Toss it: 9 Questions to Help You Declutter

Long gone are the move-in days. You know, the times when you’re desperately trying to fill the empty seemingly boundless space that is your one-bedroom apartment? Now, many years and acquisitions later, you’re overwhelmed by an insurmountable pile of “stuff” that needs to go.

Or, perhaps you’ve read about the numerous benefits of cutting down. For example, decluttering can help build self-confidence, reduce anxiety, and help you uncover useful treasures, once thought lost to time.

Whether you’re trying to clear out the old in favor of the new or just chasing that oh-so-comforting post-purge glow, we’re here to help. Today, we’ll run down a list of helpful questions that should get you on your way to a less-cluttered, simpler state of mind.

So, to avoid the risk of making this introduction far too cluttered, we’re going to get to it! Here are nine, ruthless questions to help you declutter.

1. Do You Use It Regularly?

It may seem self-evident, but you’d be surprised how many relatively un-used items call your closet home.

When approaching the summit of Mount Stuff, allow this all-important question to be your ice pick. The first thing you should ask yourself when considering tossing, selling, or donating an item, is how often does it get used. If you use it on a daily or even weekly basis, then you may want to hold on to it.

2. When Did You Use It Last?

So, you’ve established that you don’t use the item on a regular basis, next question: when did you use it last?

Has it been weeks? Months? Years?

In order to make an educated decision on whether or not to ditch an item, it’s important to illustrate the hole that the item’s absence may leave. If, however, you haven’t picked up that child-sized guitar since the third grade, then honey, it may be time to find it a new home.

3. Can You Do Without It?

Close your eyes and imagine a future in which you have abs, a limitless charge card, and an empty void where that pesky, clutter-causing item used to be. Do you miss it? Has your life been altered in that item’s absence? Can your washboard future-abs comfort the empty, object-shaped hole in your heart?

Ok, now. Time to travel back to the present, ab-less reality. It shouldn’t take mind-bending visualization techniques to determine the outcome of our toss-or-treasure debate. All you need to do is look yourself in the mirror and ask yourself, can you do without it?

4. Do You Plan on Using It Soon?

Sometimes we purchase things in anticipation of using them at a later date. Sometimes we hold on to things because we only need them periodically. Like me and my vacuum — I kid.

There’s a time and a place for everything, but if that time and place is, “I don’t know when and I don’t know where,” then it may be time to curb it. Remember, de-cluttering is about much more than getting rid of stuff. It’s about liberating your living space and freeing yourself from the foggy obligations of the future.

5. Do You Have More Than One?

Sometimes owning duplicates pays dividends. Having multiple pairs of shoes can help extend your collection’s lifecycle, having a stocked t-shirt drawer can save you multiple, weekly trips to the laundromat, and owning a treasure trove of writing utensils can be helpful too. But, when you’re looking to declutter and you’ve already unloaded your stuffed animal collection, zeroing in on the duplicates sure does help.

I mean, how many spatulas could one person possibly need?

6. Would You Buy It Again?

It’s time to venture into the world of hypotheticals. Don’t worry, we won’t be here for long.

If there’s an item that suspiciously defies the laws of gravity when hovering over your trash can, ask yourself this: if you do throw decide to ditch it, could you see yourself wanting to purchase it again?

If you don’t see yourself using it again and you don’t see yourself ever buying a replacement, then the answer should be self-evident: store it in your closet for another five-years! Wait, no. TOSS IT!

7. Does It Have A Home?

It’s funny how the forlorn, purposeless objects that we accumulate so often float from one corner of our home to the next. Maintaining an orderly and un-cluttered home isn’t as simple as filing up a trash bag and screaming sayonara, it’s about finding a home for the items haphazardly scattered atop your coffee table.

Most things find a home eventually, but some things never do. If the object in question is homeless though, then it may be time to send it packing.

8. Are You Obligated to Keep It?

Sometimes, we’re forced to hold on to things against our will and better judgement. Maybe it was a gift that was given to you by a well-intentioned relative. Perhaps, it’s something your holding on to for a friend who’s been conspicuously out of town for a year and a half *cough* Marc *cough*.

De-cluttering your home calls for some tough decisions. Or at least a follow-up text. My advice: don’t be shy about hawking an unused gift or repatriating parts of your home once occupied by another person’s stuff. This is your home and taking control of it just feels good.

9. Does It Add Value or Take Up Space?

Last but certainly not least, we approach the question of value. Value is subjective, of course. Some objects hold sentimental value while others, like jewelry, can pay off your student loans. Decluttering shouldn’t cost you money or emotional trauma.

If you’re holding onto something because it reminds you of the time that your Dad took you to the ballgame, keep it. Conversely, if an item’s value is growing by the day and you still have the room for it (like antiques or memorabilia), don’t be afraid to keep it.

Ditching your valuables is oftentimes irreversible, so don’t sweat it if you aren’t quite ready. Plus, if you’ve already asked yourself all of the previous questions on this list, you should have freed up enough space for that life-size Chewbacca statue.

Ekaterina_Minaeva / Shutterstock

Apr 18, 2019