Decluttering Questions: Questions to help you declutter more effectively

Decluttering Questions - questions to help you declutter more effectively

Decluttering your home is hard work, physically, mentally and emotionally. Some items are easy to decide what to do with. But it’s not always so clear. I’ve put together a list of decluttering questions to ask yourself if you’re struggling with decluttering, need to clarify for yourself if you should keep an item or get rid of it, or if you simply want to make your decluttering go deeper and be more effective.

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

However, sometimes we don’t have someone to help us. Or we work on decluttering in small pockets of time throughout the day and it won’t work to have someone help us. If that’s the case, use this list of decluttering questions to help you declutter more effectively.

Decluttering Questions: questions to help you declutter more effectively
Photo by Breather on Unsplash

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 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, that’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 shift your perspective, clarify and start thinking carefully about what you keep and why you’re keeping it. Rather than focusing on what to get rid of, it can be helpful to think about what to keep instead.

Questions to ask when decluttering

The following questions give you some perspective and things to consider when you are decluttering your home and struggling to decide if you should keep or get rid of an item.

The two most important decluttering questions

Every item in your home should be either something you use regularly 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, you probably don’t need it. If you can’t remember the last time you used it, let it go.

Your home should only hold 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 from someone else.

2. Do you love this item?

Honestly asses your item. Does it evoke positive or negative emotions for you? Does it make you happy? If the emotion it brings up for you is not a positive one, it does 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 to live in your space. If it holds negative feelings for you, don’t allow yourself to be burdened by keeping it.

Decluttering Questions: questions to help you declutter more effectively
Photo by Jeff Sheldon on Unsplash

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 to help you clarify the usefulness of each item and if it truly adds value to your life.

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 most cases, one is enough.

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. Try to avoid single-use items and instead, keep things that can be used frequently or for a variety of purposes.

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 be more intentional about how you spend your money.

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. Now the gift belongs to you and it is your decision about 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. You must 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, you must set some kind of limit about how many sentimental items you want to keep. The limits will be different for everyone. But setting limits makes it easier to be more intentional about what to keep.

Remember that keeping too many special items lessens the importance and significance of each item, as they get overwhelmed and lost because there are simply too many things. But choosing to keep only the very important, most special items, means you can highlight, appreciate and value them 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, do you really need to keep it?

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 of all, these situations rarely actually happen. And secondly, on the rare occasion they do happen, we often either forget about the item we were saving “just in case” or find an alternative anyways.

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 it.

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 our time and energy. We must buy it, look after it, clean it, maintain it, store 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 in our lives and we keep them, regardless of if we 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.

Decluttering Questions: questions to help you declutter more effectively
Photo by Myles Tan on Unsplash

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 carry it up three flights of stairs.

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 our 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 overtime. Even if an item was something we used or loved last year, that does not mean we still use or love it today.

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

The same goes for saving things for the future. The items in our homes should be things we use and love today. Saving things for the future is a quick way to add a lot of clutter to our homes. 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.

14. Do you have a place for this item?

Every item you decide to keep should have a home that’s easily accessible and logical, making it easy to put it away. Items without a home often end up as clutter. If you don’t have a place for this item, find a spot, make a spot or get rid of it!

15. How will you use this item and when?

Sometimes realistically defining for ourselves how and when we will use an item makes it easier to determine how likely we 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 with only 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 your mission to declutter your home.

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. Do you have the skills to do the repair or will you need to hire someone else?

Put a deadline to complete the repair in your calendar and stick to it. If the deadline passes, and the item hasn’t been repaired, let it go. If it still hasn’t been repaired, it will likely never get done.

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

Sometimes we keep an item by default because we’ve always had it. If you are unsure about keeping an item, imagine other ways you could use the space it takes up. Maybe you could use its space for something you love that means a lot to you. Or instead, maybe you would simply leave the space empty and enjoy the white space you’ve created.

Bonus Tip

This list of decluttering questions should provide you with some new perspective and clarification for items you are struggling to let go of.

Here’s a 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 need 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.

Which of the decluttering questions resonated most with you or helped change your perspective about something you’ve been struggling to let go of? Let me know in the comments below!

I always find mentally walking through my “just in case” scenarios helps me clarify how likely they are to happen and if I could use something else if the situation did happen, instead of keeping an item “just in case”. 

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    1. I love these two simple questions. Do I use it and or love it? I get overwhelmed with too many questions. I’m going to declutter everything in my big house hoping to downsize to a smaller house in the near future. Thanks for helping me on the journey. I really enjoy your blog.

      1. Thanks so much, Kathy. I’m glad my blog is helpful for you. I agree those 2 questions are really great to use when you’re decluttering. Good luck with your decluttering and downsizing. Thanks for reading and happy decluttering 🙂

  1. I resonate with too many of the items to list. But I also know how good it feels to get rid of things. My husband and I are hoping to move to a house soon and I really need to start the decluttering process, I’ve just gotta be tough with myself. Thanks for the post!

