“…the answer is invariably in the question.”

“…the answer is invariably in the question.”  This is part of a quote from a wise man. That man is Billy Connolly and the quote is from the same book I mentioned yesterday. So, how does this relate to decluttering? Well I am about to give my thoughts on that.

In the Guides section of my blog you will find my Declutter Decision Making Guide. It is packed with questions to ask of yourself when deciding whether you should declutter an item. However this quote from Billy Connolly got me thinking ~ (Wise words from worldly people often have me applying their wisdom to the subject of decluttering). My thought was this, that the answer is indeed in the question, that is, if you are even bothering to ask the question you already have the answer.

Let me give you an example. Lets say that my utensils drawer is over full and I decide some things have to go. Do I take out my spatula and ask “Do I use this often enough to justify keeping it?”. No I don’t, I know without question that I use it all the time and have no intension to declutter it. However as I scan the drawer I can see several items that do raise this very question. Inevitably the answer is in asking the question in the first place and the answer is no.

The same result can be found found when asking…

  • Do I love this enough to spend time dusting it every week?
  • Is the sentimental attachment to this item strong enough…?
  • Have I used this in the last three months?
  • Am I ever likely to make something from this fabric?

… and the list could go on. If you are asking the question then the answer, at best, is borderline, but in a quest for simplicity, space and downsizing the answer is usually no.

A good circumstance to apply this theory is when you have too much/many of something. Say you want to downsize a collection, reduce hobby supplies, limit the space your books are to fit into…

First set aside all the items there is absolutely no question of you decluttering. Then separate the remainder into two piles. Pile one for the maybes that you feel the need to ask the question of. And one for the can-goes for the items there really isn’t any need of asking the question. Then you can make your choices of the remaining selection depending on what space you have left to fit them into.

So next time you find yourself asking the question, do I need, treasure, care to maintain or love this thing, and the answer is probably at least “not really”. Then allow your space goal to assist you to the final answer to keep it or let it go.

Today’s Mini Mission

Declutter five small long time unused items in your mending kit.

Eco Tip for the Day

Schedule at least an hour of family time each night. That way you will all be in the one room using one light source instead of scattered all of the house using electricity like it’s going out of fashion.

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

Please follow and like us:
Pin Share

Continue reading with these posts:

  • Mini Mission ~ Friday 22Dec2017 Declutter a couple of old shabby shoes that you no long choose to use.
  • Dithering? ~ By Peggy W I have dithered many times in my decluttering journey, unable to make a decision about my stuff.  Two of the “ditherees” left my house this morning because I needed soft fillers to […]
  • Disposing of this weeks mission yields In a post a couple of weeks ago that asked a range of question about your clutter issues and my blog. One of the readers asked for more information on how to get rid of the clutter that […]
About Colleen Madsen

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


  1. Good post Colleen. I have found that the questions have to be asked of Mom but I no longer need them. I already know what I need and what I don’t. It’s getting Mom to go along that’s the issue. But I have found that I have a new question for her. It is, “We/you haven’t used this in ages so why are we hanging onto it?” I think Mom’s thought is that we have room to store it out of sight so what’s the problem?

    In thinking about your eco tip I realized that this family in one room idea was how I was raised. I never thought about it until now. We were never allowed to hibernate in our rooms. Part of that was because we only had one TV and one stereo. My brother and I were in our late teens before we were given our own stereos. But while we sometimes used them during the day at night we were all in the family room together.

    • Hi Deb, we also only had one TV and usually ended up in the family room together at night. I remember this because I usually sat on the floor and leaned agains the china cabinet. We had 2 arm chairs and 1 three seat sofa between seven of us so someone had to take the floor.

      • There were just 4 of us Colleen so that was good. As soon as my brother could drive he got a job in the evenings and was off to college and out of the house at 18. We didn’t see much of him. I can read no matter what’s going on so I read, Mom made crafts or sewed and Dad watched TV.

  2. Nothing decluttered from my mending kit but I have done a decluttering job I have been putting off for ages – our main bathroom which is mainly my stuff. I was very ruthless, clearing out things I had put back on several previous occasions. Lots of old bottles of sunscreen, old lipsticks, a few outdated pills ( not too many of these as I am pretty hot about keeping medicines carefully), various toothbrushes from long haul air flights, etc. Easily over 50 items although I didn’t count them. Amazingly although the sunscreens were quite bulky items, the cupboard, shelves and drawers don’t look much emptier. Tidy but still pretty full! But I am SO pleased with myself! The whole job, including cleaning everything thoroughly, outsides of cupboards and drawers as well as inside took about one and a half hours. Why did I put it off for so long? Crazy!

    • Excellent job, Linda! It does feel great, doesn’t it? You gave me an idea – I need to check our sunscreen supply, too!

    • “Why did I put it off for so long?” That is a question I have asked myself in the past as well, Linda. Usually when it came to fixing or altering something and then wonder why I put up with it not being right for so long. Well done on the bathroom cabinet job.

  3. This morning I put a ring that I had repaired in my jewelry box and my eyes landed on two junky rings that need to go to the donate pile. Then there is the bracelet that an old friend (and family member) made and gave to me that I’m not really attached to, which made me think of a piece of wall décor that this same person gave me that I also am not fond of. Why is this stuff still residing in my house? Well the jewelry box is kind of “out of sight, out of mind”. The picture is up in the attic.

