Guides ~ Declutter Decision Making Guide

Not everyone is aware of the resources available in way of guides here at 365 Less Things. Although they are quite helpful I don’t often refer to them. Today I would like to bring your attention to my Declutter Decision Making Guide. I hope that both those who have not seen it before and also those who could do with a refresher find in useful.

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 might need 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)

Today’s Mini Mission

Declutter a guilt item ~ Don’t feel obliged to keep something just because you shouldn’t have wasted the money on it in the first place. Try to sell it to recoup some money or just find a way to pass it on. Forgive yourself and move on.

Eco Tip for the Day

In cooler weather wear clothes more than once. The less washing the less wasted water and electricity.

Check out more eco tips here.

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow


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About Colleen Madsen

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


  1. Great list Colleen, and thanks for covering for me today.

  2. Ok – I’m really trying to not be a paper hoarder, but I printed the guide out anyway to keep as a reminder. My brain sometimes feels as if it is one spark plug short of a fully-functioning engine and then I can’t seem to get anything accomplished. Ugh.

    After completely destroying our laundry room in anticipation of the remodel, that got put on hold due to the out-of-state family stuff. Hubby had to put duct tape over the exposed dryer vent opening so the cat wouldn’t escape. We had disconnected the vent to repeatedly move the washer and dryer around to pull down the walls. Now when I run the dryer, the room feels like a greenhouse with all the humidity. Good for the skin!! Ha ha! We (us and the contractor who is now back from vacation) are ready to dig back in and I sure hope we can get this done in a reasonable time. Even though it looks bad with the stud walls, maybe completely emptying the room was a good idea because I am not inclined to put a bunch of junk in there!

    Thanks for the refresher, Colleen. 🙂

    • Michelle – I like your ‘make lemonade’ attitude about a lemon situation with putting the re-build on hold. Yes what a great opportunity that you can decide in advance what will and won’t go back into that room.

  3. My pleasure Michelle. I am guessing that when you lay eyes on your beautiful renovated laundry room you aren’t going to want to add clutter to it so things will go I am sure.

  4. Thanks for the good reminder, Colleen.

    Michelle, my friend’s husband told her “Your memory is so good you could hide your own Easter eggs.” My memory can be that bad at times too. Have fun with the laundry room.

  5. Thank you so much for this list, Colleen! You have it down to a science…I can’t imagine asking myself all of these questions and still wanting much. How about “Have I touched this item (for use) in the last 6 months? 12 months? 3 months?”

  6. Great to revisit this list Colleen.

    As for your eco tip, if I could get away with it, I’d wear the same 2 turtleneck tops (black and grey) and the same pair of jeans or black yoga pants every day from now till September 🙂 I DO wear the same pair of flat, black knee high boots every day: this is Year 7 for them, yay!!

    • Loretta – well done making your boots last 7 years. My favourites finally fell apart last year after 4 years, but they lead a hard life as I wore them every day to work thru out Winter and I work in an industrial area so probably that didn’t help.

    • Hi Loretta, sometimes I wear the same clothes three times before washing. I can be known to wear jean more times even than that. Jeans should not be washed too often anyway and last much longer when reused several times before washing.

  7. My faves are ; ‘Do I want to store it?’ And. ‘Do I want to clean it?’ Usually the answer is no and out it goes!
    I spoke to my neighbor last night, she is in the process of preparing her house for sale. I think she is being overwhelmed by the task. I am going to print off this list and give it to her.

    As the years roll by, our future needs seem to require a lot more thought . If our life is dependent on others for care, then they demand we make it easier for them. If others are dependent on us for care, do we demand they make it easier for us? What I mean by easier is, have less possessions to maintain. Have a safe and secure environment to live in. Have the means to enjoy your life not be constantly burdened by stuff or the requirements of others. I think for me, the key is being independent and preparing myself to avoid having to be dependent on others for care and most importantly , being happy. Cheers

    • Hi Wendy F, good choices. Do I want to clean probably comes top of my list. The less stuff the less dust is my motto.

      I love your plan for the future Wendy. I don’t think most people realise they are their own worst enemy when it comes to these points. The less you have and the smaller the accommodation the less there is to clean. And in the end the less burden your stuff is to those left behind.

