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How to Decide What to Keep When Decluttering: The Best Question to Use!

How to Decide What to Keep When Decluttering: The Best Question to Use!

It’s not always easy to decide what to keep and what to get rid of when you’re decluttering. If you try hard enough, you can probably think of a reason to keep just about anything!

But if your goal is to simplify and declutter your home and your life, it’s really important to be able to make decluttering decisions with confidence and clarity. And maybe a little ruthlessness too!

There are many questions you can ask yourself as you’re decluttering to help you decide what to keep and what to get rid of. You can find a good list of decluttering questions here.

But today I’m sharing a new question to ask yourself as you’re decluttering. A question that will help you go further with your simplifying, clear even more clutter and take your decluttering progress to the next level!

Simplifying to make life easier

I’ve been decluttering and embracing a more minimalist, simplified home for almost a decade. And I love the benefits of living with a simplified, clutter-free home.

Keeping our home highly simplified makes it easier to maintain our home. As well as saves time, energy, stress and frustration. While also adding more peace, breathing room and ease to our home and our days.

Less to manage in our home means less “stuff” taking up my time and energy. Giving me more time and energy for the things that matter most to me!

But recently I’ve been craving even more simplicity.

Some parts of my life have been requiring more of my time and energy lately. And I’m realizing I don’t want our home and the stuff we own to take any more of my time and energy than absolutely necessary.

And with that, I knew I wanted to even further simplify our home.

Which led me to discover a new question to ask while decluttering. A question you can use no matter where you are on your decluttering journey. Whether you’re just getting started decluttering or have been at it for a while.

This question not only helped me confidently decide what to keep and what to get rid of while decluttering. But also helped me declutter more ruthlessly, effectively and efficiently. Going deeper with my decluttering and even further simplifying our home.

Standard decluttering questions

There are a variety of decluttering questions you can use to help you decide what to keep and what to get rid of when you’re decluttering.

For example, some of the questions to ask yourself as you’re decluttering include:

  • Is this item something you use regularly?
  • Do you love the item or does it add joy to your life?
  • Do you want to keep it in your home?
  • Have you used it in the last year?
  • Can you confidently know you’ll be using it within the coming year?
  • Are you keeping it because of “just in case” fears?
  • Would you choose to buy this item again if you didn’t already own it?
  • Do you have duplicates of the item that would serve the same purpose?
  • Is the item worth the time and space you exchange to keep it?

All of these questions are still great questions to ask yourself as you declutter. They help identify clutter, as well as identify things no longer adding value to your home and your life.

A new decluttering question to help you go deeper

But you may be at a point where you want to go deeper with your decluttering. Where you want to get rid of even more clutter and declutter even more ruthlessly to further simplify your home and your life.

There is another question you can ask yourself to declutter even more ruthlessly and efficiently.

The question to ask yourself is: Can I comfortably live without this item?

It’s not about deprivation or making your life more difficult than it needs to be. Instead, it’s about identifying things that you could comfortably and reasonably live without to further simplify your home.

You might still like the item, and you even might still use the item. But this question asks you to consider if you could still choose to live without it.

Everything you own is something you have to manage

It’s important to remember that everything you own is something you have to manage. It’s something you have to take care of and give some of your time, space and energy to.

Everything you own is something you have to clean, clean around, pick up, put away, organize, reorganize, maintain or repair, look for, keep track of, etc.

When looking at each item individually, this might not seem like a big deal. For example, your extra hairbrush hardly takes up any room. And only takes a few seconds to put it away or find it when you need it, etc.

But when you look at the amount of stuff you own in total, that’s when these little bits of time, space and energy each item requires start to add up.

When you own less, you have less to manage and take care of. Making your home easier to take care of, keep tidy and keep functioning well. Giving you more time, space and energy for the things that matter most to you.

Deciding if you can comfortably live without something is a great way to further reduce the amount of stuff in your home. And the amount of stuff you need to manage and take care of.

A real-life example of this decluttering question in action

Recently I used this decluttering question to further simplify our kitchen.

Let’s take mugs for example. I drink multiple warm beverages every day and thoroughly enjoy my tea, coffee and lattes. I also really enjoy pretty mugs and mugs given to me by people I care about. Using a special mug brings me a lot of joy.

However, with my goal being to simplify our home even more, to free up more time and energy, I wanted to further reduce our kitchen inventory.

