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Decluttering Questions: Questions to help you declutter more effectively

Decluttering Questions: Questions to help you declutter more effectively

In today’s post, you’ll find a great list of decluttering questions you can use to help you declutter more effectively, efficiently and with more confidence.

Decluttering your home can be hard work – physically, mentally and emotionally. Some items are easy to decide what to do with. But it’s not always so clear.

These decluttering questions are great to ask yourself if you’re struggling to declutter, need to clarify for yourself if you should keep an item or get rid of it, or if you simply want to declutter more effectively or go deeper with your decluttering.

Sometimes it can help to have another person helping you declutter to ask the questions that can be hard to answer. Often, once you answer them, it becomes clear what you should do with the item.

However, sometimes you don’t have someone to help you. Or you work on decluttering in small pockets of time throughout the day and it’s not possible to have someone help you. Or sometimes you just work better alone!

Whatever the reason, this list of decluttering questions is a great resource you can use to help you declutter more effectively. Use these questions to make it easier to confidently decide what to keep and what to get rid of!

Decluttering Questions: Questions to Help You Declutter More Effectively
Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Decluttering questions to help you find clarity

Some items you will intuitively know what to do with. The decisions will be easy and obvious. And you likely won’t even need these decluttering questions because you’ll answer them without even thinking about it.

This is often the case for things you love and use often and know you want to keep. Or for things you have no desire to keep and are happy to get rid of.

Everything you choose to keep in your home should be able to pass the test of each of these decluttering questions. These questions help you determine if you really use and/or love an item, and if the item is worth the time/space/energy it takes up in your life.

If an item doesn’t pass the test of these decluttering questions, it’s a good sign you can get rid of it.

These decluttering questions provide you with an array of things to consider when decluttering your home and deciding what to keep. Use them to give you confidence and clarity about what you keep and why you’re keeping it.

As you’re decluttering, it can often be helpful to focus on what you’re keeping, rather than what you’re getting rid of.

Use these questions to help identify what’s adding value to your life and deserves a spot in your home. And what’s just adding clutter and you can let go of to give yourself more time, space and attention for what matters most to you!

Questions to ask when decluttering

The following questions help give you some things to consider when you’re decluttering your home and want to feel confident deciding what to keep and what to get rid of.

The two most important decluttering questions

Every item in your home should be either something you use regularly and/or love. Start with these two decluttering questions and make sure everything you decide to keep passes them without a doubt.

1. Do you use the item on a regular basis?

When was the last time you used it? Unless the item is something you only use for a specific season or event, if you haven’t used it in the last six months to a year, you probably don’t need it. If you can’t remember the last time you used it, it’s probably safe to let it go.

Aim to keep the things you use on a regular basis. If there comes a time when you need a rarely used item, more often than not, you can find a suitable alternative or borrow it.

2. Do you love this item?

Honestly assess each item and if it’s not something you use regularly, make sure it’s something you love.

What kind of emotions does it bring up for you? If the emotion it brings up for you is not a positive one, it might not deserve to be in your home. If it makes you feel guilty, sad, inadequate, etc. it most likely isn’t something you need or want in your home.

Remember, your home should be your haven. Only allow things that add value to your life (because you use them regularly or love them) to live in your space. If something is never or rarely used, isn’t something you love, or holds negative feelings for you, you don’t need to continue keeping it in your home.

Additional Decluttering Questions

If you are still struggling to decide what to do with an item after the two decluttering questions above, go on to the following decluttering questions. They can help you clarify if an item truly adds value to your life and is worth keeping in your home and life.

It’s not always easy to decide what to keep and what to get rid of. Having different decluttering questions to run through is a great way to help you make clear and confident decluttering decisions. Continue asking yourself the questions on this list until you feel confident in your decision to keep an item or let it go.

1. Do you have more than one of the same or similar items?

If you have more than one of the same item, or similar items, do you really need them all? In many cases, one is enough. Or keep your favourite few and get rid of the duplicates.

