table cluttered with books, papers, gloves, and kindle

“Does This Bring Me Joy?” and Other Questions Never to Ask Yourself When Cleaning Out Your Crap

AKA The Life-Changing Magic of Not Listening to Self-Help Books

Let me be real: I don’t believe in self-help books, at least not 99.9% of them. I’ve been tempted by Big Magic, but so far I haven’t been able to make myself do it.

Lately I’ve been on a mission to clear out a bunch of crap that serves no purpose other than cluttering the house. My clothes situation is out of control, we’ve run out of bookcase space for all our books, and I currently have FOUR laptops sitting around. Why I didn’t sell the previous two when I got new ones and they would still be worth something, I do not know. Because I make poor life decisions.

I’ve stumbled across a few blog posts that have caught my eye since I’m in this process. I had already decided to sort through things by category (clothes first, then books, then unnecessary piles of electronics), so this post about the “KonMari method” seemed relevant.

Except then I got to the part about how you’re supposed to get all zen with yourself and hold your items, close your eyes, and ask the universe “Does this bring me joy?” That may be a slight exaggeration, but it’s really not far off.

“Does this bring me joy?” is probably the worst question I can imagine asking yourself when it comes to cleaning things out.

Does my holey soccer jersey from when I was 12 bring me joy? YES. Do I need to keep it? NO. Part of the purpose of cleaning crap out is getting rid of things you have sentimental attachment to, but don’t ever use. Asking yourself if something brings you joy when trying to decide whether to keep it or chuck it is like inviting yourself onto an episode of Hoarders. I’m sure those 1,100 cats, hundreds of trash bags, and old magazines covering every square inch of floor bring those people a lot of joy.

Attributing souls to my bras, socks, and shirts doesn’t really seem very helpful either. Are they unhappy being balled up in a corner? I don’t know, I can’t ask them because THEY’RE NOT LIVING THINGS. However, the mess doesn’t make me happy. I vote for focusing on that rather than pretending my clothes have feelings and are sobbing over their messy life in the corner.

Doing this in silence while not listening to music or watching a tv show was the final straw for me.

If I’m looking for help with something, I don’t tend to find it helpful to waste time reading a “life-changing” book to develop a mindset about a thing rather than actually doing the thing. I think it’s more helpful to find a method and give yourself rules or guidelines.

Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of good ideas in some self-help books. But there’s also a lot of fluff, and a lot of time wasted.

Here are the questions and guidelines helping me get rid of stuff I don’t need.

Have I used this in the past year? Am I realistically going to use this?

I just tossed several dresses from past events into my Goodwill/YMCA bag. It’s been at least 2 years since I’ve worn any of them. I haven’t had any events I’d wear them to, and I don’t foresee wearing them any time soon, so out they go. I also have a juicer I never used despite my best intentions, so that’s going, too.

Does this fit? No? Throw it away.

I’ve kept clothes that haven’t fit for YEARS – and you know what? All the metabolic conditioning and eating right in the world probably isn’t going to bring back my 21-year-old ass. In fact, I don’t really want it to, seeing as I squat a lot more these days and am doing pretty good in that region. So I’m going to stop holding onto clothes meant for my old body and stock my closet with things that fit the body I have today. Same goes for buying things that will fit once you slim down: DON’T DO IT. Even if you do “slim down,” there’s no guarantee that your body is going to be smaller in the right places to fit into that item.

Clean and sort by category

This is the one tip I have in common with does-this-bring-me-joy lady. Dust all the surfaces in the house one Saturday, go through all your clothes one week, or set aside a day for sorting through your books. I find it easier to clean one type of item at a time rather than a room at a time. Then you don’t have to switch back and forth between cleaning supplies, and you can just move around the house dusting all the surfaces, or sweeping all the floors.

Make your furniture purposeful and practical

We had a bookcase by the door in our front/dining room, which was kind of nice because there’s a little reading nook, but there wasn’t anywhere to put our shoes, keys, etc. when we came in. As a result, our dining room table was a cluttered mess (see post photo), shoes were everywhere (instead of on the shoe organizer in the closet at the back entrance of the house), and random things ended up on the bookcase. We moved the bookcase out, got a nice table like this with a drawer, and put the shoe organizer under it. The room feels so much less cluttered now, and there’s a drawer to put stuff in rather than junking up tabletops.

entryway table with shoe organizer under and coat rack beside

I went through clothes this weekend; next up is books. I can’t imagine where I’d be if my English major, book-loving self decided to hold every book and ask Does this bring me joy? Probably swimming in books and gracing your television set as the next feature on Hoarders.

  • This is a great post! I have such a love/hate relationship with de-cluttering. I’m sentimental, but hate clutter, so I kind of love throwing things away too. 😉

    You’re right though- we can’t let certain attachments or memories keep us from letting go of things we don’t need.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Oh also- I’m obsessed with the name of your blog 😉

      • Kim

        Thank you! I love weight lifting and writing, so it seemed fitting. 🙂

    • Kim

      Thanks, Olivia! I have the exact same relationship with de-cluttering. I’m trying really hard to just let go of things I’m not using. Since I rent, sometimes I’ll ask myself, “Do I really wanna move this again in a year?” That helps sometimes! 😉

  • HAHAHA The last sentence is so incredibly me, it’s not even funny. I’m in the middle of moving right now and decluttering has been SUCH a process, especially with books and clothes! Love this post!

    • Kim

      That’s exactly why I’m going through such a purge right now! When I moved, I had SO much stuff and I wish I’d cleaned out sooner. Every time I clean things out now, I make sure to ask myself, “Do I really want to move this again?” Haha. Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

  • Okay, I loooove this title! But, truly these are such great tips to keep in mind during Spring Cleaning– which I desperately need to get on. Great write up!

    • Kim

      Thanks! I’m going to do a big spring clean, too – trying to get a head start on some things. 🙂 Good luck with your cleaning!

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