  8. Colleen – I am printing it out! I love the one about the item being stolen, would I buy it back? How often have I thought ‘wouldn’t it be nice if one day it just disappeared’. Little precious items that the kids insist on keeping that they don’t think about 99% of the time but only when they actually clap eyes on it and actually remember the item does an emotional attachment manifest itself.

    It has come to light that the my 1-2 year plan to move house might be shortened to a 1 year plan. We’d be staying in the area but turns out everyone is keen to move on. So I’ve said that I’m not putting the house on the market until it is decluttered to my satisfaction and I’m certainly not dragging clutter to a new house. So this weekend we are going to set up a camp table in the garage and load up with everything that we’d like gone but just haven’t gotten around to doing yet or have in the too hard pile. As I get very possessive about having a clear floor on the garage I’m hoping this spurs me on to great progress. The girls have mentioned a few things in the ceiling storage, so fingers crossed!

    After ‘talking’ with Melissa yesterday about her bookcase, I have also decided to pull everything out of my hall cupboard. The cupboard isn’t actually that bad, but there are things in there which don’t qualify to remain in my life. So I will be using this list if I come across something tricky!

    • Moni, nothing like a move to spur things on.

    • Oh My Goodness Moni, Woo Hoo for you. You go girl. Get that last bit moved. I’m happy you have a space on your garage floor that you covet!!! I do hope you find the perfect patch to move to!!! YAY for you.

      I’m in the process now of getting rid of all the dance bits that are no longer needed (we have just finished our April round of comps) I can’t believe how much you tend to collect for Comp time!!! Hi ho Hi ho de-cluttering I will go !!!!

      🙂 🙂 🙂

      • Dizzy – I can understand the dance bits and pieces – yes they do seem to sprout up all over the place don’t they? A lot of dance bits and pieces mixed in with everything else in the hall cupboard. And I can’t get over how many make up cases we own! I think most of them have come from spend-so-much-dollars-and-get-a-free-make-up case offers, and not one of them would I deem the ideal case. Bejeweller. Don’t laugh Dizzy but I have two. I lost one of the little attachments once-upon-a-time and because you can’t buy replacement attachments but they’re cheap so it doesn’t really bother you to buy another tool and attachments…’re probably the only 365’er who understands. Anyway, both boxes are neatly stacked in the spacious corner and until today it never occured to me that it is ludicrous to have two.
        For some reason it seems that because the cupboard was reasonably spacious the usual rules of decluttering didn’t apply.

  9. Great list, I will have to do like Moni and print it out. It will be a helpful tool to keep handy when I am not decisive enough on something. I hope that I do not have to go through all of the questions before a decision is made :). Most things should only need the first few questions to help make a decision.

    • Jen – I’m thinking I will actually sellotape it to the inside door of the cupboard I am planning to attack or to the edge of an eye level shelf.

      • I like that idea Moni. I think I will put mine on my desk that way I can see it everyday as a reminder.

  10. Does anyone remember when they first started decluttering , how much time you put into the final destination of some items? Who you would offer such items to? Would they be appreciated and loved as much as you did? Would I be able to recoup some money?
    I have had some conversations with ‘beginners’ on the decluttering field. Knowing that I HAD a successful market stall, they ask my advice. Ok , some stuff is worth the effort of setting up a stall. Other stuff is not. Notice I said HAD, I was busy getting rid of stuff, at almost any price. My advice is just to donate it, because it is not that precious or that rare and you can get caught in collecting more stuff than you are selling.
    What advice would you put on a beginners list of what to do with their stuff?

