Declutter Decision Making Guide

Sometime I struggle with writing a new post every week, especially when I am not at home and don’t really have any decluttering inspiration. Even at home these days I don’t have a need to declutter all the time.

So today I was sitting here trying to come up with some wisdom to impart to you all when it occurred to me that I have six years of posts that not everyone could be bothered ploughing through so why not use one of those again today.

While digging around trying to come up with a post that I wanted to share I stumbled across my Declutter Decision Making Guide. And as this guide is always relevant I decided to refresh your memories on ways to decide on what should stay and what you might be happy to part with.

By the way, this guide is always available under the tabs “Pages” and “Archives” if you even want to refer to it.

Declutter Decision Making Guide

Questions to ask yourself when you are deciding what stays and what goes when decluttering

  • How long since I last used this:- If you are keeping an item just because maybe you mightneed it some day then it is probably clutter.
  • Is it still useful to me:- Do I still use this item or even participate in the activity that this item is used for if not then it’s clutter.
  • Is it in working condition:- If an item is broken and you do not have the expertise to repair it or you are not prepared to pay the price to have it fixed then it is clutter.
  • How many do I have and how many do I need:- If you have multiples of a certain item but only ever need one then it is most likely clutter.
  • Do I need this item for the information it contains:- So much information is right at your finger tips these days on your computer and it is constantly updated do you really need to keep a library of books whose information may or may not stand the test of time.
  • Do I like it:– If you are keeping something that was given to you even though you do not like it, it is definitely clutter.
  • Do I really need this item in order to remember good times or lost loves:- If it is an item that has purely sentimental value yet you never get it out and look at it then there is a good chance you don’t need it to remind you of the good times you had and the wonderful people you have known. If it means so much to you put it out where you can see it if not let it go.
  • Am I keeping this item out of guilt:- I paid a lot of money for this so I hope one day I will get my money’s worth out of it (old hobbies, sporting equipment, expensive clothing all fall into this category). These are the items you need to cash in on now and sell while they are still useful to someone else.
  • Do I want to clean it:- Any item out on display will require dusting at least.
  • Do I want to store it:-Do you have the space to store this item or is it just taking up precious space you can’t afford.
  • Do I want to move it out of the way when looking for something else:- The more items you have taking up space in your home the more likely they are going to get in the way of each other forcing you to have to shuffle things around when you do have cause to use them.
  • Does it have a real purpose other than looking pretty:-This one speaks for itself. Although I like to have some nice objects to enjoy just for their appearance there is a limit to how many if any I can accommodate or justify.
  • Will I be tired of it in six months:- This is a good question to ask before even acquiring an item in the first place.
  • Do I want to pack and unpack this item when we move in a couple years:- This is a critical question for anyone who tends to move location on a reasonably regular basis due to work commitments for example.
  • If this item had been taken from you and sold to a pawn shop (by a junkie friend or an evil in-law, whatever) would you buy it back? :- I bet there will be a lot of items that you wouldn’t waste your money on,  however low the cost. These are the things that need to go! (Thanks Gogol for this tip) The same could be said for an item were it to break would you replace it or be secretly relieved that is is gone and you didn’t have to make the decision to declutter it.
  • “What the heck are you and what on earth is your purpose?:- If you find you need to ask this question of an object then it could very well be clutter but I advise checking with every member of the family first because it could very well be an important part to something. Chances are thought it is rubbish. (Thanks go to Toffee for this addition to the list)


While searching through the archives I happened upon some old posts where I used to list something that I was grateful for everyday. So I thought perhaps I might just have another go at that for a while. It is always good for the soul to remind yourself of all the good things in your life rather than dwelling on the things that you feel might be missing.

Today I am grateful to my parents who taught me how to be frugal, how to make and mend and not be wasteful. These are skills that can leave you more financially sound and are also helpful when it comes to being environmentally friendly.

Please follow and like us:
Pin Share

Continue reading with these posts:

  • Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom ~ Photos, Photos Everywhere Cindy's Weekly Wisdom Memories and photographs, that's what's on my mind this morning. I was feeding the guinea pig and thinking back to Brownie, my childhood guinea pig. In my childhood […]
  • Mini Mission Monday – Keepsake items Hi folks, this week's mini missions are going to center around keepsake items. You might be surprised at how many places in your home these little blighters are hiding. You may also be […]
  • Mini Mission Monday ~ To reduce your workload Mini Mission Monday is about finding ten minutes a day to declutter. To make it easy for you, each Monday I set seven declutter missions, one for each day of the week for you to follow. It […]
About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.


