Decluttering your home can be a mentally exhausting endeavor. But it’s also extremely rewarding! When I started this process a few years back, I had a hard time getting rid of many things. Sure some things are no-brainers and easy to toss, but other things can really hold me up and I would sit there staring at an item forever debating its worthiness to stay in our home.
Now after decluttering for a few years and many many items tossed later, I find the process much easier. That’s not to say I don’t still get hung up on certain items. That’s when I ask my husband “Why am I making this so hard?” 🙂 But I’ve found myself contemplating these 9 questions as I go through our belongings. You can download it as a checklist here.
Want the video version? Check out my video on what to keep or toss below:
9 Questions to Ask – What to Keep & What to Toss?
1. Is this something I’d buy again?
If you didn’t have this item and you came across it again in the store for the same price (or maybe even a little more), would you still buy it? Or would you decide to not spend the money on it. If you wouldn’t buy it again, it’s probably safe to get rid of.
2. Is it broken, expired, or otherwise nonfunctional?
We often keep broken things because we plan to fix them. This is a noble aspiration, but often a very unlikely situation. Especially if the fix involves more than 5-10 minutes and materials you can access easily. If it can’t be fixed easily, cut your losses and move on. It’s highly unlikely you will get to that basket full of “things to fix”. This is especially hard when it’s an item that cost us a lot of money. If you can’t bear to get rid of it when you know you can fix it, I want you to put that item in a place you’ll see it, and schedule a time slot on your calendar in the next week to repair it.
And as for those expired items (food, medications, etc.)…toss them!
3. Is this useful for the stage of life I’m in or for who I really am?
One big hangup for people with decluttering are things for their fantasy self. This fantasy self might be someone who you USED to be or it might be someone that you WANT to be. Here’s the thing – neither of these are the person you are right NOW. Hanging onto things from the past that serves no purpose to us now keeps us from living our life and enjoying all the things we do right now.
There was a stage of our married life (pre-kids) where my husband and I played racquetball. We took a class and went on our own time to play as well. That was a LONG time ago, but you know what was still hanging in our garage after 18 years of not playing? Racquetball rackets. Not to mention we moved them to different homes FOUR times. (p.s. I decluttered those last year)
It’s also tempting to keep things for the person we want to be. You know…the person who does that really neat craft we saw a video on, or the person who refinishes furniture, or takes up a new sport. (** raises hand x 3)
Sometimes who we think we want to be doesn’t match up with who we really are. It’s hard to give up on those idealizations of what we think we should be. But it’s so much better to embrace who we are and what we truly love.
4. Do I find it beautiful or does it bring me joy?
I love Marie Kondo’s question of “what sparks joy?” when it comes to decluttering. While, obviously, it’s not the only measure I use for what to keep, I do think it is something to consider.
“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”William Morris
I have decided that in my home I want to keep things I find beautiful and bring me joy. I used to have a LOT more decor than I do right now. Over time I have taken away more and more of it to see if I missed it. Guess what? I didn’t. Now the things that hang on my walls or decorate my shelves are things I look and love. If I see something in a store I won’t buy it unless I absolutely love it and I know exactly where it’s going. I have artwork in my home that, even after years of it hanging there, I still love to look at and get such joy from.
5. Does it have a home? Do I have a place for it?
Here is one big key to an organized home that is easy to keep clean: Give each item you own a home.
Often the things that are left lying about either don’t have a home, or they aren’t easy to get back into their home. If a board game belongs in a closet that is stuffed with things and disorganized, you (or your kids) are less likely to put it back when you’re done using it. I mean, who wants to chance a closet avalanche to put a game away?
But when the closet is clean, decluttered, and organized, it’s easy to slip the game back on the shelf in seconds.
This works especially well for kids and their toys. An overabundance of toys not only is overwhelming to kids but makes it hard to keep clean because the toys often have no real “home”.
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6. Have I used it in the last 6-12 months?
If you are going through items and find something you know you haven’t used in 6 months to a year, it’s very likely you can do without it. One obvious exception would be holiday decor that’s only taken out once a year. Everything else can probably be done without.
One thing I want to touch on with holiday items is holiday-specific items that could be replaced by a generic item. One example would be if you had a serving platter that is Thanksgiving themed. And then maybe you have another that is Christmas themed. And maybe another for Easter?? See the trend. It’s easy to accumulate duplicates just for the sake of it being a themed item. Consider replacing those 3 platters with one universal white platter that can be used any time of year.
7. Am I keeping this because someone wants me to or because someone gave it to me?
Guilt. It’s one of the biggest decluttering de-motivators there is. I’ve heard countless stories of people keeping things because it was a gift or hand me down from a family member or friend. Or because it is a family heirloom (even though they think it’s ugly and never use it).
Let me tell you, guilt is not a good reason to keep something. Nor is because it was a gift or family heirloom. While I know some will disagree with me, keeping things just because it belonged to an ancestor, in my opinion, is not a good reason. If it is not something you cherish personally or use or find joy from, it does not need to stay in your home.
When it comes to heirlooms, if you love it dearly, keep it! But if you don’t, I’m guessing you have a family member who would love to take that item instead. I know I wouldn’t want my great-grandchildren keeping anything of mine unless they really wanted it.
Now regarding gifts… When you receive a gift, that item becomes yours to do with what you’d like. The act of giving a gift is an expression of caring or love. Once that item passes to the recipient’s hands, it is their item. If your aunt gifted you a sweater and you find it’s no longer your style, it’s ok to let it go. She had great intentions and wanted to gift you something, but I doubt she’d want you to keep it if it no longer suits you.
8. Am I showing the item respect?
Another thing I love about Marie Kondo is how she shows respect to her items. As I discard items, I remind myself to be thankful that I was blessed with everything I have here. I’m so fortunate for the things in my life and that I was able to own what I did (even if it is now leaving).
So as you look at items piled on the floor of a closet, shoved to the back of the drawer, or in dusty boxes in your basement, as yourself…am I respecting my items? Am I really appreciating the things I’ve been blessed with? If this item is cherished by me enough to keep it, why is it in a box in the basement or in a heap on the floor?
I encourage you to view your sentimental items in this light. Is keeping a box of “treasured” mementos tucked in the attic really respecting & appreciating them? How could you bring them out to be available to be enjoyed? Last year I took my high school yearbooks out of the attic and put them in our living room. Now we can all look through them whenever (which my teen girls have found amusing).
9. If someone offered me money for this today, would I gladly give it up?
And I don’t mean that you’d take the money and go rebuy the same item! I mean…would you sell it to a willing buyer today and not think of it again?
If you answered yes, it’s a prime candidate to declutter and you are probably hung up on the money the item cost you. The money we paid for items is a second big hangup for people.
I get it, it’s hard to spend all that money and then have to think of just getting rid of it. Sure you can try to sell things, but you never get back what you paid, and you only sell it if you’re lucky enough to find a buyer. Not to mention the time and energy it takes to sell things. Plus many things are just not worth the effort. I don’t generally sell anything that won’t get $10 or more. Even then I often don’t. It really has to be worth my while as it’s very time consuming and I just don’t have the time to deal with that!
In the end, remember that the money you spent on something is gone. It’s gone whether you keep that item cluttering up your cabinets/closets or whether you donate it. In neither of those scenarios will you get your money back. But keeping it requires upkeep… we have to organize it, shuffle it around, clean around it, etc. And it clutters up our spaces with something we never use. Do yourself a favor and pass it onto someone who could get use out of it so you can enjoy the space it leaves behind.
Grab the checklist
Now that you’ve read the questions, make sure to download the checklist to keep handy as you go through your items and declutter.
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