You’ve decided to declutter.
You’re ready to go.
The kids are napping, at school, or at the park with their dad. You’ve emptied your drawers or cabinets in whatever room you chose to go through first, and right now all you see is STUFF.
But you’re motivated. Motivated to cut through the crap and only keep the good stuff. The stuff you use regularly.
The stuff you need.
The stuff you love.
You’re letting go of things you were keeping before out of obligation or guilt. Gifts, “family heirlooms” no one else in the family actually wants either, boxes and boxes of kids’ school projects you’ll never look at again (except for a few really special pieces).
But there’s still So. Much. Stuff.
Even after you go through these first steps. And if you feel like there’s still too much, there really is. And you need to keep going before you’ll be able to find the peace you’re looking for.
So what are the next questions to ask yourself?
1. What if I don’t ever need this?
This is a great question to ask yourself about those things you’re just keeping “in case.” What if you never actually need it? What if you move it to 10 different houses, wrapping it and packing it carefully every time, unpacking it and finding it a new home each time, cleaning and maintaining it, giving up space in your home to house it, and you NEVER need it?
What a waste of your time, energy, and space! It could be a backup kitchen knife (but you know you always reach for your few favorite ones), an extra super-emergency flashlight in case your primary emergency one fails, a pack-and-play you’ve been keeping from when your kids were little, in case someone with a baby ever comes to visit, or a stack of nice binders or clipboards you “might need someday.”
But what if you don’t? Ever? EVER. If you die, and your kids are going through your stuff and they’re like, “What the crap? I’ve never seen Mom use this spare-spare umbrella in my life!” That sort of thing.
Just let go.
2. What is the worst possible outcome if I toss this?
This is a follow-up to question 1, in case you’re still thinking you might need that particular serving platter you can’t remember using anytime in the last year. Or pair of shoes that doesn’t go with anything you own. Or “decor” that you don’t have currently displayed because it’s not your favorite. Or whatever.
What’s the worst possible outcome if you toss it? Is someone going to be in danger? Will you suddenly have a desperate need for that item (and you truly can’t afford buy another when you actually need it)? Be real with yourself. Is there an urgency to keeping this item, or are you keeping it because, well, it’s there, and you have the space, so why not?
If you were in a store today and you saw that item (and didn’t already own it) would you actually need to buy it and bring it home TODAY?
Just let go.
3. Is this moving me forward or holding me back?
One of my favorite questions to ask myself when I’m focusing on eating more cleanly is, “Does this food nourish my body?” because if the answer is no, it’s actually holding me back from being as healthy as I could be.
It’s the same with stuff.
If an item isn’t helping you move forward toward your goals and lifting up your priorities, it’s holding you back. It’s dragging you down. It’s breaking down every system you’re trying to put into place for taking care of your home. It’s dead weight.
That might seem like a lot of blame to put on an item. A huge weight to bear for that extra emergency flashlight. It might sound silly or alarmist. But all of those tiny items add up, and together, they’re filling the nooks and crannies of your home, cluttering your surfaces, creating daily unnecessary work, thought, and maintenance. They’re crowding out the good.
They truly are holding you back from your potential, if they’re not offering a helping hand. So ask yourself what your goals are, and once you have them in mind, ask every item whether it’s helping you achieve those goals.
“Hey, extra hangers in the closet I haven’t needed, what have you done for me lately?”
“Hi there, Joy of Cooking! I hear you’re a great book and I do love to cook! But when’s the last time I even opened you? Do you help me get dinner on the table?”
“I see you, high-quality children’s toy my kids played with a little bit and might again someday, maybe. When’s the last time you made my kids smile?”
Just. Let. Go.
All it takes is 15 minutes to get started. Don’t begin with the stuff that majorly stresses you out.
Whether that’s your closet, the playroom, the bookshelf in your living room, the coat closet you barely ever open but that’s stuffed to the gills, or the cabinets under your bathroom sink… only you will know where your starting point should be.
If the idea of letting go of a single book gives you a panic attack, avoid the bookshelf for a while. If you feel like your identity is wrapped up in the clothing you wear, close your closet door and don’t think about that today.
Start simply, easily. Start somewhere that doesn’t give you anxiety.
But the point is, start.