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It’s kind of a funny story. I lived in a 300-square-foot studio apartment for almost 10 years. My landlord was a good friend’s dad. That friend had lived in that same apartment before me. She knew the struggle was real so when I told her my space was getting a little cramped and I was looking for things to declutter she recommended her latest read, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.
Let me tell you, I loved it! It was life-changing and it definitely set me on the road to minimalism. From that point on I wasn’t looking at how to get a bigger place. Instead, I was searching for things to declutter.
Do You Need to Find Things to Declutter?
You may be like I was. Maybe you are in a cramped and cluttered home looking for things to declutter but feeling overwhelmed with where to start. You find yourself holding on to stuff and making a lot of excuses not to start decluttering at all.
For this Marie Kondo’s famous question may help you declutter fast. She tells you to look at every single item in your home and ask “Does this spark joy?” If it does you can keep it and if it doesn’t you can get rid of it.
5 Declutter Questions to Help You Find Things to Declutter:
- Does this spark joy?
- Do I need, use, and love this?
- What could I use instead if I didn’t have this?
- How would I feel if this item spontaneously combusted right now.
- Can I live without this thing?
Does It Spark Joy? How’s that Work?
So the question is how well does this question work? Does this spark joy? Does it help you identify all the things to declutter that you need to find?
I’m not going to knock it because it worked pretty well for me. When I looked at each possession and asked if it sparked joy very few things passed the test. I was able to quickly let go of a lot of worn out and ill-fitting clothing, poorly functioning kitchen gadgets, expired or partially used toiletries, and more.
The problem for me was that nothing I owned sparked much joy. I was able to declutter fast but then I didn’t have any clothes. I’m not kidding. I went a little overboard. Then I had to shop, which I hate doing!
On the other hand, when I was helping my mom declutter I would ask the question again and again and again. “Does this spark joy?” The answer was yes, yes, yes! She got rid of very little with this question.
And that’s the rub. I’m convinced that asking whether or not something sparks joy may not be enough. It may just reveal your natural predisposition toward owning stuff. Either you like having stuff and everything you own sparks joy so it’s hard to find things to declutter or you don’t really care and nothing does. It could take you to the extreme either way.
So How Do You Find The Right Things to Declutter?
So what do I mean when I say you can go from one extreme to another? Well, you could end up like me and not have very useful things you actually do need. Or you could keep everything.
I mean, does your trashcan really spark joy? Mine doesn’t. And neither does my underwear, medicine, cooking pan, Tupperware, etc. That doesn’t mean I don’t need those things.
And what about that little snow globe from your friend’s vacation? It may truly spark joy for your sentimental heart but does that mean it’s serving you? Can you keep everything that sparks joy? I mean really, that stuffed animal that turns into a pillow might be a bit much for your 40-year-old self.
So how do you find the right things to declutter? I am convinced that you have to narrow the criteria. To do this you are going to have to ask more than one question each time you are trying to decide.
Find Things to Declutter By Asking: Do I Need or Use This?
When I am looking for things to declutter I can’t just ask if it sparks joy. I feel like I would get rid of a lot of things I need because they don’t spark joy. After all, we need a lot of boring stuff like a pillow, a broom, a mop, flashlights, batteries, etc.
So as you are decluttering a good way to find things to declutter and things to keep is to look at your stuff and ask:
- Do I Need This?
- Do I Use This?
The second question is important because you could say I need this tent for camping but do you actually go camping? When was the last time you went camping? Are you planning on going camping in the next year or so? If you are no longer a camper then you don’t use the tent that you would need if you did.
Be honest with yourself about what you need and what you actually use. If you haven’t used something in a long time because you no longer do the activity it is used for or because it’s otherwise part of your past let it go. Stop living in the past and keeping all the junk!
You can find things to declutter in places like the garage, the back of the closet, the high shelves, and the attic or basement. That’s where stuff you haven’t used in a long time wind up.
