1. Is it a keepsake?
Pictures, child art, certificates and achievements, programs and tickets might be keepers. To be eligible, they must be highly valued, one of a kind, something you will still value in 5 years, and easily preserved. Photos that are determined "keepers" belong in frames, albums, or should be digitally cataloged. Loose pictures in stacks of papers will only get ruined over time.
Want to save child artwork? Give each child a keepsake plastic storage bin - whatever fits in that been over the course of say 20 years, you keep. This helps you make better decisions about what is really important enough to save for posterity. You can also display child artwork in a frame on the wall. Or go digital: take pictures or scan your child's vast collection of drawings, paintings and crafts and create a digital keepsake instead.
It's important to remember that you can't possibly save everything. So instead, save only those items that represent the uniqueness of your child and his/her interests at this moment in time. If her favorite animal is a giraffe and she's painted a beautiful one, preserve it. But you probably don't need to keep every sketch of a flower, butterfly, rainbow that she brings home from school. On the back of each item or in your digital album notes, be sure to write the date it was created, by whom, and a short note about why your child created it.
Tie more meaning to the things you collect and you won't be just "keeping stuff," you'll be preserving memories.
2. Do you have more than one?
Often we save multiples of things we clearly don't need two (or more) of. OR you have multiple objects that serve the same purpose/function. Maybe you ordered too many custom wedding/party invitations, have multiples of the same portrait, two copies of the same book - anything that you have multiples of that just doesn't make sense are a toss. Close your eyes and just let them go. Just think of all the extra space you'll have to breathe, and how little you'll miss this extra clutter. Send extra portraits to family and friends, and have a garage sale or donate your extra books and other multiples. Share the love, and clear the clutter at the same time!
3. Is it useful?
This is a big question. And we mean, in current world reality! It is useful to you, in your life, right now? If it's a juicer and you've never used it, but you think that you could in a future life become an avid juicer - toss it! What makes you think that the future juicer aficionado you would even want this old model by then? If you are someone who tends to keep things in case you may use them "someday" and are having trouble breaking this thinking, try at least giving yourself limits. Perhaps you collect scraps of fabric or supplies for home projects. Fair enough. But allow yourself only one bin. Whatever fits in that bin is the maximum of that type of item that you are allowed to keep for a rainy day - no exceptions. And if you haven't used anything in that bin 5 years from now, toss it! (We'll talk more about that in a second!)
3. Have you used it, needed it, or referenced it in the last year?
If you haven't, TOSS IT. This will clear more clutter in your home than you can dream imaginable. It is amazing how much we collect and hold on to that we simply never use. Fancy cake pans, out dated electronics, books/manuals, makeup, clothes, kitchen appliances - and the list goes on! Gift your fancy cake pans to someone who actually loves to make cakes and does so regularly! Offer kitchen appliances to a newlywed couple or young adult in their first apartment. Donate unused make-up to a women's shelter.
When it comes to clothes, try this: Turn all your clothes hangers around backwards...so instead of hanging them normally, flip the hook around so you have to put them in from behind the rod. When you wear a piece of clothing, replace the hanger in the right "normal" direction. At the end of the season, any items on hangers still facing backwards, toss! Reevaluate your clutter each year. And when it comes to long term "save for a rainy day" items, if you haven't used an item in 5 years, it's time to say goodbye.
4. Is it broken?
If it is, is it worth fixing and do you have the skills or ability to get it fixed within a reasonable effort and budget? If the answer is no, toss it. Stop pretending that you will fix something someday. Someday will never come. You are a busy person. This item is causing more harm as clutter than any amount of good it could bring later, if it ever got fixed.
5. Would you rather have this item, or the space it currently occupies in your home?
Do you really love this item? Do you have an immediate use for it? Does it perform a useful function that nothing else in your home provides? It it in fully-working order and makes your life easier? Or does it clutter up your space and your life and make you feel squeezed? Decide whether that item is worth sacrificing the space that it takes up and how the way it contributes to the overall clutter in your home makes you feel. When you answer that question, you'll know whether to keep, or toss.