Is It Useful? Is It Beautiful?

What might our homes look (and function) like if the criteria upon whether precious space is allocated, to stuff, is always based on 2 simple questions?

Is it useful?

Is it beautiful?

Mine would look, and function, much better. It would be a major improvement.

But are these simple questions?

I’d suggest not. What is beauty? What is usefulness? These descriptions can become ambiguous and unclear, as a home matures and what we own increases. And when you add irrational sentimental attachment into the decision-making process, it can get very confusing as to what is kept and what is decluttered.

Everyone can struggle with declutterers indecision.

But I’d also suggest that answering these questions becomes simpler as the decluttering muscle inside the mind grows.

I’m not quite there yet – these 2 questions still perplex me from time to time.

Regardless, I carry on. Whenever I get disheartened, perplexed, or wonder why after 5 years I am still removing clutter from my home I think of Shrek.

Where is this going I hear you ask…

Shrek: Ogres are like onions.
Donkey: They stink?
Shrek: Yes. No.
Donkey: Oh, they make you cry.
Shrek: No.
Donkey: Oh, you leave em out in the sun, they get all brown, start sproutin’ little white hairs.
Shrek: NO. Layers. Onions have layers. Ogres have layers. Onions have layers. You get it? We both have layers.
Donkey: Oh, you both have layers. Oh. You know, not everybody like onions.


Clutter has layers. Just like an onion. Just like Shrek.

I started by removing the top layer. Obvious clutter, rubbish/trash. Each layer removed the closer I got to the core of the clutter.

My core is sentimental clutter.

I’m almost there. Not quite. But almost.

It’s taken 5 years but hey;

“It does not matter how slowly you go, as long as you do not stop’ Confucius (my favourite quote of all time).

Are you there yet? If you are, please do share your top tips on the journey.

And if you aren’t there, and sometimes wonder whether you will be decluttering forever, maybe it’ll help to think of Shrek also? ;)


 Easier (and more fun) to draw your own Shrek rather than navigate the complicated issue of copyright on the web!


  1. I’m there! I have to say though if i take my finger off the pulse it breeds.
    Top Tip, be ruthless on what comes into the house. Set out your stall with other family members, crap is crap. What value does it bring to your life? The last time we were in mcdonalds my daughter refused the toy in her meal. Proud mummy moment :)

    The most important thing is to remember to live in the moment. All we need is here and now. No stocking up for later. No buying for fear of missing out, no hoarding of stuff not currently in use. And ask yourself ‘What’s the worst that will happen if i give this away?’ The worst that probably would happen is you *may* need it someday, then you can probably borrow/buy another. What’s more likely to happen is you will store it for years then it will become obsolete/out of date/irrelevant.

    Jo i know you struggle with sentimental clutter, why not get one of your decopage boxes for each child and each adult. Limit what you keep to that box. We do this and every summer holidays they get pulled out the loft (the only things that are up there) and have a reminicing day.

    My onion is well and truly at the bottom layer and every now and again another layer appears. I will usually set aside a morning to get that other layer off. This probably happens twice a year. Pre christmas and summer, usually when the old school uniform/underwear/shoes get cleared and winter wardrobes are cleared out.

    I’m in no way perfect, but i love how clean, spacious and organised our home is. That’s what living with less gives us as a family. Less stuff really does equal more of the important bits of life :) And i don’t want to miss a thing!

    Jo i read your blog because you inspire me to do better at my food waste, but i love the under-currant you have regarding minimalism. I feel right at home, thank you!

    Sharron x

    • Inspiring comment Sharron (as always). Fantastic advice within there, and so beneficial to us all to see what can be achieved in the home.
      I always love it when you pop by and visit x

  2. I’m hiding from your post…I have phases of decluttering which I enjoy (phases which make my cats hide – I can be ruthless) but having lived in a building site for the last 2 years I find it so frustrating to not have anywhere to put anything that the piles of “stuff for sorting” really drives me potty, I can’t wait to be able to have a proper clear out once we’re sorted…you know, in 5 or 6 years ;)
    On a side note I cannot tolerate the thought of getting rid of anything my baby has ever touched…I wonder how common that is?

    • More common that we’d imagine I suspect. It just depends upon what we place the most importance.
      Your comment about the cats made me laugh. I have a minimalistic friend who literally will declutter anything that isn’t nailed down when she is in the mood. Fortunately she doesn’t have cats ;)
      Good luck with the renovation. Been there myself. A shimmering of plaster dust was a regular accessory to my work attire!

  3. Funny, how a sentimental item that you’ d never imagine to declutter, after months, years or decades, can become something you don’t mind donating. What happens during that time? You revisit memories, understand life events, learn from experiences, mature, let go and move on. :)

  4. I agree with Apple. I’m at the stage where it feels ok to let go of some sentimental items. Some things I will never part with but today, the coat that I have had for 16 years, wore only a few times and now for the past 12 years has been 3 sizes too small, is finally leaving my home. Why? Because its the right time for me to let go of it. The memory of why I kept it is still there but it is time to let go and move on…. and I feel ok with that. It doesn’t matter what you keep that is sentimental to you, but the time has to be right for you to part with it. So I’m not quite to the core of my clutter Jo, but I’m making a start today and hope to keep going.

    • Agree Paula – what doesn’t seem to be clutter today, may be tomorrow. I have a box of baby clothes I kept. Each time I look inside it reduces. However I have to be on my guard. Recently I handed down some clothing to a friend. They are now considering handing down further (which is great! reduce, reuse, recycle) – but it is taking me all my willpower to not request 1 item back that has sentimental attachment. We’ll see how it pans out! Haha!

    • “It does not matter how slowly you go, as long as you do not stop” Confucius
      This is my mantra! It works…keep going! There’s a ripple effect. Small progress initially then it just gets easier and easier! Honestly I’m living proof! Good luck.

  5. Really loved the idea of decluttering having layers! Never thought of it like that before. I’ve been decluttering for four years, and still have some bits to finish. My challenge is clothes (even if it’s not beautiful or useful I always think I’ll need it in the future), books (I’m buy quicker than I read) and digital documents. I’m getting there slowly but surely.

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