We’ve all been taught to ask the same questions when we are decluttering – Does this spark joy? Have I used it in the last year? Do I love this item?
These questions are helpful, but sometimes when you are in the middle of a decluttering session, surrounded by stuff upon stuff, decision fatigue sets in and you have to regroup.
Sometimes you need more than joy.
In those situations, it can be helpful to reframe the decision and ask yourself some different questions. Questions that will help your head and heart get to a place where you can identify what is important and what isn’t.
And while some may not apply in all situations, having these questions in your back pocket is a helpful way to push through any potential decluttering roadblocks.
Here are the 5 questions to ask when you get stuck decluttering:
Is this item replaceable and how much would that cost?
This question helps separate items that are truly priceless (like a child’s handprint in clay) from something that is fully replaceable – like a kitchen whisk. By asking this question, you can quickly determine the relative value of each item in your house. If something is easily and cheaply replaceable, then you should feel good throwing it out.
You can even set a dollar threshold (say $20) and not feel bad donating anything that would cost less than $20 to replace. You can feel comfortable knowing that on the slight chance that you regret something that you gave away, the cost to replace the item is low.
Do I have something else that can perform the same function?
Small home dwellers recite after me – “everything in my home must work hard”. This needs to be your mantra when you are decluttering. We don’t have the space to store single used items or duplicate items. We need hard-working, multipurpose tools.
For example, Do you need an avocado slicer when a knife will work too? How about two ladles? Can you get by with just one? How many cleaning sprays do you need? What about leggings? By removing things that perform the same function, we gain space in our house for hard-working, multi-use tools.
Is this item a maybe?
Spoiler – If it’s a maybe, then it’s a NO.
Sometimes when we are looking at an item we think “maybe I’ll use it someday” or “maybe I should keep this” or “maybe it’s worth something” or many other versions of this.
When this happens, we are trying to convince ourselves that we should keep it, but in reality, we shouldn’t keep things unless we are in LOVE with an item and it’s a clear keeper. If there is any doubt, listen to your inner doubt and realize it may be a sign that it’s time for the item to go.
Can someone else make better use of this item?
This question helps free the guilt of getting rid of something. If there is an item that I’m not using to its fullest, sometimes thinking about how beneficial it could be to someone else’s life makes it easier to give the item away. If it’s a toy, think about how much fun another child would have playing with something your kids barely touch. If it is clothes that don’t fit, I think of how someone else who is a different size could benefit from wearing it.
It feels good to give something to someone who will actually use it and appreciate it, while also extending the useful life of an item.
Am I scared of throwing it away?
Sometimes we hold on to things, like paperwork, because we are scared of what might happen if we throw it out. What if we throw away a receipt but need it later for a return? What if we recycle a statement, letter, bill, or coupon and need to reference it later? Often it’s the fear of what could happen that keeps us paralized and holding on to stacks and stacks of paper.
If we can identify that we are scared of throwing something out, we can overcome that fear by thinking through the worst-case scenario. Maybe you toss a receipt, but it’s OK since you can use an online app to help the company look up a return. Or maybe you identify where you can get the information in case you need it, perhaps from a website or from an online portal.
Realizing that it’s really not that bad to find the information without the physical item can help you overcome the fear of keeping paperwork just for the sake of “what if?”
Am I holding on to something because I don’t know HOW to get rid of it?
I’ll tell you right now, I’m guilty of holding on to old iPads, iPhones, and computers all because I didn’t know how to properly remove my personal data and recycle the device. Most of the time, it’s not the decision to get rid of the item, but the fear of the logistics involved in actually doing it.
If you feel this way, you aren’t alone. In our technology-centered world, there are thousands of old devices becoming obsolete daily, and figuring out how to properly dispose of each can be challenging. The best thing you can do is to Google the item name + recycle to see options in your local area. Many city waste facilities have programs designed to help consumers recycle their old electronics. And if you can’t find anything for your city, both Best Buy and Applie have recycling programs that are worth checking out.
The next time you find yourself struggling to make decisions while decluttering, try asking yourself one or two of these questions. You may find it helps clarify what is really important and help you gather the courage to make a decision to let an item leave your home.
For more help with decluttering, be sure to download my 31 Days of Decluttering Checklist or check out these posts:
January 31 Day Declutter Challenge