Having Troubles Decluttering? Swap Questions And See Results!

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Are you finding that no matter how much time you spend discarding things through decluttering it still seems like you have too much stuff? Me too! But I think I might have landed on the answer to why and fixing the problem isn’t going to be as hard as I thought. In fact, it all boils down to changing the main question I ask myself when I start my decluttering sessions.

Are you asking the right decluttering question?


I stumbled upon this solution a few weekends ago when I went up into our attic to grab items for the massive yard sale my family is planning to take part in shortly (psst….grab a free garage sale planner here).

What immediately hit me as I reached the top step to the attic was the huge mess it was even though I had just tidied it up before the Christmas season.

As I dug into tidying it up I decided to grab my iPhone and open the hoopla app and borrow a book on decluttering as inspiration to toss like mad.

I figured I would join the masses of people who have read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

Right away I knew that this Kondo lady and I do not see eye to eye on a lot of issues. Of course, she claims to have cured her  clients’ clutter issues for good and I am still struggling with mine so I decided to put differences aside and listen to her expertise in the area of becoming clutter free for good to see what I could apply.

I am not all the way finished the book yet–currently I am giggling over my socks having a need to rest from their hard hours of serving me well–however, one question she presented at the very beginning of the book has changed my perspective on clutter tossing and is having a HUGE impact.

Make Decluttering Easier With This Simple Question

Instead of asking, “What can I toss?” You need to ask, “What do I want to keep?”

I am not sure how Kondo explains the need for this as I was climbing up and down the stairs as she talked and was out of ear shot when she was explaining her answer–but I couldn’t get that question out of my mind all afternoon “what do I want to keep?”

Here is what my mind came up with as to the reason why “what do I want to keep?” works so much better than “what can I toss?”

When we declutter, most of us walk into a room and start looking for items we are willing to part with. However, when you ask the question “what can I toss?” you focus on what you are losing. After all–you are giving it away. The problem is that for many of us losing is associated with negative emotions. For instance we experience great sorrow when we lose a loved one or great fear when we lose our jobs. Plus, your mind knows that to toss something means to live without something and that stirs up the whole “what if you need it later?” question that causes many of us to grab items from the toss pile and put them right back in the keep pile.

However, when you ask the question “what do I want to keep?” your brain starts thinking about the phrase Kondo is famous for: “what sparks joy?” After all, you don’t want to keep something that doesn’t bring you joy in some way. Plus, your mind associates the question “what do I want to keep?” with you being in control, which is a much more positive experience than loss.

The shift is small but powerful. Suddenly possessions lose their power and you gain it.

I know it sounds odd, but it really works.

I dare you to try a little decluttering experiment. Choose one area of your home that is in bad need of a decluttering. First, enter the room and start asking the question “what can I toss?” Several days after you’ve finished, enter into the same room and ask the question “what do I want to keep?” My guess is that you will find yourself tossing even more the second time around even though you thought you got everything the first time because the act of decluttering became a more positive experience when you felt more in control by changing the question.

If you need support with your decluttering join the Snail Pacing Goal Achievers Facebook group where we are helping each other toss clutter one inch at a time.

 For more ways to combat clutter try reading:

Make Over Your Mornings

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