Many people search for decluttering questions to help themselves narrow down what they should keep and get rid of.
I’ve found that most decluttering questions aim to establish a black and white answer to help you decide to get rid of things- in spite of your emotions and sentimentality you may feel that makes you want to keep things you don’t need.
But my decluttering question is a little bit different. It won’t give you a ‘by the book answer’ that someone else could answer for you.
My decluttering question forces you to confront your emotions head-on about any unessential or unused item. And it forces you to weigh those emotions against the benefits of getting rid of it.
So here it is…
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And that declutter question is: “Is it worth my sanity keeping this?“
What I mean by this question- “Is it worth my sanity keeping this?” is, does the item in question help your sanity or drain it?
You may notice I didn’t ask preliminary questions, such as, “Do I need this item? Do I use this item?” and so on.
I won’t make you ask yourself those questions. Because I have confidence in your ability to already understand whether an item is necessary, if it has a definite current use, or that it’s reasonable to conclude you will need it in the future.
I don’t think you will ever find yourself staring at your birth certificate wondering if you should keep it. You know what things are necessary and not clutter.
So since we are only using a decluttering question on ‘clutter’ or things we aren’t sure if we should classify as clutter, and not things we definitely need to keep, there aren’t really a lot of questions to ask.
Now, there may be times you come across something belonging to a spouse, relative, or someone else you live with. (Or someone whose stuff you happen to have in your possession.) And yes, you may need to ask them questions to determine if something is important, if they want to keep it, etc.
And no, I’m not suggesting you decide you’ll be more sane decluttering all of your family member’s stuff you consider clutter. (Even if you feel like you would be more sane tossing out everyone else’s “junk,” I don’t recommend doing that. We want to, of course, show respect to others by allowing them to make decisions about their own belongings/personal space.)
The decluttering question, “Is it worth my sanity keeping this?” is something to ask yourself about your own belongings that are in question as for whether you should get rid of them.
Here’s an example of when I asked myself this question. I used to have a problem with keeping too much paper clutter– specifically old bills.
The truth is I used to find myself picking up the same old bills- that were on the floor- and piling them back up on the top of a surface. There was an already too big pile of papers- which was the whole reason they kept falling on the floor to begin with.
Seeing as I was continually picking up the same thing over and over, to place it back in a spot where it looked messy, while meanwhile, not ever actually using it or having a definite reasonable future use for it, I found it simply was not worth my sanity keeping old bills.
Now, I am by nature a person who can think of any possible potential problem.
The worrier in me used to tell myself, ‘You know, you might need this 1-year-old electric bill one day.’
But then I realized I needed to stop myself and think realistically. Because the fact is, if there was a problem with our electric bill a year ago, the odds are we’d probably never catch it that late.
Even if we did happen to find out there was an issue with what we were charged or something like that, it’s unlikely I’d even look for the paper bill from a year ago. If anything, my husband would look up the bill online.
And since I used to have so many other old bills and papers that I didn’t need, the amount of papers I’d have to look through to even find it would be ridiculous. And let’s be real- I probably wouldn’t find it.
Then I thought worst–case scenario. The worst thing that could ever really happen with not keeping a bill that old, is that there was an error we didn’t see and we got overcharged. And someday we’d somehow realize this at a time that the company’s electronic records would simultaneously be down, so we wouldn’t be able to prove it. That’s not exactly super likely, and even if it did happen, it’s not the end of the world.
But at the end of the day, I would rather have been overcharged $20 a year ago and not be able to prove it, than be overcharged $20 a year ago, with the surfaces in my home covered with thousands of old papers, with no guarantee I’d be able to find the one I need.
So there came a moment when I thought about what actually happens, versus what could happen. And right then, in real-time, these old bills were of no use to me on the floor.
The fact was, this was making more work for me, messing up my house, and leaving me feeling frustrated.
So I decided that NO, it is NOT worth my sanity to keep most of our old bills.
Now I get rid of any bills 3 months or older (once we have the more recent ones.) This gives us a chance to look at the last couple of paper bills and catch any potential errors in the time-frame we’d be most likely to catch any issues and act on them.
And, of course, I do keep things we need for tax/business purposes for as long as we would need them. But papers that don’t have a definite future use or reasonable reason for keeping, I get rid of.
