The Success Formula for Decluttering

3 Decluttering Questions To Give You Success
If you don’t ask the right questions, you will never get rid of the amount of stuff that you actually need to and see the difference in your home that you are longing for.
So many times when decluttering, the cupboard is opened the question is asked: “What do I want to get rid of?”
But this means you’re trying to focus on “what can I live without?”
That focus is completely wrong. We don’t want to live without things- that goes against our human desires. We want full, big, abundant lives! If we think we are removing things, then, of course, it’s hard to let it go. We don’t want to live without, be without or be in need.
Simply asking yourself a different question helps shift that focus.
The question is not “what do I want to get rid of?”
The right question is: “What do I love enough to keep?”
The focus then changes and instead of having fear in the back of your mind (but what if I need it??) the focus turns to what actually brings enough value to you that it deserves space in your home and your life.

The space in your home is valuable property. Whatever takes that space up, should have to earn it. Does that item deserve something so valuable to you?

3 questions to ask when decluttering:

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

The first step to take before you can really let go of the majority of the clutter, you need to come face-to-face with your fantasy self.
Many times we collect things and own things because we have a fantasy life we want to portray. An unrealistic ideal that we keep in mind of what the perfect person looks like. “To be a good mom I need to cook gourmet meals, head up the PTA, host elaborate dinner parties, sew quilts for everyone I know.”
Generally, this ideal we have for ourselves is completely unattainable:

“I milked heritage jersey cow this morning, while the dew was still on the grass and churned this butter for my family’s breakfast of flaxseed and buttermilk pancakes, with, of course, the fresh buttermilk!”

We can’t even begin to live up to that ideal, and most of the time we don’t even want to.
When you look at your real life, the one that you enjoy living… maybe it’s just curling up on the couch with a good book and take-out?
There is nothing wrong with the life you enjoy living. Don’t you think it’s time to embrace it?
Be real. Accept who you are, what your talents are, and let go of that “ideal” that you have believed you were supposed to be.
Allow yourself to be you.

Write the story of the life you want to live.

Life is something that is going on right now and when it’s over, nothing can be done to change it. If you aren’t happy with the life you are currently living, take time out to write down what it would look like if you were living the life you want to be living.
What things are important to you?
What things do you want to take priority in your day?
Life doesn’t always happen the way we envision, but it doesn’t mean you give up on the things that are important.
You can be very flexible with your time, and be open to things that tend to be part of life: family illness, overtime at work, conflict in relationships.
Take time to do what you need to do in those cases, and when your days go back to a more normal rhythm, take the next step you need to take: Take time out to pray, pick up the book to read, make plans for that trip you need to take. Do the next thing to grow where you want to grow.
What do you love this (item or activity) enough to allow it space your life?
More helpful articles:

[Photo Credit: Steve Johnson]

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About Rachel Jones

Hi there! I’m Rachel Jones, and I founded Nourishing Minimalism in 2012 at the beginning of my minimalist journey. If you're looking for encouragement in your journey, I created a FREE Facebook Group - feel free to join me there: Nourishing Minimalism Facebook Group and I share videos each week on YouTube


  1. Kathy on 03/08/2017 at 2:23 pm

    thank you! I have been in a rut about decluttering. after reading this post, i realize that i have been looking at my stuff in the “what should I get rid of” mindset rather than the “do i love it enough to keep it.” this post was helpful. onward!

  2. Katelyn on 03/13/2017 at 11:17 pm

    Your words are affirming for me. Just today i realized that with our limited space and my longing for minimal stuff that i need to evaluate each item in our home to be sure it’s “earning it’s keep” so to speak! Do i love it enough to let it take up precious, limited space in my home? I am loving how your words helped this concept to sink in even more, thank you!

    • Rachel on 03/14/2017 at 5:54 pm

      Thank you Katelyn! Glad it helps!

  3. Ruth on 03/16/2017 at 5:41 pm

    Thank you.
    Let’s also remember that what used to be helpful and useful to us may no longer be.
    A garment may be worn, not fit, or be the wrong style for our current age or lifestyle/circumstances; a craft may have been enjoyable but it just doesn’t fit with how we want to live now, or it may be contributing to inflammation or pain in our shoulders, etc. Or, it may bring up memories or feelings that drag us down. It’s OK to let those things go to a good home.

  4. dilrukshi on 03/18/2017 at 2:42 am

    Thanks. this helps a lot

  5. Phiomena Wynne on 04/14/2017 at 7:37 am

    Hello thank you for your great tips. What about if one is a craft person without a studio? Any tips on this as its my livelihood its not about love its about NEED to KEEP stuff?
    Website still being processed
    Caps lock on, sorry

  6. Shelby on 07/01/2017 at 1:02 pm

    This post reminds me of the book “Essentialism”. The book goes far beyond having stuff and getting rid of stuff but it does address living with what is essential. It definitely spins the question(s) of minimalism and makes you think about what Is actually essential and the rest can go without guilt.

