10 Questions to Help You Declutter
By Mandhi Ehman
February 14, 2013
One aspect of having a simple home is to keep it free from clutter. While there are varying degrees of this and not everyone chooses to live a minimalist lifestyle, there’s no way to get around the need to declutter regularly as part of your simplifying goal.
Here are 10 questions to ask yourself as you evaluate the items in your home and make tough decluttering decisions:
1. Is this item something I use regularly?
A lot of times we keep gadgets, tools, toys, art supplies, et cetera around because they seem useful. However, it’s important to consider how often you actually use each item when deciding whether it’s worth keeping or should be given away. If you haven’t touched it in three to six months (or more), despite your best intentions, it is a good candidate for decluttering.
2. If not, is it something I love?
Of course, there are obviously exceptions to this rule (including seasonal items that you usually regularly in season). One exception I would always encourage you to make is for items you love. Keeping a painting from your grandmother that you love even if it doesn’t have a place in your current home is much different than keeping a snow cone maker that you have been meaning to use for two summers but never seem to have the motivation to actually pull out.
3. Am I keeping this out of obligation or expectation?
Chances are there is at least one thing in your home that you’re keeping not because it’s useful or you love it but because it was a gift from someone and you feel obligated to keep it. While I completely understand the desire not to hurt someone’s feelings, I think it is also important to remember that this is your home and if it is affecting your life, it’s okay to declutter gifts as well as the things that you’ve bought for yourself.
4. Am I holding onto this because I think I should love it?
Maybe you have a piece of artwork or a trendy outfit you picked up because they were popular and you felt like you should love them, even though you really don’t. Maybe your craft area is stocked with supplies for a hobby that no longer interests you. In all of these cases, it’s important to consider how you really feel and make your decisions based on those feelings rather than the ones you think you should have!
5. Am I saving this just in case?
One of the most common causes of clutter is a fear of needing something that you’ve given or thrown away. The reality is that if you commit to simplifying and decluttering, chances are that this will happen at some point. But for those of us who take the plunge to get rid of the unnecessary, the benefit of a clutter-free home is almost always worth the tiny bit of regret in these situations.
6. Do I have multiples of the same thing?
How many spoons or spatulas do you really need in your kitchen? Obviously your answer will depend on the type of cook you are, but ask yourself this question whenever you have multiples of any item. There’s a difference between being prepared and more efficient and just creating clutter!
7. Could something else I own do the same job?
I think this is a fun question! As you’re decluttering, look at any specialized tools or items you have and ask yourself if you could do the same job with another item, thereby cutting down on the number of different things you keep. To use another kitchen example, I decided to simplify our entertaining by giving away a bunch of our serving bowls once I bought a set of beautiful stainless steel mixing bowls from Ikea. I use these every day for cooking, but they also make great bowls for chips, dip, ice, et cetera.
8. Am I holding onto a broken item to fix one day?
This is another classic cause of clutter. Perhaps you have a piece of broken furniture or a broken electronic that you’re just sure you will have the time and desire to fix at some point. But ask yourself how long it’s been sitting in storage waiting for that day to come and whether you’re really ever going to get to it as you make the tough decisions about what to keep and what to get rid of.
9. Is this item worth the time I spend cleaning/storing it?
It’s important to remember that both your time and the space in your home have value. Think about how much time you spend cleaning knickknacks that you don’t really love. Or how about the time you spend sorting through the things in storage time and again to either find something you do need or want or to try to declutter once more. Would your life have less stress and busyness without those items?
10. Could I use this space for something else?
Think of the possibilities of what you could do with a closet or storage area in your home if you weren’t holding onto everything that currently fills it. What about a shelf full of knickknacks or books that don’t really interest anyone in your home? Your space has value too, and it’s important to look at the cost of everything you keep in terms of the space it occupies as well.