About a year ago I had had enough. I don’t remember if there was a specific catalyst that brought on the desire to change, or if smaller moments had been building up over time. What I do remember is moving into our 1400 sq ft house (from our 600 sq ft condo) when I was eight months pregnant, about to be put on hefty restrictions, and the mad dash to move everything in the house and unpack what we could before our son was born. This left a lot of half unpacking, lots of shoving and just ‘putting away until later’. Basically an unorganized mess of STUFF.
Last year was tough mentally. I lost my grandfather and two beloved family pets within a short timeframe. Not to mention trying to adjust to life with a tiny baby and everything that goes along with that. My anxiety was at an all-time high. I felt lost and out of control. I think the desire to start examining everything we owned and removing over half of it stemmed from my need to feel in control of something. But soon after we started the process, it became more about the process and benefits of decluttering and moving towards minimalism.
Fast-forward a year later to present day.
Within the past year, we have donated over 40 boxes of stuff to various charities/organizations. We have sold countless items. We’ve also passed along some of our unused items to friends and family. But most importantly, we have enjoyed countless benefits of decluttering including:
- Less stuff = less time cleaning/organizing = more time doing stuff you love
- We actually use all of the stuff we own
- The stuff we own is stuff we love
- We are not constantly distracted, stressed or annoyed with clutter
- We have saved money by not constantly feeling the need to buy more stuff
- We started utilizing more resources within our community (ex. Libraries)
- We have space for everything we own, and everything has a location.
It is at this point that I feel the need to put out a disclaimer. I am in no way suggesting you get rid of everything you own. I am in no way suggesting or telling you what you should or shouldn’t own. The great thing about decluttering/minimalism is that it will look different for every person. Every person will also get their own set of benefits from decluttering. Some may look similar to what my family experienced, other benefits may be completely different.
I also want to mention that even though we went through this process and got rid of so much stuff, that doesn’t mean our house is never a mess. That doesn’t mean we don’t ever feel overwhelmed by clutter. We are still working towards our goal of minimalist and completely decluttered, and we are OK with that. Simply decluttering your house will not bring on the full benefits of minimalism. That requires not only decluttering, but also a behavioral and mindset change. Which leads into the last disclaimer.
The final disclaimer I want to put out there is that this process takes time. You didn’t accumulate all your stuff overnight, so don’t be discouraged if you feel it is not happening fast enough. You also didn’t develop the habits and behaviors of collecting stuff/clutter overnight.
I will say it again. This process takes time. It is easy to get overwhelmed.
So then, how do you begin the decluttering process?
Start with one area of your house/apartment/condo/etc. at a time. Have boxes or bags handy to sort items in. The categories we had were:
- Giveaway to friends/family
- Trash – we really tried to sort as much as we could into the above categories before trashing an item
Then start by handling each item one by one and ask yourself these questions:
- Do I love this item?
- Do I use this often (daily, weekly, or monthly)? If the answer is no, then ask yourself when was the last time you used it. If the answer is “I don’t know”, or “not for 6+ months”, I would seriously suggest getting rid of it.
- Is this item distracting me from other items that I actually love?
- Would this item be better off with someone else who will actually use it?
The last question is one that really helps me feel OK about giving something away. Why should I let something that I don’t use or love take up my precious space and time when it could go to someone else who would ACTUALLY be using it?
I am going to predict one thing that the little voice in your head will bring up. Or maybe it will be your spouse or partner. The question or statement of:
“Well, we may want, need or use that someday”. I challenge you to ask yourself. “REALLY?”
Within the past year of starting this process, I can’t think of a single time that I wished for an item we got rid of. Not. A. Single. Time.
So, how can you tell if this journey is the right one for you? For some, it may be trial and error. For others it may be the following signs:
- Do you feel stressed/overwhelmed/anxious when your house is messy?
- Are you telling yourself you need to invest in more organizers, containers, etc.?
- Are you unhappy with the amount of time spent cleaning?
- Do you feel like you’re constantly looking for items in your home?
- Do you wish you had more time for doing things you love?
- Do you have certain cherished items that get lost in the clutter?
- Are you constantly wishing you had more space?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, this path may be the right one for you. Start small. Start with your junk drawer. Pull out each item and ask the questions above. Slowly build up to bigger areas. Be mindful of how you are feeling throughout the process. If you find yourself getting stuck in certain areas or on certain items, leave them for now and come back to them. This timeline is your own. This process is your own. There is no deadline.
This is the end of part one.
Part 2 reviews some of the areas that created the biggest challenges for our family. Within these categories, I will document some of the places we donated to (we found that by contributing to certain organizations/charities that were meaningful to us, it made it easier to get rid of some of our items), and provide tips on what helped us get through those areas.
Part 3 discusses what to do after you’ve gone through the decluttering process. It includes mental shifts and some behavioral changes we made in order to move towards our process to minimalism. It also includes a free, printable 28-day decluttering list to help you get started.