    • Arthur Lader on 09/19/2021 at 12:47 pm

      Great book

  7. Michelle on 08/08/2017 at 1:01 am

    Thanks so much for this information. I thought I was alone slogging through the hip-deep clutter, stress and depression. I’ve made some headway. Last night I sat on my couch with my desk open admiring how uncluttered it is. The same with my pantry. It’s not seen by others but “i” feel better.

    • Rachel Jones on 08/10/2017 at 12:38 pm

      That’s great Michelle! <3

  8. Jo Ray on 10/12/2017 at 5:37 pm

    I’d like to translate this into Spanish for my friends. I’m a certified Eng-Spa translator. Is it okay with you?

  9. Patricia on 04/29/2018 at 9:36 pm

    This is the first time an article has really hit me between the eyes like this one did. The fantasy self has been holding me back for years. It was very freeing to read about letting that go and starting to work on who I really am. I used to have priorities that I didn’t enjoy but thought I should to be that “fantasy woman.” Great article!

  10. Victoria on 10/27/2018 at 10:16 pm

    Ms. Rachel…
    I read this & it resonates well… maybe other people can find themselves in it to? It came from Psychology Today.
    People who constantly live in cluttered chaos are prone to procrastination & an inability to commit to work or relationships. They get anxious & overwhelmed with change & usually give up before they even start. Their finances & time are wasted & they feel badly about themselves.
    This never used to be me. Since I got with a man whose a hoarder this quote now means something to me. I used to be a very o.o organized, neat, clean, everything had it’s place person. Procrastination used to miss me off & be a pet peeve. I’ve completely lost myself in this nightmare. I don’t know what to do. His way of helping me when that very, & I mean very rare occasion comes is by boxing up the clutter & stacking it a different way.
    I don’t want to come off as a completely ungrateful witch & it’s not that I’m not appreciative of the effort but why not take that time & do with it what he knows I’ve been asking for years.? Maybe someone can answer that for me. I’m opened to any answers.
    Than you. Had I known then what I know now.

    • Rachel Jones on 10/29/2018 at 6:58 pm

      Victoria, I am so sorry. That must be so difficult! You are so right, hoarding is a deep issue! The only help I can give is to seek a counselor who understands hoarding and can help you and help him. If you know any counselors in your area, ask for a recommendation, or call a local therapist/psychiatrist office and ask them for a recommendation. It would be helpful to get a counselor just for you as well, so you have someone to talk to and how to go about getting you healthy again as well. ❤️

  11. Susan on 01/18/2019 at 6:42 pm

    The fantasy self…so hard to let go! At 51 and health issues creeping in, I still have a hard time letting go and accepting a new normal at this stage of my life. I feel that all that investment in the stuff to transform me into not one, but several fantasy selves is like admitting failure. I really need to let my self off the hook, and rid my home of all the could have, maybes of me and love me for who I am NOW.

    • Fiona on 02/13/2022 at 5:34 pm

      I have just read a book called ‘Swedish Death Cleaning’. It talks about clearing your own stuff and giving pleasure to others before you die so that your children don’t have so much to do when you go.

      It puts things into perspective a bit.

  12. Martha on 06/20/2019 at 8:21 pm

    This is hilarious to me:
    “I milked heritage jersey cow this morning, while the dew was still on the grass and churned this butter for my family’s breakfast of flax seed and buttermilk pancakes, with of course, the fresh buttermilk!”
    Because that’s *exactly* why I’m here, looking to declutter my kitchen. There are so many milking-related products (jars, strainers, milking cans, stock pots for cheese making, mixer always out to make butter), that I’m freaking out. 😂 ah, ironic.

    • Rachel Jones on 06/22/2019 at 9:26 pm

      😂 That’s awesome!! Can you simplify other areas so you can create a milk-station for yourself with all the milk supplies? Homesteading definitely takes tools, but there are probably some that you could pare down, or store in a different location. Many homesteaders have embraced minimalism. Just have to figure out what your priorities are and let go of the things that don’t fit that category. ❤️

  13. Martha on 06/26/2019 at 4:37 am

    Great idea; I followed some advice here and got rid of things in the cupboard (hoarding canning jars? Guilty), to make room for some of the equipment to clear it off the countertop. Sooooooo nice to see the area clean!
    Your website is the first that really resonates with me; I’ve been trying to be more minimalist for about 5 years, and you make me feel like it can actually happen. I have 9 kids so the family oriented articles have been great!
    Thank you so much and God bless!

  14. Stephanie on 12/28/2020 at 5:09 am

    Any tips for sentimental items (that aren’t really being used)?

    • Kathryn on 12/12/2022 at 11:48 am

      I’d take photos of the items your sentimental about and keep a photo album of them.

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