My goal is to have less to take care of and plenty of breathing room in the cupboards. Making it easier to find what I need, put clean dishes away and overall reduce the mental load required to manage, take care of and keep track of what fills our kitchen.

I looked through my mug collection, asking which mugs I could comfortably live without.

And to even my own surprise, I let go of over half of the mugs I owned!

Yes, I liked them. Yes, I used them. And yes, they added joy to my life. But I realized I could comfortably and easily live with fewer mugs. I could appreciate the mugs I love and still let them go. Leaving me with a small collection of my absolute favourites and plenty of space and simplicity in the cupboard.

Think about your decluttering goals

When you’re decluttering, it’s important to clearly know what your decluttering goals are.

How much do you want to simplify your home? Are you looking to reduce the amount of unnecessary clutter filling your home by removing some of the most obvious clutter? Or are you ready to go deeper and highly simplify your home?

If you’re ready to go deeper with your decluttering efforts and highly simplify your home, this might be a good question to ask yourself.

Think of it as an experiment in less

Think of it as a challenge or an experiment. If you no longer had the item in question, could you still live and function in your home comfortably?

There are some items you probably couldn’t comfortably live without and would definitely miss having. A sharp and good-quality paring knife in your kitchen might fall under this category.

But there are other items you could likely comfortably live without. Perhaps you could use your paring knife in place of your apple slicer, garlic press, avocado slicer, etc. Removing several gadgets and only keeping the multi-purpose knife instead.

If you’re someone who bakes a lot, having more mixing bowls in your kitchen might be important. Given what you use and need on a regular basis, you couldn’t comfortably live without them.

But if you’re someone who rarely bakes, you might be able to easily and comfortably get rid of all but a couple of mixing bowls.

If your decluttering goal is to simplify the amount of stuff in your home to as little as comfortably possible, asking yourself if you can comfortably live without something is a great question to ask!

Again, it’s not about making life more difficult or depriving yourself of convenience items just for the sake of having less.

Instead, it’s about having what you need to feel comfortable in your home. But challenging yourself to get rid of the extra or unnecessary items. Even if you still could use them or still like them, it’s asking yourself if you truly need them or could comfortably live without them.

Another example of how to use this decluttering question

Another great way to use this decluttering question is when you’re decluttering your wardrobe and want to decide what to keep and what to get rid of.

You might have 10 pairs of jeans, all of which you like, fit you and feel good when you wear them.

But maybe 10 pairs of jeans feel like too much for you. Maybe it feels like too much remembering which pairs you like to wear with certain tops. Or remembering to wear and make use of them all rather than only cycling through your 3 favourites that are at the top of the pile.

Maybe it just feels like too much to manage!

Maybe you’re ready to highly simplify your wardrobe. Allowing you to make fewer decisions when it comes to what to wear. And making it really quick and easy to get dressed each day.

Look through your jeans and pull out the 2 to 3 pairs you always reach for first. Then look at what’s left and decide if you could comfortably live without some or all of the remaining pairs, and just keep your favourites instead.

Try a “maybe box”

There is no right or wrong decision to make when you’re asking yourself this question of whether you could comfortably live without something. Think of it more as an experiment. An opportunity to consider what you could be comfortable without owning.

Remembering sometimes it’s a matter of trial and error! Meaning you literally have to try living without something to know if you comfortably can or not.

A maybe box can be the perfect tool to take the pressure off yourself, and give you the chance to try living without something to see how it goes.

A maybe box is like a decluttering safety net. Allowing you to try living without something, without the pressure or fear of regretting your decision.

A maybe box is simple – anything you’re unsure about getting rid of goes into a box. Put the box out of sight and set a reminder in your phone for some time in the future, maybe 3 months from now. If you don’t need or even miss the items in the box during that time, you can get rid of them knowing you’ll be just fine without them.

Don’t let fear keep you holding on to clutter

If you’re in a place where you want to declutter the excess clutter from your home, it likely means you have all of your basic needs met and more. You have food to eat, clothes to wear, shelter to live in, clean water to drink, etc.

Trust that you already have everything you truly need – and more. Even if you ruthlessly declutter your home of the excess, you’ll still likely have everything you truly need.

And if you ever do truly regret decluttering something and decide you aren’t comfortable living without it, you’ll still have plenty of options.