On the other hand, if you need and or use something and you feel that it improves your life and makes it easier by all means keep it. The whole point of decluttering is to make life easier.
Find Things To Declutter By Asking: Do I Love It?
I have this little wooden pineapple. It doesn’t do anything. I think it used to be a toothpick holder. A friend gave it to me because we like pineapples. Do I need it or use it? No. But it makes me happy. Every time I look at it, it definitely sparks joy.
This is where the question of sparking joy matters. If you love something then you should keep it. If you need and use it too that is a really good thing. I try not to keep too many things I only love but don’t use.
If for example you love your high school jacket but it never comes out of the dark corner at the back of the closet then you don’t love it enough. If you love something enough to keep it you should be able to display it. If you have to hide it away then you don’t love it enough.
What Would I Use If This Were Gone?
We keep a lot of stuff “just in case”. Just in case there is a global heat wave that gives way to a snowstorm and we all get to stay home where all our stuff is but we also have to camp out we need all the things! Who knows!? We might even need to dress in costumes too!
As you can see this “just in case thinking” is a little batty. I mean really.
So one way to combat this “just in case” thinking is to say it out loud.
“I will need this third tent that is old and falling apart just in case of an apocalypse with no rain.”
“We definitely need to keep these VHS tapes just in case Bill and Ted bring their tape player from the past and want to have a movie night!”
Joshua Becker asks another question to help you get around this “just in case” pattern on thinking. Ask yourself: “What would I use if this were gone?”
Usually, the answer is very simple.
“One of my other 4 spatulas.”
“The tent that doesn’t leak.”
“My new clothes that fit me.”
Just taking a second to think it through helps you realize that you are not living in scarcity and you will be just fine without the thing you are keeping for just in case.
What If This Item Just Spontaneously Combusted Right Now?
Another great way to find things to declutter is to ask yourself this question courtesy of The Minimalists: “What if this item just spontaneously combusted right now?”
I love this question because we add so much emotional baggage to our stuff. We don’t want to declutter because we feel wasteful, guilty, sentimental, and more.
But when you look at something and imagine it blowing up how do you feel? I bet at least half the time you would feel relieved. All the guilt and worry and burden are gone with it. If you feel that way about any item it is definitely time to get rid of it.
If you don’t feel that way keep it. It’s fine. Maybe it will spontaneously combust next time you declutter.
Find Things to Declutter by Experimenting
Even the top minimalist influencers out there have trouble decluttering. What do they do? Well, when Joshua Becker or Courtney Carver aren’t sure if they want to get rid of something they just experiment. They put it aside for awhile to answer the question: “Can I live without it?”
I have found this to be the single most effective tool for clearing tough clutter. Find things to declutter that you aren’t completely sure you are ready to let go of.
You can declutter books or clothes or decorations or mementos with this method.
Put that stuff in a box and hide it from yourself for a set period of time (like a month or a season MAX). If you didn’t ever need it and no one else noticed it was gone then you can just get rid of it! Don’t open the box and don’t worry about it.
If you do think of the item you have put away ask yourself this simple question.
When you realize how easily you have already lived without something it becomes a lot easier to let go. Nothing wrong with not being sure. Experiment!
Find Things to Declutter Because It’s Worth It!
Ok, so now that you’ve asked yourself these questions it should become easy to find things to declutter. In fact, you might find a good amount of stuff to declutter.
- Does it spark joy?
- Do I need, use, and love it?
- What would I use if this was gone?
- How would I feel if it spontaneously combusted right now?
- Can I live without it? What can I use instead?
Is it worth it? Absolutely! When you clear the clutter it may just be one of the best things you can do for yourself. The benefits of decluttering include more time and energy for family and creativity, less stress and cleaning, and learning who you are and what you actually need.
How do you find things to declutter? What questions do you ask yourself? PLEASE share in the comments below!
Need Help to Find Things to Declutter?
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