9 Questions To Help Declutter Your Life

posted by Andrea | 11/5/2018

When it comes to getting organized, decluttering, purging, and the like, there are (unfortunately) no specific instructions I can share that will work for 100% of people 100% of the time. There is no list of things you should keep and/or purge. There is no perfect system that works every time. There really isn’t even a “right” or “wrong” way to do things.

That makes it challenging for me to give sound advice that appeals to the masses.

Of course, it would be fantastic if I could work individually with each one of you, but since there certainly aren’t that many hours in a day (and you all know how much I hate to travel) that option is out of the question as well! 🙂

However, one way I can tailor my advice to each one of you individually is to share open-ended questions YOU can ask YOURSELF when YOU purge YOUR home.

By asking yourself these 9 questions (and honestly answering them) you will equip yourself with the ability to purge necessary items from your home and life! 

It sounds simple because it IS simple.

That said, it still requires quite a bit of work on your part — both mental and physical. But the results of a less-cluttered, more organized home WILL be worth it — I promise!

The next time you’re purging any area in your home, pull this blog post up and use the following questions as your guide. Honest answers WILL make it fairly obvious if you should purge an item or not!

1. Do I actually like this item?

This might be somewhat obvious — but it’s still worth asking. Clearly, if you don’t even like the item, it’s probably not worth the space in your home.

Also, if you’re hanging on to an item because you feel you SHOULD like it (memorabilia, brand name clothing, a gift from a relative, etc.) chances are you can purge those items too. You probably won’t suddenly start liking the item, so just get rid of it now and enjoy your extra space!

Make it a mission to surround yourself ONLY with things you love and enjoy — not things you feel obligated to hang on to or things you are trying to like.

I realize this is easier to say than it is to actually do, but with a little practice, you’ll get better at purging these items!

2. How many of these items do I have and/or need?

There are times when it’s useful to have several of the same thing (we have at least 8 flashlights and use them in different areas of our home). There are other times when we can easily make do with only 1 or 2 of an item, so I purge the rest.

On the rare occasions I need or want more than the number I have, I can either borrow something from a friend or make do with another item I already have in the house (see #8 below!)

3. How many uses does this item have?

This is the first question I ask myself when considering any new kitchen gadgets! It’s so easy to get caught up in buying fun kitchen gadgets (especially when I find them at thrift stores) but if the item only does one task and it’s not a task I need on a regular basis, the item stays on the store shelf!

I also question this when buying clothing — if it won’t mix and match well with most of my other clothes, I don’t buy it. If I need something for a special occasion or kid’s items they might only wear a few times, I try to borrow the items so I can simply return them and enjoy more space in our own closets!

If I neglect to ask this question, I end up with lots of things I don’t use or wear very often… which brings us to the next question…

4. When did I wear/use this last?

If you can’t remember, purge now!

Also, make a mental note not to purchase those types of items in the future. Whether it’s a style of clothing that no longer flatters your figure, a type of snack your family no longer enjoys, or decorations that are no longer your style — just stop buying them in the first place!

5. Does this item have real value for me?

Sometimes the “value” is monetary; other times it is sentimental value that causes us to keep various items in our home. Either way, this is an important distinction when decluttering.

Expensive things or very sentimental items should probably hold more precedence than dollar store items (assuming you actually use them, like them, and have a place to store them).

6. How much space does this item take up?

It’s one thing to hang onto a few of your favorite baby clothes or special books… it’s another thing to hang on to your grandmother’s entire bedroom set.

The space something takes up is a HUGE factor in deciding if I hang onto an item or not. If the item is very large it needs to have a lot of value and use for me to be willing to hang on to it.

7. Is this a just-in-case item?

We all have them. That old sweatshirt “just-in-case you need something to get dirty in,” or a half-broken coffee maker “just-in-case your current coffee maker dies mid-brew.”

My advice… get rid of these items if the “just-in-case” scenarios have never actually happened.

Also, refer to my next question.

8. Can I make do without this item?

I’ll save you the hassle and say YES… MOST OF THE TIME we can make do without pretty much everything besides the very basic items necessary to survive. 

For example, if you purge your “just-in-case” sweatshirt or coffee maker from question #7 and then actually find you could have used them 3 years later, just remember, you can always wash a different sweatshirt if you do get very dirty, and you can always run through a local drive thru for coffee if you are totally desperate. Otherwise, Amazon has 2-day shipping for anything you need in pinch!

Another option would be to borrow the item from a friend, neighbor, family member, etc. on the rare occasion you might actually need it.