You could borrow it when you need it, find something else that will work instead, or in the very worst-case scenario rebuy it.

But to me, it’s worth getting rid of huge amounts of clutter and enjoying the benefits, ease and peace that adds to your life, even with the risk of maybe, potentially needing to repurchase the odd thing on occasion.

And don’t forget how easy it is to buy used and second-hand items for a fraction of the cost if there ever is something you truly need to rebuy!

A great way to work through the fear of regretting a decluttering decision is by allowing yourself to fully think through the scenario. If you got rid of the item, then realized you need it, what’s the worst thing that could happen?

Oftentimes, once you walk through the scenario, it’s easy to see that you’d be able to find a relatively easy solution to most decluttering fears.

A new tool for your decluttering toolbox

Using the question of whether you could comfortably live without an item is a great addition to your other decluttering tools and strategies.

For example, if you’re using the strategy of deciding you want to reduce what you own in a certain category of stuff by half, asking this question is a great way to help you get there.

Or maybe your decluttering strategy is giving yourself a space limit for a category of items. Or deciding you’ll only keep a certain number of items in that category of stuff. Using this question is a great way to help you declutter more ruthlessly and meet those goals.

This decluttering question simply becomes another tool you can use to help you declutter effectively and efficiently. As well as another strategy to help you be more ruthless as you declutter.

It might help you step outside of your comfort zone or take a decluttering risk, with the reward being a highly simplified home and going even further with your decluttering progress!

Do you think this question will help make it easier to decide what to keep and what to get rid of as you’re decluttering? Do you think it will help you be more ruthless as you declutter? Leave a comment and let me know!

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Friday 14th of January 2022

This question has been so helpful for pushing me to get rid of several things I'd been holding on to "just in case"! I hadn't quite realized how many "just in case" items we were still storing, and we could live comfortably without all of them. And I think it will be even more useful in curbing spending/unnecessary purchases, which is one of my goals for the year. Thank you!

Simple Lionheart Life

Friday 14th of January 2022

That's amazing! I'm so glad it was helpful for you. I agree - it's a great way to give yourself the push to get rid of those "just in case" items! And yes, I'm definitely noticing it's helping me be more intentional with purchases as well. Thanks for reading!

Debbie Bollman

Tuesday 11th of January 2022

I like this question. It makes me consider just why I want to keep it. Liking something and needing to keep it are 2 different questions. Just because I like something doesn't mean I need to have it. If I can function without it, why keep it? Going deeper, do I feel I must have things just because they appeal to me but I already have all I nee? For me this is a form of gteed. I do not want to be greedy. So out it goes or better yet, don't buy it to begin with .

Simple Lionheart Life

Wednesday 12th of January 2022

Yes! I love the way you're using this question and I'm so glad it's helpful for you too. It really does help shift how we approach decluttering. Thanks for reading!

dana from Vermont

Monday 10th of January 2022

Well done in the additional question with the word, comfortably within it. Brava. I've not heard it expressed this way. Thank you for your strategies and writing style which conveys so beautifully. May our world have less in the trash and more recycling, less purchasing, more gifting of items we can "live without comfortably". It is so rare to truly miss an item especially when considering it may be someone else's enjoyment or higher use. I've been on the becoming minimal for decades after sudden deaths of parents, friends as well as a daughter most recently. People, animals are worthy of our time, love and intention.

Simple Lionheart Life

Wednesday 12th of January 2022

I'm so glad you found it helpful as well! I'm sorry about all the losses you've experienced in your life. My heart goes out to you. But I love how you used those losses to inspire you to live so intentionally. That's wonderful! Thanks for reading :)


Sunday 9th of January 2022

As always, you are an inspiration. 🙂

Simple Lionheart Life

Wednesday 12th of January 2022

Thank you so much, Karen!


Sunday 9th of January 2022

What a fascinating question to ask myself. I would never have thought of this where I am at the moment. I’ve worked on the basis of deciding what to keep rather than what needs to be got rid of as it’s easier for me but I’m going to try this question. At 71, I have lots of craft, art and sewing stuff that I’ve been decluttering but I’m going to start afresh with asking myself this important question, “ what can I live without?”. Thank you

Simple Lionheart Life

Wednesday 12th of January 2022

I'm so glad this question is helping you too. It does give us a different perspective to consider as we declutter. Thanks for reading and good luck with your craft supplies!

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