What is Clutter? 13 Questions to Help You Identify Clutter

What is clutter? 13 questions to help you identify clutter

In today’s post, you’ll learn 13 questions to ask yourself to identify the clutter in your home. Sometimes clutter can be tricky, and not always obvious to spot. Use these questions to help you figure out what is clutter and what is worth keeping, so you can simplify your home and your life!

Figuring out what is clutter

Maybe you’ve been working on decluttering your home, but even after you’re done decluttering, still feel like your house has too much “stuff”. It feels like you got rid of a lot and all the clutter you could see, but you still feel like there is more to get rid of. You’re just not sure what!

Some stuff is easy to identify as clutter. Things like garbage, worn-out clothes, décor items you’ve never liked, etc. But sometimes clutter isn’t so easy to identify.

Sometimes, when you get beyond the easy, surface clutter, it can be harder to figure out what is actually clutter, and what is adding value to your life.

And sometimes, you simply get so used to seeing your stuff in your home, that you almost become clutter blind to it and don’t even notice it anymore.

In today’s post, you’ll learn how to figure out and identify what is clutter in your home, especially if you’ve been decluttering for a while, but still feel like your home has too much “stuff”. Learn how to go deeper and identify the clutter that’s not always as easy or obvious to spot!

What is clutter? 13 questions to help you identify clutter
Photo by Sven on Unsplash

What is clutter: unmade decisions

“Clutter is nothing more than postponed decisions.”
~ Barbara Hemphill

This quote is very true about most types of clutter.

Clutter is often the result of unmade decisions, either intentionally or unintentionally unmade. But unmade decisions none the less.

Things you don’t know what to do with, don’t want to decide what to do with or simply haven’t been ready to make a decision about yet.

The 13 questions in this post will help you identify what things are causing clutter in your home.

When you are better able to identify what is clutter, you’ll be better able to make more intentional decisions about what stays in your home. Clearing the clutter, and giving yourself and your family more time and space to enjoy the things, activities and people that mean the most to you.

What is clutter: start with the easy stuff

The first stage of decluttering is starting with the stuff that’s easy to get rid of. Particularly, 3 different types of easy clutter:

Garbage

Look for things that are clearly garbage or need to be recycled. For example, old receipts, old magazines or newspapers, food wrappers, packaging, etc.

Sometimes these kinds of items get left around your house and simply picking up and removing these items will help you start clearing the clutter.

Broken items

Next, look for anything broken or not working that either can’t be fixed or you don’t want to bother repairing. Make sure to be honest with yourself about potential repairs. If you haven’t repaired it yet, how likely is it you will?

Things you don’t like

After that, start looking for things you don’t even like, drive you crazy, etc. It’s amazing how easy it is to keep things in your home that you don’t like just because you get used to them and don’t even notice them anymore.

Look around each room and if you notice any items, particularly décor items, that you don’t like or don’t even care about, those are good items to get rid of.

Clearing the surface clutter

These three types of clutter are all surface clutter. They are easy to get rid of because you have no strong feelings attached to them.

But they are still important to remove from your home because they will make a difference in the overall level of clutter.

And clearing this easy clutter can help build your confidence and momentum to start tackling the more difficult clutter.

What is clutter: beyond the surface clutter

After you’ve cleared the surface clutter, how do you identify what else is causing clutter in your home that you can start removing?

The next layer of clutter can sometimes be harder to identify. Use these 13 questions to help you figure out what is clutter and what is worth keeping.

If you’re struggling to identify what is causing the clutter in your home, ask yourself one or two or all of these questions until you feel confident getting rid of something or deciding to keep it.

These questions give you the chance to process the items you’re struggling with when you’re decluttering.

Some help you figure out the logical, rational side of decluttering (questions 1 through 8). Other questions help you figure out the emotions making decluttering challenging (questions 9 through 13).

Over time, you’ll likely go through these questions automatically in your head when deciding what to get rid of. But anytime you’re struggling to make a decluttering decision, come back to these questions to help you gain clarity.

13 questions to help you decide what is clutter

The two most important decluttering questions to help you figure out what is clutter are: Do you use it and/or do you love it?

Everything you choose to keep should be something you either use or love.

But sometimes figuring out if you do truly use or love something isn’t always easy. These 13 questions will help you dive deeper to answer these two questions and figure out what is truly worth keeping and what is just clutter.

1. Do you use it regularly?

In order for something to not be clutter, it should be something you use. And beyond that, something you use regularly. If the item is a useful item, but it’s not something you use regularly, it could be clutter.

If it’s a seasonal item, it should be something you use regularly during the season it’s intended for.

2. When was the last time you used it?

Maybe you think you use something, but when you actually take the time to identify the last time you used it, it may tell a different story. Again, if you don’t actually use something regularly, it’s likely clutter.

3. When will you use it?

Having a clear plan for when you’ll use an item is a good way to help avoid keeping clutter. Especially with items you already know you only use occasionally. If you can’t think of a realistic time in the near future when you will use the item, it’s likely clutter.

