Decluttering Our Way to Minimalism – Part 3 – Keeping the Momentum
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View Part 1 – Is Decluttering/Minimalism Right for You?
View Part 2 – Decluttering Tips and Tricks
You’ve done it. You’ve gone through all your possessions and cleaned out your entire household. Or maybe you’re still in the process of decluttering (like my family) but you’re already loving it and ready to never go back to ‘how it used to be’. You’re feeling the many benefits of being clutter free and only owning the items you LOVE, including, but not limited to:
- Less stuff = less time cleaning/organizing = more time doing stuff you love
- Actually using all of the stuff you own
- The stuff you own is stuff you love
- You are not constantly distracted, stressed or annoyed with or by clutter
- You have saved money by not constantly feeling the need to buy items
- You started utilizing more resources within your community (ex. Libraries)
- You have space for everything you own, and everything has a location = things are EASY TO FIND!
If you are nodding yes to most or all of these, congratulations! You have started the mental shift from just simply ‘decluttering’ to minimalism.
You see, simply going through and decluttering everything is not enough. You need to start adopting minimalist behaviors, mindsets, and lifestyle, in order to continue enjoying the benefits. Otherwise, those previous spending habits, the shopping therapy, or the lure of a good sale may draw you back in like a bug to a flame.
Although I don’t consider our family official ‘minimalists’ yet, we definitely have adopted many of the behaviors and mindsets.
Credit: Be More with Less
But I have a confession…
We fell off the wagon this summer, and we started accumulating stuff again.
It was a hectic summer with a couple of health issues and ER visits (everyone is OK!). But we ended up in survival mode and not able to move any further past that. We were not being as mindful about what we brought in, and the lack of letting stuff go. Over time, we started noticing items piling up again. Stuff we had set aside with the intention of ‘getting to’ at some point when things weren’t so hectic. But of course, that time never came.
Getting off track can be (and was) frustrating and discouraging. The best we could do was acknowledge what happened, learn from it, and move forward to get back on track.
Know that if this happens to you, you are not alone and that it is important to be compassionate and mindful with yourself; you didn’t develop accumulating habits overnight, and it will take some time and practice to get to where you want to be. And sometimes life gets in the way. If that happens, here are some tips to help get you back on track and stay on track for good!
- Remember the benefits!
Print them, save them, post them everywhere – at home, at work, in your car, wherever you think you’ll need a reminder about the benefits of owning less.
- Adopt a ‘one item in, one item out’ rule.
Make it a hard and set rule in your household that if you bring ANY item in, another item must then go out to make space for the new item. In our house, we find this especially important and useful with our clothes, kids toys and books, and accessory items like bags, jewelry, etc.
- Adopt a spending freeze.
Try a spending freeze, where you don’t spend money on anything that is NOT a necessity for a certain length of time. What is a necessity? Well, that is up to you. A freeze could be exceptionally useful during your decluttering days to ensure nothing new comes in while you’re working hard to get things OUT.
- Start engaging and utilizing community resources.
Once we started actively decluttering and noticing the benefits, I started researching community organizations and resources that we could join to help us minimize what we bring in (and bonus, many are free to use which helps with spending). These organizations were also a great resource to donate items to. I realize you may not have these in your area (start one!), but they are examples of what I found (and had no idea existed before I started researching). They are:
– county/city libraries
– the Minneapolis Toy Library
–Facebook Marketplace (for selling)
–NextDoor (for selling and finding local kids clothes swaps)
- Redirect your mind
A long time ago, I used to be the person that needed to engage in retail therapy. I would buy things I absolutely didn’t need or even necessarily want. I just needed the relief shopping provided, or the feeling scoring an item on sale would bring. Now, if I feel tempted to engage in ‘retail therapy’, I try and redirect my mind by binge watching a show on Netflix, reading, engaging in a hobby (photography for me), journaling, or getting outside. Which leads into…
- Go outside!
Get outside. Just do it. It has so many benefits. I won’t even start or go into detail the mental/physical benefits being outside or viewing nature can provide (see my mindful meditation posts if you’re curious). Our family found that the less we had inside our house the more active and engaged we became in outdoor activities. We love going for walks, exploring new playgrounds, checking out local parks or state parks, and just hanging out in our backyard. We noticed three main things:
- Our house stayed cleaner (bonus!)
- When we did play, hangout or relax inside, E seemed more engaged in his toys because he hadn’t been playing with them as much!
- We got to enjoy all the wonderful benefits of being outside, we felt better about ourselves, and my husband and I even lost some weight! We discovered awesome new areas, and made wonderful family memories.
