We all need to declutter, right?
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said, “we need to get rid of half the stuff in this house.”
Then I try to figure out what to get rid of, and I get stuck! I glance through my stuff and I can’t see anything that needs to go. It’s a dead end.
If you’ve experienced a similar situation, I have help.
It’s called reverse decluttering. (And, yes, I just made that term up.)
Instead of looking around your space to identify what to get rid of, you focus on giving each item a permanent home. In the course of doing this, you will naturally find several items that you don’t need.
It shifts the focus from what you want to get rid of to what you want to keep.
Also, if there isn’t a home for an item, it needs to go. If you really want to keep it, you’ll have to remove something else to give it a home.
Plus it’s so, so much easier to keep your home tidy when everything has a clear home.
Speaking of decluttering, here are some helpful questions I like to ask myself when I declutter (plus a free printable of the questions so you can keep them close by):
- Do I use it regularly?
- Do I love it?
- Do I have a specific planned use for it?
- What would be the worst case scenario if I got rid of it?
- Do I have the space to store it?
- If I were moving soon, would I keep it?
- Would I purchase this again if I didn’t already have it?
That’s really all you need to ask. If you don’t use it or love it, then it needs to go. This is really just making room for the things that you do use and love. Imagine if you were surrounded only by things that you use regularly or really make you smile.
So, why is it so difficult? Those questions are fairly common sense, really. Here are the common objections to getting rid of things and what to do about them:
- Sentimental Clutter: These are things we are tempted to hang onto because someone special gave them to us, because they remind of something special, or just because we feel like we should. I’m not opposed to some sentiment, but if we hang onto everything, it loses its value. If someone gave you something that you don’t need, it won’t do them one bit of good for you to keep storing it. Better to appreciate the thought behind the gift, and pass it on to someone who will use it. For items that trigger memories, consider keeping and displaying just a few items, then photographing the rest. A photo takes up less space, but lets you keep the memory.
- Aspirational Clutter: These are things we wish we used on a regular basis, but we don’t. This would be things like scrapbooking materials for the scrapbooks you plan to create “someday” or exercise equipment that you haven’t touched. These are emotionally difficult to part with because we have to face the fact that we aren’t going to complete those scrapbooks or that we don’t exercise regularly. However, facing these things can be incredibly freeing! I recently got rid of all my rubber stamping supplies. I used to enjoy making cards. I wish I had time to regularly make cards, but I don’t. All my free time and creative energy is spent on the blog and Etsy shop, so I needed to part with some other hobby items. I honestly just felt free after I got rid of those things. I no longer had to feel guilty for not using those items, and I’m sure someone else can enjoy them.
- Expensive Clutter: It’s hard to get rid of things that cost us a lot of money. However, even if something was expensive, but we’re not using it, then getting rid of it is simply admitting the truth. It was already a bad purchase. Getting rid of it won’t change that.
- I Might Use This Someday Clutter: There are many items we have that we might possibly use someday. Don’t keep those things!! Yes, there could be a situation in 5 years where I would need the 12 three-ring binders from my college days, but it’s not worth the cost of storing them all those years. If I really need them, I’ll just purchase new ones. Ninety percent of the time, you will never actually use those things. It’s worth the small cost for the ten percent of things you would have been able to use. Also, if you keep everything you might use someday, you may not be able to find what you need when you need it and be forced to repurchase it anyway.
If you’d like to walk with me through the two ways to start the reverse decluttering process, check out the video below!
Click the image below to download the decluttering questions for yourself:
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Aspirational…yep, finally let go of that stuff. Had a scrapbook from when my oldest was born that’s never been touched. 12 years. It was gifted to a group of women to make a memorial book about a coworker. It feels good to give it to a purpose than to just put it in the donate pile.
Thank you for your comment, Kristen. I have baby books that are not finished for any of my 3 children. I seriously have an enormous amount of guilt attached to the fact that I am such a failure I could not even fill in a baby book! I am glad to know I am not alone.
Love this idea. It makes sense to change your mindset so it’s easier to get rid of things and keep what you love
I can’t seem to get the download, clicking on the image doesn’t do anything x
LauraJane SaysPost author
Try again and if that doesn’t work, please email email@example.com for help.
I love this idea!
Especially because I usually end up making a huge mess when I declutter. This is organizing and decluttering all in one!