2. If you didn’t have this item, could you use something else in its place?

Think about alternatives you could use if you got rid of the item. Often, with a little creativity, you can find alternatives that can serve a similar function.

A great way to reduce clutter and the amount of inventory in your home is trying to avoid single-use items. Instead, focus on keeping things that can be used for a variety of purposes and that you use frequently.

3. Are you struggling to let go of the item because you feel guilty about wasting money after you bought it and no longer want or use it?

Feelings of guilt can be difficult to let go of. But remember, the money you used to buy the item is already spent. Holding on to an item you aren’t using or loving won’t get your money back.

If you aren’t using or loving the item anymore, let it go. Then use it as a lesson the next time you are shopping to help you make intentional purchases.

4. Was the item a gift and you feel guilty about getting rid of it?

Gifts are given to show love. The person who gave you the gift gave it to show their love for you. You thanked them and appreciated the gift and the love behind it. Now the gift belongs to you and you get to decide what you want to do with it.

If it’s no longer something you use or love, let it go. It’s your home, your space, your time, your life. Be intentional about what you allow to remain in your home and only keep things you use regularly or love.

To put it in perspective, imagine if you gave someone a gift and then found out they were only keeping it out of guilt or because they felt obligated to. You wouldn’t want to burden someone with a gift you gave them! So don’t let yourself feel that way either.

5. Does the item have a lot of sentimental value and is hard to let go of?

I am not against keeping special items that hold a lot of sentimental value for you. However, setting limits for how many sentimental items you keep is a great strategy to use.

The limits will be different for everyone. It could be a space limit, such as one tote per person for sentimental items. Or an amount of space in your home. Or even a number of items. But setting limits makes it easier to be more intentional about what to keep.

Keeping too many special items lessens the importance and significance of all of your sentimental items. Simply because too many sentimental items often starts feeling overwhelming. The items get lost amongst each other because there is simply too much to truly value and appreciate.

But choosing to keep only the very important, most special items, means you can highlight, appreciate and value those things more.

With this in mind, honestly assess how important or sentimental an item is. If it’s really important to you, can you find a way to repurpose, display or use it in your home? If you don’t want to repurpose, use or display it, does it deserve a spot within your limit of sentimental items?

Taking a picture of a sentimental item is a great way to remember the item and the memories it holds, without keeping the item itself.

And remember, the item itself does not hold the memories or emotions. Those will always be with you, regardless of whether or not you keep the item. While there are some items important enough to keep, often a picture is enough.

6. Are you saving the item “just in case”?

We often keep things “just in case” some unusual or unforeseen circumstance arises in the future.

First, ask yourself how often those “just in case” scenarios actually happen. And second, remind yourself that on the rare occasion they do happen, you often either forget about the item you were saving “just in case” or find an alternative anyway.

Be realistic about your “just in case” scenario. How likely is it to actually happen? And if it did, could you find an alternative item to use if you let go of this one?

7. Do you have plans to use the item “someday”?

Again, be realistic about the likelihood of “someday” actually happening. We often save things with the best intentions of getting around to them, but never actually get to them.

If you are convinced you will use an item “someday”, give yourself a firm time limit. Put it in your calendar. If the time limit arrives and you haven’t used the item, let it go.

8. Is the item earning its keep in your home? Does the item add value to your life?

In order to stay in your space, an item should add value to your life. Everything we own requires some of our time and energy. We must buy it, look after it, clean it, maintain it, store it, look for it, etc. With this in mind, is this item adding enough value to your life to earn its keep?

9. Would you buy this item again if you didn’t already own it and saw it in a store?

Sometimes things come into your home and you keep them, regardless of if you use or love them anymore.

A great way to test this is to ask yourself if you would buy it again if you were shopping right now. Be honest with yourself and determine if you would hand over the purchase price you paid for this item again.

10. If you were moving, would you want to pack, move and unpack this item?

This is another great test to help you determine how much you value an item.

I like to imagine I’m moving to a 3rd-floor walk-up apartment. Ask yourself if the item is valuable enough to you that you would want to go through the work of packing it, carrying it up three flights of stairs and finding a place for it in a new home.

