Our spaces all have a tendency to get overrun with stuff: paperwork, clothes, books. Even when we try to pare back, things keep creeping in. You’ll get gifts from friends. You’ll realize you have furniture that doesn’t quite work in your space. It all accumulates surprisingly fast.
When you’re ready to eliminate the unnecessary from your space, you might be tempted to just look for things you don’t want or need. That’s a good starting place, but you can go deeper with these five questions.
1. Why do you want to simplify?
It might sound like a silly question, but all this stuff got here somehow. Maybe you bought it or were gifted it, and since then you’ve kept it and stored it. Now, though, you’re ready for a simpler, cleaner, less cluttered life.
It’s easier to make changes when you know why you want things to change. So, what do you want your life and your space to feel like? Why do you want to simplify?
2. Does this item spark joy?
Now that you’re ready to look at individual items in your space, you need some criteria to help you sort them. Consider starting with joy.
You may have heard this question before — it comes from Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Does each item in your home or at your desk spark joy? If not, Kondo recommends thanking it for its service and letting it go. The “magic” comes in when your space brings you nothing but joy.
3. Is this one my favorite?
If you have multiples of anything — lots of tee shirts or tools, lots of color choices, an overwhelming collection of books or gadgets or dishes or decorative items — this might be the best question for you.
Is this one your favorite? If not, why not pare back until you’re surrounded by only the things you like best?
4. Can I live without this?
If you can live without it happily, it can go.
This question helps you to look at your minimalist journey from a more positive angle. When you ask, “do I need this?” you’ll find yourself answering with a lot of negatives: no, nope, not at all!
But asking “can I live without it?” results in lots of positives: yes I can! It affirms your ability to carry on, instead of dwelling in questions of scarcity and need.
If you find things you don’t love, but you can’t quite do without (paperwork, for example) find a place where you’re comfortable housing them for now.
5. Have I used this in the last six months? Will I use it in the next six?
Some things in our homes seem useful, until we think about when we last used them. If it sparks joy but you haven’t used it lately, why not? Has it been overlooked because there are too many other belongings getting in the way? Will you use it now that you’ve been reminded of it? Could you live without it?
Most things can be replaced, if you find that you need something you removed from your space. Usually, though, you gain much more than you let go of by simplifying.
With fewer belongings, you get clearer surroundings, more mental space, room to breathe, and space to think. It’s a trade-off worth considering.