  1. Colleen, it’s great to know that things don’t change when it comes to the basics of decluttering. I have been amazed at how you can keep coming up with things to post and am glad to see some of these old posts being brought back. We need the reminders.

    • I think I will make more of a habit it of. No point leaving them languishing in the archives when they are perfectly good posts. And you are right, the message doesn’t change so why wrack my brain trying to come up with something new every time.

  2. That list is pretty much ingrained in me. I would add one major heading that I have found helpful: Don’t go SHOPPING ! Stop going to shopping centres or markets or garage sales or eBay or Gumtree unless you NEED a specific item.
    Having a disposal strategy for any stuff you accumulate is also important.
    My pet hate is storing stuff. Best example is Christmas trees. They usually ended up in some obscure place and were never found in time for Christmas or had been de cluttered during the year. I shudder each year as a new one is presented to me to clutter up the lounge room.
    Stay decluttering everyone. Cheers

    • Do the twig tree like I do. You can just put it in the compost heap when you are done with it. Or you could have a potted pine that stays in the garden the rest of the year and just bring it indoors at Christmas. Either that or just kick anyone out of the house that insists on the same old traditions every year. 😉

  3. I often use the time frame question when decluttering. Early last summer, I did a major declutter in my kitchen, but there were a few items I just couldn’t pass along quite yet. Today, I went through my cabinets/drawers again and loaded those iffy items into a box to donate. I figured I still hadn’t used them in the past 6-7 months, it was time to reclaim the space. 🙂

  4. Hi, Colleen … that’s a great list of questions! As we decluttered and more breathing space opened up in our home, we also began to ask – “Are you worth the space that you take up in our home?”

  5. Hi Colleen, thanks for posting this list. I remember reading it a long time ago but I enjoyed the reminder today. Some of the categories mean more to me now that I have come further along my decluttering journey. I also love your daily thought of gratitude which always brings a positive note to the day and is certainly a good reminder to me to think on all the good things in life.

    • Hi Christine, glad you enjoyed the reminder.
      It is funny how we tend to dwell on the bad things and brush the good ones aside. It is like we think we are entitled to the good stuff so it barely counts while we dwell on the bad stuff like it makes us feel better to be indignant about it. Weird things us humans.

  6. Hi Colleen,

    I’m grateful for this blog! I have been thinking a lot lately about all the things that have been “rehomed” (out of my home and into a thrift shop or someone elses hands). I don’t miss anything we got rid of! This journey will never be done, although it may turn into a “maintenance mission”. No matter what stage of decluttering I’m in, I want to participate in this great community of 365rs 🙂

  7. Hello Coleen,
    I’m a new reader. It took me a few days, but I have read every single post on your site.
    I’ve been decluttering for only a month, but I finally feel free.
    I’m glad that I found your site. I love the little mini Monday challenges, the guest posts and of course your insights on everything.
    I’ll travel a lot this year and before this whole decluttering journey, I would’ve never thought of just taking carry on. I always needed (did I really need it?) to have check in luggage and obviously pay extra for it.
    Back then I did buy a lot on my travels. Now that I don’t really let anything new enter our home anymore, there’s no use for a larger piece of luggage.
    I know this got a little off topic, but I just wanted to let you know how life changing your blog is and how it helps me keep looking for more things to declutter.
    Also, you’ve been a huge inspiration for me to start my own blog. It’s in its early days, but writing about a minimalistic lifestyle and decluttering is a wonderful outlet esp. since I moved to a country (UK) where I don’t have many friends yet (those I do have don’t really understand my new lifestyle choice, hence why I wanted a blog).
    Thank you so much for being inspiring and please never stop posting x

    • Hi Sonja and welcome to 365 Less Things. I am glad that you are finding the blog useful and am impressed that you have read all the way through almost six years of posts. I hope you will continue to be part of our little community here and that your own fledgling blog will find its wings and develop its own sharing community. Good luck with your decluttering, your blogging and settling into your new home in the UK. I am sure you will make friends quickly.

  8. I’m with you Peggy. I will want to participate in the 365 Community no matter if I’m decluttering stage or in maintenance mode. Thanks for the re-post Colleen, it’s as timely today as it was the first time around.

  9. A favorite of mine is, the less “stuff” you have, the fewer decisions you have to make. I love that. When I’m decluttering, one criteria I use is, “Do I really want to have to make this decision again at a later date?”

    • I like your question, Deanna. It sounds like a close cousin of another question I ask – “What can I declutter today that my future self will be glad/grateful for?”

