This 'Spontaneous Combustion' Decluttering Rule Will Change the Way you Think About Unused Stuff

If you need to change the way you look at clutter, this quick and efficient decluttering maxim works wonders

seating area by bedroom with white walls, chairs and colored art
(Image credit: Matthew Williams. Design: The Brooklyn Home Company)

The start of the new year brings with it a renewed desire to declutter. While we probably all say we want to own less stuff and adopt a more minimalist approach to design, this is easier said than done. 

Knowing how to start decluttering is no mean feat, but if you're determined to make 2024 the year for the job, you're in luck. That's because there's a helpful trick that's doing the rounds on social media that will make the task so much easier. Its name? The 'spontaneous combustion' rule, but it's nowhere near as dangerous as it sounds. Here, we've spoken to some professional organizers to discover what all the fuss is about and how this trick could help us lead more clutter-free lives in 2024. 

What is the spontaneous combustion rule?

Butchers block reclaimed wood kitchen

(Image credit: deVol)

The rule might sound complex (or downright absurd) but it actually isn't. This might be the easiest decluttering trick I have ever heard (and I have heard a lot) since it all revolves around asking yourself one simple question - 'If this item were to spontaneously combust, would I miss it?' If the answer is no, then you can easily let go of it. Otherwise, it automatically stays. 

'The spontaneous combustion rule is an evaluation tool for relating to your belongings by The Minimalists Podcast,' says Rashelle Isip, a New York City-based professional organizer and productivity consultant at The Order Expert. 'The process is as follows: you pick up an item and ask yourself, “If this item spontaneously combusted, would I replace it, or would I feel relieved?” You then decide to either keep or let go of the item.' 

Is it a helpful rule for decluttering?

minimlist living room

(Image credit: Nune)

If you suffer from decision fatigue, this decluttering technique will be really useful for you since it speeds up the decision-making process with an easy framework. It's also an easy way to ease yourself into a decluttering task by breaking it down into more manageable projects, such as the pile of magazines that are currently taking over your coffee table, for example. 

'This can be a thoughtful approach towards decluttering your space because it actively encourages you to relate to the item in question in a novel way,' says Rashelle. 

Unlike other decluttering techniques, this one really encourages you to challenge how you're currently living. 'You’ve experienced living with an item in your home, but this question asks you to consider what life would be like without the existence of said item,' Rashelle explains. 'The immediacy of the question opens up your mind to think about the item in a different way. You’re asked to explore what that item means to you at this very moment in time. Does it truly hold value for you at this moment or not?'

If you're looking for a rule to follow to radically change the way you live in your home, try following the spontaneous combustion rule. We guarantee it will change the way you view your unused and unloved stuff once and for all. 

Professional Organizer approved buys

Amy McArdle
News writer

Amy recently completed an MA in Magazine Journalism at City, University of London, with experience writing for Women’s lifestyle publications across arts, culture, and beauty. She has a particular love for the minimalist aesthetic mixed with mid-century furniture, especially combining unique vintage finds with more modern pieces. Her previous work in luxury jewellery has given her a keen eye for beautiful things and clever design, that plays into her love of interiors. As a result, Amy will often be heard justifying homeware purchases as 'an investment', wise words to live by.