The best decluttering tip is actually a question

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The best decluttering tip I ever came across wasn’t actually a tip, it was a question. When I started decluttering, I did a lot of reading on how to make it easier and get it done faster.

Since then, I’ve written tips on how to do it in big chunks, and even how to make money discarding what you’ve decluttered.

We all have something that holds us back. My biggest struggle is sentimentality.

I get sentimental about everything, from my grandfather’s stamp collection to a pair of socks I bought last year while I was with a particular person. It’s ridiculous, and I needed to find a way to achieve that awesome, uncluttered life and house that lived only in my imagination.

I found out that there were tonnes of tips and ideas, some that helped a bit, some that didn’t. One that intrigued me but I couldn’t quite bring myself to do (due to the sheer size of the task) was the packing party, invented by The Minimalists. Maybe I’ll try it out sometime down the track. If you’re moving house anyway, I would totally recommend it.

Anyway, I’m sure you know that a large factor determining how much you can get rid of at any one time is motivation.

As we all know, no-one has motivation for something all of the time. I could get rid of a few things at once when I would finally get sick of the crap piling up on every available surface. But it was always short-lived.

I was looking for something that would get me through this roadblock and be able to clear way more in each attempt. I was looking for the best decluttering tip ever, the one that would solve all my problems. The one that didn’t rely on motivation to get the job done.

Turns out, this question was the answer (ha ha):

“Would I buy this today?”

That’s it. Both the question, and the answer.

It’s so simple, yet powerful. Acquiring the clean, uncluttered home of your dreams is about the present and the future, not the past. Which is why this question is so important.



Sure, maybe it’s something you would’ve bought a few years ago, or even a week ago. But if you saw it for sale today, would you buy it? Would you absolutely have to have it? How many things do you buy for your past self?

Who we are changes each and every day. We discover new values, grow, and let go of old ideas and mistakes. It’s important to make your home a place for your future self, a better self.

How can you expect to be calm, focused, productive, and content if you don’t create an atmosphere conducive to this state of being?

Asking the question, “Would you buy this today?” is really asking, “Does this fit in with my vision for the future?”.

The beauty of this question is that it simplifies the acts of decluttering and decision-making. It narrows your focus to only what you need for your future self, and what will best serve you.

There is no more deliberation about whether you used it in the last 3 months, or whether you should keep it because your aunt gave it to you.

All you have to do is answer one question, with one word. Yes. Or no.

This single question, too, tends to be a lot easier to answer than many others you might come across in your pursuit for the best decluttering tips.

Do you really need it? Does it add value to your life? Will you use it in the next few months?

Determining whether we really need something, or if it adds value to our lives, can be difficult. We seem better able to determine whether we would buy something if we saw it in a shop.

Although, amusingly, if you’re going to buy something in a shop, you should be asking yourself those exact questions anyway. Why waste your money if you don’t really need it? And whilst the idea of it is great, will you actually use it?

This question (“Would I buy it today?”) deals with the stuff already in your home. You do need a different set of questions if you’re still in the habit of buying things just to buy things. And you need to look inside yourself to examine why you’re shopping in the first place.

But when it comes to what you already own, this is the best decluttering tip ever.

Each time you look at something, or pick an item up, ask yourself the question. If you have to umm and ahh for too long, chances are you wouldn’t end up buying it. Or at least, you shouldn’t.

When you see something you love, you have to have it immediately. You know that it’s right for you. Often we get caught up in “just in case,” and “it’d be a waste to get rid of it,” but really, how often do you use your just in case items?

And it isn’t a waste to get rid of things. Make sure you move them on responsibly and give others a chance to get value from these items.

So, quite simply, if you’ve been struggling to declutter but you want to get real, and make some solid leaps and bounds, ask yourself if you’d buy that thing if you saw it in the shop today, right now.

If it doesn’t fit in with the life and future you’re trying to build yourself, why would you want it? It’s only holding you back from becoming your best self. What could that money go towards? A conscious holiday? A course? An experience? Food?

If it doesn’t serve a purpose, help you achieve your goals, or look beautiful and make you happy, I doubt you’d buy it.

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Image credit: Sabine Peters on Unsplash

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2 Responses
    1. Erin | H&U

      Absolutely! Often the free things are the hardest, because they ARE free. But I bet you have a much less cluttered home for saying no. Way to go 🙂

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