Just because an item is useful, doesn’t mean it’s not clutter in your home. If it’s useful, but not something you or your family are using, it’s clutter.

4. Do you have more than one?

Owning duplicate items or multiple items that do the same function is a quick way to add clutter to your home. If you have more than one of something, keep your favourite (or however many you realistically need and use) and get rid of the duplicates.

5. Have you replaced or upgraded the item, but kept the old one?

Another easy way to accumulate duplicates is when you replace or upgrade an item, but hang on to the old one too.

If you’re not using the older item after replacing or upgrading, it’s likely adding clutter.

6. Is this where the item belongs?

Sometimes clutter comes from items that you use or love but are simply in the wrong place. They need to be put away where they belong, instead of being left out in the wrong space causing clutter.

This type of clutter is easy to deal with because it simply needs to be put away where it belongs!

What is clutter? 13 questions to help you identify clutter
Photo by David Libeert on Unsplash

7. Does it have a home?

And speaking of putting things away, items without a home are what tend to cause clutter around your house because they have nowhere to go.

If an item that is important enough to keep doesn’t have a place to keep it, find or make a spot to keep it.

If it’s not worth the effort to find or make a home for it, that’s a good indication it’s clutter.

8. Did you forget you had it?

If you come across something as you’re decluttering and you forgot you even owned it in the first place, it’s most likely clutter.

If you didn’t even remember you own it, it’s not something you’ve been using regularly or really love.

9. Would you replace or re-buy this item?

Sometimes we place more value on an item because we already own it. A phenomenon known as the “endowment effect“.

A good way to help you decide if it’s worth keeping is asking yourself if you would re-buy or replace this item today at the full purchase price. If it’s not something you would want to spend money to buy today, it’s likely not something important enough to keep.

10. Are you keeping it “just in case” or “what if” you need it “someday”?

If you don’t currently use or love an item but are keeping it “just in case” you might need it “someday” or “what if” you need it “someday”, that’s a good sign it’s clutter.

Anytime you find yourself justifying keeping something with one of these phrases or something similar, it’s likely clutter.

Aim to only keep things you currently use or love. You can probably think of a reason to justify keeping just about anything “just in case”. But if your goal is to clear the clutter, a good place to start is by getting rid of “just in case”, “what if” and “someday” clutter.

11. How does the item make you feel?

Remember, everything you choose to keep should either be something you use regularly or love.

If an item evokes a negative emotion when you see, use or think about it, it’s probably not something worthy of staying in your home.

Why put yourself through those negative emotions? Get rid of the item and clear some of the negativity from your home and your life.

You are not obligated to keep things that make you feel bad. This is your home, you get to decide what fills it!

For example, if you feel guilty every time you see something either because you spent too much money on it, it was a gift you never used, etc., get rid of it along with the guilt.

Either use it as a lesson for the next time you’re shopping. Or remind yourself that gifts have served their purpose of expressing love once they are given. You are not obligated to keep gifts you don’t use or love!

12. What does it mean to you?

Another great question to ask yourself is what the item actually means to you. Just because it was expensive or someone else thinks it’s sentimental, doesn’t mean it’s important or significant to you.

If you have no attachment to or use for an item, but are keeping it because you feel like you’re supposed to or you “should”, it’s likely clutter to you.

13. Is the item adding enough value to your life to justify the time, space and energy it takes up?

I feel this is the most important test that all items you choose to keep should pass.

Every single thing you choose to keep in your home takes some of your space, time, energy and attention. You have to work to earn the money to buy it, then once it’s in your house you have to organize it, pick it up, maintain it, clean it, clean around it, look for it, reorganize it, etc.

If you use or love an item, it adds value to your life to justify the time, space and energy it takes up.

But if you don’t use or love it, or don’t use or love it enough to justify the time, space and energy it takes up, it’s clutter.

Another way to think of it is by asking yourself if the item is adding value to your life or making your life more difficult in some way. Aim to keep things that add more value than they do difficulty.

Making it easier to identify what is clutter

I hope these questions will help you reflect on the items you’re choosing to keep in your home and figure out which items to let go of once you are better able to identify them as clutter.

Decluttering is a skill you get better at the more you do it. Not only does living with the benefits of less clutter often inspire you to be willing and able to let go of more “stuff” in order to experience more of the benefits.

But the more you practice clearing the clutter from your home, the better you become at being able to identify what is actually causing clutter in your home.  

Over time these questions will likely become second nature as you practice applying them while you’re decluttering. But any time you’re stuck on whether or not to keep a particular item, come back to these questions to help you find clarity.

What questions are most helpful for you when decluttering your home? Leave a comment and let me know!

What is clutter? 13 questions to help you identify clutter
Photo by Kara Eads on Unsplash

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3 Comments

  1. Thank you so much for the fresh insights. Truly engaging, rewarding. For me, all questions are truly helpful, but question number 13 serves as my “sound of alarm;” For time, peace of mind and health are priceless.

  2. Thank you so much for the fresh, insightful questions. All questions are helpful, but the most helpful for me is number 13. It serves as my “sound of alarm,” for time, peace of mind and good health are priceless.

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