    • I sold books as that is rather easy via the internet, I also tried to find some buyers for some other items, especially when there were many of them. I didn’t use ebay though but tried to find people privately who were interested in such things (I did find some people via internet forums I was frequenting) or went to fleamarkets (or that “fleamarket shop” around here in which you can rent a shelf and put your items there for a few weeks with a price). I mainly sold craft items, books, clothes and accessories (jewelry). I always donated stuff, too, though. And I also donated all the things that didn’t sell in a certain time frame. I mainly decided on my mood (did I want things out or was it fun to try selling them) and on what was easier – in some specific cases I’d still sell: it’s more likely to find someone who will actually use that item, when it’s a specific item. Like, when I sold surplus reeds for the clarinet. There are lots of different kinds and I doubt the thrift shop would be able to sell them. It’s more likely to find someone who uses it when you put a note in a music school or so. Same with certain old and rare books in not too good condition. I’d imagine people who don’t know them might toss them or use them for crafts, while buyers via the internet search for that specific book and are happy to get it. Also, you can’t donate some items to my thrift store (e.g. electrical appliances), so I’d still try to find takers via craig’s list or similar.
      Also, I always passed on things directly to friends as well. For me that was mainly kitchen items (to young people in their first apartment or in shared living) as well as – again – some books to people who shared the same interest.
      We also made and still make an effort not to cling onto things too hard. If someone we like visits us and falls in love with a certain item, we might just pass it on.
      Despite all these sales and presents, the most stuff went to the thrift store sooner or later.
      The sales did bring in some cash, but I only did them in a way that wasn’t much hassle for me and always was happy to donate as well, because I care for that good cause this thrift store is supporting and even if they’d make 50€ or even 100€ out of some thing I’m donating (most things just sell for about 3€ of course), I’d be just glad to know that and wouldn’t feel as if I was deprived of that money.
      After all, the stuff wasn’t needed here anyway.

      For me, one of the most important parts was the recycling aspect – to pass it onto someone who needs it more than I do, and depending on the item I opted for giving (if I knew someone with a need), donating (if it was a good thrift store item), selling (if it was a rather specific item) and the “free” box next to the street (if it was in too bad condition for the thrift store) – in that order (though in the beginning I also sold big “bunch” packages, like a box of clothes or a box of craft items, I don’t bother with selling single items nowadays though unless they don’t make sense to donate).

      • I agree with you Sanna, recycling items is important. If someone can use that item, I am so glad for them to take it.

    • @WendyF – I fear that it’s not just beginners Wendy but even those of us who have been at it a while! I am 1 year + in and I still fear that I am spending far too much time on trying to sell things or running back and forth to the charity shop (I guess that’s the UK equivalent to goodwill?). It bothers me also how long I can take to make a decision and get something out of the door when I could have spent that time doing something I’d enjoy. I think I am secretly a hoarder in ways, certainly that’s the way the room would have looked to anyone a year ago – knee deep in items I didn’t think I could EVER part with. Fast forward one year and the room looks amazing in comparison, but it frustrates me how slow I am to make decisions and get things shifted.

      Perhaps some of us are always going to struggle at this more than others, I am getting better at sifting through them though – I always try to keep in mind that image of our room with only necessities and my absolute favourites in, rather than just things I’ve vaguely interested in. There is one bonus to this though – when you are out shopping its an excellent reason not to buy something because I know it will probably be an impulse buy and therefore result in me trying to make a decision to sell/donate/gift it on eventually and honestly, I really don’t want any more stuff to have to make a decision on. (Sometimes I feel like never buying anything ever again to avoid this!)

      • I agree with your last part Jane W, the less we bring into our homes , the less we have to think about! . Makes for simple living 🙂

  11. I have one more question to add to your excellent list, Colleen, and it is this: “Do I want to keep this item so that my children have to declutter it after I’m gone?”

    I’m dreading the day we have to clear out my parents’ farm–farmhouse, barn, storage sheds, etc. That is going to take many months to do.

    • Becky – Amen to that one! One of my daughters is going to give me a hand on the weekend. She had a school friend who disappeared from school for a month and was uncontactable. This wasn’t that unusual for him and the school assured that they knew his whereabouts and situation and weren’t concerned, so she didn’t pursue it further. Turns out his estranged father who lived at the other end of the country had died and this 16 year old was his only living relative. So it fell to him and his mum (the ex-wife) to empty the house which was rather full. What a burden on a kid. After hearing that story my daughter (this was a year or two ago), has understood the burden that clutter and stuff can pass onto children – both young and adult aged.

  12. This is such a good list, Colleen. I’m am so happy that I found your blog by googling decluttering blog.
    I am starting from the beginning of your posts. I love the one thing a day approach and challenge. I declutter as a part of housekeeping, but I still would like to declutter more. It seems only the harder decisions are left, so your strategy is really helpful and motivating! I just wanted to say thank you so much.

    • Hi Rebekah, thank you and welcome to 365 Less Things. I am glad you are finding the blog inspiring. Housecleaning day is always a good time to be on the lookout for something that is no longer usefully or meaningful. It is my housecleaning day tomorrow. First one since my daughter moved out. I am so looking forward to really seeing how little is left in the house.