5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Get Rid of Anything
A professional organizer shares her decluttering secrets.
Decluttering your home is a notoriously difficult task. What makes it so hard is that decluttering isn't just about stuff—it's also about emotional baggage and unfinished business. Regardless of our desire to simplify our homes and lives, our attachment to objects can make it difficult (or near-impossible even) to let them go. Part of the challenge is that we tend to ask ourselves the wrong questions when deciding what to keep and get rid of. We ask: “Could this be useful one day? Did someone give this to me? Did I pay a lot of money for this item?” Instead, Shira Gill, a professional organizer known for her transformative closet makeovers, asks us to think differently. “These questions are rooted in guilt, obligation, and fear,” she says, “and will provide you with the justification to keep just about anything!”
If you find yourself struggling to let go of clutter, it could be that you’re just asking yourself the wrong questions, Gill explains. Ready to kick your clutter to the curb? Gill recommends asking yourself the five questions below instead.
1 Would I buy this item for full price today?
When sorting through your stuff, this is a great question to begin with. If you wouldn’t choose to pay money to bring this item into your home today, then it’s time to let it go. Plain and simple.
2 Would it impact my daily life not to have this item?
I’m talking to you, bulky camping gear, inherited sets of dishware, and endless rolls of gift wrap. Think about your current goals and lifestyle, and be real with yourself about which items support and enhance your life, and which items just get in the way of you living your best life. Keep any items that are essential to your daily life or that you reach for regularly, and be a little more critical when it comes to those items you only use once per year. For example, if you're holding onto a pair of ice skates but only go to the rink once every few years, it may be better to let go of them and decide to rent skates next time.
3 Is this item really worth the space it's taking up in my home?
Sure, it might be fun to host a waffle-making party one day, but if you’re short on storage space, ask yourself if that bulky waffle iron (or ice cream maker or ping pong table, etc.) is actually worth the real estate it takes up in your home the other 364 days of the year. If these items are creating clutter without adding value to your life, it’s time to pass them on.
4 Do I own a similar item that I like better?
It’s always useful to consider volume when deciding whether to keep or donate an item. Most people have far more than they actually use and can benefit from practicing restraint. If you have eight wine openers, pick the best one and donate the rest. If you have fifteen black t-shirts, decide how many you actually need, and then select your favorites from the pile. The same goes for spatulas, umbrellas, even hairbrushes.
5 Could this item be useful/helpful to another person?
This question is especially helpful for considering items that were expensive or gifted to you but that you just don’t use. If you know the item in question will just gather dust for the next five years, pay it forward and give it to someone who could truly use it. It always feels great to practice generosity, and donating to others can help you swiftly streamline your home. It's a win-win.
Keeping these questions in mind as you declutter your home will help keep you focused on creating a space that supports your life. After you ask yourself these five questions, you'll only be left with things that are truly meaningful and functional.