimental about things, and have no problem getting rid of stuff I don’t use. My mother-in-law, on the other hand,is sentimental about EVERYTHING and can only get rid of things by passing them to her children, who are then left feeling guilty if they want to give the items away.

  2. Todd Pack December 20, 2010 at 7:33 am #

    Good advice, acleansurface!

  3. notesfromrumbleycottage December 20, 2010 at 9:27 am #

    The guilt, I know that one well which is why I have a hard time getting rid of sweaters my mother has made that no longer fit. However, anytime AMVETS calls I take as a challenge to get rid of a bag or two of clothing. I like your suggestions.

    • acleansurface December 20, 2010 at 11:25 am #

      Thanks, notesfromrumblycottage. It’s always good to challenge yourself!

  4. sunshineinlondon December 22, 2010 at 9:03 am #

    Good tips, acleansurface! We had to pack up our home in Cape Town when we came to London last year – everything had to be put into storage, turfed out, given away or sold, or brought with us to London. (We arrived with one 20kg suitcase each.) I guess, without articulating it, we used your 3F system.

    • acleansurface December 22, 2010 at 11:39 am #

      Thanks, Sunshine. I used to move quite frequently, and I learned to travel light. I have not heard the term “turfed out” before, but I’m guess it means thrown in the trash.

  5. Magnificent Minimalist December 23, 2010 at 8:37 am #

    Alliteration is like, my favorite thing in the world, so Fit, Feeling, and Function is an excellent memory aid. I was recently making a budget and I realized that the three things I’d set up to pay automatically per month were Netflix, my community supported agriculture boxes, and my cellphone–so I listed them as ‘Flix, Fruit, and Fone on my budget.

    • acleansurface December 23, 2010 at 10:23 am #

      I’m glad you like it, Magnificent Minimalist. Yes, alliteration is fun. I came up with my 3F tip because, as someone with a sketchy memory for details, I like to boil things down to a simple concept. I was thinking if it helps me, it will work for others, too. Thanks for visiting!

  6. JosieMichelle December 27, 2010 at 5:35 am #

    Great post! I am such a “collector” of many things that I have to force myself to go through and think about stuff like this to get rid of crap!

    • acleansurface December 27, 2010 at 10:41 am #

      Thank you, JosieMichelle. I hope it helps you!

  7. Bee December 27, 2010 at 6:46 pm #

    What a wonderful way to help prioritize! I am really terrible about throwing things out, have been for my whole life really. I have not had to move many times where I was old enough to be a participant (age 14, four dorm rooms in college but my parents’ home was the same so my stuff mostly stayed there, into my first home as an adult, and the one I live in now). So I have the best part of 15 years’ worth of STUFF in my house now, plus my kids’ stuff, and we will be moving this year. This will be a very helpful tool for the endless assessment involved in paring down – thank you!

    • acleansurface December 27, 2010 at 9:54 pm #

      You’ve got a big job ahead of you, Bee. You’ll probably find things you didn’t even know you had! =)

      • Bee January 23, 2011 at 2:38 pm #

        I decided to tackle the kids’ old clothes first, since that’s part of my 101 Things in 1001 Days project anyway. I would guess I have put around 20 hours into it in the last several days, and while I still am not finished, I’ve made great progress and the end is in sight!

        When I’m done, everything that fits will go into their drawers (without having to mash it down to fit inside), everything too large will be neatly waiting in the closet, and the too-small stuff will be donated, thrown out, or packed up neatly for my sister’s kids to grow into. That’s the idea anyway … 😀

  8. Emily January 23, 2011 at 5:59 am #

    I have so many things that I should get rid of, however I keep making excuses to keep things. I don’t know how to get out of it. I came to this blog to receive help. So far, you haven’t let me down! Great work! I’m so interested in yours and magnificent minimalist’s blogs, I love them!

  9. Cdn Stormlover March 3, 2011 at 2:46 pm #

    Excellent post! I own a decluttering/organizing company and I know how important it is for people to have USEFUL info on this topic! The “3 F’s” method is a great way to help people discern between what to keep and what not to. Kudos!

    • acleansurface March 3, 2011 at 4:46 pm #

      Thanks, Cdn! I was trying to simplify the process as much as possible, for my own decluttering/simplifying business.


  1. Organization vs. Uncluttering « A Clean Surface. - January 26, 2011

    […] The idea is to keep only the things that Fit your life, have a Function in your life, and/or give you a Feeling of joy.  You can read more about my “Three Fs” decluttering method in my post “Should it Stay or Should it Go?”. […]

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