In Part 1 of this Decluttering Series we answered the question: What is Clutter? In Part 2 we talked about The Benefits of Decluttering and in Part 3 we discussed When Will I Find the Time to Declutter? Now it’s time to consider what questions you need to ask yourself when making choices about your excess “stuff”. The following questions have helped me make decisions about the things I want to keep and the things I choose to let go of or get rid of. In Part 5 of my Decluttering Series, I’ll share my “How To Guide” for creating a less cluttered home and life and where to get started but for now, here’s some questions to start thinking about:
- Do I still use this item either around the house or outside the house to participate in a particular sport or activity? If the answer is no, it’s probably clutter.
- How long has it been since I last used this item and am I keeping it “just in case”? If you haven’t used the item in the last 6 – 12 months and can’t imagine using it in the forseeable future then it’s probably clutter.
- Does this item still work? If it’s broken, can’t be fixed (either by you or someone else) or is too expensive to fix, compared to the cost of a new item, it’s clutter.
- Do I have multiples of a particular item when I only need one? Decide how many you need of something and, if you have more than that, it’s clutter. Alternatively, do I have similar items that will do the same thing? If so, choose the best of the two items and dispose of the other one.
- Am I keeping this item for sentimental reasons? If you feel obliged to keep an item because it was given to you by a loved one, then it’s possibly clutter. Sentimental items are more difficult to deal with and I’ll discuss these in a later post.
- Do I need to keep this physical item to remember a special person or a special time? If the answer is yes, display the item where you can see it and appreciate it rather than store it in a box. If the answer is no, it might be clutter. Alternatively, if you have lots of items to remind yourself of a person or a special time/event, it might be possible to just keep a few things rather than everything.
- Do I like this item? If you no longer like an item or you feel obliged to keep it because it was a gift, it’s clutter.
- Does this item have a purpose or does it just “look good”? It’s lovely to have nice ornaments or homeware items but too many just become clutter.
- Do I want to keep cleaning this item? If you have loads of ornaments and items that are simply on display attracting dust and requiring cleaning, this might be clutter. Cleaning is easier and faster if most horizontal surfaces in your home like benchtops, tabletops, desks, etc. are free from clutter.
- Am I keeping this item out of feelings of guilt? It’s hard to let go of expensive possessions but if it’s not being used, will never be used and is simply taking up valuable space, it’s clutter.
- Do I have to keep moving this item to access others? The more “stuff” you keep, the less space and storage you will have. You will potentially have to store things on top of, in front of and beside other things (especially in spaces like garages). If you have to constantly move and shuffle items, some of it is definitely clutter.
- What is this? If you’ve ever found something that you can’t identify, it’s probably clutter but before you do throw it out, check with other family members that it’s not the crucial missing piece to something that someone has been searching for.
- Would it be difficult to replace this item if I got rid of it and really regretted my decision? If you’re really torn and not sure, maybe put this item aside for the moment and sort something else. You can always come back to this item after you’ve cleared some other clutter.
- Do I want to continue storing this item or would I rather have the space that would exist if the item was gone? If you have an item stored in a box, is there any purpose keeping it? Chances are you are more attached to the memory than the item itself. If you can’t use it or don’t want to display it, it’s clutter.
- And my favourite question of all, if this item was lost or stolen, would I spend money to replace it? Or another way to look at an item is, could you be bothered to pack it and unpack it if you had to move to a new home? If the answer is no, it’s clutter?
Hopefully, asking yourself some of the above questions will help you make decisions about what possessions you will keep and the ones you won’t. At the end of the day, what you keep and what you don’t is entirely up to you. The questions above don’t represent rules, they are just designed to give you something to think about.
But if you are struggling and really having trouble, consider getting a friend to help. Invite a trusted friend over and for a bit of fun, have a “Clutter Buster Party”. It might sound drastic but your friend won’t have the same emotional attachment to your possessions as you and will be able to give you an honest, unbiased opinion about most items and help you decide what items are useful and relevant in your life.
Although that ended up being quite a long list, it has hopefully given you some food for thought.
So tell me, what room in your house is screaming out to be decluttered?