    1. You’re welcome Katie! Hopefully this list will help you as you declutter. It can be hard to be tough with yourself, but asking these questions can be helpful to “prove” to yourself if you really need to keep something or not. Letting go of things you no longer use or love really does feel so great! Good luck with your decluttering and thanks for reading!

  2. How I need this in my life!
    We have decided to start decluttering- one room at a time starting this weekend. It has been a long 3 day weekend and still we haven’t started ?

    1. It can be daunting when you are just starting to declutter, but taking it one room at a time is an excellent way to tackle it. It is hard work, but the benefits of decluttering are so worth it in the end. I hope this list of questions will help make it a little easier as you are decluttering. Thanks for reading!

  3. I was ill, then had surgery, after which I spent 2 1/2 months away from home. Then when I did come home I couldn’t get to so many things. It really made me realize how little I “needed” so many items.
    Now I am downsizing it makes getting rid of things so much easier.

    1. I’m sorry to hear about your illness and surgery, I hope you are recovering and doing well. Although the reason you realized how little you actually need was unfortunate, I’m glad you were able to find a positive in the situation and use it as inspiration to declutter. It really is true that we don’t need nearly as much as we think we do. Thanks for reading and sharing your story, and I wish you good health as you continue on your journey!

  4. Always looking for decluttering “strategies.” I’m quick to toss things but my 5-year old is developing attachments to her things. I will need to share these with her! LOL

    1. That’s great Delphine, good for you! Decluttering really is hard work, but the results and benefits of it are so worth it in the end. I’m glad you found the decluttering questions helpful. Thanks for reading!

  5. Reading your post definitely came at a good time! I was cleaning out my closet and I’ll see a top and think, “wow I haven’t worn this in years.. but I still could!” and then still never wear it haha. Thank you for the wake up call!

    1. You’re welcome Jenna! I’m glad you found it helpful. Sometimes we all need a little nudge to let go of things we want to hold on to. It seems like we can always find a way to talk ourselves into keeping something, but when we are really honest with ourselves we realize it’s time to let it go. I’m glad these decluttering questions are helping you take your decluttering to the next level! Thanks for reading and sharing your experience 🙂

  6. Melissa, decluttering can be super tough emotionally. The physical act of decluttering (moving, sorting, and lifting) is tiring and difficult. I think the emotional stress and anxiety can stop decluttering in its tracks. The best of intentions to declutter go right out the window when an emotionally-attached item ends up in your hands or in your view. It has happened to me. I just shut down. I am “done decluttering.” I am working on getting rid of the items I am not emotionally attached to which – most of the time – is so much easier to accomplish. Thank you for the great questions to ask as I declutter~ ~Adrienne

    1. Yes, you’re very right. Decluttering is hard work emotionally, physically, and mentally. starting with the easier stuff you’re less attached to is a great idea. It lets you make some progress and feel more confident to tackle the tougher stuff. It can also help to just set aside anything that’s too emotional or will completely derail your decluttering efforts. Come back to those things later, but don’t let them stop you from the rest of your decluttering session. Thanks for reading and sharing your insights. And good luck as you continue on your decluttering journey!

  7. These are great tips. Well thought out. We have a ton of storage room, so in the past we’ve tended to keep things way too long. Especially things like old electronics that we somehow thought we’d need in the future. Finally we realized that we’ll never use this stuff (especially because it was out of date, old technology.)

    1. Thanks, Derek! I’m glad you found them helpful! I understand exactly what you’re saying. We have a lot of storage space in our house too – it’s a blessing and a curse! It’s nice to have room to keep things when not in use, but it’s really easy to keep more than you need simply because there’s plenty of space for it. When you have a lot of storage space you really have to be intentional and carefully assess what you really need and want to keep. Sounds like you’ve figured this out! Thanks for reading!

  8. These are terrific questions, similar to a list I had years ago and lost. Is there a way to get a copy of them as a simple list (without ads and graphics) to have with me when I’m decluttering a room? I’d be happy to pay for a pdf rather than needing to scroll through to figure out which question – and response – resonates.

    Thank you!

  9. 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.

    1. 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 🙂

  10. 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!

    1. 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 🙂

      1. That gives me something to think about. Keywords… “know for certain“. I was holding onto items that I can’t even recall whether I used them before becoming ill. Thanks for taking the time to help me in my unique situation. I had a feeling that you would be wise enough to see things differently than I can right now. Thanks for creating this website; you are leading the way for those of us who know that we want a meaningful life but don’t know how to get there.

  11. 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! 🙂

    1. 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 🙂

      1. Thank you so much for your answer! I have now decided to sell one of the bracelets to begin with and see how I feel with the other one. The money I get from the bracelet will I donate to WWF, I know that my parent would support that all in so it actuallt feels really good because I have always wanted to donate money to that organisation and that feeling actually takes away the guilt very much! I really like your tips and I will take that tips with me in the future when I’m decluttering. Thank you! 🙂

        1. That’s such a great idea and I’m so glad you feel good about it too! I think it’s a lovely way to let go of something you weren’t wearing, while still doing something special with it. Thanks for sharing the update and take care!

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