There’s a lot to be said for purging unused or unwanted objects from your home. Having a clutter-free house is easier to clean, and offers fewer chances for tripping or falling over objects, and science has shown a tidy and uncluttered space can reduce stress significantly.
Where to begin? The KonMari Method, the Swedish Death Method, or maybe the room-by-room Becker method?
Maybe you aren’t ready to do a whole house purge, so here are a dozen questions to keep in mind as you gradually pare down your belongings. Your home can become a safer and calmer place for you and your family with a little time and consideration.
1. When was the last time I used this?
Some items may never get used but have sentimental value, and you won’t part with them no matter what. We're not even talking about the complimentary logo silicone mat jar opener that can help in more ways than you ever imagined. But, do you really need 3 garlic presses, 14 pencils, or DVDs that you can't play because you already donated the DVD player?
2. Does this have value to me today?
You saved every card and note from your 8th-grade crush, and you just unearthed that souvenir ashtray from a college trip to Vegas at the bottom of your guest room dresser. They make you smile, but are they worth keeping now? Here are some of the questions you can ask yourself if deciding to part with sentimental “treasures:”
You can carry out one or two boxes if your house catches fire. Would this go in one of those boxes?
Would a picture of this item do instead?
Why am I holding on to this item?
Can I repurpose this?
When was the last time I saw this?
Is this worth the space it takes up, or does the clutter stress me out more?
3. Does this have a purpose that I still want or need?
At last count, you have 14 rolls of wrapping paper stored in a plastic bin under your bed, and a box of stationery with an old address on it in your desk that you plan to use as scrap paper. Can you make do with 7 rolls, and recycle the old stationery? Again, think about how you can use the space getting rid of items like this can give you, and whether doing so will help you feel less stress or get cleaning tasks done more quickly.
4. Does this have a home?
Everything in your house should have a home of its own. A place you can put it away and easily find when you need it. Throwing something in the junk drawer is not a home. If you have to spend more than a couple of seconds rummaging through things to find a thing, that is not a home.
5. Is this a “Someday” item?
If you come across things that you hope to repair and use someday or find things that you may be able to use “someday,” ask yourself how long you’ve been saying “someday.” If it has been more than a few months, donate it and let someone else make it their “today” item.
6. Can I replace this for under $10 if I need it?
Factoring in inflation, $10 may be on the low side, but if you have an item you may use someday, or that you haven’t used in a long time, and it would cost you less than $10 to replace – donate it or throw it out. The free space is worth it.
7. Would I buy this again?
Sentimentality aside, is this something I'd spend my money on today? This question may help push you off the ledge of indecision.
8. Does having this make me happy?
OK, a little Marie Kondo here, but do you like looking at this item? Does it give you relief to know you have it close at hand? Is there a newer, smarter, better version available? You may not care what an item looks like, only how it functions – so is it easy to use and does the job well? It doesn’t have to ‘spark joy,’ but it shouldn’t make you wince either.
9. Do I want my kids to have to go through this?
Are there items in your home that you know your kids just aren’t going to want, and you don’t want them to have to sort through? You can start asking them now if they will want something, and if they say no, there is bound to be a family out there that would love to have it.
10. If I were moving, would I take this with me?
Pretend you have to move and ask yourself if this is worth the cost of packing, moving, and unpacking. If the answer is no, put it in the donate box by your door.
11. Is holding on to this more important than my peace of mind?
Clutter causes stress. If you hold onto an item that is perfectly good and can’t be replaced for less than $10, yet doesn’t hold any sentimental value and get used – is it really worth holding onto it?
There is one part of the KonMari method that many find satisfying during the decluttering process, and that is to thank an item for what it has contributed to your life. This helps remove any guilt that parting with a perfectly good item may cause, and if you wish it well on its journey to another home, you are putting good thoughts out there that will make the process more enjoyable and relieving.