The Magic Question


Magic Question

Clutter is a universal problem. It accumulates at alarming speeds, often through no fault of our own. We want to clear it out, but never seem to have enough time. I’ve had clients tell me they wish they could, “snap their fingers and make it all vanish.” While clearing clutter isn’t hocus pocus, there actually is one magic question that can help you start making the problem disappear.

The question is… “What do you want to donate this week?”

And this is how it works.

FIRST, establish a spot where donations can be placed. A bag or a bin on the floor of a closet, corner of a bedroom or hook on the wall/back of a door works well. Make this a “sacred” space for this bag… nothing else can live in this spot. You can label the container, or use an easily identifiable bag that is reserved for only this purpose.

NOW, start asking the magic question every week. This shouldn’t feel like a task, but rather a topic of conversation. For example, toss the question out over the dinner table. If someone doesn’t have an answer, that’s ok. Keep it light. Be prepared to answer the question yourself, and let the family know that you will be helping others by finding something to donate each week. Let everyone know where the donation bag is should they decide to contribute.


… make it a challenge to see who donates the most (but don’t let generosity turn into a family war!)

… celebrate younger children’s donations by ringing a bell or giving a “high five”

… invite older children to choose the charity to receive the items

… offer incentives for reluctant family members (e.g. “we’ll get ice cream when the bin is full” or “I’ll make your favorite dinner when you donate 10 items”)

… talk about how good it makes you feel to help someone

WHEN THE CONTAINER IS FULL, deliver the contents of the container to the charity of your choice. If possible, bring children along so they can see the end result of the process.

A couple of things to remember….

  1. Don’t “second guess” another person’s donation. If they own it and are ready to part with it, let them donate it.
  1. Don’t badger anyone to donate. The idea is to build the idea of “letting go” into the fabric of your regular life. This is a life skill, not a chore. Some may jump right in, and others might take awhile to warm to the idea.
  1. Eventually, you won’t need to ask the question. Family members will learn that when they come across something they no longer need, they can simply stick it in the bag.

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In a world where objects seem to rapidly pile up, developing the habit of regularly shedding items is both healthy and rewarding.

Have you set up a donation bag? Have you ever asked the magic question?

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