I definitely agree with previous comment from Kirsten. Aspirational clutter! Before my baby was born I bought a whole lot of Project Life supplies. And I finally admitted recently that I just don’t have time for that. Sad, but we can’t do everything.
Thanks for this helpful post.
Pretty much all my clutter is in the “I might use this someday” category! After reading this, I’m feeling inspired and ready to get rid of (most) of it!!!!! Thanks so much!
Totally I started asking myself – If I lost this item, would I buy it again? And if the answer was no – then it was a serious contender for the give away/chuck pile.
Margaret Wright Says
As I’m downsizing and need to clean out a lot of items this article was so helpful. Loved it! Passing it on to my kids.
This is such a helpful post! It’s so easy to make a huge mess when decluttering, but this method combines organizing and decluttering! Genius!! I also have to agree with the previous comment from Kristen regarding aspirational clutter. Ouch! When my baby was born, I bought a stack of Project Life supplies. And I’ve just recently managed to admit to myself that, no, that just isn’t going to get done. I’ve found a simpler way to document memories and store photos. Thanks for the reminder that we don’t have to feel guilty.
LauraJane SaysPost author
I bought project life baby stuff also, and got rid of it when I realized I wasn’t going to do it.
This may be the best explanation I’ve read on dealing with decluttering ive read, and I’ve read a lot!! The way you talk about the smaller, harder areas and your wording of it was just great!!
LauraJane SaysPost author
So glad you enjoyed it.
How to handle things other people give us … I know one thing is to say “no” right from the get go without too much explanation. “I am trying to downsize myself” or “that wouldn’t work for me” or “if I don’t want it after awhile OR I don’t know if I can use it OR I’ll ask my partner/children if they want it … BUT if I/we decide we no longer want it, should I give it back to you or just give it away?”
But what to say if you give somjething away and someone says “whatever happened to that ___ I gave you?” Actually, since the definition of give is “freely transfer the possession of (something) to (someone); hand over to” I guess we shouldn’t feel guilty since we can now do what we want with it, but any simple things to say in response? Maybe just (without guilt or explanation), “Just as you no longer wanted it, when I no longer wanted it, I gave it away.”
Any ideas anyone?
to people who say
LauraJane SaysPost author
I fortunately haven’t had to deal with a lot of direct questions, but I think you’re definitely on the right track with not feeling guilty and just being honest.
Nice article. There are times that I love decluttering and I usually ask my friend for help to come over to my house to help me decide where is the best spot for some things. And by the way, kindly check the URL its ‘decuttering’ Thanks
Judy Bess Says
This article has inspired me to start organizing and decluttering in the morning! It is the best one I’ve read in a long time.
I need order around me to operate at my best. Actual organizing and decluttering my items gives me a sense of calm, peace and hope—hope to accomplish more. T.I.M.E. is the problem.
Thank you for this post! I appreciate the change of focus from what to discard, to “What is important to keep?” Bravo!
May God Bless!
~JESUSLovesUs♡John 3:16, 14:6~
…This is basically konmari with more steps to the “spark joy” question. (Which isn’t a bad thing! Marie Kondo envelops all of those use cases as sparking joy more or less (i.e. a spatula probably doesn’t directly bring you joy, but the food you make with it might), but they can be hard to think of if you have a hard time honing your “joy sense” as it were. So having those questions to ask is nice!)
ok I’m going to try this. I have been vacillating between giving away or selling in a garage sale. Mother kept everything but she lived through the depression and didn’t have much, so I can understand that. As far as me, raised 3 children on my own after divorce and always had to struggle, so had plenty of carport sales. But now I live with my daughter and there is so much clutter. We have no carport to sell from when it rains and it always rains every weekend. We have a small house and very small closets. I think she has picked up bad habits from me and her Granny. Saving stuff for what? Make money? Sentimental too much stuff . Going to make things with what we have and sell. Ha can’t even find the things and don’t have room to make anything. I know, this is terrible. I pray that this will help. Just need to call donation places and have picked up and close my eyes and pray.
My in-laws are terrible collectors of “stuff”. My DH and I used to say, “No, thanks, we don’t need _____” when they offered us their old/unneeded stuff. Now, we always say, “Yes, thanks” and get rid of it ourselves. Unfortunately, when they go to garage sales every weekend, they always find things they think we need and buy them for us!