To purge or not to purge – that is the question!

February 29, 2016
Decluttering and getting organised is high up on the to-do lists of many people, especially when the urge for spring-cleaning resurfaces. However, when it actually comes to decluttering, the question of what to purge is not always an easy one. Furthermore, there is no one-fits-all solution.


Young woman think with yes or no choice looking up isolated on white background

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Every organiser has her or his own approach to help clients with making decisions. Whatever method or organiser you use, something they all have in common is the first step, which is …

Creating a vision

Vision concept with hand pressing a button

If you don’t know where you want to go, you most likely won’t arrive, so take some time to really think about how you want the space to look and feel. What activities are you going to do in that space? What colours would you like to see there? How do you want to feel in that space? You even might want to think about how it should smell.

The clearer your vision, the easier the next step, because every time you need to decide whether to keep something or not, you have to ask yourself whether it has a place in your vision. If not … you know the answer!

Now, you’re in the middle of decluttering and you feel stuck because you’re not sure whether to keep a certain thing. Here are some questions to ask yourself that might help you make a decision:


Does it spark joy?

Joy concept, watercolor splashes as a sign

Marie Kondo came up with this question (creator of the KonMari method and author of the books ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up’ and ‘Spark Joy’). I really like this approach, because it’s about focusing on the things that make you happy and bring you joy. It really is a change of mindset, which is why I reckon it’s so powerful.

However, sometimes there are things that might not bring joy, but we still want or have to keep them. This is totally ok. As I mentioned in this post, there is no KonMari police who will tell you off if you keep something that drags you down. In that case, further thoughts might be necessary to make a final decision.


Do you need it?

We all have things that don’t spark joy, but we simply need them: for example, a work uniform. We have to keep it, no question. However, we might start and try to think differently about it and be grateful that we have a job that we like and that pays the bills (if this is not the case, you might have to rethink the job). So, indirectly, it can still bring joy.

Paperwork is a biggie, too. Some things can’t just be thrown out; we have to keep it for legal reasons. I’ve yet to meet a person who finds joy in tax-relevant documents … Maybe you could keep the documents in a beautiful folder that sparks joy, instead.

Other examples might be a toilet brush, furniture or kitchen appliances. We all need these things, but few people can afford to throw them out just because they don’t bring them joy (also think about the unnecessary waste!). However, maybe you can replace certain things over time. I guarantee you: if you start using the ‘joy-question,” your shopping habits will change, too.

If this hasn’t helped so far, I always like to use this question:

What’s the worst thing that can happen if you don’t have this item anymore?

worst case scenario - risk concept

Usually, the answer to that question is not very dramatic. Even if you lose or throw out your passport by accident … it’s not the end of the world. Yes, it would be absolutely annoying and would involve time, effort and money to replace it, but it’s not impossible to do so (I would still recommend holding on to it, keeping it in a safe place and preferably have a digital (and of course backed up) copy!).

Please note that – in my view – the above tips don’t count for sentimental items. This is a whole different issue, and I’m talking more about it in this post and sharing some tips.


If you still struggle, I’d like to ask you this:

  • When did you use it last?
  • Is it working?
  • Do you have another similar item?
  • How many do you need?
  • What else can you let go to make space?
  • How hard is it to replace?
  • Is it making your life better?


I’d love to hear from you about what question/s work for you when you need to decide whether to keep something or not. Please use the comment function below.

Looking forward to hearing from you – happy decluttering!





The Australasian Association of Professional Organisers ( is hosting the National Organising Week from 7 – 12 March 2015. This year, it’s all about wardrobe organising and I will run a little challenge during this week.

Sign up here to participate:





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