Well, actually, it started because I saw a video on minimalism. I happen to like the Minimal Mom on YouTube.
On Saturday mornings, before making pancakes for my 93 year-old father-in-law, I like to walk around the Harbor while my husband does a run and I’ll put on a podcast or video on a subject I’m interested in.
On this day, minimalism crossed my suggested videos list and I listened. I took mental notes.
Then, I came home and after making pancakes for Pops, took one critical look around my office, and decided enough was enough - I needed to let go of a lot of extraneous papers, books, office supplies, and the like that I had collected over the years. And years. And years!
You don’t realize, but that extra clutter causes unconscious fatigue and stress. And I was tired of just “storing” the stuff, having it take up space in my space - space like my mind and my office.
I have been through 2 graduate degree programs. I have taken multiple courses (I love Udemy and Skillshare). I have printouts, instructions, “homework,” and so much cr&p from over the years.
I haven’t looked at some of the printed materials in at least 5 years - if ever. I spent a lot of money on courses and coaches that didn’t work. I figured I should keep the material because I invested a lot of time, effort and money into it.
Here are my thoughts when I looked at that old stuff:
- “What a waste of money!”
- “But I can’t throw it out - I spent a lot of money on this! I can still do this!”
Or…“Ugh…I spent money on this? What was I thinking!? How can people charge $ for this?”
Then, when I was done with the self-judgment, guilt, anger…
“What am I holding on to this stuff for? What does it serve me? Wouldn’t it feel freeing to just get rid of it? Will I really need it or use it in the future?”
And you know what I did next?
PLUNK! Right in the garbage bin! I am done with that chapter of my life. I don’t need it to take up physical, emotional, or psychological space any more!
How about you?
Maybe you’ve had to move - that can be a huge catalyst to streamline and declutter your stuff! (Learn how to declutter before a big move by reading this article)
Maybe you’ve had to go through a loved one’s belongings after they pass. Has that had you thinking that you want to save your own loved ones the pain of having to go through your stuff when you are no longer living on this glorious Earth?
Maybe a friend or family member stopped by and your home was a wreck. Maybe that sparked the idea that decluttering might be on the horizon for you?
Regardless of how the process of decluttering starts, it’s always interesting how the actual process of going through your things goes.
Do you just think about decluttering - or do you start?
Do you give up halfway because you’re overwhelmed? There is such a thing as “decision fatigue” by the way. Should you keep it or throw it out can be fatiguing after a while.
Do people try to talk you out of decluttering - or talk you out of throwing certain things away? That will hinder your progress.
Are you emotionally attached to certain things? That will definitely hinder your progress.
What stops you in the process of decluttering?
I am looking now at a black plastic file sorter thingy I have had since my early twenties. It’s on my bookcase in the corner of my office. My grandparents let me have it at a time in my life where I wanted it because I really could use it. And I did.
My grandfather was a professor at Boston University and this plastic paper holder thingy is from the school. It reminds me of spending time with them on the campus. I loved it! I loved them!
I don’t need another file sorter thingy. It’s not even that pretty. I have a nice-looking one, all wood, that sits on my desk.
I can’t use this plastic file holder anywhere else in the house. I wish I could, but I know deep down that most of my files are digital now. The file holder on my desk - the pretty wooden one - is mainly for decoration.
A hundred years ago, we wouldn’t have the decluttering issues we have today.
We have a lot of stuff! We buy a lot of stuff! We continue to buy a lot of stuff! It’s so easy!
When the kids are up and out, and you’re in a home that’s really too big now for the two of you, you start to look around at what you’ve accumulated over the years, and after one-too-many adventures on trying to locate a certain something, you say to yourself, hmmm…maybe it’s time to declutter, go through, and streamline some of our stuff.
It actually feels really good when you’re done!
And, it starts a new habit of looking more critically at the things coming into your home now.
But I get it: Decluttering is as much work internally - in your mind - as it is externally - physically going through the space.
Decluttering is synonymous with “getting rid of things” and this can be scary.
What if I want it back? What if I make a mistake?
How Do I Start Decluttering?
Starting the process begins with deciding which area of the home you will start with first.
Where to Start Decluttering
Some people suggest a junk drawer because it’s small and won’t take as much time as a whole room.
Some people suggest your bedroom because physical clutter translates into mental clutter. You sleep better in a neat, tidy, uncluttered room. You spend 8 hours a day sleeping in your room, it really is a great place to start.
Some people suggest starting with what you see first when you walk in your front door. If you want to feel great about people coming over and not apologizing for the mess - this is a great place to start. When you’re standing right inside your front door, where do your eyes go? What messy place do you notice first? It may be helpful to take a picture from this angle.
