Battling 2 Big Obstacles with 20 Little Questions

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The biggest obstacle I face in the War Against Clutter is myself, I know this and I struggle with how to deal with myself quite a bit. I often find myself with my hands full of doesn’t-even-belong-in-this-room clutter as I look for some seems-like-I-remember-seeing-it in-this-pile-recently item, cursing because so much stuff is in the way of what I’m looking for. I may swear at the obstacles, but that’s as close to having a conversation with my clutter as I’ve come, but that is about to change, thanks to miss minimalist.

Thanks to her recent post,Twenty Questions to Clear Your Clutter, I now have a new strategy for conquering clutter in my apartment: I’m going to talk to it.

From “How did you get here?” to “Did I forget I own you?” and “Do you make me smile,” miss minimalist’s dialog for clutter-busting helps eliminate, or at least minimize, some of my natural tendencies to hoard.

My second biggest obstacle against the WAC is my sweetheart, who was not impressed with miss minimalist’s list. For about half an hour, after I read the list to him, we talked more openly about why we have the things we have than we have in the past. For each question I repeated from the list, my sweetheart would name an item that we both know we are not going to be getting rid of (at least not by way of the dumpster) but would be banned from our home based upon the single question’s implication. I would find a question on the list that would allow a pardon for our valued item. (“Do you serve a purpose?”) Based upon the saving question, he would name something that we both know we don’t need or really want and I would find a question to rightly banish the item. (“Will I use you again soon?”)

After the list prevailed, rightly, in judging each of the items presented for argument against the list, my sweetheart conceded his position. Sort of. He agreed that the 20 questions are a good guideline for clearing clutter, miss minimalist does not know us and doesn’t get to determine what we keep or what we eliminate from our home.

That’s a win.


13 thoughts on “Battling 2 Big Obstacles with 20 Little Questions

  1. This Miss Minimalist lady sounds pretty smart. I have to say,[after losing so much that I constantly was traveling with try so hard to keep.. so fast, I started living minimal too. And its so much easier to get things done, clean up and just think. I really like your craigslist section. I will keep an eye out for a piece. I would like to buy a piece of yall. lol. I want a piece of yall. =) and peace with yall anf peace for yall. What lese was I going to say.. oh its hard to pick an owner for everything you know you need to pick an owner for. I have been holding onto 3 bags of baby food, formula and toys for the past 11 months, and now I have decided no one is having a baby who needs it. So I need to just donate it!!! A baby needs to eat that food somewhere, I just dont get the joy of knowing which baby. Also maybe Im being selfish and want someone else to KNOW im being a giving person. Really its not about that, or me, its about the baby. Im just ready to let go and when I do Kate, I bet i will feel better then the stress of holding on.

    • Hello, my RL friend! Welcome to my blog! You know as well as anyone that I’m looking a helluva monster in the eyes in order to get this apartment “minimalized” and that minimal may not be so mini in consideration of my sweetheart. I’m gonna give it a shot, though. Did I understand that you would like for me to put your name on a box/bag of goodies for you to claim?

  2. I love her question “does it make me smile?” That’s the one that helped me clear out some of my clutter. I found myself keeping things because they had belonged to someone special in my life, but the item itself wasn’t special! What is your favorite question on the list?

    • I think my favorite is a toss-up between “Would I miss you (or even notice) if you were gone?” (#6) 1. What are you? 12. Are you valuable? and “Did I forget I owned you?” (#18) 3. What do you do? 10. Are you more trouble than you’re worth? 19. Do you belong to someone else? I think it’s the only question that has the potential (a 50/50 chance) to let me off the hook without another question. If the answer is that the item belongs to someone else, my only (mental) task is to identify that person, which I will already have done just by answering the question. All of the other questions have more potential to use mental muscle which I sometimes lack. But I might change my mind about that… Again.

    • “Does it make me smile?” If it does make me smile, then I have to ask #15: “Are you a stand-in for a memory?” That question is hard for me.

      I’ve lost soooo many things through tragedy and through reckless behavior that to this day I would not willingly purge from my life that were tied to memories of people, place and events.

      How deeply-rooted is my tendency to hoard if there are things that I have kept because they remind me of something I once had that reminded me of something or someone else. (Like a quilt not made specially for me by my grandmother that reminds me of a quilt that was. Or worse: a blouse that reminds me of a blouse that my great-grandmother might have worn.)

  3. Does RL stand for real life? Just a shot in the dark. It appears that you have started this minimalist philosophy sometime in the past few months? Have you gotten rid of anything yet you really did not want to? Something small or big but meaningful? Something else that helped me was the way I lost my things that were so meaningful was totally unfair and very upsetting.. so I almost made it a race to see if I could give it away before that unfair thing happened again. The question, Would I miss you or even notice when your gone, was always why I kept everything, I really thought I would notice, but turned out it was like zapped out of my memory when I did get rid of it. And Im afraid saying that is going to make you remember even harder what all your leaving, BUT you have enough things to make a lot of money on maybe you should just start sticking prices on everything then box it up immedietly.. then instead of a missed object or a reminder of another object it will become a dollar sign.(but when i do that and I forget about it, then I take it out of the box and want to keep it again) so maybe thats not the greatest plan of attack. And, I dont know about a drawing.. lol, but I LOVE to decorate since I have decluttered my last 2 homes, and so anything that fit my style I would definately love to take off your hands. Its exciting when you get a fresh palet to work with, to decorate with brand new things. Clearly though..That does not come until the old is way out the door.

      • Freecycle is great, but I had to purge those emails from my inbox and cancel my subscription a while back. There was just way too much email from my local groups, even after filtering them away from my inbox.

  4. Try also the Janet Jackson Method of clutter-clearing (I think it’s from Small Notebook)– Just ask your stuff What Have You Done For Me Lately? As you’re dancing around armed with boxes, trash bags, etc….

  5. Great post Kate! Love the questions. My philosophy is if I don’t know what it is or where it is, it’s not really serving me any purpose, is it? Since, the 10,000 thing purge, I pretty much know the what and where of everything which isn’t easy in a 4,200 square foot house. I know, my house is huge, it freaks me out, and NO ONE understands when I complain about it. Clearly, I knew what we were buying, but what I didn’t know first hand was the time and expense associated with the furniture, cleaning, maintenance and yard work associated with a monstrous house. It’s a huge commitment.
    I digress. I have a suggestion for you and your sweetheart. My Squirrel wanted to hang on to a lot of things so I made him promise me that he would use the item he was keeping the very next time he needed it and not buy a new one. It helped him decide if he could really see himself wearing 20 year old golf shoes or not. I donated a lot of his stuff based on this agreement. Best of luck!

    • Christine, the deal you make with Squirrel sounds awesome, but my sweetheart isn’t big on buying ‘new” unless he’s buying “new in box.” I’m going to be toying with this idea, though. I’ll let you know how we adapt it to our lifestyle. Thanks for your comments!

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