11. Could someone else benefit from this item more than you?

If you’re struggling to let go of something, this is a great way to shift your perspective. Rather than sitting in your home unused or rarely used, imagine the value and benefit it could bring to someone else’s life.

Sometimes shifting your viewpoint to one of generosity makes it easier to let go of items.

12. Does this item fit with your lifestyle and the season of life you’re in RIGHT NOW?

Seasons of life, our interests, and our needs change over time. Even if an item was something you used or loved in the past, it doesn’t mean you still use or love it today.

Only keep what you need, use and love in your current lifestyle and season of life. Hanging on to things from your past lifestyle or season of life only adds clutter to your space.

The same goes for saving things for the future. The items in your home should be things you use and love today. Saving things for the future, that you may or may not need, use or love in the future, is a quick way to add a lot of clutter to your home. Set realistic limits about what you will save for future use.

13. How would you feel if this item was no longer in your home?

Imagine you got rid of the item. How would you feel? Would you be relieved to no longer have to deal with it? Do you think you would even remember it after a week of it being gone? Would you feel sad if you didn’t see it every day?

Honestly assessing your feelings is a great way to determine an item’s importance in your home.

Sometimes the hardest part is actually letting the item go. Once it’s gone, it might feel good to not have to deal with it anymore. Or you might just forget about it altogether!

14. Do you have a place for this item?

Every item you decide to keep should have a home or a specific place to keep it. Its home should be easily accessible and logical. Making it easy to find the item when you need it and easy to put it away when you’re done.

Items without a home often end up as clutter floating around the floors and surfaces in your home, making your home feel messy. If you don’t have a place for an item, find a spot, make a spot or get rid of it!

The good news is, the more you declutter, the less you’ll have to find homes for. And you’ll have more space with less stuff, making it easier to find homes for what you’re keeping!

15. How will you use this item and when?

Sometimes realistically defining for yourself how and when you’ll use an item makes it easier to determine how likely you are to actually use it.

If you cannot think of a specific and realistic time or way you will use the item in the near future, you probably don’t need to keep it.

16. Do you feel obligated or expected to keep this item?

Your home should be your haven, filled only with things that serve you and add value to your life. If you feel obligated or expected to keep an item you don’t use or love it is not fair to you or the vision you have for your home and life.

If you feel pressure from someone else to keep an item, tell them you are working to declutter your home and no longer want to keep the item. Let them know they are welcome to take the item, but if they don’t want it, you will be getting rid of it. Establishing firm boundaries for what you allow in your space is important when decluttering and minimizing your home.

17. If the item is in need of repair, how and when will you repair it?

Ask yourself if you are realistically willing to invest the time, energy and/or money to repair the item.

Then, give yourself a deadline to complete the repair or have it done for you and stick to it. If the deadline passes, and the item hasn’t been repaired, let it go. If getting the item repaired hasn’t been a priority, and you’ve managed just fine without the item while it waits to be repaired, you likely don’t truly need or love the item.

18. Is there a better way you could use the space this item is taking up?

Sometimes you keep an item by default because you’ve always had it. It’s just always been there!

If you are unsure about keeping an item, imagine other ways you could use the space it takes up. Maybe you could use the space for something you love that means a lot to you. Or maybe you would simply leave the space empty and enjoy the white space you create instead.

Bonus Tip

This list of decluttering questions should provide you with some clarity and new ways of thinking about any items you’re struggling to let go of. Giving you some great ways to judge what’s adding value to your life and what’s just adding clutter.

Here’s one more bonus tip: if you need to ask someone else if they think you should keep an item, that’s usually a good sign you don’t use or love it. But are looking for some validation to help you let go of it.

If it’s something you use or love, you wouldn’t be wavering or needing another’s opinion to help you. Instead, you would just know it’s something you want to keep.

Pay attention anytime you notice you’re trying to talk yourself into keeping an item. Or when you’re asking others what they think you should do. If you’re unsure if you use something regularly or love it, that probably means you don’t!

