How to Ask the Right Questions about Decluttering

Snowdrops symbolise innocence, the quality that lets you declare a grand plan that will never happen. Announcing you will Feng Shui one corner a week for example. One year later you will discover that you didn’t do it. Now what? Have a word with the clutter, ask the right questions, and work out why it is still here. 

Do I Need This?
Old maps and guide books

20 years of maps and guidebooks. The sort you buy halfway through a trip because you don’t know where you are, and have fear of missing out on the good bits. Keep them all as an insurance policy against never buying that map again?

Answer.  Quickly work out exactly where you might go in the next 20 years. Will it be Berlin, Weymouth and South Dorset, the whole of China, or a small and detailed section of Bodmin Moor? Keep the ones you plan to use and tidy the rest in amongst them.

Does This Represent Who I Am? 
Designer boots

If you visit relations in Vienna, they will take you to a shop full of handmade boots so beautiful you will close your eyes, hand over a working credit card, and leave with exquisite creations like these. They lasted 8 years which proved the theory that buying expensive footwear saves money in the long run.

They are the sort of boots that encourage strangers to say ‘nice boots’ but now the zips keep breaking, so it is only safe to wear them if you carry gaffa tape, in case they fall about your ankles suddenly.  They work well when they are taped up but don’t look so special and are hard to get off.

Answer. It is amazing how nice it is when a stranger says ‘nice boots’. Maybe they can be repaired and it will be possible to stay in that secret club of people who know about fashion and style. They can stay.

Do I Use it? 
Mosquito Hats

Mosquito hats.  Last used by other members of the family who went on a canoeing holiday down the Dalana river in Sweden. 

Here are pictures from the holiday. 

Family canoeing holiday

Hanging around a Swedish river about midsummer time means meeting up with a few million mosquitos, so these hats were essential.

They had a great time, apart from the night they heard a bear trying to get food out of the cool box. Some people got quite nervous and stayed awake, very quietly, all night. The only person who slept well was the one who got up for a snack and managed to sound like a bear. When they came home they talked about that night more than anything else.

Answer. Getting rid of these hats is like throwing away the last memory of a holiday I did not even go on….

They need to go.

Do I Love it?  
Star Wars

The joy of sharing a house is that you live with things that other people love. This thing lives here. It is what it is.

But 90% of the people who visit go ‘Oh Wow’ before they talk about what Star Wars things they had. The other 10% quite like the Moomin cup.

Answer.  Wrong question.  It should be, does it spark joy?  Get your questions right before you start. It does. So it stays.

Do I Want this Item in my Life Going Forward? 
Sparkly Dress

When you are considering retirement, and have not been dancing for a few years, keeping space for a short blue skin-tight dress covered in sequins and made for the disco abba dance party, that nobody has invited you to, may seem an indulgence.

Answer. It is important to be ready for the moment when life moves forward again.

Do I have Another one of These?

A few tape measures, car cleaning kits, spray cans and battery chargers.

Answer. You never know when seven people need to measure something or clean their car at once. But nobody here has cleaned a car for a while so you do sort of know if you think about it.

Do I Have Something Else That Would Serve the Same Purpose?

What else can add a splash of colour to a patch of earth, offer small children a chance to hurt themselves on broken shards, and trigger fond memories of Christmas 1997 all at the same time?

Answer.  The purpose is not everything.

Is this Something I Could Borrow from Someone Else Instead?
Robot collection

If these robots left the house they would be missed but I am not sure about going next door to say ‘have you got any toy robots I could borrow?’

We found a surfboard in the shed. It has been never been used by any of us, and nobody knows how it got there. Think about it. What is the chance of borrowing a surfboard on a sunny day on the beach when the surf is up, you have decided to take up surfing, and everybody else is out on the waves in their surfboards?

Answer. It may have been there for 20 years but it feels like a brand new present, a message to take up surfing. It stays. So do the robots.

Would I Buy this Item Again? 
Collection of padded envelopes

The ‘collecting padded envelopes disorder’ comes from PTSD of needing one and discovering that the envelope costs more than the thing you are posting. You are posting the thing to somebody who needs to know that you care, so you pay. 

Then you start to squirrel them away. After years of not posting much to anybody because you don’t care enough, but ordering a lot of stuff online for yourself, you might have something like this drawer. 

Answer. I will never ever have to buy this item again thanks to all the squirrelling.

So, all good then, everything is justified and being innocent as snowdrops and making unrealistic plans for the future can stop right there. 

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