Decluttering has become a popular activity these past few words. But for many people, it is an overwhelming and stressful task. Many don’t know where to begin or what to keep and let go of. So today, I’m sharing a few questions to ask when decluttering that can help you on your way to a tidier, clutter-free home. And don’t worry about doing it perfectly. Decluttering is all about progress, not perfection.
5 Questions to Ask When Decluttering
When I first started decluttering it was tempting to get overwhelmed. I either wanted to quit or throw away EVERYTHING and start fresh. Neither approach is helpful. But it is OK to feel both of those extremes. Just remind yourself it’s a process and it will get easier the more you practice. Also, as time goes on, the hope is that you will have less and less to declutter as you become more intentional about what you bring into your house in the first place. However, hobbies change, items break or wear down, and children outgrow toys so it’s also a skill that will be used again and again.
If you’re new to decluttering or minimalism, check out a few of these posts to ease into it:
- 10 Best Books on Minimalism and Simple Living
- How to Make a Small House Feel Bigger
- Are you Holding Onto Stuff Others Could Use?
Ready to get started? Take a deep breath. Grab some boxes for donation and bags for trash. Pick ONE room and let’s get started.
(This post may contain affiliate links. Read my full disclosure here.)
1.) What can I throw out?
Start with the simplest task first. Often we don’t have trouble deciphering what’s trash and what might be useful. Collect and bag up everything in a room that is broken, too dirty to clean, or cheap. Once you’re able to remove straight-up garbage from a room it will not only clear out some space but boost your confidence to complete the rest of the task.
For instance, I recently decluttered my sunroom and threw out a bunch of stickers that were so old they didn’t stick, broken happy meal toys, and crossword puzzle books I was never going to use and my toddler drew all over with crayons anyway. When possible, try to recycle or compost your trash though to minimize the amount that ends up in a landfill. Also, it’ll make you feel slightly better about getting rid of it. At least that’s what I tell myself. 😉
2. What can I easily donate or give to someone else today?
Often we collect stuff we don’t feel guilty getting rid of but don’t take the time to actually do. Box it up to take to a donation center or immediately text a friend and ask if they want an item. In our town, we have an email listserv where I can post items I no longer want and they are usually gone within an hour after posting. I don’t have to spend time running them to a thrift store and they go directly into the hands of someone who wants them. There are many “No buy” Facebook groups set up in areas that you can look into to offload your stuff too. Or make sure to check out a mission that works with a specific group, whether it be single mothers, orphans, or veterans.
3. When was the last time I used this item?
If it’s been over a year, chances are you are not going to use it again. A lot of organizers say “six months” but I like to give an item a full year because it ties in seasonal decor, plus takes into account changing hobbies or situations. When in doubt, box like-items together and store them away. When you move or find that box during another decluttering phase re-evaluate those items. Did you miss any of them? If you did, chances are you went to dig them out during that time. If you didn’t need or want them, let them go the second time around. This takes the pressure off of feeling like you might get rid of something you need or want.
But again, there are exceptions. Some items we need around the house that we don’t use that often. Maybe you haven’t used your electric screwdriver in a year but you know you will eventually. Use common sense. I’m certainly not telling anyone to get rid of useful items like that.
4. Do I feel happy when I look at this item or annoyed?
Ooh, now we’re bringing in the emotions! Bear with me, this exercise is helpful. If there is an item (or several) in your home you keep moving around but every time you look at it annoys you, why not let it go? Often we don’t because we paid too much for it, it was a gift, or we feel like we “may” need it later. If it’s clutter that keeps bothering you over and over (or you keep moving it from room to room) think of someone who would love it and say your goodbyes. I’m promising you, you will feel freer once you do.
5. What’s the worst that will happen if I get rid of this?
I had to include this question because it’s a fear many people have when decluttering. “But what if I get rid of something I REALLY need in three months? Or I get rid of a shirt I regret next month?!”
Okay, let’s say you declutter 10 items from your closet, and in 4 months you do regret getting rid of a big comfy sweatshirt. What do you do then? Well, you either live without it or buy a replacement. Is buying a replacement wasteful? It can be. Maybe you will feel the need to repurchase. Is that the end of the world? No. Plus, I’m willing to bet you will just learn to live without it. And in the meantime, you got rid of 9 other items you realize you didn’t need or love.
If that’s still too stressful, try using the item! If it’s a consumer, say cleaners, makeup or skincare, or food items, use it up. You might end up realizing you really love a product but never took the time to use it. OR, you may realize you hate a product, used it up, and will never buy it again. Either is a win in my book.
If it’s something non-consumable, say clothing, try wearing it. Maybe you’ll discover a newly loved sweatshirt you had hanging in your closet this whole time. Or maybe you realize why you never wear an item: because it’s uncomfortable. Either way, it’ll help you gain clarity about what you actually use or love.
Lastly, don’t forget to grab my guide “Minimalism for Beginners” if you’re ready to create and maintain a clutter-free home for good!