Credit: Becoming Unbusy
- Start valuing experiences over things
Think back to some of your favorite memories. Did they involve things? Most of them, probably not. Sure, you probably have certain memories revolving around an item, but I am going to guess that most revolve around an experience and the people you were with at that time. I am going to go out on a limb and say that as we get older and reflect back on life, we probably won’t find ourselves saying we wished we had items A, B and C. But we might wish we would have done A, B and C, and with people who aren’t around anymore.
- Reevaluate gift giving
This can be a sticky area for many people because it is hard to tell those who are generous enough to want to give you something – ‘no, thank you’. Or, maybe you are someone (like me) who LOVES giving gifts to others! To move forward with gift receiving/giving mindfully while still adhering to your new minimalist mindset, here are some options:
- Continue to participate in gift giving! Here are some ideas:
- Giving the gift of time
- A donation to a local charity that is meaningful to the recipient
- A gift card to their favorite coffee shop/restaurant
- A membership to a local zoo or museum
- An experience
- Consumables such as treats from your favorite local bakery
- A homemade gift such as salsa or pesto, sweets
- Shampoos or homemade soaps that they normally wouldn’t buy for themselves
- Magazine subscriptions (can purchase for digital device or in print (can donate later!))
- Gift giving and kids
- Ask for or give clothes that kids can grow into
- An experience
- A membership to a museum or zoo
- Books (then donate or swap when you’re done!)
- Crayons, playdoh, and stickers are always in high demand at our house
- Ask the parents/guardians what the kid wants or needs and have ideas ready if people ask you
- Magazine subscriptions such as Highlights, or Ranger Rick (then donate when you’re done!)
- Follow the rule ‘Something you want, something you wear, something you read and something you need’. We follow this rule in our house for gifts.
- Santa, Easter Bunny…
- In our house, Santa brings one gift (a smaller gift) and stuffs our stockings with items such as consumables & toiletries (yummy soaps, bath items, crafting supplies, etc)
- The Easter bunny brings similar items to what Santa brings in his stockings. Consumables, fun bath items, crafting supplies, outdoor items such as bubbles, etc.
- Adopt other birthday/holiday/other celebratory event traditions instead of gifts
- Make the person of honor their favorite meal
- Offer to let the person of honor choose what activity they want to do for the day
- We like to take day trips where the person of honor gets to pick the location
- Don’t get stuck on sentimental items
This one was/is hard for me. I am a pretty sentimental person and I love having things around that remind me of a specific time, trip or event. Two questions that helped me get past this are:
- Is the memory going to go away if I get rid of this item?
- If I give away this item, does it make me happy knowing someone else is actually using it?
Of course, we still have a few sentimental items that although they aren’t getting any use (the outfit we brought E home from the hospital in, for example), it makes me all warm and fuzzy knowing we have it and I can pull it out whenever I want. But for most of the items, I decided it would make me much happier knowing that I wouldn’t lose the memory if I gave it away, but that it was actually getting used by someone!
Another trick for sentimental items is to take pictures of the ones you are donating. I did this and I have the pictures in a folder on my computer. I can pull them up whenever I want and still remember the great memory, but I am not being bogged down by the clutter.
Remember, your house is a vessel to live in, not a storage unit.
I hope this decluttering series has helped motivate you to start, continue or jump back into your decluttering journey to minimalism.
There are some wonderful books on minimalism, decluttering, and ‘stuff’ that I have read and would highly recommend. They are:
Some great minimalism/decluttering blogs that I follow are:
- The Minimalists
- Be More with Less
- Becoming UNbusy
- Nourishing Minimalism
- Break the Twitch
- The Minimalist Mom
PS: As promised, here is the 28-day Decluttering Challenge – Mindful Mom Blographer worksheet that is completely free and printable! You will notice that not only did I lay the tasks out by week, but I also did it by day (Day 1, Day 2, etc). The reason for this is that some of the tasks may be bigger than others and therefore be more time consuming. I also wanted you to be able to pick the pace that you wanted to follow these tasks. I’m going to guess that it isn’t realistic for some of you that you do these back-to-back days. I know it wouldn’t be for our family, and then I would start to feel overwhelmed and then not want to do anything. So pick your own schedule that works best for you and your family. After you finish the list, don’t forget about areas such as your car and the garage!
PPS: Feel free to rearrange the order of the tasks. I set them up in the order that I did so that you could start small, gain inspiration and momentum, and ease towards the bigger items. But if you’re starting in your kitchen one day and just want to do the whole thing all at once, have at it! This guide is just that…a guide. Use it however you like. I only ask for one thing in return: I want to hear all about your progress!