Which of the decluttering questions will be most helpful for you as you’re decluttering? Let me know in the comments below!

Decluttering Questions: Questions to Help You Declutter More Effectively
Photo by Thanos Pal on Unsplash

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Sindie

Monday 1st of August 2022

Love the list...trying to declutter items now before we move in the next year. Do have a list of the questions anywhere that I could access? Tks Melissa.

Terrie Reed

Sunday 31st of July 2022

Thank you! These are perfect questions and I need them right now. I am trying to declutter a large apartment that I love but I’m afraid as we are getting older we will start tripping everything and have trouble that way. I want to keep my house beautiful and I love things so much because I’m curious and I like to have many different items about to ponder. It’s fun to look around and say some thing I’ve totally forgotten that I had and work with it for a while. I’m a crafter to I like to play with many different surfaces and mediums and I like to do mixed media art so everything has some potential to me. I think you a question about pay attention to if I’m keeping it talking myself into it it’s gonna be very helpful because I’m a good sales person and I do like to talk myself into things and it’s easier than making decisions sometimes I’m also just in case with parents who were both depression era children so we’ve always lived what if we don’t have it tomorrow how we pay for it is scary I’m working on it thank you so much for all you do for us great articles to and your classes are great too. I’m working through your journaling to get clear on my why.

Melissa

Monday 9th of November 2020

Really good questions to ask! Thank you! :) How do you deal with jewelry? I have two gold bracelets. I love them because I got them from my parent. But on the other hand I don’t wear them because I am afraid they will get damaged or lost in one or another way. The thing is that I just store them in a drawer like a treasure... They don’t take up much space at all, but I get stressed of the feeling that I dont wear them. I have not used them since I got them (15 years for one of them and 4 years for the other one -> Quite long time!! I want them to be used. I mean if I don’t use them I really want somebody else to get the opportunity to wear these beautiful pieces. I think one other reason why I’m not wearing them is because they are little little too large. I see here I have the answer what I would do, but it feels awful to sell my bracelets when I got it from a person who means so much to me. What would you do in this situation? I feel so guilty... Thank you for a great website! :)

Simple Lionheart Life

Monday 9th of November 2020

Yes, I can completely understand why you're struggling with this. Good for you for talking through it here and reaching your own answer. Sometimes just taking some time to think and/or talk it through is the best way to reach a decision. As far as dealing with the guilt of selling the bracelets, maybe you could use the money to buy a new piece of jewelry that you love and is more your style? That might help you be able to have a special piece of jewelry to remind you of the person, but now it could be something you would enjoy wearing? Just an idea! Thanks for reading and sharing your experience here :)

Barb

Wednesday 19th of August 2020

I recently found your website and it has been very helpful however I wanted to get your thoughts on my unique situation. I have a chronic illness that limits me and I’m holding onto things in case my condition improves. I know I’m technically holding onto things for the future but I can’t imagine having to re-purchase everything, like kitchen items when I start cooking again, once I’m well. Thanks!

Simple Lionheart Life

Friday 21st of August 2020

That is a tough situation to be in, I can completely understand the unique difficulty it must present. My recommendation would be to try to sort through and only keep the things you know for certain you'll enjoy using or find helpful as your condition improves. That way you'll be able to weed out anything you won't truly love or use, and keep the things you will. I hope that makes sense and is helpful! Thanks for reading and take care :)

Fran Klaas

Thursday 6th of August 2020

Would you buy this item again if you didn’t already own it and saw it in a store? This is the question that resonated with me. It's so straightforward! I don't have to waste time wondering how I feel about an item or if I might have guilt. I typically know almost immediately if I'll be purchasing something I see in a store. So asking that one simple question takes care of the other 19 questions.

Simple Lionheart Life

Friday 7th of August 2020

That's great! I agree, that most times one or two questions are what really resonate with you and help make it clear what is adding value to your life and what's just adding clutter. I'm so happy this question was helpful for you! Thanks for reading :)

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