To Throw Or Not To Throw Away?

Cluttered office desk with computer screen

If the show Hoarders has taught me anything it is how bad choices, small as they may seem, snowball out of control.

Each time I see the cleaners put on masks and climb over mounds of old furniture and magazines I think about my man cave.

No, it is not remotely close to needing a clean-up crew, but neither is it in immaculate condition.

So before junk accumulates to the point where cleaning up eats a week of your life, follow this three-stage process to getting your den in tip-top shape. Somewhere you won’t feel cluttered, both physically and mentally.

Stage 1 - Assess

“What gets measured gets managed" - Peter Drucker

Knowing what you are dealing with ahead of time will save you hours of your life. This means physically grouping up everything you are able to move without putting out back. Don’t worry, sentimental items will stay.

The reason behind moving your stainless steel ornament off the shelf is that you have to put it back out of your own volition. Otherwise, it is too easy to concede and say “I’ll leave it for now."

Also, just because it is not “in the way" does not mean giving it a free pass. People on Hoarders convince themselves that they can freely navigate their homes. In reality, they mean squeezing through narrow paths carved from rubbish. Again, those are the extreme cases but you get the idea.

Stage 2 - Decide

With everything together in the middle of the room, your job is to one by one decide if it needs to be sold/given away, thrown away or kept for another day.

The decision process is ultimately up to you, but here are some questions to get started:

  • Have I used this in the last 3/6/12 months?
  • Will I need this in the foreseeable future?
  • Does this have personal significance?
  • Does this bring me joy or have a functional use?
  • Would I rather have the cash value of this?
  • Could this have a better home?

If you struggle to answer the questions, a trick is to hide things in the closet for a month and if they never cross your mind in that time, it is a good sign they are destined for the trash.

Waiting: a simple trick that has prevented countless bad decisions


We have all heard the phrase: one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Nowhere does that apply more than to the stuff in an unmaintained man cave.

Rather than throwing away that metal elephant statue, put it up on eBay for $10. Have more tools than your local mechanic? $$$.

Feeling philanthropic? Give the rest away to charity stores and churches. There is a laundry list of things they won’t take, but there is an equally large list of things we take for granted that make the world of difference.


Offering $10 + free shipping is not enough to convince someone to inherit your warped coffee table. Instead, scavenge the metal brackets, unscrew the handles and legs and ditch the rest.

For the auctions yet to attract a single bid, cut your losses and put it in the throw-away category. There are better things to spend your time on.

Remember to follow your local recycling & disposal laws. Different items have different requirements for disposal. Stick with it as getting rid of trash the correct way is 100x better than keeping it for another decade.

See this disposal guide from the Department of Energy & Environmental Protection


If you have come this far, chances are it is still valuable.

Depending on your tolerance this could mean coming out the other side with a dozen items that define you and your man cave, or keeping nearly everything you started with. Either way, it is a step in the right direction and is a win in my book.

Stage 3 - Maintain

As mentioned in the beginning, the longer things are left to accumulate, the harder it becomes to manage. Luckily, you now have the tools needed to filter what goes into your den.

Each time you pass something cool in a store, see a “must-have" gadget on TV, or read a raving review online, take a second and ask yourself: “do I need this?"

9 out of 10 times the answer is no.