12 Questions that Will Help You Get Rid of the Clutter | Overstuffed Overstuffed

Friday, October 03, 2014

12 Questions that Will Help You Get Rid of the Clutter

Yesterday we talked about making an action plan for decluttering by identifying the biggest problem areas in your home and setting aside time to work on them each day. Today we are going to work in our first problem area and ask some hard questions about all of the stuff that is there.

And then we are going to get rid of a lot of it.

I mentioned yesterday that my first priority would be my desk. It is a clutter trap! Here is what it looked like before I began this process (don't think less of me--I told you clutter is ruining my life right now!):

You have to ask some important questions in order to start tackling clutter problems like this messy desk.

I'm just keeping it real, people. My office in general is the absolute worst space in the house, and I've written about it many times before (see HERE, HERE, and HERE).

One of the biggest issues on my desk and in my office is that everything does not have a logical place. However, the very biggest issue is simply that I have more stuff than I can handle, and I need to get rid of some of it. Maybe even most of it!

We are going to ask ourselves a series of questions when dealing with all of the stuff in your problem area. Before I tell you the questions, though, I want to remind you to be absolutely honest with yourself. In order for this project to be successful, that is absolutely vital!

Alright. Take a deep breath, pick up your first item and ask:

  • Does it have an assigned place?

If the answer is yes, why is it not in its assigned home? Ponder the answer to this question before putting the item back into its place. If you recently used it and didn't put it back, that is one thing. It may be that its place works great, but you have not trained yourself (or your family) to put things back in their place when finished using them. But if it is NEVER in its assigned spot because it is inconvenient or illogical, maybe you need to rethink that spot and put the item amongst the things that do not have a place yet.

If the answer is yes and you feel that the item's designated spot is fine, put it away.

If the answer is no, set it to the side and finish going through all of the rest of your items.

Once you have finished this task, you will have a pile of homeless stuff. Now we're going to ask the really hard questions (remember to be 100% honest!):

  • Why doesn't this item have a place?
  • Does it work?
  • Do I need it? Why?
  • Do I love it? Why?
  • Do I use it? 
  • When was the last time I used it?
  • Where do I use it?
  • Do I have something else that will do the same job?
  • If I were moving across the country, would I keep it?

If you happen to be decluttering clothing, ask a few more questions:

  • Does it fit?
  • When did I last wear it?

Hopefully the answers to these questions will help you decide to let go of many items. The truth is, we don't need most of it, and if it just becomes lost in a sea of other stuff, we won't use it anyway. As William Morris said, "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful."

Some of these questions are deal breakers. If an item is broken, why are you holding on to it? If you NEVER use something, do not keep it. If you don't love it, and you don't need it, get rid of it! And while it has become much easier for me to get rid of things in the last ten years or so, I totally get sentimentality for items. Still, the reality is that you will be so much happier without having to manage another thing, no matter how sentimental it is to you. That said, if you have something you just can't let go of for sentimental reasons, go ahead and keep it for a while. You can come back to it later to see if your feelings have changed and you are ready to let it go.

If you are worried about getting rid of something that you might need later, consider the cost of storing it indefinitely vs. the cost of replacing it if you do end up needing it. If it can be replaced for a few dollars, it is not worth keeping. If you have been storing something and have been waiting for some opportunity to use it and that opportunity has not come yet, get rid of it. For me, this is often random things I've collected thinking that I will make some craft out of them. If I don't have a clear idea of what I will make, I should just get rid of it.

I recommend that you have three boxes, bins, or bags ready while you are sorting through and evaluating your items. Or just make three piles...whatever works for you!

1. Trash
2. Donate
3. Keep

Keep at it until you've sorted through everything, or until your time runs out. Hopefully, your trash and donation piles will be much bigger than your keep pile!

And hopefully, your space will also be free of unnecessary clutter.

Tomorrow we will talk about how to deal with the items in your "keep" pile that do not yet have a home.

Today's assignment:
  • Clear the clutter out of your chosen problem area.
  • Put away the items that already have a designated place.
  • Sort the remaining items into trash, donate, and keep piles.
  • Enjoy your clutter-free area!

Want to see the results of my labors? Behold a more clutter-free desk:

By asking yourself 12 important questions, you can start working on getting rid of the clutter.

I wasn't able to get to the bill sorter or the wire file in my allotted time, but I don't mind. I am just pleased that I can see my desk again!

Join the Challenge: 31 Days to Less Clutter and More Peace

Find all of the posts in this 31 Day Challenge here: A Place for Everything: 31 Days to Less Clutter and More Peace.

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  1. Great questions to ask ourselves Lara! And I love the idea of thinking about WHY something isn't where it should be... so important... otherwise it's going to end up cluttering that space all over again. I'm loving your series!

  2. This could NOT come at a better point in my life. I need to declutter. I am overwhelmed and I just need to start! These are GREAT questions to ask myself as I get rid of the crud!

    Thank you!

  3. If I leave the house key in the Grill, please feel free to come in and do this to my desk area! :)

  4. I really love the angle you're taking this decluttering thing from. Other lists just give you an area and it doesn't always mean it's doable too. Love it!

  5. My desk area has been a problem area for awhile. I have one of those computer desks good for using the computer, but bad if you need to write anything. I have been thinking of getting something more functional, but have not found the perfect thing yet.

  6. I have become ruthless with tossing stuff.

  7. Good for you! I have found that the more I do it, the easier it becomes. It's all just STUFF and I am usually just as happy without it (if not happier!).

  8. Amen to that. For me, it's almost always because I didn't bother to take the 3 seconds to put it away. I'm really working on that bad habit this month.

  9. My desk area is a clutter magnet for sure. I have to be better about making sure I do a quick clean up of the surface before I go to bed each night. Right now my wallet, a drinking glass, my label maker, and my camera are on it. It's so easy to just go to bed and leave them all, but I promise to quickly put everything away. :)

  10. While I like the ideas other lists give me, yes, it isn't always doable for whatever reason. I have way more crap, my house is just different, or my needs are different. I'm glad you're liking it. :)

  11. Sure thing! Just as soon as the rest of my house is done. It might be a while...

  12. I am overwhelmed, too. We can be overwhelmed together. I'll tell you a secret: I did my desk, but the rest of my office is still pretty scary. I'm working on it, and hopefully the office will be functional by the end of the week! Good luck with your decluttering!