Clutter

25 Questions to Ask When Decluttering

I don’t know whether it’s the change in seasons, or whether it’s because I finally got around to reading Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, but I’m feeling a renewed enthusiasm for decluttering.

And like everyone else, I find myself pondering certain items and wondering whether or not letting go of them is the best move. Kondo takes a strict approach: if an object doesn’t “spark joy”, out it goes. Well, frankly I find that a little extreme, and if you’re not ready for that level of purge, I think there’s a danger you’ll get stuck and do nothing.

25 Questions to Use When Decluttering

 

So, I looked back at my materials from my Professional Organizing business and refreshed and updated 25 questions to help you if you’re struggling with the decision to let go:

Practical

  • Do you use it regularly?
  • When was the last time you used it? …1-2 years is a good cut-off.
  • When do you next plan to use it? …if you don’t know, don’t keep it!
  • Are you obliged to keep it for legal/tax reasons?
  • Is it broken? …what are the chances you’ll ever fix it?
  • Is it dirty or obsolete?
  • Is it an unnecessary duplicate?
  • Do you wear it? Does it fit? Does it flatter you?
  • Could someone else get better value from it?

What if…

  • If you lost it in a fire, would you replace it?
  • If you were moving overseas, would you pay to ship it with you?
  • If you were to die next week, would your relatives wonder why you kept it?
  • What’s the worst that can happen, if you get rid of it?
  • Can you borrow or hire the item, if you find you need it?
  • Can you find this information online, instead?
  • Could you turn this item into a digital version?
  • If this item were gone, would you notice?

Emotional

  • Do you love it?
  • Do you love the item, or just the person who gave it to you?
  • If it represents a memory, can you keep just part of it instead?
  • What does this teach you? Can you learn the lesson without keeping the item?
  • Does this item represent someone you no longer are?
  • Do you welcome the feeling(s) this item triggers?
  • Would you miss this item if it were gone?
  • Would you be happier without this item?

You may not want another sheet of paper in your life(!) but if you’d like to download a pdf of these questions for handy reference when you’re decluttering, here it is:

25 Questions to Use When Decluttering

 

I’d love to know if prompts like these are helpful for you. How do you make the decision on what to keep and what to lose?


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8 Comment

  1. Reply
    Tracey Gemmell
    October 17, 2018 at 8:21 am

    This arrived at the perfect time! I’m decluttering to make ready for a transatlantic move and your emotional list was spot on.
    “Do I love the item, or just the person who gave it to me?” As I delve through the box of my children’s handmade Christmas ornaments – broken, wooden popsicle stick stars and squashed Styrofoam glitter-covered snowmen missing arms and eyes – I realize I can let them go without letting go of my now-adult children. Thank you.

  2. Reply
    Pauline
    October 17, 2018 at 10:34 am

    Tracey, a move like that certainly brings our “stuff” into sharp focus! I’ve also heard of people enjoying taking photos of mementos like these: you can keep a little of the fond memory, without the actual items. But I’m sure your kids will be relieved you’re letting their questionable crafts go…

  3. Reply
    April J Harris
    October 22, 2018 at 4:13 am

    Decluttering can be such an emotional journey, and these questions will definitely help me focus as I tackle the study cupboard!

    1. Reply
      Pauline
      October 22, 2018 at 5:00 pm

      Ooh, a study cupboard: sounds like there could be lots of paper there. Paper can be tough as the number of “decisions per cubic foot” is so high. Good luck, April!

  4. Reply
    Jean | DelightfulRepast.com
    October 25, 2018 at 9:56 am

    Pauline, “Is it broken? …what are the chances you’ll ever fix it?” was my favorite of the 25. I’m going to work really hard on that one! I conquered the “Does this item represent someone you no longer are?” a couple years ago when I finally donated a dress I’d had since I was 19. It was a beautiful long dress that was totally wrong for anyone over 30 really, and *that* was a while ago! 😀

    1. Reply
      Pauline
      October 25, 2018 at 12:02 pm

      Jean, I’m fascinated to hear that was your favorite! Good luck with your efforts.

  5. Reply
    Michelle James
    October 30, 2018 at 3:18 am

    Hi Pauline. I always thought parting with “stuff” was difficult thinking “I will miss it” or “I will need it.” Two years ago we did a major downsize that required getting rid of tons of stuff, from furniture to household goods and clothing to my gift wrapping supplies (I love to wrap). Some of the practical stuff that we simply had no room for in our new patio home (my Pilates reformer) I still wish I had room to keep, but most of the other stuff I don’t miss. Yes, occasionally I’ll go looking for a special baking pan and realize I had gotten rid of it, but we couldn’t bring it all. Two years later, we are finding that we can still get rid of things. The worst are probably found in the files in our offices (and let’s not even talk about old files I could purge from my computer. The item I need to concentrate on once again is “Do you wear it? Does it fit? Does it flatter you?” I’ve concentrated on “does it fit” but I really need to consider your other queries. My closet needs a major clearing out!

    1. Reply
      Pauline
      October 30, 2018 at 7:10 am

      Thanks so much, Michelle, for sharing your experience. If it helps, my closet is next on my list, too. I think I might need to add an extra question for clothing: “does it look tired”? I seem to have several items I still wear that fall into this category. I’m pretty sure I could manage without them!

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