Decluttering your home is an emotionally challenging project for any person to take on. Your opening boxes you had stored away for years to find your kids toys, clothes, pictures, family heirlooms, wedding dresses, and many other types of sentimental items. Deciding what to keep and what to get rid of is challenging in itself. It’s the guilt of getting rid of things that hold memories that is the hard part.
The fact of the matter is, every object you keep is money you are spending again and again. Every time you move you need more space in a moving van and spend money on the time it takes for movers to move it. When you buy or rent a house the amount of space you need is determined by how much stuff you have.
Objects in our home will continue to cost money even after we have bought them in one way or another.
If you were to get rid of everything you might one day need and get rid of anything you haven’t touched or looked at in the past 6 months, how much space would you really need?
Take your kitchen for example, everyone wants a big kitchen because they have serving bowls and plates to store. Possibly china from their grandmothers, mothers, or wedding. Maybe they have more than 2 different types of plate settings.
What about silverware, do you have one for everyday use and one for fancy? Are you serving huge dinner parties that require two types of forks and two types of spoons? Is it necessary to have that much silverware?
These all may seem like small things but if you got rid of some if not all of these extra things you hold on to for the just in case would you still need a big kitchen?
Check out my post How To Quick Clean Your Home In 10 Minutes.
Decluttering Your Home The Right Way
I remember the exact moment when we looked at all our stuff and decided we needed to declutter. It was right after our move from a two story house with a basement into a two bedroom apartment. The apartment itself was pretty big with plenty of closet space and a small 6′ x 3′ storage space in a garage.
However, the movers had already taken 3 hours to pack up our previous home. So in an effort to save time we had them move everything we owned into the living room. This was the moment that my husband and I looked at each other and said we have to get rid of some things.
Our living room was packed from floor to ceiling with totes, boxes, and furniture. The beds, dressers, and crib was already in the bedrooms. The clothing was already in our closets. So everything in that living room was just stuff.
I had never felt so overwhelmed by stuff as I did in that moment. I was angry about the amount of money I paid to move it all. More than that, I was sad when I noticed there were things in boxes that never got unpacked from the previous move. Things I had felt were important but after 2 years I didn’t remember what was in them.
Over the course of the moving weekend we got everything put away into storage spaces but we made it a priority to start decluttering as much as possible.
The first step was to create rules for decluttering. These rules were meant as a guideline for how we would decide if we were keeping an item or getting rid of it.
There were tears going through L’s old baby clothes. There was apprehension about getting rid of things that we might need one day. In the end, we never felt so free. Decluttering gets easier the more you do it but it’s hard in the beginning.
Below I have the questions we asked about all of our different items as we started decluttering. These questions are designed to make it clear if you keep something or get rid of it. They will help you in your decluttering journey.
5 Questions to Ask When Decluttering Your Home
There are five questions you need to ask yourself for every object. There are no right or wrong answers because the ultimate decision is up to you. I have my personal feelings on these things however you have to decide if your answers to these questions mean you keep an object or not.
1. Is this object useful or can I use something else in its place?
How many people have the deviled egg plate? While it’s a convenient and useful way to display deviled eggs wouldn’t a serving dish, a piece of tupperware, or a plate, handle the job too?
The deviled egg plate is a plate that takes up valuable space, is awkward, and is not easy to stack with anything else. It takes up valuable kitchen space that can store much more useful items.
This plate is just one example of many thing you possibly own that you can’t use with anything else but something else could be multi-purposed for. Take note of anything you own that is only used for one reason that something else you own could take its place.
2. Do I have more than one of these?
Cookie sheets. You can usually only fit one at a time in your oven. At most two cookie sheets would probably be good enough, you can bake with one while you set up the other with more cookies.
Another example of more than one is beach towels. People love beach towels except how often do you go swimming in the summer, is it enough to warrant 10 beach towels for 3 people? Now if you have 10 beach towels and a pool in your backyard where people often visit the beach towels can be justified than keep them, if not, it’s time to get rid of a few.
Really think about the need for multiples in your home. You may find that you have multiples that aren’t necessary. You may also decide you want to keep certain multiples because they really are useful to have or make life easier.
