5 Questions to Overcome a Decluttering Roadblock
A professional organiser shares questions that can help you decide what to do with those items in your ‘maybe keep’ pile
These tasks can be overwhelming, so it’s no wonder many of us at some point hit a decluttering roadblock. And that’s OK. If you’re letting go of something, you have to be emotionally ready to make that decision. If you’re not, you may find that certain items keep going into the ‘maybe’ pile. Here are some questions to ask yourself when you can’t decide about a specific belonging. In my experience as a professional organiser, these questions often help my clients break through their decluttering block.
Sometimes, we hold onto things without realising that we actually don’t want them. It doesn’t matter whether the item you’re contemplating is a quilt considered a family heirloom or an everyday dog bowl you bought on sale. If you don’t like it, you don’t like it – and that’s OK.
If you ask yourself this question and hear from your gut that your answer is yes, that it would be a relief to be free of the item, then it may be time to move it out of your home.
Need a little help with your decluttering? Find a local professional organiser to work with in the Houzz Professionals Directory.
I see this roadblock with so many of my clients. Many hang on to wedding gifts or handmade items that represent the thoughtfulness and love of the gift-giver. It can make you feel ungrateful to let such items go. But if you don’t like and realistically aren’t planning to use or display the item, it may no longer belong in your home.
I like to think about gift-giving this way: for me, the joy is in the giving, and the appreciation is in the receiving. Even when the gift is no longer present, the memory of the thoughtfulness and kind intent will remain.
It’s always wise to be prepared for the future, and you may be able to save time and money by keeping extra supplies on hand. However, there’s a limit to what is truly useful. Here are more questions to ask yourself if you feel inclined to hang onto something.
- Will you be able to find it? Future-use items sometimes become filler for otherwise empty spots throughout the house, or get grouped into boxes of random belongings. If you were to need your future-use item, would you know where to find it? Would you even remember that you had it? If you plan to keep an item, be sure you can answer yes to both of these questions. For example, you could store the Allen key you used to put together a desk in your toolbox, or tape it to the back of the desk so it’s there when it’s time to disassemble the piece.
- Will it degrade? Over time, adhesive loses strength, rubber becomes brittle, batteries corrode and nail polishes change colour. Spices lose flavour, breadcrumbs become stale and oils go rancid. If you keep such items, you may want to occasionally check them to be sure they will function when you need them.
- Have you stocked up more than you can use? Do you accumulate free notepads from local businesses faster than you can use them? Do you have five tablecloths for entertaining but only use two? If so, you may want to pare down the excess and keep only the ones you love.
- Could it easily and affordably be replaced? While buying in bulk and on sale is a great way to save money, weigh that against any storage space you may be losing to these extra items. For example, the lifespan of LED lightbulbs is quite long (many manufacturers claim they last 10,000 to 50,000 hours). If you purchase a large quantity, it could take years or decades to get through them all. Meanwhile, they’ll be taking up precious room in your storage.
Sometimes, we get so used to seeing an item around the house that we don’t even realise we may not need or want it anymore. Moving to a smaller home, experiencing changes in your physical abilities, or gaining or losing members of your household could make some of your belongings irrelevant to your current life phase.
Similarly, changes in your work or your children’s needs and preferences could also affect which belongings now fit your life. Unless the life change is temporary, consider assessing if the item still works for your new lifestyle.
We all make purchases we regret. Some items are easy to let go of, such as an inexpensive kitchen tool that’s tedious to clean. Others may be more difficult to ditch, especially those you saved up for. But if your attachment to an item is due purely to monetary investment, you may be surprised by the freedom you’ll feel if you sell it or give it to someone who would truly cherish it.
Remember, if an item belongs to you (even if it’s an inherited one), it’s 100% your decision what you do with it. Don’t let others, including yourself, shame you into keeping something or not keeping it.
Finally, keep in mind that the five questions I’ve shared here are intended to help you view your belongings more objectively, and to make decisions you’re comfortable with. I do understand that some items are very sentimental. If you have items with which you truly cannot part – as opposed to those you keep because you don’t want to make the decision – then please enjoy, display or store them with the respect they deserve.
Would you love to declutter your home, but don’t know where to start? Share your thoughts in the Comments.