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My Two Decluttering Questions

My Two Declutterng Questions title at ASlobComesClean.com

In this process of “coming clean,” decluttering has made the biggest impact.

I’ve said many times that I’m in no position to give advice. I’m a slob who is working hard to change and I share my struggles on this blog. I’m figuring out what works for me and hopefully that can help someone else figure out what works for them.

In the past, when I would look at a drawer-full, or a closet-full, or a room-full of junk, I’d get overwhelmed. I could do the big stuff, but when it got down to those potentially useful items, I was stuck. All of the “what ifs” would flood my mind and it was hard to let go of things.

While decluttering kitchen drawers last month (which were completely full of junk), I came up with two simple decluttering questions.

I’ve seen lists before. You know, the ones where you ask yourself a series of questions to decide if you should keep something or chuck it. I think that these will be the questions I’ll ask myself after my house is deslobified. In my mind, they’re maintenance questions, decluttering questions for normal people. But I don’t have time to spend 5 minutes per item. I have (had) rooms full of stuff, so I have to be able to work quickly to keep from getting distracted.

Like I said, I don’t want to act like some kind of expert, but these two questions have helped me and have inspired quite a few comments from people who say they’ve helped them as well. So I thought I’d put them in their own post.

2 decluttering questions

The two questions are:

If I needed this item, where would I look for it? (take it there)

If I needed this item, would it ever occur to me that I already have one? (If not, get rid of it because I’d just buy a new one if I needed it.)

If I ever achieve “normal person” status, I will need those long lists of questions to make decisions about tough items. But as long as I need to get rid of 7/10 of all the stuff in this house, I need a shorter list. One that doesn’t contribute to my feeling overwhelmed.

Check out my decluttering page for more ideas and inspiration on how to declutter!

If this makes sense to you, and you want more home management strategies that actually make sense (to us not-naturally-organized types), check out my new book, How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind. The book will be released wherever books are sold on November 8th, so pre-order now. HowToManage_3D

 

My Two Decluttering Questions pin at ASlobComesClean.com

 

Does even the thought of decluttering overwhelm you? Sign up for my newsletter and get my reality-tested decluttering solutions delivered to your inbox for free.

I’m linking this up at Works for Me Wednesday at Wearethatfamily.com.

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Comments

  1. 1
    Lenetta @ Nettacow says:

    Thumbs up – I love those questions!!

  2. 2
    Mama Melissa says:

    what great questions!! πŸ™‚ that's a perfect attitude about items we use. that way you can know if you can get rid of it, or if you really do need it. πŸ™‚

    Melissa

  3. 3

    I've had that "list of questions" taped to my desk hutch for months, hoping it would motivate me to start decluttering. No such luck. I'll have to give your two great questions a try. Maybe that's what I was waiting for πŸ™‚

  4. 4

    I especially like that first one!

  5. 5
    too Blessed to Stress says:

    That first wuestion is a hoot… but so true! just take it there. Awesome questions for my decluttering process as well πŸ™‚

    ~ Emily N. from "too Blessed to Stress"

  6. 6

    Perfect questions. I can so, so, so relate to the frustration of decluttering! Thank you for sharing!

  7. 7

    You're doing a great job! I've really enjoyed reading of the progress you're making…and even of the struggles.

    And the best advice comes not from those with head knowledge, but from those who have been there, done that.

  8. 8

    LOVE those questions. Every time I asked myself if I had used something in the past 6 months, year, etc., I would think, "Well, I would have if I'd known where it was!" Which of course then meant that I'd keep it anyway, right where it was, and continue to be overwhelmed. Your first question actually involves forward motion without the guilt/shame. Question 2 confuses me though… maybe because it feels like I already have everything?!

  9. 9
    Lauren H. says:

    The other question that can be asked is "If I am going to keep it to use it, WHY would I store it?!" I donno WHY I would throw everyday things into a storage bin and hide it into a closet…pens, erasers, scissors, tissues…really? LOL!

    Lauren

  10. 10
    Lacy @ Catholic Icing says:

    I love how you refer to "normal people". Whenever we make the house really clean (like for company or something) we call it "normal people clean". Because "clean for us" is a totally different thing. πŸ˜›

  11. 11
    Enjoy Birth says:

    Those are great questions! Especially the first one. That will help me know where to actually put some things!!!

  12. 12

    My favorite question for decluttering is: Would I buy this item, FULL PRICE, if I didn’t have it already?

    • 13
      Kelly Jane Kovar says:

      Oh that is a GOOD question Amanda. Of course, I would virtually never buy anything at full price. Working in retail for six years made me too aware of mark-ups, and sale schedules. But, the concept of “would I buy this today?” is the one I have just started using with clothing decluttering. Its dynamite!