I’d rather keep a couple hundred actually important papers that I need or am likely to need, that I can manage, organize, and be able to find, than thousands of papers I’ll probably never need.
It’s not worth my sanity keeping thousands of papers that’ll get in the way of my finding ones I actually need. In other words, if I’m trying to find my birth certificate, I’m not going to be glad I have to sift through dozens of old bills trying to find it.
I do have my papers more organized now. So no, I don’t currently have old bills in the same file folder as my birth certificate.
But back when I had serious clutter problems, I’d often find myself flipping through dozens of unimportant papers when I was looking for something I legitimately needed. In that moment, I was not glad I kept all those unnecessary papers. And THAT was an indication that they were indeed clutter, and it wasn’t worth my sanity keeping them.
For more help with organizing & decluttering papers, download our free Paper Organization Roadmap.
Something that can be a challenge when trying to declutter, is sorting through memorabilia. It can be hard to let go of things that hold a lot of sentiment.
I am someone who loves to scrapbook, and keep souvenirs of different places and events I’ve been to. So just know, I’m not talking about this in a calloused way as someone who doesn’t care about sentimental value.
And I admit, I have kept a large variety of things from different memories. I’ve kept my wedding dress, invitations, cards from friends & family, obituaries, pictures, drawings, art, and projects from all 4 of our kids.
But at the same time, I’ve learned that I have to be balanced when it comes to what I keep and how much I keep of memorabilia.
I don’t keep every drawing from every child, every school paper, or every cute, tiny outfit from when they were little.
Instead, I keep the most significant or adorable versions of each type of memorabilia.
I’ve realized that there comes a point when if you have too much stuff, you may essentially be choosing between keeping old memories or making new ones.
For example, there used to be times where I’d put off having friends over because my house was out of control.
Of course, not all the things that were cluttering my home were memorabilia. But some of it was. I was holding onto too much stuff that I was afraid to let go of.
And also, the things that were the most meaningful were hidden behind the clutter of random school papers or old bills that had no sentimental value.
So now I’ve made the choice of choosing less that means more. It means there’s more value in the items I do keep, and more NEW memories we can make. Because the house is in much better shape to accommodate guests and activities with the kids.
So when I look at any type of memorabilia, I again ask myself: “Is it worth my sanity keeping this?”
In this case, I’m asking if it’s adding peaceful memories that contribute to my sanity, or is it getting in the way of more memories to come?
Is it disrupting my sanity by taking up space I need or want for something more important?
Asking yourself, “Is it worth my sanity keeping this?” can be a great decluttering question for when you want to declutter clothing.
Have you ever had your closet stuffed so full that clothes are falling on the floor? I know I have. And something I’ve noticed, is that I’m picking up the same items and hanging them up again and again. But I’m not taking them off of the hanger and wearing them.
In the end, if I’m wasting time picking up something that I’m not wearing or using- even if I like it, or it’s cute- it’s not worth my sanity keeping it.
I’d rather have less in my closet that I wear, fit, and use, that isn’t making a mess. And if I have things I really like that I want to keep but can’t wear right now because I’ve either lost or gained weight- I will pack them away and get them out of my closet. I classify my closet as a frequently used area of my home & bedroom. So therefore, I feel the main racks in my closet should contain only items I am currently using.
I am someone that has issues with my weight fluctuating up and down- (unfortunately, lately has been up.) So I don’t necessarily get rid of things that don’t fit today- because I know I will use them again. But I also don’t believe in taking up valuable real estate in my closet with something I can’t use now.
When it comes to clothes I don’t wear, (that currently fit,) I’ll get rid of these. Because it’s not worth my sanity keeping them. And I can pass them along to a second-hand store where someone else can get some use out of them.
So today we discussed how asking yourself, “Is it worth my sanity keeping this?” can be a ‘gamechanger’ decluttering question.
Any time you’re debating keeping something you don’t absolutely need or already use, this is something you should consider. Once you realize you’re missing out, not when you get rid of clutter, but when you keep too much clutter, you’ll be able to let go of the hesitation that comes with saying goodbye to stuff in your house that you don’t need or use.
Before you go, I just want to share one quick tip. This tip has helped me to really get over my fear of getting rid of unnecessary clutter.
It wasn’t until I started a daily cleaning routine, that I decluttered most of my surfaces for good. This is because it was on my daily checklist to clear clutter off and wipe down any surfaces as needed.
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