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How To Decide If An Item Is Clutter

Why do I have so much stuff?

This question starts it all.  Until you ask this question, your life may be weighed down in ways you don’t realize.  Once you begin to take action, there will be progress where you decide to look at that “stuff” and make decisions on if it stays or if it goes.

Where it’s easy to get tripped up is figuring out what is clutter and what isn’t.

When you search online for inspiration in your decluttering journey, you’ll see other people’s versions of what your life could look like.  You may see images of perfection, either in almost empty rooms or perfectly labelled organizational bins on every shelf.  Does your life need to look like that if you’re committed to decluttering?

I don’t think it does.

Those photos are beautiful.  Those photos will be what *some* people’s lives look like after removing the clutter.  But they aren’t textbook and they may cause you more harm than good.  They aren’t what my life looked like after I let go of so much, and I’m perfectly okay with that.

You are the only person who can figure out what should stay and what should go in your life.  Not me, not any other bloggers or authors.  It’s a deeply personal choice and I believe it needs to come from you.

Determine what is and isn’t clutter

Clutter looks different for everyone.  If you start to clear clutter based on guilt (of having too much) or aesthetics (what you think your house should look like) there’s a good chance you will get stuck or worse, give up.

I don’t want you to give up.  You’re on this path for a reason.  You’re meant to let go of what doesn’t serve you anymore.

There’s no magic number of items to keep or let go of.  You need to keep what serves you in your life and let go of the rest.  I’ll give you some question prompts to figure out if something serves you or not at the end of this post.

You have permission to keep ANYTHING that brings you value or adds to your true happiness

Marie Kondo was onto something with her “spark joy” theory, and that’s why it struck such a chord in the world.

If you haven’t read her book “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up”, I really recommend you do.  Her system has worked for millions and although I didn’t follow it perfectly, it was a huge game changer in my journey.

In the book advises to pick up every  item you own, in a specific order based on categories around your home and feel if it sparks joy or not. 

Joy?  Keep it.  Any other feeling?  It goes.

Some people struggle with how a lifeless item like a wooden spoon could spark joy or not, which is why even in all of its popularity, her method is not for everyone.

I’ve adapted this practice to be a bit less intimidating but still very applicable. 

Only keep the items that add to your life and serve a purpose.  Don’t keep anything because you think you should, or because you spent money on it, or because you feel guilty because someone else gave it to you.

None of this matters.

You have a short time on this earth, why surround yourself with anything other that what serves you? 

With practice it becomes easier and easier to determine what lifts you up and what should stay.

Do you love to knit and do so regularly?  Keep the supplies, that isn’t clutter.

Did you try to learn how to knit and now you feel guilty about giving up or the money you spent on the supplies? Dig deep and ask yourself if you actually will pick up those needles and knit. If you hear a meek “no” for an answer, it’s clutter.

A clean, cleared and decluttered life looks different for everyone.  What’s important is that what you keep adds to your life, rather than subtracts from it.

You don’t have to get rid of everything!

Someone who loves to garden needs tools to take the best care of her beloved plants.  Where it becomes clutter is if she collects every new gadget that comes out and rarely uses them.

It becomes clutter when the woman who loves to garden hates to walk into her shed because it’s always a mess and she can’t grab a rake without knocking over three other tools in the way.

Here’s another example.

If you love to cook,  your kitchen doesn’t need to look like it’s from a photo shoot worthy Instagram account.

If you have just what you need in your kitchen, imagine when you reach for something you don’t knock something else over in the process.  Imagine cooking and when you open any cupboard or drawer and you only see what you need to make a great meal. 

This is what a clutter free kitchen looks like.

Related Post:  Clear Your Kitchen Clutter (for more health + happiness)

This journey is so specific to each and every person

To help you sharpen your “keep or toss” skills, ask yourself the following questions.

As you progress, these questions will become second nature to you.

The path to an uncluttered life that makes you feel great is paved with simple questions and habits that build over time.  This is not an overnight change but armed with these questions you can start to determine for yourself what you will keep and what you will remove.


Find out why your home is still cluttered.

Most people struggle with one of three common challenges when clearing clutter. But once you understand what’s holding you back, you can create a peaceful, calm & inspiring home you love.

Take the quiz below to uncover your #1 clutter challenge and how to overcome it!


This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Sherry

    I have a scrapbook kit…that I can’t decide what to do with. When I started, I had years in front of me to work on photo albums with memories. But then before I knew it, physical photos seem to be a thing of the past, technology has changed the way we take photos even, they are now digital. Add to that same topic area, I have camera’s that are not being used, due to the change in technology, do I keep them or part with them and to who or where? With the scrapbook things, now mostly, why am I making photo albums? Who is going to want them when I die? I have step children only, who don’t even want us in their lives. I have grandchildren and great grandchildren, I have never and will never meet. My traditions from my childhood and life will be passed on to no one, so why finish the photo albums?

    1. Jen

      Hi Sherry,

      In these tougher decisions when it comes to clutter, I always like to ask “what’s the worst thing that could happen?” Meaning, the scrapbooks and supplies aren’t bringing up good feelings for you. If you gave the supplies to someone who will happily use them and recycle the rest, how will you feel afterwards? Will you still wake up the next morning with a whole new day ahead of you? Will you still have your home and your bed? The more you take on tough decisions like these, the easier they get and the more freedom you’ll feel. xo

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