    I was super happy with my progress last weekend, but I feel a good purge coming on! 🙂

    • Hi Michelle, some good decluttering there. And I love the sound of purging about to begin. Get into it Girl! 😉

      • Thanks Colleen! Before leaving for work this a.m., I set the timer for 10 minutes and went through my jewelry box. 2 rings, 1 pair of earrings, one broken cheap necklace, and the unloved bracelet. Checked the timer and I had 6 minutes left so I went through the closet. 1 blouse, 1 cardigan, 1 tee-shirt, 1 scarf, 1 pair of worn-out shoes.

        Sometime soon, I will go through the “good” jewelry and see what I can sell to the Cash for Gold store. None of these items are super valuable and I don’t wear them anymore.

        I’m kinda excited about this progress. 🙂

  4. Great question, Colleen. This is very helpful. It gave me that “aha!” feeling … if I’m asking the question, the decision has probably already been made in the back of my mind. I just need to shrug off the what if’s and I should’s and get rid of the thing. Thanks for this.

  5. It’s shades of “does this outfit make me look fat?” – if you’re asking, you already know the answer.

  6. Hey do you all realise there is only 5/6 days left in Sanna’s challenge?

    And a point of clarification, do the items actually need to be out of the house to their designated new homes? Or is the ‘out’ box ok? I have a heap of kids DVDs to go to my SIL but am not sure if I will be in her part of the city before then.

  7. Brilliant post Colleen, ta. Such a good point. I totally ask myself these questions and then deliberate for months until eventually the stuff usually goes out the door. I could save myself a load of anguish, procrastination and wasted energy if I could just accept that by asking the question, I have permission to get on with it, lol. Ps I love Billy Connolly.

    • Hi Fruitcake, you have made a few good points to yourself there. Now all you have to do is put them into practice. That is what Billy Connolly was talking about in this quote. The story he was relating was when he went to see a psychiatrist and was expecting lots of answers but she only asked questions. He was somewhat disappointed until after a while he realised that the answers were in the questions. I can attest to this having visited counsellors myself.

  8. Moni, I count it as soon as it goes in the bag destined for the thrift shop. Of course you would have to subtract it if you took it back out, but that is not likely to happen. I was wondering how long the challenge lasted. I don’t think I will stop on the 23rd since I keep finding stuff, and am kind of in the mood right now. Of course we have enough new paperwork and old files that need going through again to keep me busy, too. Dropped more videos and other stuff off at the thrift store today, and still have more videos/DVDs to go through. Come to think of it, I’ve been asking would you ever want to watch that again, so I guess I do know the answer, and the ones with yes are already sorted out.

    • Nana – thanks for that. It feels like one of those competitions where you’re given a shopping trolley and a short period of time to grab whatever you can and get across the finish line. Except its in reverse. Whatever you can drag across the finish line you don’t have to keep!

      Naturally I’d love to actually have the stuff out of the house by 23rd but if there’s pick ups, drop offs and auctions involved it might not happen.

    • Hi Nana, yours is another good example of the truth in the blog post. Keep only the ones you really love because you aren’t likely to watch the others.

  9. What a great point of view Colleen! I’m loving the tips you are still coming up with, even after decluttering and blogging about it for so long. I’m glad you’ve stuck it out and continue to be an inspiration to those of us just beginning our journey. I still can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, there’s too much crap, er clutter, in the way 🙂 But I’m getting there bit by bit!

  10. Lovely post Colleen

    A question I ask myself often is “Would I buy this if I didn’t have it now?” The answer is always NO!

    My count is now 1260 items or bags of items, but there always seems to be more! I did a big clear out of my quilting/yarn/craft cupboard the other day and I have a completely empty big plastic bin and much more space, feels good!

    There are many things I would like to see go, but DH is for keeping them “We have the space, we may need them” However, I continue strictly with my personal things and kitchen stuff under my control and I’m happy enough.

    • Janetta – my husband sometimes offers the same advice “we have the space” – I think it’s actually his way of saying “you don’t have to decide right now or get all stressed about it”.

      • Moni – “We have the space” – yes because I’ve been working on decluttering for so long, that’s why we’ve got the space! He doesn’t get that I would LOVE a practically empty garage and get a real thrill from empty shelves etc!

        His point is “we may need it again some day”… every so often I ask about something so maybe the ideas sink in. I must say he’s not anything as bad as he could be. I even heard him telling someone the other day that we are minimalists!

        When I compare what we have (and how much I know could go) and other “normal” people, I can hardly imagine living like them! I must be weird!

    • That is a huge effort Janetta, well done you. You must really be able to see the difference in your home. I think men are more inclined to have stuff that they might need someday because they are often the caretakers of the tools and hardware in the home. These things are used all the time but come in handy to have around when they are needed. I don’t mind have a good selection of tools and little hardware bits and pieces but there is still a limit.

      I love that your husband then included himself in the minimalist title even though I bet it is mostly stuff in your control that has been minimised. But then again quite often the stuff cluttering up the inside of the home is often mostly accumulated by the main care giver in the home which is often the women.