More Questions to Ask When De-cluttering

Most of the advice on de-cluttering, specifically in asking yourself whether or not to hold onto an item, centers around the three basics of:
Do I love it?  Do I use it?  Do I need to keep it (for legal reasons)?

In most Western societies, we all have way too much stuff.  I’m sure there are complex reasons why most of us like to hang onto it.  If you’re struggling with letting a few things go, here are some extra questions to ask yourself:

Photo: Loretta Humble

  1. When was the last time I used it?
    Many people say a year is the maximum resting time for an item; I feel two years is a little less rigid.
  2. When am I next planning to use it?
    Souvenirs, mementos and other memories may never feature in your life again. Do you really need them all?
  3. If I lost it in a fire, would I replace it?
  4. If I were to die next week, would my relatives wonder why on earth I kept it?  Would I want them to have to sort this item and decide what to do with it?
  5. If I was moving overseas, would I pay to ship it with me?
  6. Do I love the item, or just the person who gave it to me?
    Don’t confuse the two: getting rid of it does not jinx your relationship with the giver.
  7. What’s the worst that can happen, if I dispose of this?
  8. Could someone else get better value out of this item?
    Donating something you never use could transform someone else’s life. To see how, take a look at Goodwill’s Impact Calculator.

Karen Kingston’s book, Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, goes into considerably more depth on the topic, including the dragging and de-energizing effect of clutter.  There’s also a nice printable checklist, of yet more questions to ask yourself, at Life Your Way.

Do you have a favorite test, for deciding when it’s time to say goodbye to possessions?

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8 Responses to More Questions to Ask When De-cluttering

  1. We recently let the housekeeper go in an effort to teach our teenage sons how to clean the house and now that I’m doing the dusting, I realize that there are things I don’t want to dust – so they’ve been donated to Goodwill! I have a one year test when it comes to clothes – if I haven’t worn it in a year, out it goes…

  2. Stitchfork says:

    Trying to improve on this and it feels very liberating!
    xo Cathy

  3. Ati says:

    Thank you so much for taking time to visit my blog,i really like your site its inspiring and informational at the same time..:)

  4. I think #4 speaks to me the most. You’re totally right — how much stuff do I have (and do we all have) that would make my relatives think I’ve gone cuckoo? Far too much, I’m sure.

    We’ve promised that we’ll do a big purge of as much clutter and things that we’ve never unpacked after two years in our current home, just as soon as the kitchen is done. I will be applying your question to all of the hard decisions. :-)

  5. Tanya says:

    I love #4. I think there would definitely be some puzzled looks if relatives were to rummage around through the items I treasure.

  6. LaShaune says:

    I am in the process of moving from Houston to Sacramento. I REFUSE to haul useless stuff so I am finding that I am actually parting with items that I did trek from Houston to NYC and back. My test rule is: If I haven’t seen it in the time I moved from the last apartment to the house (over 3 years ago), then I don’t need to keep it. So far, that’s working pretty well.

  7. Shelley says:

    If I don’t love it enough to move it around when dusting or to keep it in good repair. At present I own a huge amount of jewelery (mostly costume, some real) that belonged to my Aunt Rita. I spent a full day organising it earlier this week, so I can see everything at a glance and find things to wear. I made an empty place to put things once I’ve worn them. At some point I will get down to the things that really don’t suit me and I can’t enjoy: those will be sold on eBay or given to charity. They are, sadly, the pieces that are really ‘very Rita’, but I’ll have photos of them, and I have photos of her wearing them. That’s good enough.

  8. I’ll confess to having a few things that I need to ask “do I love the item or the person who gave it to me?” I’m not a collector except when it comes to a few of those things. Tough to get rid of them even though I don’t use them!

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