3 Questions to Ask When Organizing

I just watched the documentary “Minimalism” on Netflix, which a handful of friends have recommended to me. I loved it! Sharing the idea that we can be happy outside of the “bigger is better” mindset is definitely my cup of tea. In this documentary, Joshua Fields Millburn, co-author of “The Minimalists”, says of his possessions, “I ask myself, ‘Does this add value to my life?’ If not, I have to be willing to let go.”

The things you have are there to serve a purpose and bring you joy. When you decide to organize a space and sort through each item, think about what is truly important in your life and ask yourself these three questions.

1. Do I need it?

Is this item something necessary, like a coat or a table or a tool? Or is it something nice but extra, like a pizza slice-shaped tupperware container or a stack of past concert tickets? Sure you need a scarf, but do you need 10 of them? You might have a genuine need, like a damaged item that can’t be repaired, or you now wear a different clothing size. Even if it’s something you know you don’t need, that’s not the only deciding factor in whether or not to keep it. We’re not trying to live a monastic life with no fun or art or toys.

Lea’s Example: I have a giant crab plushie that lives on my couch. There is no practical purpose for Medical Crab (its name is from a Futurama episode) and I can live my life just fine without it. Do I need it? NOPE!

2. Do I use it?

You may have 4 lovely jackets, but only really ever wear one or two. The extras are often kept “just in case” or because they were gifts. But if you don’t use them, they just take up space in your life and only add stress. If your extra cookware or suitcases are in good condition, they have the potential to be used and loved by someone else. Donating to a shelter, or even to Goodwill, can give your things a new life and give your space the openness and freedom for you to do what’s important in your life.

Lea’s Example: I definitely use Medical Crab. It acts as a pillow or a cute squishy thing to cuddle. It gets a lot of attention, especially when binge-watching documentaries on Netflix. Do I use it? YUP!

3. Do I love it?

Does this thing bring you joy? Do you smile when you look at it, or does it feel merely “meh”? Finding and creating happiness is an important part of getting through the chaos of life. Loving something is more than just wanting it, more than being excited about the new shiny thing. What makes you passionate and warm? Are your possessions in tune with your values so that they lift you up when you use them? You don’t have to have an extensive wardrobe, but you could shape it so that all your clothes are your favorite clothes.

Lea’s Example: Medical Crab has been a sentimental thing for me since my friend Alejandra gave it to me a handful of years ago. It was a loving and thoughtful gift and totally brightened my day. Getting to see it and squish it reminds me of her loving friendship. So do I love it? AW YEAH!

If you said “yes” to at least two of those three questions, go ahead and keep that thing. (Medical Crab is staying with me until it's unusable.) Put it in a place of honor where it will be seen and used and enjoyed. If it doesn’t make the cut, that means it’s something you either don't need or use or even love, so why do you have it? Let it go and feel how much lighter your home and your life are without that extra stuff pulling at you.

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