The Questions to Ask When You’re Decluttering

The Questions to Ask When You're Decluttering
After you have an action plan of how to declutter one room at a time, you need to think through these 3 questions:

  1. Do I love it?
  2. Do I need it?
  3. Does it help me live the life I want to live?

That last question is very important, so many times we keep things because they portray a life we desire to project. Not necessarily the life we are living, but the life we think we are supposed to live.

“Does it help me live the life I want to live?”

Not the life your mother wants you to live, not the life society says you should live, not the “ideal” life your peers say you should live… but the life you actually live and want to live.
This might mean getting rid of law books, because even though you went through a year of law school, you never want to pursue it further and those books make you feel like you failed.
This might mean getting rid of the kitchen-aid mixer, because although you love homemade bread and worked to save money to buy it, you found that you don’t really enjoy making the bread… you just enjoy eating it. 
This might mean getting rid of the broken furniture that you were saving to repurpose, because that is what responsible crafty people do, but in reality, you would rather spend time in the garden.
Think about some items that you kept because you felt you should, and ask yourself: “Is this helping me live the life I want to live?”

The correct decluttering method:

Pull out 3 boxes:

  1. A giveaway box
  2. A trash
  3. A “to put away” box for things that you need to keep, but they don’t belong in the room you are working on.

Then work on one shelf, cupboard or category per day. You probably can do more, depending on how much time you have and how determined you are to get this done, but to start out, just make your goal to do one small area a day. This way it’s easy to complete and the more you feel like you accomplished your goal, the more motivating it is to keep going.

As you work on each space, pull everything out and look at what is in front of you.

Ask yourself the 3 questions:

  • Do I love it?
  • Do I need it?
  • Does it help me live the life I want to live?

If anything answers “yes” to any of your 3 questions, put it back into the cupboard.
If the answer is “no” put it in the trash or donate box.
For example, cooking utensils:
Pull all of your utensils out and lay them out on a table or counter, where you can see them. Make sure you get them from other drawers in the kitchen, or near the stove, sink, etc. You want to be able to see all that you have.
As you look at them, you already know which spatulas you like using, which flipper you like, which can opener, etc. Pull out all the ones you know you prefer using. Put them back into your utensil drawer. Ask yourself the 3 questions with what is left. If they don’t make the cut, then put them right into the donation or trash box.
What should be left: duplicates you don’t use often and odd job type gadgets- probably uni-purpose gadgets like a pineapple corer that can only be used for one thing.

Side note: I purposely have multi-purpose equipment in my kitchen, but if you live in Hawaii and get fresh pineapple once a week or more and use that pineapple corer, then by all means, put that in your keep/use pile. But if you can’t remember the last time you bought fresh pineapple or you’ve never actually used the pineapple corer, then donate it.

After you’ve sorted, you can organize the drawer as you see fit.
For us, I have a small basket in our drawer that keeps the garlic press, can opener, ice cream scoop and veggie peeler together and the large spoons, soup ladle and flipper goes on the side of the basket. Then I have a very shallow drawer that hold my spatulas and wooden spoons.

Organize in a way that compliments your cooking style.

If you always mix dough on one counter, store your dough./baking utensil within reach of that counter. If you use a griddle more often than the stovetop, than find a drawer near that area.

You don’t have to go out and buy organizational things. Simply look around the house for a divider or shoe boxes that will fit your needs.

If you don’t have any, wait till you are done decluttering the entire room and the reward yourself with organization tools that fit the needs or your newly minimal kitchen.

Determine ahead of time how many “just in case” items you will keep.

We talked about the just in case items here and how you should think through deciding if it’s worth keeping or not. Regardless, some will have major difficulty getting rid of certain things.
If you feel that you will be too torn up and not able to get rid of all the “just in case” items, decide ahead of time how many you will allow yourself to keep. Perhaps having a box labeled “just in case” and as you short through your kitchen and your can’t make a firm decision to get rid of the item, but you know you don’t need it, then put them in that box. Once the box is full, don’t let yourself add any more to it.
You can store this box for a time, I personally used the garage and after 6 months, I knew I didn’t want any of that extra stuff to ever come back in and clutter up my kitchen.
Approaching it this way can make the decluttering process not feel quite so rigid.
Remember, this is your home, your life, you are the only one that knows you personal struggles, so you do what ever you need to do to make the process easier.
Keep in mind that the more you touch an item, the more difficult it is to get rid of it. So once you put things into the “just in case” box, avoid rummaging through it: you’ve decided that it’s not detrimental to your home, so let it just rest in the box for now.
After a few months, if you decide you really don’t want to bring any of that excess back into your home, avoid looking in the box or rummaging though it, instead, just take it right out to your car and donate it ASAP.

