Tough questions for your things

I like to think of myself as a person who is unattached to physical objects. Truth be told, however, this might not necessarily be the case. My lifestyle, being more minimalist than the average Jane’s, means that I make a conscience decision to bring something into my home. Each object exists in my space for a reason, and a chunk of time, planning, and research was dedicated to its acquisition, and there are further evaluations to let it stay. I make an investment of myself in every object, and that is why it’s hard for me to say that I’m not attached to these objects.

I likely will never resolve this quandary, but I think that the acquisition and evaluation process that I put into every object — and I do mean every object — is a valuable one. If I bring a non-essential item into my home, it ultimately will become clutter, and I am more interested in keeping a clutter-free lifestyle than one full of knickknacks and pointless objects.

I have two set lists of questions that I ask myself about every object in my home. These lists have changed a bit with time, and I expect them to go through some adjustments as my family grows, so feel welcome to adjust and adapt these lists for your own use. The first list is directed toward new acquisitions and the second is for objects that are already inside my house.

Questions for New Acquisitions:

  1. Do I have something like this already that fulfills the same purpose?
  2. If I own something like this, am I ready to get rid of the older item since this newer item will have to replace it?
  3. Will this item make my life easier/save me time/save me money/fulfill an essential need?
  4. Where will this object live in our house?
  5. Is this the best price for this object, is this the best quality that I can get for the money, and is this object in its best possible condition?
  6. Do I need to do more research about this object before I make this purchase/bring it into my home?
  7. If this is a perishable item (like food), when will I use it and what will I do if I don’t use all of it?
  8. Does this item help me to develop the remarkable life that I want to live?

Questions for Items Already in My Home:

  1. Do I have something else like this that fulfills the same purpose?
  2. If this is a duplicate item, which of these items is in the best condition, of the best quality, and will last me the longest?
  3. Is this item in disrepair and need to be replaced or fixed?
  4. Does this item make my life easier/save me time/save me money/fulfill an essential need?
  5. Why does this object live in our house and is this the best place for this object?
  6. Do I need to do more research to know if this is the best object to fulfill its essential need?
  7. If this is a perishable item, has its expiration date passed?
  8. Does this item help me to develop the remarkable life that I want to live?

I’m interested in knowing if others have additional or alternative questions that they pose before acquiring or retaining objects for their homes. Please feel welcome to use the comments for this post to discuss your decision-making process!

19 Comments for “Tough questions for your things”

  1. posted by Jeri Dansky on

    Nice list! I’ve referenced it, and added some more suggestions, here:
    http://jdorganizer.blogspot.co.....utter.html

  2. posted by Cynthia Friedlob, The Thoughtful Consumer on

    My eighty-four-year-old mother figured out her own criteria many years ago: “If I can’t use it and it doesn’t make my heart sing when I look at it, why would I want it?” Sometimes you just can’t beat a mom’s wisdom!

  3. posted by damova on

    Great list. I wish I were as disciplined as you.

    What do you do with gifts that do not pass your tests? Do you refuse them? Give them away? Train your friends and family about appropriate gifts? Keep them for a certain respectable time period, then chuck them? This is a dilemma for me. The giver is hurt if I give it back because of its wrongness. I feel guilty discarding or freecycling it. But I hate its presence in my home.

  4. posted by elise on

    When common sense eludes you, these lists are genius!

    For even more fun, I use a cute little “sharpie” to cross off, mark up, found phone #s…a good “companion list” is “To Do” to remember all your plans for the newly discarded.

    Tak—— e.

  5. posted by Matthew Cornell on

    Thanks for the list – quite nice. I also like the Gorshin pic!

  6. posted by Phil Bowman on

    I wish I could live by William Morris’ axiom –

    “Have nothing in your house which you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful”

  7. posted by christa on

    This is a great list, but sometimes leads to decision paralysis. too much research is sometimes a bad thing.

  8. posted by Amanda Kerik on

    I would like to add that there are lots of ways to get your stuff out of your house but keep them out of the landfill.
    Garage sales if you have a lot of stuff, donate them to charity, and my personal favourite – list it on freecycle. Or you could put it on ebay. If there’s a lot of “curb shoppers” (people who pick up stuff and take it home), just put it out on a non-rainy night.
    With so many options it seems downright stupid to trash stuff, eh?

  9. posted by Kim on

    I’ve whittled myself down to one question: Would I keep this in my tiny house? I might never live in one, but for imaginary simple living, it works!

  10. posted by Bonnie on

    I use a similar approach when buying clothes. If I don’t absolutely love it on me, I don’t buy it. This approach greatly reduces the amount of ‘new non-worn’ clothes that can accumulate in my closet. Admittedly, this is toughest to follow when an item is on sale at 60% off.

  11. posted by jen on

    Two questions, developed when building a wedding registry:

    When will we use it?

    Where will it live when we’re not using it?

    This helped a little, but the clutter in our home makes me itch — I acknowledge and fight my packrat tendencies, but I married a sentimental, artistic collector. I’m hoping the tips on this site will help.

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