Our possessions can quickly take over our lives. We pick them up and clean them. They surround us at all times. They break and require maintenance. Your possessions are everywhere – and it can be overwhelming. So overwhelming, in fact, that you don’t know how to get started decluttering even though it’s your heart’s biggest desire.
While your possessions weigh you down, the action of decluttering will lighten your load. Literally. Less cleaning, less picking up, less… stuff.
There was a point in our lives when we realized we had too much stuff. It was July 2017 to be exact. We were watching the Minimalists’ documentary on Netflix and it made that light bulb turn on. Why do we have all of this? It hasn’t made us any happier.
Fast forward two years. We had our big 2017 purge, a couple of garage sales, a sweet baby boy, and I’m now a SAHM. I would like to say that I blog full-time too, but I’m not that cool yet (AKA no income from blogging). I have my moments (read here) and struggle sometimes. But when I realize what I’ve done, I begin to declutter again and with a vengeance.
How to Get Started Decluttering
There are several of my blog posts that I believe to be important if you decide to declutter and embrace minimalism. They give excellent, real-life examples of what our family has been through. The posts are there to also let you know that you ARE NOT alone in this.
- 10 Minimalism TED Talks to Inspire You to Spend Less
- How to Declutter When You’re Overwhelmed
- Why We Chose a Minimalist Life
- Questions to Ask When You Purge Your Whole House
- Hi, I’m Amanda and I’m Addicted to Stuff
1. Let your family know what’s happening and get them on board
The most important thing to do when you get started decluttering is this: tell your family.
I personally would be pretty upset if a family member came home one day and decided to start decluttering the whole house and tossing things out… without telling me first.
You may get the itch to purge real bad. But let me warn you – don’t throw out other people’s things.
Have a family meeting and let those awesome people in your life know that you need a change. You’re going to look at every item the family owns and you – as a family – will decide what to do with it. Tell them how the build up of possessions in your home makes you feel. Ask how they feel as well.
2. Start family challenges
Everyone loves a friendly competition. Why not get started decluttering with a big family challenge!?
A few challenge ideas include:
- Car Clear Out – who can get the most trash and other items out of the car the fastest and put them where they belong? Likewise, this works for bedrooms, living spaces, and bathrooms.
- Find 5 – have each member of your family find 5 items to donate. This challenge can be done each month and can help keep everyone in clutter-check.
- One a Day – You and your family come up with 1 item every day of the month to donate. As a result, you’ll have 30 more items gone from your home. This method is especially good to use for yearly decluttering maintenance.
3. Have a no-spend month
No spend months deserve some more love from the minimalist and decluttering communities. Because not only are you saving money, you’re bringing less into your home. Buying less consumer goods is key when you get started decluttering. You bring less into your home. Therefore, you have less stuff to be stored and taken care of.
No spend months can be tailored to your lifestyle. However, you’ll need a very handy document or two in your arsenal:
1 – The 72 Hour List
2 – A budget
The 72 Hour List is an easy one because it is exactly what it sounds like: a list of things you would like to purchase that are not necessities. You write your want on the list and wait 72 hours until you make the decision or not. Because you wait three days to purchase an item, more often than not, you end up not completing the purchase.
And of course, you need to look at your budget. See if you can spend less on groceries, or try out a new frugal life hack.
4. Commit to a list of items you won’t buy
Writing items you won’t purchase on a list is very powerful. Not only are you committing things to memory, in fact, you’re also making a firm commitment to yourself. I put our list on my blog for the whole world to see! (We’ve done pretty good this year.)
Items on your list should be applicable to your life. Don’t write down “I will not buy hot dogs” if you’re vegan. That’s cheating. When you get started decluttering, your priorities may change. Certainly you may want to make this list a bit of a challenge – you’re changing your lifestyle after all!
5. Set achievable goals
Let’s be real for a sec – you aren’t going to get started decluttering and purge your entire home in a weekend. That just isn’t possible. However, if you and your family have the determination, decluttering your whole home is achievable.
Decluttering takes time. I don’t care how many people tell you they cleared out their whole home in a weekend. They may not have slept at all.
Be realistic when you set your goals. These goals should be achievable. As an example, our goal was to get the immediate excess out of our home. That took about a week to clear out the “easy” things. Our long term goal was to make room for a new baby – and we had a long way to go when we first started.
Here are some achievable decluttering goals:
- Clean out your car and work to keep it that way
- Deep clean your bathrooms and discard any old, half-used items. Declutter makeup, travel toiletries, and all items stored under the sink.
- Downsize your closet to the items that you love to wear, items that you need (work attire, underpants, etc), and items you will need for special occasions.
- Start a toy rotation with your kids. Put up 75% of the toys they have and leave out the other quarter. As a result, your children may play more imaginatively. Swap out toys every week or every other week. Take notes on which on are their favorites and which toys they don’t play with.
- Declare an area of your home clutter free. For us, this is the dining table. Nothing can be left there unless it has to do with eating (napkins, salt/pepper shaker)
- Find homes for everything you own. Whenever you have a place to put all of your possessions (in an organized way), you’ll find that everyday clutter disappears. However, you’ll also quickly realize what areas of your home can be paired down.
- By the end of the year, have nothing in a storage unit or in your attic.
Of course, you’ll find your own goals when you talk with your family.
6. Set a time limit on the time you spend decluttering
When you get started decluttering, you’ll be really pumped up. That certainly was the case for us! I remember yelling at my husband from across the house to bring me more trash bags. I was so excited about decluttering that I lost track of time. Hours and days went by when all I could think about was decluttering and what else I could get rid of.
Looking back, that probably wasn’t great for my mental health. I understand how easy it is to start and immediately get overwhelmed by the sheer about of stuff you have, too. I ended up that way after our Little Guy was born and all of our remaining possessions were just too much at times.
Start by doing an hour a day. Maybe the kids will be off to grandma’s for the weekend, and you want to tackle it then. Whatever time limit works for you, do it. Nap time? You bet – it’s my favorite time of the day.
7. Clear out the “top layer” first
There are three “layers” of clutter in your home.
- Top layer – trash and other items that are easy to discard
- Middle layer – items you assess but don’t ponder over for too long before making a decision to declutter or not
- Bottom layer – generally sentimental items and other items that are hard to let go of
The top layer is the easiest to discard when you get started decluttering. You might fill a many bags and boxes with trash and other items you know you no longer need. When you see the amount of items you have discarded, excitement may push you to the middle layer and then the bottom layer.
8. Don’t let it pile up
Bags and boxes of unwanted items are great, but what do you do with them?
Donations should be dropped off as soon as you can get to the charity shop. This could be a weekly ritual that turns into a monthly trip and eventually an annual donation. The longer something sits in your home (bagged up) the more likely it is to stay that way.
If you plan to have a garage sale, set a firm date first. If you keep putting the sale off, just donate the items. There is no use in them just sitting there.
Items promised to friends and family should be dealt with the same way. If they cannot pick up the item or if you are unable to schedule a meet-up, then let them know the item is going to be donated.
9. Don’t compare yourself to anyone
Comparing your life to someone else’s is a toxic habit. Whether it is what they own vs. what you own, or how clutter-free their house is compared to yours – it’s not a good thing.
Motivation can come from looking at pictures of clean homes or watching Tidying Up on Netflix. But don’t think that your life can be just like their life. You and your family are unique, as will your decluttering journey be.
You do you. Whatever your version of clutter-free is, embrace it. Embrace the feeling of a weight lifted off your shoulders. It feels good 🙂