11 Questions to Ask When Clients Won’t Let Go of Anything

You’re working with a new client, and when you met with her for the needs assessment, she seemed very eager to let go of her clutter and get organized once and for all. You are ankle-deep in her clutter working with her at your first decluttering session, and every time you ask her, “keep, donate, trash?” She replies, “keep!” You’re beginning to think, Is she going to let go of anything?

Stop – Have a Conversation

Before you get too far along, I suggest you stop the session and have a conversation with your client. If she stated a goal during your needs assessment of how much she was willing to let go of, now would be a great time to say, “when we talked at our first meeting, you said you would be willing to let go of x%. We have been working for the past few hours, and you haven’t let go of anything. Do we need to revisit your goal? Or what can I do to help you meet that goal?”

Set Goals

If she didn’t state a goal, ask her what her goal is. How much does she want to let go of? Is there a category of her belongings she knows she wants to let go of or downsize significantly? What criteria does an item need to meet to be kept or discarded?

If she has changed her mind or never intended to let go of anything, ask her what her expectations of your work are together. Maybe she wants to keep everything and wants you to find a place for everything. If that is her goal, you will need to assess the feasibility of that goal and gently let her know if it is or is not possible.

Help Her Make Decisions

Maybe she has difficulty making decisions because she is afraid of making the wrong decision. Reframing can help your clients see their belongings in a different light that can make the decision about whether or not to keep something easier. Here are some reframing questions I ask when my client cannot decide to keep or not keep something:

  1. Does it make you feel mad, bad, or sad to look at it?
  2. Do you think you will use it again (or for the first time) and what circumstances will have to be in place for you to use it?
  3. Do you think you will use it again (or for the first time) and what circumstances will have to be in place for you to use it?
  4. Are you putting things before people and relationships?
  5. Can you borrow or purchase another one if needed?
  6. Does it take more time and effort to take care of it than it is worth?
  7. If you knew that someone else would really benefit from having this (i.e., if we found a great place to donate it?), would that make it easier for you to let it go?
  8. Are you keeping it because someone gave it to you, and you will feel guilty if you get rid of it?
  9. If you took a picture of it, would it be easier to let it go?
  10. Do you have anything else that reminds you of this (event, person, or time)?
  11. And, the BIG question, how much is this item costing you, and how much is it benefitting you?

What is your strategy or tactics when your clients won’t let go of anything?

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