Asking More Powerful Questions to Ease Decluttering

We recently started what we hope will be our last round of home renovations.  As you know, the first stage of any renovation project is clearing everything out of the spaces being renovated.  I’m noticing that clearing out the master bath, guest room and my office is giving me a great opportunity to continue Phase Three of our minimizing process.

You may recall that during Phases One and Two my husband and I whittled down our belongings by focusing on a few questions:

Will we use this item in our new home?

Is this item a “favorite” we want to take to our new home?  

Does this item help us connect with our values and what’s most important to us at this point in our lives?

 As an organizer coach I have a list of decluttering / releasing questions I’ve shared with clients for years.  Some of those questions, like — “Will I use this item?” or “Is this a favorite item?” – are simple questions.  Marie Kondo’s “Does this spark joy?” is also a simple question.  Their simplicity doesn’t necessarily negate their effectiveness.  They’re solid decluttering questions because they get you to think about the item as it relates to your life and can help you decide if you’ll keep or release it.

Simpler questions like, “Will I use this item?” can be answered one of three ways:  1) No, 2) Yes, or 3) with ambivalence.  If you find yourself answering the question, “No”, you place the item in the donation box and move on.  If you answer “Yes”, you keep it.  If you respond with ambivalence you can move on to another simple question that might better connect with you and the situation, such as, “Do I have something else like this that serves the same purpose?

There’s nothing wrong with using simple questions to declutter if they’re working for you and my list of decluttering questions contains a number of them.  Sometimes though when ambivalence is present these simple questions don’t get the job done.  In these cases, you might have more luck using more powerful questioning.

Powerful Questioning, defined by the International Coach Federation in their Core Coaching Competencies, is a skill often associated with professional coaching.  In general, powerful questioning helps you:

1) Understand your current perspective,

2) Evoke discovery, insight, commitment or action on your part,

3) Create greater clarity, possibility or new learning, and

4) Move towards what you desire as opposed to helping you justify or look backwards.

In looking through what I was clearing out of these rooms I knew more powerful questioning would be needed.  This was in part because everything in these rooms had already survived multiple cuts of simple questioning before we moved them to this house.

Below are examples of some more powerful questions I found myself asking as I sorted through office supplies, which included a dozen brand new notebooks.  I should add that I’m am a paper person and I love writing in fresh new notebooks.  (My responses follow each question.)

Given how many of these I’ve used in the past year, how likely it is I’ll use all of these notebooks any time soon?  ~ Not likely  

What would be possible if I release these notebooks? ~ I would free up office supply storage space and get these notebooks into the hands of someone who can use them 

How is storing these notebooks honoring my value of living with less? ~ It’s not

Who could make good use of these notebooks?  ~ My nephews could use them for school or I could donate them to a local school

How will releasing these notebooks help me reach my goal of living with less? ~ I’ll be one step further down the path of minimizing 

In the end I ended up releasing all but one blue notebook.

While simple questions may get you a ways down the path in decluttering it’s great to know there are an unlimited number of more powerful questions available to support you in going the distance.


What’s a simple question that’s helped you in your decluttering efforts?  How have you used more powerful questioning to help you reduce clutter in your world?  I’d love to hear your stories!

P.s. If you’re interested in taking a look at my list of decluttering questions, click here and fill in the fields and I’ll be happy to send you a copy.


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