  13. 14
    Lothelena says:

    Today I decluttered a box of junk I’ve been moving around my house for at least 3 years. I’m pretty excited. I actually gasped out loud when I saw the bottom of it. And since I actually did put/throw things away as I went (thanks to the space time continuum post) it isn’t just spread in piles on my bed. Joy.

  14. 16

    I haven’t gotten to the place where I need to ask those questions yet (but I will get there). Right now everything is pretty clear cut, and things are much improved. So much so that my son…my AUTISTIC son…told me tonight that I need to get rid of a bunch of stuff in the cooking utensil drawer…that there were too many things in it. To give you an idea of what a breakthrough this is, this is the same kid who asked me if I got a new purse….about SIX WEEKS AFTER I replaced my black purse with a bright PINK one. A bright pink purse I’d been carrying every day since I bought it. He just doesn’t notice anything…but he’s noticing clutter now…and he doesn’t like it. (now if he would just apply it to the county dump that is his room!) πŸ™‚

  15. 17

    Despite the junk, I have an amazing mind for what I already have. My most recent duplicate purchase was frozen green beans. I waited three years for my mother to find the heat-gun rather than buy my own.

    • 18

      The inverse of this is that having certain items keeps me from even looking at coupons, much less get another on-sale.

  16. 19

    Love these questions, simple and to the point! I’ll use them backwards though, because if the answer to the second question is that I’m going to toss the item, I don’t want to have to think where it would go if I was keeping it AND take it there. πŸ™‚

    • 20

      I agree! I’m a pack rat at heart. Putting all this stuff “away” is what got me into this predicament of having more stuff than I can handle. I have to first decide whether I’m going to keep an item, then put it in its home.
      Thanks for all your encouragement, Dana!

  17. 21

    Great questions! With the mess that is my home, they are the simple solution I can use to de-clutter and survive the process πŸ˜›

  18. 22

    My favorite question is:

    If I couldn’t donate it (because it’s that old, junky, ugly, worn out,stained, etc,) why is it still in my house? LOL πŸ™‚

  19. 25

    I can’t begin to tell me how life-changing your blog has been to me since I started following it about a year ago–who knew there was an hope for this 65-yo “slob”?

    Your 2 questions: I totally get the 1st one & am learning to automatically use it. The 2nd question, though, isn’t as clear for me. If I’m currently looking at the object, then obviously I know I have it & assume I’ll remember I do if it’s in the right place (per ques #1). What am I missing?

    • 26

      Technically, it is a question of “did” you remember you have it. Was it a total surprise when you found it? So the key is this: If you didn’t know that you had it, you’d never have looked for it. You’d have gone out and purchased another one. Then you would have two. Does that help?

    • 27

      I think the answer may be that like me, you think you’ll remember it and you may…but then the search begins because if I even do remember it, I won’t remember where I stored it anyway by the time it’s needed. I once had an almost photographic memory, I could close my eyes and picture where I had seen a certain thing. I have fibromyalgia now and many other health issues, I can sometimes still do that, but not almost every time any more. Oops I didn’t see you’d already been responded to on your question, I hoped I added clarification if nothing else and if my thoughts don’t apply to you, we are neither any the worse off. Good luck and enjoy the decluttering! πŸ™‚

  20. 28

    I LOVE THEM!!!

  21. 29
    Nina Williamson says:

    I found your approach refreshing! AND LIBERATING! That is exactly how I think! I didn’t realize till I read the post that I declutter smaller areas that way all the time–my purse, my teaching notebook, etc. Don’t know why I didn’t think of doing the same thing with my house. THANK YOU!

    • 30

      I love your response Nina, I hadn’t thought of doing all the little things on an ongoing basis. I was really just considering the “big jobs”. Thanks for posting!

  22. 31
    Lydia purple says:

    Just found this quote made me think of your deck uttering questions.

    “Effective tidying involves only two essential actions: discarding and deciding where to store things. Of the two, discarding must come first.”
    Marie Kondo in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

  23. 32

    Excellent questions! I’m writing them down now and am going to post them on my refrigerator so that everytime I walk by it, it wil click my mind into “declutter/cleaning” mode. Thank you!

  24. 33

    Do you have any advice, serious advice, for people like me who really cannot manage to give away my dead mother’s clothes? I am an only child, and they do remind too many dear and lovely moments of my life. I ‘ll have to spend my future life alone, because I am not married and I don’t have children, so at the moment they really mean a lot to me. They are still there in her wardrobe after 9 years, and even if I’d like to put them in another place, I’m afraid that my old father could be too sorry for that. Thanks, and sorry for my bad English, which is not my Language πŸ™‚

  25. 37
    Kelly Jane Kovar says:

    These are the questions I use.
    1) What is it? ~ Defining the item out loud or in my head helps me face if its worth finding a home for it. If it is trash or donate that’s a quick fix. If it is an item I need/want I go to #2.
    2) Does it have a place? ~ If its “yes” then I take it there. If its “no” I think of what the logical place to keep it is.

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