I started in my home office because I recently got a new desk and wanted to clear out the old stuff. Also, as I write this, it is towards the end of August and to me, it means “back to school” and getting organized. Even though my kids are no longer in school, this habit has stayed with me.
So if you’ve got a cluttered house and want to declutter or if you’re downsizing, start with something “bite size” - something small, and start there. Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed.
- If your priority is to just start small and go for a small win - do the junk drawer.
- If your priority is to create a sanctuary for yourself, start with your bedroom.
- If your priority is to be able to have more friends and family over and feel great about it - start with what you see first as you walk in the door.
Now let’s move on to going through your things.
And yeah…I’m going to go there…
Does It Spark Joy?
If you are familiar with Marie Kondo, you can go through your things and ask if it sparks joy for you. I know bills don’t spark joy, but the idea that you’re organized and can pay them - that can spark joy.
Another thing I love that Marie Kondo does is to thank the item for its service or what it’s meant to you, before you discard or donate it.
More Helpful Decluttering Tips
Don’t hold your things for too long - it can trigger your brain to bring up sentimental reasons why you should keep it. The less you hold on to something, the easier it will be to let it go.
If you’re struggling with letting things go, ask yourself:
- What is the downside to keeping this item/these items?
- What is the upside of letting them go?
- Would someone else love this better? Would someone else benefit from it?
- Would my relative/friend want me to hold on to it if it feels like a burden?
- Is it useful?
- Does it fit?
- Will I really, someday, fix it? Learn it? Use it?
Set yourself up with 3 different bins or piles:
- Displaced (it goes in a different room/area in your home)
Start with 5 minutes of your time if it feels overwhelming. Just 5 minutes. You don’t even need to start organizing, just focus on getting rid of the clutter.
I am currently reading the book Decluttering at the Speed of Life (by Dana K. White) and it’s been a helpful guide for me in this decluttering process. She calls decluttering “stuff you don’t need leaving your house.”
I think people struggle with the part: “stuff you don’t need.”
We need help defining what we don’t need.
The author defines clutter as “anything you can’t keep under control.” Hah! That could mean my dogs sometimes! Just kidding, but that’s funny, though.
One of the most helpful concepts she introduces is that your home is a container. It can only hold so much. Your bathroom - it’s a container. It can only hold so much. Same for your entry, your junk drawer, etc.
I live in a home that was built about 20 years ago. It’s over 7000 square feet.
We own a rental home up the street that was built almost 100 years ago. It’s barely 2000 square feet.
We all live differently now than 100 or more years ago. Our homes are bigger. We have way more stuff.
Side note: I am fascinated by tiny homes and would love to eventually downsize and develop a tiny home community!
Storage units did not exist 50 years ago.
Credit card debt has skyrocketed because our expenditures for things have skyrocketed.
Our lives have changed because of stuff.
What if we started valuing our spaces - our homes - over stuff?
What would that feel like? What would your home look like? Lean in to that vision - because that’s a huge motivator to keep you on the path of decluttering.
You, my friend, are worth it. You are worth a life that is lived with intention, attention, and inspiration.
To simplify a space, your home, by decluttering, brings with it the gift of:
- Peace of mind - by having less visual and mental clutter
- Simplicity and elegance in your home
- You'll save money on less purchases - and you don’t buy redundant products because you know what you have and don’t need
- There is less maintenance and things to take care of.
And less stuff to take care of means more time for people and relationships, more time for contribution and giving back, more time for experiences, travel, knowledge; and feeling that you did good by donating to people who want your decluttered clutter.
A cluttered house, downsizing, decluttering, having to declutter your home and/or declutter your mind - it can seem overwhelming, but it does not have to be!
My Biggest Piece of Advice for a Cluttered Home
Just start. Just start decluttering. Anywhere. Anytime. For any amount of time. And then, just start again and keep doing it.
Pretty soon, it will feel amazing to free up space and let go of things you’ve held on to for far too long.
Pretty soon, you’ll learn to discern how your purchases can now affect your peace of mind.
Is this an impulse buy? Is this an emotional purchase? Do I need this? Do I already have this?
You’ll become protective of the space you’ve cleared and you’ll be more intentional with buying things that will bring you joy.
And that my friend, is all a part of living an intentional life.
Want to learn more on how to create a productive home office? This blog post will help you create your home office haven of productivity and tranquility.
Have you ever spent time decluttering? What are some tips you can share that make it easier? Leave a comment below. I'd love to hear what you have to say!
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