  10. This is a list that is very thought provoking… I am still dwelling on a few answers.

  11. I read a post by Joshua Becker this week. He said to ask “WHY do I have this?”. Somehow, I had never thought to do that. I think this would be a good one to add to your already great list, Colleen!! I have already tried it and found that when I answer truthfully, it is easier to let go. In my situation, I can usually blame that man….Justin Case. Ha! Justin Case I need it once a year when company shows up or some such……..

    I don’t mind at all seeing your old posts show up. When I discovered this blog, I went back and read EVERY previous post, and I can truly say I have enjoyed them all. And , as I’ve said before, everyone now feels like old friends! I truly love this group!

    • I like that question, Brenda … I must go and read that post. How’s Shadow … and your other dogs? (I hope I remembered his name correctly).

      • Oh, Nicole, how sweet of you to remember Shadow!! I didn’t even know I had ever mentioned him. He is fine…will be 8 in March. He had hip dysplaysia and had to have his ball joint removed to prevent pain. He walks and runs on that leg, but will NOT use it to stand on. Ha! So, he has built up a huge muscle on the opposite side, and he is now lopsided. But he’s still my Shadow Boxer. ;o). Charlie is fat and of unknown age. (Beagle mix, I guess). The Rooga Roo, my latest rescue, is a terrier mix with the wildest hair you can imagine. She has a bad hair day every day just like me!!!! Thank you for asking!!!!

        I think the “WHY” question has really helped me. I have recently been going through old family things. For example, I still had an old Red Cross book that my Mom had when I was a child. I asked myself WHY I still was keeping it? The answer: Because it was Mom’s. WHY did she have it? I assume it was given to her when she took a Red Cross course, because I found the card with her class Certification. So, she probably kept the book for reference only, and it is now outdated. I keep several alternative health books for reference.
        Would I want someone to feel sentimental over them if I died just because I had kept them for reference? Heck, No!!! So, out went my Moms book, along with a lot of other things!!
        And, I am trying to eliminate things so when I die it will NOT be a burden for my niece or anyone. I don’t have children, so all the more reason to pare down!!!! I still have a way to go, but there’s definitely progress!!!!!!

        • You mentioned how you used to drive past and see him sitting in his small cage looking miserable, Brenda … and how you rescued him. And you spoke about your dogs with so much love. LOL at Shadow Boxer and your terrier!

          I read Joshua’s post, thanks for mentioning it. Sometimes it’s the simplest things that help us the most and I’m glad that you found something that helps you to declutter. Keep going!

          • Nicole, you must be a very kind, attentive person! Thank you for the decluttering encouragement. I actually love doing it, but am slow. Seems I have little energy these days and so my mind is often busy with the process, but my body is sitting on the couch or in the kitchen cooking! Ha!

            • LOL, I think odd and opinionated would be a better fit, Brenda. Don’t worry about being slow or moving slowly … be afraid only of standing still – that’s what I remember of a Chinese proverb I read somewhere. I’ve had my slow decluttering moments as well, still do at times … but slow and steady does have its benefits. I do hope you come in more often to chat with your old friends.

            • Hi Brenda, when I feel like I have little energy I find that it actually makes me feel better to get up and do something worthwhile. Especially when I am getting over a cold or such illness, I find that the sooner I start acting well I start feeling a lot better. Sometimes sluggishness just begets sluggishness. Mind you I have no ongoing physical illnesses to speak of.

            • And yes, Nicole seems to have the most amazing memory and is very nice to go alone with it. Thanks for being such a big careing and sharing part of 365 Less Things Nicole.

              • Yes, thank you, Nicole! You are part of what makes 365 such a wonderful place!

                Colleen, I sent you an email to the “row” address. Did you get it? I just used “reply” on an email you sent me months ago.
                Also, is there a way to always get the comments by email for all posts or is the check mark below just for comments at the current time? I know that sounds like a really dumb question!

              • Thank you, Colleen and Brenda – that’s so sweet!

  12. I actually do remember this post but it’s definitely one worth repeating. I love the bit about the evil inlaws!

    I visited friends who shifted into a one bedroom apartment while renovations were happening and I can definitely see myself in such a living arrangement in my future. Of course, not until the pets leave home. (The human children are much more open to the idea of flying the nest than the cats).

    • Moni, I loved that part about the evil in-laws, too! And, when it comes right down to it, I don’t think I would replace ANYthing, except for the functionality of it if I had to have the item. Even things I am choosing to keep for now, I wouldn’t replace, including hubby!! :0). Well, I DO have a beloved cedar box that I would try to replace if I could find the exact match.