5 Ways for Your Stuff to Earn Its Keep

“Well, he needs to earn his keep,” said Ma, staring at the dirty dishes in the sink.

Sounds like something out of an old movie, right? I’m certain a few of us have heard or thought this phrase regarding someone who's done little to help around the house while reaping the benefits of staying in your home

I believe this is a good test for what belongs in your home. (Note I said what belongs in your home and not who.) And though it may look like I’ve gone ’round the bend, I find it helpful to literally talk to the stuff in my house, to make sure it has earned the right to live there.

Every item in your home, from artwork to furniture to kitchen gadget, can be interrogated with the following questions to help determine if they’ve earned their keep. Only then, do they receive your blessing to remain in your home.

  1. “Do you serve me consistently and effectively?” If you never use it, check your reason for keeping it at all. If you rarely use it, ask yourself why. If the item is constantly in the rotation and is utilized every day or every week, hang on to that thing! If you’re using it often but it’s in a state of disrepair that makes it awkward or inconvenient, you need to consider replacing it with a better model.

  2. “Do you fit in my home?” I have to laugh at myself even though I cringe a little when I remember assembling a piece of furniture, only to learn it won’t fit through my door when it’s time to move. Or the great hamper I found on sale that doesn’t fit in my closet. Living in a 1-bedroom apartment with a couple of Great Danes doesn’t make any sense. Neither does stuffing size 16 thighs into size 8 underwear. Many homeowners have furniture that is out of proportion for their smaller home. You don’t wear shoes that don’t fit. Make sure the items you use in your home are a good fit.

  3. “Do you bring me joy or add beauty?” Some of the stuff in our homes is there purely for emotional reasons. Colors comfort and art inspires. Keepsakes displayed on the mantle or bookcase offer comfort and a feeling of belonging. When you address a decorative item (or something that seems to just sit on a shelf and you’re not even sure why anymore), be sure to test it’s joy factor. If your shelves and walls are not dotted with beauty and enjoyment, they likely are one more thing you have to clean.

  4. “Do you have a current purpose?” Often, we hang on to special belongings that we hope to use in the future. Some keepsakes fit into this category because we want to hand them down to our own children or grandchildren. Instruments we hope to learn to play or art supplies we hope to learn to enjoy occupy today’s space for future use. Make sure you honestly have the space to spare. If your home is crying out for storage space now, it may be wise to give up the oboe and the acrylics if they can easily be replaced in the future when you are ready to take lessons. Right now, you may need that closet space to help house a sister who needs to live with you for a while.

  5. And finally, “What gives you the right to live in my house?” Any answer is possible. Everyone has their own subjective guidelines that help determine what fits their current life (or future life) and if that item doesn’t offer a good answer, it probably needs to go.

The key is to ask the questions. Stuff has a way of living with you long enough that it seems normal for it to be there. Perhaps it has been around so long you don’t even notice it any more.

It’s probably time to ask if it’s earned its keep!

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