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Growing up, my mom had an evening tradition called “15 minute pickups.” Before my siblings and I began our bedtime routine of teeth brushing, reading, and saying prayers, mom set the stove timer for 15 minutes and together we picked up and tidied. When the timer went off, we were done for the night. While I would roll my eyes at this silly tradition as a teenager, it has become a habit I have continued even in my adult years now living on my own.

As a result of our family tradition, I have become very aware of the items that take up space in my home. I find decluttering and tidying up to be both relaxing and a way to destress. As we approach the holidays and changing seasons, it might be helpful to think about what motivates us to tidy and declutter.

Tidying expert Marie Kondo famously shared the tip to ask yourself if an item you pick up brings you a spark of joy, and if not, to say farewell to that object. Here are some other questions I’ve found helpful to ask myself when decluttering, to keep up the pace and reach my tidying goals.

Have I used this item in the past year?

I find this one to be easy. Can you remember a time when you used this item you are unsure about? If it has not been worn, used, or appreciated in the last 12 months, that is a good indication that you can probably live without it.

Will I use it in the upcoming year?

What can trip you up in this question is thinking about all the ways you “might” use an item. Instead, ask yourself a more concrete question: Will you actually use it? If you are finding yourself hesitant or don’t have a real need or plan to do something with it, the answer is “no.”

If I was shopping right now, would I buy this again?

I find this one very interesting when I ask myself, because often the answer is no . . . which then makes me consider why I bought the item in the first place

Does it still work? How has the quality of the item lasted or not lasted? Does it fit me well? Do I have something else that does the same job, or does the job better?

Try to be as objective as possible while being mindful about your current needs and priorities.

Do the positives of keeping it outweigh negatives cost of storing it?

This is an interesting question to consider and think about. Is the benefit of keeping worth any potential cost? For example, if continuing to store your grandma’s priceless antiques requires you to pay a monthly storage fee, and you don’t actually use them, you may have a clear answer. Sometimes the additional cost of storing or housing an item (especially if it a hassle) can be a reason to let an item go.

Would I keep this item if I moved?

Would you still want this item if you had had to pack it up, move, and unpack it in a new space? We can be a little more ruthless and honest with ourselves about what stays and goes when we are moving from one home to another.

A Decluttering Assignment:

Sit with these rules for yourself. Are there any you might tweak or change a bit?

Try these rules out with a certain section of your home like your clothes.

Turn your hangers around to help you get a sense of what clothes you always wear and which ones don’t get worn often. As you go through your closet, turn the hangers toward you (so the hook of the hanger is facing you), to indicate which are the clothes you frequently wear. Then grab the gold ol’ give-away box and purge.

How do you declutter in your daily life? Are there certain areas that need it more than others?

What are helpful decluttering questions you ask yourself?