Use it? Need it? Love it?

Do you have a declutter mantra? A set of criteria that you apply when deciding what to do with that broken alarm clock/Winnie the Pooh denim jacket/those too-tight jeans/three of the same baby blankets? (All personal examples. Don’t judge me. Winnie the Pooh was cool.)

I didn’t think I had one either. But it turns out that the past six months of simplifying has given me more than some empty cupboards and an acute dislike of eBay selling.

Every time I pick up an item that is in my declutter zone, I ask myself three questions:

“Do I/we use it?”

“Do I/we need it? Or will we reasonably need it within 6 months?”

“Do I/we love it passionately?”

These questions have become my declutter mantra.

And it’s because of those three questions that no-one else can tell you what your decluttering should look like. What you “should” and “shouldn’t” keep. What needs to be done with mementoes, photo albums, childhood keepsakes, your wedding dress, camping equipment, baby clothes.

You need to spend a little bit of time figuring out what you want from a simpler, clutter-free life and why you’re on this path in the first place (I’m sure glad you are though!) then set up your own criteria.

For example, we use our camping gear on average once a year. Many simplifying/minimalism gurus will tell you that if you don’t use something within 3 or 6 months – depending on how hardcore they are – then it’s history. I say it’s great to have suggestions from these guys, but you need to run your own race.

Living a simpler life is not about culling your belongings to the bare minimum, living with 100 personal items or less, dressing from 33 pieces of clothing or living out of a backpack. Not unless you want it to be.

Instead, living your simpler life is about truthfully cutting out the extras, the stuff that weighs you down but brings no value, the duplicates, the vampires. The belongings that, when you look at them, give you a heavy feeling in the pit of your stomach, as if to say, “I can’t believe how much money we wasted on that.”

When you choose to let go of those things – to really let go – you’ve mastered the trickiest part of the journey. And you may just discover your own simple living mantra along the way.


Further Reading:

Courtney Carver’s Project 333

Dave Bruno’s 100 Item Challenge


5 Responses to Use it? Need it? Love it?

  1. this is a great post. i just found you, via This Sorta Old Life. i, too, found my declutter Mantra last year, and it surprised me. It turned out to be, “Do I LOVE this? Does it make me FEEL great?” Those two questions ended up nixing so many items. And I was amazed at how many items were only nixxed by the SECOND question, as in “Yes. I LOVE these jeans. They are SO cool. But NO, they do not make me feel great, becuase they are too small.” Out they go! Or, amazingly, family heirlooms; like the one that I really loved, yet recently found out was gifted to me by an uncle who molested another relative. LOVED the item, but for the past year, every time I look at it, I feel sick. In the past, I would never had let myself get rid of it. It’s gone, baby. Donated it a few months back. Someone else can enjoy its beauty…and they’ll never had the baggage.

    • Thanks for saying hi!

      I think we totally underestimate the amount of emotional weight our possessions have. Like your examples – the jeans that are trendy/expensive/on celebrities etc but don’t fit properly, or the sentimental items with familial baggage (that’s a really awful situation and I’m glad for you it’s no longer in your life).

      It’s so helpful to have a declutter mantra, and when we really pay attention to it, the difference in what we can let go of is amazing. Just today I donated another 100+ pieces of clothing, many of which are still totally fine and fashionable, but they didn’t make me feel fantastic. And I could do without them. So they went, and will hopefully make someone else happy.

    • When shopping: First I take a breath. Then ask myself is there something I already have that will work just as well?