9. Is this item worth the resources it uses?

Does the item really deserve the space, time, money and other resources it uses?

Remember, you need to clean around it, maintain it, pay for it, update it, wash it, etc., etc. Spending extra resources on items you barely use and don’t even love is NOT being a good steward of your resources — so grab another box or bag and start purging!

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There are certainly more questions I could add to this list, but in my experience, these 9 are the major questions that (if you’re honest with your answers) will help you to drastically reduce the amount of clutter in your home and life.

As with all habits, it will take some time to consistently remember to ask yourself these questions — but they should eventually become second nature. You’ll automatically run through some or all of these questions as you contemplate a potential purchase or as you go through your cabinets and closets in an effort to purge, and you’ll think to yourself “that wasn’t so hard!”

I know I find myself constantly asking myself these questions, and enjoying a less cluttered home as a result! 

Which question resonates most with you?

And would you add any questions to my list?

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13 comments

  1. Debbie

    11/07/2018

    The just in case question resonates with me the most. I actually have T-shirts and sweatshirts I keep for the times I might do something that will be really dirty. I’m also keeping boot cut and straight cut jeans just in case they come back in style. I wear mostly skinny jeans now. I am getting better at getting rid of clothes that are looking worn out even though I still like them. I’m a work in progress.

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    Andrea Reply:

    yeah… you are not alone! That “just in case” clutter is super sneaky and REALLY hard to get rid of (I speak from experience!)

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  2. Chris

    11/06/2018

    Oh wow! This comment gives me an idea I want to pass along. Our town has several local Facebook swap shop type groups. (I live rurally where Andrea mentions they don’t have FreeCycle). We could advertise things for free on there if it’s a troublesome item to decide to give up.

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    Chris Reply:

    I’m sorry. This was supposed to be under the FreeCycle discussion.

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  3. Sheila

    11/05/2018

    When I was a struggling single mom, I would tell my kids, “If we can’t eat it, we don’t buy it.”

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    Andrea Reply:

    that’s a good thing to say — so much more positive sounding than “we can’t afford that”.

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  4. Ashley

    11/05/2018

    Love this! Another aspect to #9 is the mental space it takes up. If you’re asking yourself these same questions over and over about a certain item, you’re expending a great deal of mental energy on it! Or if you’re constantly trying to find a new home for it, trying to figure out what to doo with it, etc. etc….. Thanks for always being practical!

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    Andrea Reply:

    YES!! Definitely mental space and energy is “wasted” when it comes to clutter!
    Thanks for pointing that out Ashely!

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  5. Summer

    11/05/2018

    All good questions and I am doing the full house purge and LOVING the space! Never thought I would say that, but I love having so much cleaned out and empty spaces. Fantastic idea and I am surprised there isn’t a link to it within this post. 🙂

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  6. Stacey

    11/05/2018

    Great list! The gift question resonates with me the most. I feel so guilty getting rid of things I’m given. Lately I’ve been struggling with getting rid of things that are not in the best shape but I feel guilty throwing away. Pots with Teflon coating peeling off, a child sized cloth covered rocking chair that still works fine but I can’t get all the way clean, etc. They would take up so much space in a landfill so I just let them sit here taking up too much space in my house.

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    Nancy Reply:

    Stacey, your comment resonates with me! A few times, I have listed something on a local FreeCycle network “for someone who wants a project” with a detailed description to allow others to decide if they’re interested. One item was an electronic toy that had a short in the cord and the woman who claimed it told me her husband could easily fix it. He had lost his job recently and needed projects to work on. Listing things this way takes a bit of work, but it’s worth it to find a use for them instead of discarding, and also serves as a reminder to think twice before buying. It’s also good to keep in mind the FreeCycle statement that, even though their mission is to encourage re-use and prevent waste, some things do belong in the trash.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks for sharing this Nancy,
    I think FreeCycle is a great option in many areas — not great for rural areas and it does take extra time to list items, but a good option for many!

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    Jenny Reply:

    There are a lot of similar things like FreeCycle, if that hasn’t worked for you, or isn’t nearby, and remember “one woman’s trash is another woman’s treasure”! I am so grateful for some slightly broken or “needs work” things I have gotten that way! Also, grateful to have had the opportunity to give some things away. Recent examples: a guy gave me a cracked plastic wheelbarrow that he was going to put into the landfill but it works just great for what I wanted it for, though I never would have paid $100 for a new one, and a teacher needed milkweed pods and pinecones for a class project, which I have lots of, so was happy to be able to contribute!

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