Nearly 10 years ago, I made the life-changing decision to declutter my home. This was shortly after learning about the beauty of a simple lifestyle and countless blog posts shared the benefits of having less stuff.

As a self-proclaimed neat freak who revels in a clean space, I was eager to have less stuff to maintain so I could have more time for the things that mattered, like my family. So I jumped at the chance to purge my home of excess stuff.

And then I learned that this is a project that needs to be thought through before starting. Specifically, there are three questions you need to ask yourself that will make the whole process easier.

1. What am I going to do with the stuff I get rid of?

This is where I failed with my first decluttering attempt. I was so focused on the outcome – the clutter-free space – that I never actually thought about what I was going to do with everything I got rid of. And I got rid of a lot.

So you can imagine the frustration and overwhelm I felt after my first big decluttering session when I was left with roughly half of our belongings sitting on the kitchen counter and scattered around the garage.

Lesson learned: start with a plan.

3 questions to ask before you declutter

So before you get started, take some time (even just a few minutes, really) to decide what’s going to happen after you declutter.

Here are some options:

• Sell it: Choose a spot or box to set aside items you want to sell and set a deadline to have them posted. I usually use Facebook, Craigslist and ebay, in that order.

• Offer it to friends: Often, after a decluttering session, I’ll have a pile of things I’d like to get rid of, but don’t necessarily want to sell. That’s when I take a picture of what I’ve got and post it on Facebook with an offer to my local friends to come and get it.

• Freecycle it: lets you post a free ad for your area so you can get rid of your stuff. It’s a very quick way to have people come get what you don’t want.

• Donate it: Of course, you can skip all of the previous steps and just donate your stuff to add more choices to the secondhand market. Sometimes I go through one or more of the above steps, sometimes I just haul it off to our local thrift shop.

Whatever option(s) you choose, just plan to get it out of your house ASAP.

3 questions to ask before you declutter

2. What will make this easier?

Before you get started, there are a few things you might want to do/gather. When it comes to supplies, you really only need a couple of boxes and a garbage can. And maybe a rag.

One box can be for stuff you’re donating, the other for stuff you’re selling. One really small box can be for “maybe” stuff. Damaged stuff can go in the garbage or recycling and everything else can be put away in it’s proper place back in the room.

That said, there are two additional steps you could take to make this process easier.

• Set an end time: If you’re in the mood to declutter and only have 30 minutes, focus on one drawer. If you’ve got all day, give yourself a few hours. If you don’t, you’ll go until you’re exhausted and only half-done.

• Clean the room: Start decluttering in a clean space (unless you’re decluttering in an effort to clean out a messy space). It makes all the difference. I’ve made the mistake of decluttering in a dirty room before and it made it so stressful. It doesn’t have to be a deep-cleaning type of clean, just make it tidy.

3 questions to ask before you declutter

3. How can I keep myself motivated?

Know what motivates you so you can keep working through to the end you’ve determined.

For me, it’s music. I can do ANYTHING with the right music. Even crappy stuff. Or, sometimes a podcast or audiobook is enough to keep me going because it’s nice to listen to as I sort.

Maybe, for you, it’s a friend. Or a Pinterest picture of what you want your space to look like. Bring some motivation to keep you moving.

Because at some point during this process, you’re going to want to quit.

It might be when you’re sorting through the junk drawer that’s so full it will barely open. It might be when you realize just how much stuff you’ve managed to accumulate. It might be when you’re taking pictures of all the stuff you’re going to sell (my personal least-favorite thing).

Whatever the case may be, just keep going. Take a short break if need be, but come right back to it.

It’s all worth it in the end.