If you use questions like “what if” to excuse keeping your excess belongings, here’s your toolbox for letting go with confidence. I’ve spun my wheels with finding what I thought were legitimate reasons to keep the excess. But I spent good money on it. What if I need it in the future? It was a gift. It still works. It brings back good memories.
The list goes on. Oh, how I’m familiar with the rabbit trail of emotional and psychological attachment to things that get in my way of my real dream of living simply! I’ve heard them from others, too, so I know I’m not alone. Over the last several years I stumbled into some questions that really help me let go of even the most difficult belongings. (Goodbye wedding dress and favorite books.)
And, you know what? I don’t regret a single thing I’ve gotten rid of. In fact, I regret holding on too much and too long. I still have some simplifying to do and when I look at what’s left my thought is always, Trina, you could have gotten rid of this years ago and reached your goal by now. Get to it!
Let’s start asking better questions while we sort our belongings, and get to those goals of living simply in better homes and better lives!
Here are those questions that help me let go of more without regret while being sure of what I keep.
1. Do you love it?
Or, in Mari Kondo’s words, Does it spark joy? The point of this question is right from the get-go to evaluate without guilt or too much reasoning if deep down you really want to keep that item. All of the guilt and memories and obligation set aside, Do you love it? This question can work whether the item you’re considering is useful or decorative or a keepsake. It doesn’t matter how much you spent on it or who it came from, if seeing it feels more like a burden and less like a smile-inducer, it might be time to seriously consider letting go.
2. Do you need it?
Other forms of this question are: Has it served its purpose? Is it currently used? If not, when was the last time it was used? Need beyond basic food, shelter, and clothes is relatively subjective. Your definition of need greatly influences your end goal for simplifying. A true minimalist will stick closer to the essentials for food, shelter, and clothing a la Bea Johnson or Francine Jay. Some of us also leave room for the “need” of a little comfort and convenience a la Myquillyn Smith. If the item is not currently needed or in use, was it at least used in the last month? And if it’s a seasonal item, was it used during the relevant season?
3. Why are you keeping it?
Finally, if you answer “no” to the previous two questions, it’s good to end with considering this final question. You might have a legitimate reason beyond love and need for keeping an item. That’s up for you to decide. In considering your answer, especially look for any emotional attachment or underlying obligations that do not currently add value to your home or life. Everything in our homes either helps or hinders the life we want to live, so be sure you’re not making excuses for holding on to excess that is actually hindering your life.
Bonus: Is it worth keeping at the risk of messing up your simple?
Finally, keep in mind what letting go opens room for in your home and in your life. Getting rid of each item gets you one step closer to finally finding simple. While each item you hold onto is one more thing getting in the way of your simple. Whatever our personal motivations or goals for simple, the end result of letting go will be owning better or more useful things, and more importantly living. You know, those people and experiences that make your life meaningful, valuable, and worth living. Don’t let any thing get in the way of that.
Letting go of more things, and avoiding buying things you don’t need, gets you closer to simple and starts with asking the right questions. When you’re stuck, asking these intentional questions can keep you moving forward toward simple. Get in the habit of asking yourself, “Do I love it? And do I need it?” If the answer isn’t a clear yes, then let go or don’t buy knowing these small choices add up to a home and a life that is both simple and valuable.