Helping you decide

Given that the topic of this weeks mini missions is Think Twice, I thought today would be as good a day as any to remind you of my handy Decision Making Guide. The guide below is always available to you simply by clicking the Guides tab to the right of the Blog title. There are other helpful guides as will as this one that you might find helpful with your decluttering.

Have a read through it today. Perhaps you will find just the right question to ask yourself that will help you make a choice on an item you have been procrastination about for a while. Good luck and happy decluttering.

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 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

Question: Am I saving this book to read it again or am I just putting it on display for some other personal reason?”

Mission: If a book doesn’t inspire you to reread it then perhaps you should just let it go. Declutter a few from your collection that you haven’t felt inspired to reread in a very long time.

Eco Tip for the Day

When buying bars of soap, buy ones without wrappers or multi packs that come in a simple cardboard box. Every little bit of plastic saved from landfill counts.

For a full list of my eco tips so far click 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. Thank you, Colleen. These are excellent questions, including a number I never thought of. I am definitely re-reading this, and will print it out.

  2. I find that the holidays are the perfect time to declutter and using this as a guide will help even more. I re-posted this article on my facebook wall with these thoughts: “I find that Christmas is a perfect time to declutter. As you are putting away household things so you can decorate, rather then put it into a box till later, consider getting rid of a few things. Do you use all the decorations you have? Donate some so someone else can decorate their house on a budget. Don’t re-box it for another year.” Thanks for this great list of questions.

    • Hi Angel, you are right, Christmas is a good time to declutter. At the thrift shop where I volunteer we get inundated with drop off donations and request to collect larger item from peoples homes at this time. Aside from making room for new stuff coming in many have a clean out to pretty up their home in preparation for visitors.

      • Hi Colleen, I didn’t realize thrift shops get a lot of donations before Christmas. I always figured people were too busy leading up to the holiday, and decluttered afterwards. I used to do a declutter after Christmas. Now I try to declutter as an ongoing process. I just dropped off 3 bags full of stuff yesterday. 🙂 I’m sure I will donate more after our move.

  3. Colleen, this is a good time to be reminded of this. Thanks for having made this guide for us. I’m hoping I can do some more decluttering during this season.

    • Hi Deb J, I am about to have a big declutter day on Friday. My camphor wood chest, TV cabinet and floor rug are all going to my daughter because they are either too big, aren’t needed or won’t fit into the apartment. I may need to use the guide myself once we get there and perhaps find that other things are a tight squeeze.

      Perhaps you might print the guide and leave it lying around somewhere where your mother might find it and read it. 😉

  4. Hi Colleen, This is such a great list and it is very useful to re-read it from time to time. I think I will print it out and send to my dad who is currently struggling with trying to get rid of stuff in the house. My parents bought that house about 40 years ago and their method of decluttering was to put everything in the attic and forget about it. My dad is very much of the WW2 era mentality about holding on to things in case you need them later, they might be useful etc, and in recent years he has become very sentimental about things. Now in his 80s, he feels he should deal with some of the clutter but is clearly having a hard time with it all. I’ve been trying to encourage him with the ideas that I have found on this blog but I think I probably need to go over there myself next year and try to help. I am anxious thinking about him trying to carry boxes down the attic ladder – one hip replacement a few years ago was enough.

    Seeing the way that stuff can take over your home and your mind makes me even more enthusiastic about clearing my home of it. I was inspired by last week’s post and comments about decluttering Christmas decorations and this weekend as I decorated I also filled a box with items to donate, and while I was at it I completely emptied my box of Easter decorations, all the time asking myself why I had kept all those plastic eggs and grass and cheerful chicks that were now looking very bedraggled. It is such a relief to see those things go and to reclaim some space.

    • Hi Christine, I can imagine the concern you have for your father trying to declutter his home. Especially going up and down a ladder to the attic. My dad will turn 78 this month and I sure wouldn’t want him doing that. Luckily my parents have never used attic space to store stuff and have been pretty good at letting things go during the years as they have moved house many times. Living in the same place for a long time often results in lots of clutter building up. I hope you will find the time to go and help your dad sometime. Having someone to help make rational decision is as important as helping with the physical side of the task.

      Well done with your own decluttering.

      • my parents are mid 70s and starting to have some health issues…I really hope they start decluttering before they get to their 80s or 90s and it’s too hard for them. My mom is starting to realize that none of us are going to want all her stuff when she’s gone…sigh

        • Hi Deanna, my mum started giving the stuff in her china cabinet away a while back. She said she would rather share it our now to the family member who want it rather than us having to work it later. She also got the joy of giving it. Needless to say I politely declined the offer.

  5. Thanks Colleen for the list of all those wonderful questions you (and your readers) have given us over the years. It is true that those questions can be used repeatedly as they might get a different answer the second, third etc time around.
    It’s always amazed me how many items I still find to let go but at least I’ve stemmed the incoming tide. 🙂

  6. I asked myself “do I like it” as I hung Christmas ornaments last night, over and over. Now I have a box of items that need to be off to Goodwill, and I need to find a smaller box to put my ornaments in for next year. The funny part is I already went through this box and thought I got rid of everything I didn’t like . . . a few things even broke and I cheerfully put them in the trash. It was fate telling me I don’t need this crap anymore, despite whoever gave it to me.

    • Hi Michaela, you decoration decluttering describes well my general decluttering. I’d better love it or find it useful or it’s out of here. And I like you attitude to things that break. I agree.

  7. I love this guide. A great range of questions to consider 🙂

    For some reason I love “Does it have a real purpose other than looking pretty”, because I hate useless items.

  8. I’ve always been glad that we have never ever lived where we had a real attic, because if you don’t have a place to store it, you (or mainly your husband ) will almost always have to get rid of it.

  9. Hi Colleen!
    This is such a great list, especially at the end of the year with consumerism at a fever pitch. I included it in my “Joyful Reads for the Weekend”–the link is here: Thanks as always for the inspiration to streamline and focus on what really matters.


  1. […] “Helping you decide” […]

  2. […] blogpost is actually quite an oldie: it is a declutter decision guide by 365 less things. I really like how complete the list is, and here and there it gave me some […]