10 things you should never throw away when decluttering - 'these are the things you'll regret later down the line'

Don’t go overboard when organizing your home by throwing away these fundamental items

a white living room with books and photographs
(Image credit: Reid Rolls. Design: BHDM Design)

Decluttering the home can be a big feat. Once you get in the zone, it can be hard to snap out of it and consider the items you really should keep rather than donate or chuck away. Most of the time, parting with your 'stuff' is the big challenge when it comes to how to declutter your home, but if you declutter too severely, you might end up with "organizers remorse" the next time you need something that's been donated or thrown away. 

We spoke to the decluttering experts who suggested the 10 things we shouldn’t throw away when we tackle organizing our homes.

1. Organization tools

The process of decluttering is made a lot easier if you have the right tools. The best organizers include a variety of containers to house different items, label makers and post it notes are just a few examples of things that can aid you with your home organization.

Christel Ferguson, founder of Space to Love insists that ‘you shouldn’t get rid of all the old bins and organizing tools that you may have used before, you may be able to reuse them’. Keep them stored away in a space where they’re not on show, we’re thinking a cupboard under the stairs or a wardrobe would be a great option. 

2. Items that don't belong to you 

Most of us gradually accumulate stuff over time, some of it not being ours, that we may have either borrowed or accidentally inherited.

Even though it may be tempting to throw these things away when decluttering, it’s best to avoid doing so as the original owner of the item may want it back. Christel suggests that you ‘never throw away anything that is not yours, always ask permission first before getting rid of it’. This will stop any potential arguments or regret that may occur afterwards.

3. Photos 

a living room with blue walls

(Image credit: Brad Knipstein. Design: Studio Heimat)

There are lots of items that are guilty of taking up space in our homes which can be discarded of when decluttering, however photos shouldn’t be one of them.

Photos are never going to dominate a space and make it feel cluttered, they are small and often sentimental items that hold value to us. 

You may have a drawer at home that is packed full of photos from over the years. Rather than throwing some away, organize them to store them neatly then they are always there for you to look back on, or you could always try a clever photo wall idea to display lots more of your memories in a certain space in your home. 

4. Important documents

Dedicate an area of your home to house all of your important documents. An obvious place would be in a cabinet or desk in a home office. Christel says ‘this is a no brainer. Never get rid of important documents such as birth certificates, car and home titles, insurance policies and loan documents’. 

Rather than seeing a pile of paper and immediately throwing it away without a second thought, invest in an efficient filing system that will make the process easier for you. 

5. Anything actively useful

Shara Kay from SK Organizing says one of the most important things to remember when decluttering is to ‘save your precious space for things that are useful, meaningful, valuable or irreplaceable’. This sums up perfectly what your thought process should be before you throw anything away.

If the particular item in question is useful to you and you reach for it every now and then it’s a good idea to stick with it and find a space that can house it, where it doesn’t feel like clutter. 

6. Keepsakes

a paper lamp on a nightstand

(Image credit: Jenna Peffley. Design: BHDM Design)

Trying to keep up with interior design trends can lead us into the trap of having things in our home that are simply there for aesthetic purposes. Although this can create a beautifully styled space, you shouldn’t underestimate the power of meaningful items and what effect they can have in your home and for your general well being.

Ben Soreff from H2H Organizing states that ‘the items that are keepsakes are the most important, these we can’t repurchase again, they are irreplaceable’.  

7. Emergency supplies

Most of us are guilty of having a drawer in our homes that’s full of ‘emergency supplies’. This can include a first aid kit, extra batteries, remotes, key contact details but the mess it creates is just frustrating. 

Organize your emergency supplies in a way that keeps them neat and tidy and easily accessible, rather than throwing them away when decluttering a junk drawer. Use a drawer divider to separate the different items so it doesn’t look cluttered. 

8. Family heirlooms

a traditional style dining room

(Image credit: Hayley English Interiors)

Decluttering often means getting rid of items that we don’t use or reach for. However, this is an exception to the rule. If you’re lucky enough to have family heirlooms, you shouldn’t avoid throwing these away.

Even if they don’t hold any direct sentimental value to you personally, handing them down through the generations is a wonderful thing that shouldn’t be overlooked. Christel insists that ‘you shouldn’t throw family heirlooms away. Is that a real diamond or silver? Contact a consignment shop or estate agent to find out its worth before making any decisions’.

9. Designer items 

Do you have items in your closet or in your home that were once a worthwhile investment but you don’t get the use or joy out of them anymore? Christel suggests asking yourself ‘if you have designer items that may be worth reselling? Not sure before donating it? Use a service that will tell you what it’s worth’. 

This way you will get clarification on whether or not you want to get rid of it for a quick sell or keep it as a long term investment when doing closet organization

10. Collectibles 

Have you inherited a family member's collectables over the years and are fed up with them taking up room? Or perhaps you used to collect something that no longer interests you. Instead of throwing them away, consider if they are easily replaceable or not. 

The likely answer is that they aren’t, so do some research and see whether they are worth keeping. Be creative with how you display them and perhaps you can give them a new lease of life? 

Becca Cullum-Green
Freelance writer

Becca Cullum-Green is a freelance interiors content creator and stylist. She fell in love with interiors when she landed her first job as an editorial assistant at a leading UK homes magazine fresh out of university. You can find her renovating her 19th-century cottage in the Suffolk countryside, consciously trying not to paint every wall with Farrow and Ball’s ‘Pitch Black’. Her signature style is a mix of modern design with traditional characteristics. She has previously worked for House Beautiful, Grand Designs, Good Housekeeping, Red, Good Homes and more.