Questions to ask while decluttering


Out to Pasture items are not always obvious. These are the items you no longer reach for and you have an inkling, little voice in your head saying ‘why do I have this if I never seem to reach for it?’ Out to Pasture items usually fall into 2 categories:

  1. They were a workhorse and you’ve worn them out. You no longer reach for them because they’re worn out, tired, or ruined in some way. Often these items need to go to the garbage, be made into rags, or be demoted.
  2. They were show ponies that did not work. Whatever the reason you never could overcome it to use it and enjoy it. It’s time to give them to a home that will. These items can often be donated, sold, or given to a friend.

However, whenever you go to declutter these items our brain gives us all the reasons we could use them or all the possible events we may need them for.

Today I am giving you new questions to ask when you are decluttering

How long have I had this and how long do I expect to have this? 

Think of when you bought it, seriously, figure out the month and the year you first got the item. Do the math, how long have you owned it? Now ask yourself, ‘what would be a reasonable amount of time to have this item?’ 

I have a sweater from nursing school and realized it had become a tired workhorse. When I thought about decluttering it I thought ‘I can’t get rid of that, it’s from nursing school, it’s sentimental!’ Then I realized I had had that sweater for 8 years, I had loved it for 8 years, and I had worn it for 8 years. I have gotten lots of use out of this sweater. 

Then I thought If I didn’t declutter it now when would be a reasonable time to declutter it?  Do I expect to have it for 8 more years?  I realized there is no right, perfect, or good time to declutter it, I simply get to make the choice. 8 years was long enough, I have loved this sweater. It’s OK to let it go. Realizing how long I have had an item and that there’s no reasonable time to get rid of it, helps me with the process. 

What else have I bought in this category since this item?

I find this question really helpful! Often when we hold up an item and think about getting rid of it we remember how we felt when we first bought it. That euphoric, joyful feeling comes over us and we think ‘I can’t possibly get rid of this!’ Even if you haven’t reached for it in over a year. Instead, when I ask ‘what other items have I bought in this category since?’ This helps me recognize that I have new workhorses and that maybe I don’t need these items as much as I once did. 

Back to my nursing sweater, it was my go-to sweater for a long time, the one I reached for walks, campfires, and chill nights on the couch. Now, I have a ¼ zip pullover that I adore! I wear it all the time, it’s my go-to! I have a new workhorse that I love and it has replaced the nursing sweater. If I only focused on the sweater at hand I would never realize I have something that I love even more.

Would someone else love it more? Could this be someone else’s workhorse?

These questions are gold when you are decluttering a show pony! Sure, it’s beautiful and precious and lovely, however, are you loving it and using it to its full potential? If you gave it away would someone actually use it and enjoy it? I often think about when I find a gem at the thrift store that immediately becomes a workhorse. Remember, your Out to Pasture could be someone’s workhorse!

Is it an absolute yes? If not, it’s a no

This question serves me well both when decluttering and shopping. I am filling my closet with workhorses and hell yeses! If it’s a meh, maybe, or OK, it doesn’t belong in my closet. When your brain starts to argue about all the ways it’s OK, or alright, remind yourself – if it’s not an absolute yes, it’s a noooooo.

What’s the problem?

Asking this question can solve the dilemma of why you aren’t reaching for this item. Does it pull? Do you hate the material? Is it hard to get on? Do you need to figure out how to wash it?

If you know the solution, do it!

If you can’t fix it, make a note. I have learned SO much from the items I have decluttered so that I don’t make that same mistake again.

I won’t give you a certain number of items you should have in your closet, that’s up to you. For me, I want to wear my favourite items all the time. I want to feel good in all my clothes and honour them by wearing them. To do this, I have a smaller selection so I can wear more of my favourites more often. This works for me. My goal in removing items that no longer serve me is to focus more on the items I love. I want to remove distractions and wear my workhorses.

What questions do you find helpful to ask while decluttering? What items in your closet need to be moved Out to Pasture?

90 thoughts on “Questions to ask while decluttering

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