When you declutter, how do you decide what stays and what goes? What makes something clutter to you? These decluttering questions will help you figure out what’s become clutter and needs to go so that you can efficiently declutter your home.
Decluttering questions to ask yourself
One of the reasons people get overwhelmed by decluttering is because they don’t know where to start and then they don’t know how to make decisions once they begin.
These questions will help you to determine what’s clutter so that you can have more clarity in deciding what stays and what goes.
You’ll notice that none of the questions are ‘does it spark joy?’ While this famous question from Marie Kondo’s decluttering method can help you key into your initial emotional response the answer to it alone shouldn’t determine whether or not you keep something.
1. Do I love it?
Do you truly love the item in question? Not did you just love it in the past, but in the present moment is it something that you love?
I know I’ve often settled for ‘close enough’. When I used to shop I would often have an idea in my mind about the thing I thought I needed. I’d go look in multiple stores and if I didn’t find just the right thing I would settle for ‘good enough’.
As I decluttered my home I let go of many of those ‘good enough’ items that weren’t really what I wanted. Dealing with past purchasing mistakes and asking if you really love it can help inform how you shop going forward.
You learn to be more intentional with shopping after you see how the things you settled for became clutter.
2. Do I use it? If so, when did I use it last?
It’s easy to have a default ‘oh yeah, I still use that.’ But do you really? When did you last use it?
If you can’t recall chances are you don’t actually use the item as much as you may have initially thought. You’ll find some people that say if you haven’t used an item in 6 or 12 months to go ahead and let it go.
I’m not that strict, but I do want you to be realistic when answering this question. Just because an item is useful doesn’t mean you are actually using it. Be honest with yourself.
3. Do I want this item in my life going forward?
When you’ve decided you want to declutter your home, it means you will need to be willing to let go of things. When you have a clear vision of what you want your home to look like after you are done decluttering, that can help guide the process.
Keep those goals clear in your mind. Does this item fit with your goals? You may need to be ruthless at times in order to get to where you want to go.
4. Do I have another one of these?
It’s common to end up with multiples of items. With having clutter, you may forget what you already had or be unable to locate it. In fact, a lot of time and money goes into buying duplicates or trying to locate lost items.
Get real with how many you need of certain items. Keep in mind that the more you own, the more difficult it is to maintain.
5. Do I have something else that could serve the same purpose?
Is there something else that could do the same job as this thing? In most cases, you don’t need multiple items that can serve the same function.
6. Is this something I could borrow from someone instead?
This is a great question to ask for occasional use items. There are many things that are big and bulky to store that don’t get used often. Tools, yard equipment, and some kitchen appliances come to mind.
If you find that you are rarely using your pressure washer or bread maker and they are taking up your precious space, consider if you could let them go and borrow from a neighbor, friend, or family member when needed.
7. Would I buy this item again?
Pretend you had a do-over. Knowing what you know now, would you still have purchased this item?
If the answer is no, you likely don’t really love it. This question alone isn’t always a reason to let something go though. Making do is better than buying new in many cases.
The reality is, you already did spend money on this item. When you are on a tight budget, decluttering something you already paid money for may not be an option if you still need it. But this can help provide clarity for passing it along in the future.
Additional decluttering questions
If you are still unclear about whether or not to declutter something after answering the initial decluttering questions then ask yourself the following decluttering questions to provide some additional clarity.
8. Did I even remember I owned this?
Through the decluttering process, you are likely to come across items that you forgot you still owned. If that happens it might be you’d forgotten it because it isn’t useful or meaningful to you anymore.
Occasionally you will rediscover treasures but you tend to know that when you see them. If the item doesn’t evoke positive feelings and you’d forgotten about it, you can let it go.
9. Would I miss it if it were gone?
Along similar lines, imagine that you did get rid of the item. Do you think you’d miss it? Sometimes our minds trick us and we can feel certain about wanting to keep something that really we don’t need or want.
If you aren’t sure and want to test this one, put the items you are questioning in a storage container that you can’t see through in the garage or storage for a predetermined amount of time.
If you haven’t missed any of those items in that timeframe, then you know you can freely let them go.
10. Is this item worth what it’s costing me?
Your clutter costs you in various ways. Is this item worth continuing to clean, maintain, and store? Your items are meant to serve you. Not for you to serve them.
Your home should contain things you love that benefit your life in some way. When you shift your perspective to considering how your clutter is continuing to cost you, it gets easier to let it go.
11. Why have I been keeping this?
There are a variety of reasons that people hang onto clutter. If you find yourself holding onto items for sentimental reasons or due to negative emotional attachments, work through those thoughts and feelings.
If you are saving items for someone else, make sure to have discussions with them to make sure they actually want them. Don’t continue to hang onto things out of guilt or duty. This is your chance to reclaim your home to use the way you see fit.
12. Does this item fit my current lifestyle?
Part of decluttering is getting real with your life. Items that may have been a fit for you in the past may not be in the present.
Seasons come and go. Not every hobby is one that lasts the test of time. Bodies change over time. Priorities shift. Accept your life as it is now. Let go of the things that don’t fit.
13. Realistically, will I repair this?
How many things are you holding onto with the plans of gluing, sewing, soldering, or purchasing replacement parts? If you are actually going to take the time to do this, go for it.
However, if those items have been sitting around for months or years that may mean that realistically you will not get around to repairing it. It may not be a priority and that’s ok. If you’ve been doing fine without using it you probably don’t need to continue to save it for a repair you haven’t done yet.
14. In what situation would I need this or want this?
A very common reason for clutter is the imagined scenario of I will need this when… If you find yourself creating scenarios or conditions under which you will want this item you haven’t used in a long time you may be deluding yourself.
Realistically is there a situation you are likely to need this item for. Sometimes we hang onto items because the idea of letting them go causes anxiety. However, choosing to hold onto clutter also can trigger anxiety.
If this is a major challenge for you, seek professional help to work through your thoughts and feelings as they relate to your things. It’s ok to let go of your items that are no longer serving you in normal everyday life.
15. Does this fit with my goals?
Are you on a journey to live more simply? Have you been working hard to try and get your finances on track? Living with excess can distract you from your goals.
You’ll experience many benefits when you have a decluttered home including it freeing you up to focus on what matters most to you.
I hope that you’ve found these decluttering questions helpful. Many are useful for not only the decluttering process, but also to ask yourself when determining whether or not you want to purchase something new.
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The de clutter ideas are great.
What would also be helpful is ideas / instructions on what to do with items removed besides putting in a dumpster. Donate is great , but how about instruction on how to sell for those on a budget that could use the income.
I’m glad you enjoyed this post. You can find my post on selling clutter here: https://www.thesimplicityhabit.com/what-you-need-to-consider-when-selling-your-clutter/
One other question I sometimes use is, “If I were moving, would I want to take it with me?”
That’s a great one, Geena.
One, slightly morbid, question I ask myself to help bring myself to a quick yes or no answer on keeping or getting rid of an item is…”If I can’t take this with me when I die, do I really want to carry it around with me my whole life?” This question almost always gives me an immediate yes or no answer to wither I should keep or get rid of something. I find the question is very effective with items that hold sentimental value.
That’s a really good one! Thank you.
I like to use: If this just went poof gone, would I be relieved? Upset? Replace it? Celebrate?