You have the strength to do this, you have the ability to make decisions. You know how your home is used and you know what tools your family uses most.

You know what favorite mixing bowl, which pans are the best size and cook evenly, you can sort through your kitchen and easily pick out all the things that are the most used and enjoyed items and you can get rid of the rest- nothing bad will happen.
In fact, once you do let go of the excess, you will find that your kitchen is easy to use, it’s easy to clean and the idea of making dinner will be appealing, because you know exactly what you have and where everything is.

Simplifying your kitchen makes using it much more pleasant.


About Rachel Jones

Hi there! I’m Rachel Jones, and I founded Nourishing Minimalism in 2012 at the beginning of my minimalist journey after I'd been doing a yearly decluttering challenge for 4 years and started to see a change in my home. If you're looking for encouragement in your journey, please join our FREE Facebook Group: Nourishing Minimalism Facebook Group


  1. Carla Loomis on 09/27/2017 at 6:53 pm

    I really need, and want, to simplify my life and home; to enjoy it more but also make it easier to maintain, which brings me to a challenge I haven’t seen addressed. I have physical limitations that prevent me from doing many of the things I used to be able to (without pain). Do you have any ideas/suggestions on overcoming this challenge while still accomplishing simplification?

    • Christy B. on 07/13/2021 at 12:54 am

      I’m not the blogger, but I thought I could be helpful in answering this question. Everything has to be smaller: smaller expectations of yourself, smaller time increments, etc. What I do is either set a timer… or put on my favorite TV program and I get up during the commercials only to do things. Set a small goal of ridding yourself of 1-3 items per day. If you are donating, set a donation box in the back of your car, and carry out only 1-3 items per day until it’s full and you can take it to the charitable organization.
      Small, manageable bits of time or small daily goals…. end up making everything a whole lot clearer and manageable.
      Perfectionism is your enemy. To want to do everything in one day is perfectionism and it will kill you.
      You can declutter by different methods:
      -by category of item (clothing, dishes, books)
      -by room or area (closet.. or one shelf of the closet)
      – by time: set a timer for x amount of time
      Most of all, forgive yourself! Your body is the only one you have… take care of it, first and foremost!

  2. Kathy on 10/18/2017 at 8:52 am

    I LOVE your question, “Does it help me live the life I want to live?” That is the question I’ve been needing and missing. Thanks so much!

    • Rachel Jones on 10/18/2017 at 3:51 pm

      I’m so glad it helped Kathy!

    • Kelly on 09/02/2023 at 2:40 am

      Agreed! The missing piece of the puzzle “Does it help me live the life I want to live?”… Game changer!!

  3. Dana Adams on 10/18/2017 at 9:58 am

    Great quote: ” if you don’t love it let it rest in the box” Sigh. Rest is really what we’re going for here isn’t it?!?❤️

  4. Littleblackdomicile on 10/20/2017 at 1:59 am

    We always encourage clients to edit and purge before a kitchen renovation. Why plan storage for things we will finally part with after a we admit we don’t want to care for excess in our new spaces.

  5. Phyllus Harris on 04/28/2018 at 9:00 am

    I can’t tell you how much your article will help me. Now I can begin my journey to Declutter my home using all your helpful hints. Thank you so much..

  6. Kim on 05/21/2018 at 2:56 pm

    This is what I needed. Thank you. I felt like you were talking to me. Through all the anxiety and depression, and all my “to-do” lists I attempt, the declutter process DOES get overwhelming and as a result, my clutter grows! I’m so glad I came across your article to make me see things in a different perspective. Now I’m motivated to start! Thanks so much!

    • Rachel Jones on 05/22/2018 at 5:03 pm


  7. Margaret on 05/30/2018 at 3:03 am

    I wish I had seen this last month. I’ve been in a funk for over a month. This week I have not showed. There is not a clean table in my home the kitchen lsland is full. I go to bed at 8 so I don’t have to look at it. Anyway going to doc tomorrow. Thanks for pep talk and rules to fellow

    • TRENA on 03/25/2019 at 12:46 am

      Hi, Margaret. I’ve just read this and noticed you posted in May. I’m just checking in to see how things are going. I hope you’re feeling better.

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