Related: 5 Steps To An Organized Linen Closet
3. Does this make me happy?
Does the object in question make you happy? Was it a souvenir from an awesome vacation that you like to remember? Was this object given to you by someone who hurt you or treated you badly?
If an object has bad memories tied to it you might want to consider donating it. Here’s how I look at it, if the object is tied to bad memories for you give it away so that maybe someone else can make good memories with it.
An object that makes you happy though doesn’t necessarily mean you should hang on to it. You still must decide if the object is worth hanging on to just because it provides a happy memory. Photos of this memory may provide more happiness than the object in question.
4. Do I store this object and rarely look at it?
I had a crystal bowl set stored for 4 years. I never displayed it or used it and quite frankly it wasn’t even my style. I’m a plain white dishes, clean, not flashy type of kitchen decorator. Cut crystal is not something I enjoy.
This crystal bowl set, however, was my grandmother’s. It wasn’t worth anything but I remember using this set at her house so I kept it for the memories. I kept it safely wrapped, in a box, in my closet.
What IS displayed in my house are pictures of my grandma. Easters, Memorial Days, and Christmas gatherings. So when I unwrapped the cut crystal bowls I realized I had moved this box 4 times and never unpacked it.
If an object is only stored and never used is it worth holding on to it knowing that this box will get moved again, or put into a storage unit, or require a bigger place so it can be stored?
5. Would I buy this (again)?
How many times has someone gifted you a knick knack and you kept it out of obligation? Would you purchase any of those knick knacks if you had the money to do so?
If an object were to break would you purchase it again? What if someone never gave it to you would you purchase it? If you were in the store right now and had the money would you spend your hard earned money on this?
I’ve got a harsh statement for you about these things. Every time you move them, pay rent on a bigger apartment to store or display them, or buy more dusting sheets you are spending money on this object and essentially buying it over and over again.
If you were to get rid of knick knacks that have only a purpose of collecting dust, how much time would you save cleaning? How much money would you save moving? How much furniture could you get rid of because it’s only purpose is to display items? Finally, how much money could you save getting a smaller place to live because you have less furniture because you don’t need to to display these knick knacks?
If you wouldn’t purchase the item again, it’s probably not worth keeping it. The fact is you spend more time looking at it when you are dusting it than you ever spend actually enjoying the item.
However, if you really love the item, enough that you would purchase it again if it broke, it’s probably worth keeping.
How To Start Decluttering Your Home
Just start, pick an area and start decluttering. Decluttering never goes according to plan because there are always loads of things that aren’t taken into stock.
Block out a bit of time to do some decluttering every day or once a week. If you finish early reward your hard work with something fun like ice cream or by watching your favorite TV show on Hulu.
Extra Decluttering Your Home Tips
Take it slow. Only work on one area at a time and switch off between an area that is going to be emotionally challenging to a room that won’t be so much. Switch from kids room, to the kitchen, then to a closet, to your bathroom. This will give you the emotional break you will need while still letting you go through all of your things.
Grab a buddy or a spouse to help you. My husband and me help each other a lot during our decluttering. When it came to L’s old baby clothes he convinced me to only keep a few items instead of everything. Eventually most of everything got donated. For him I convinced him to only keep the absolute necessities in extra computer equipment and helped him through saying goodbye to really old 3 1/2″ floppy disks he’d never use.
Finally, don’t rush it, take stock, and remember what you actually use. This isn’t so much about saving space but creating space for the things you are actually going to use with time.
Checklist For Decuttering Your Home
Ultimately every item you choose to get rid of is your choice. You need to decide if you are attached to the item because you’ve had it for 40 years or if this item is somehow useful to you. You don’t love items you enjoy them. If you love items you need to take a cold hard look at if it’s the item you love or the person that gave them to you.
Getting rid of the item does not mean you are removing the love. Getting rid of the item also doesn’t mean you no longer love someone. Maybe by getting rid of the item you can save more money and then take that person on a trip and create an experience that you two will remember for the rest of your lives.
I’d enjoy hearing your experiences on minimalism and how you approach it, leave a comment below. Follow me on Pinterest for more like this and be sure to pin it to your declutter and minimalism boards.
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