It’s an intimidating word. Often I feel we glance around at all the things we own and think “I can’t get rid of any of this! I might need it some day” or the classic “that is really sentimental!”
The good news: Minimalism can be achieved on minimal levels (see what I did there?) Minimalism doesn’t have to be this big scary thing where you throw away all your clothes and wear only black, white and gray and eat off the same 1 plate and 2 forks for the rest of your life. Minimalism and de-cluttering go hand in hand. Minimizing the extra stuff you have lying around can feel like a big change. Slowly that decluttering can travel up to larger parts of your life.
There’s lots of different ways to be minimal and declutter. There’s lots of help books out there and Pinterest boards and Instagram accounts for inspiration. So you can find inspiration everywhere. Here I just gathered some of my favorite tips and tricks and words of wisdom.
Start Big, Then go Small
First thing you have to do is look big picture. What do you want out of decluttering? Do you want to be more organized? Have more space? Purchase less? What are your big goals? After you figure that out, then you move to surveying what you have to work with. Take a look around your whole home. Take note of what areas bug you or you get a little overwhelmed looking at. Also take stock of the areas of your home you love the most. Ask yourself why these areas make you feel that way. After you’ve taken a look around that’s when you can start small. By start small, I mean pick one closet or one corner of your house. It can even be one shelf if you want to start super small. Sometimes it’s best to tackle the worst areas first. Choose the area you want to tackle and pull everything out and lay it on the floor. Yes, you have to make a mess to get rid of the mess. From there, you can start make decisions on what to do with things.
3 Bin Method (With optional 4th)
This is a really popular method of decluttering. Get 3 big boxes or bags and label them “Keep,” “Donate,” and “Trash” (option to add “Recycle” bin for extra ‘green’ points.) This method is great because as you take things out of a closet or a drawer you can just toss them where they belong and not even think about it. When you’re done you can take the trash to the trash, the donations to a drop off place and then come back and work on putting things from the “keep” bin back where they belong. The trick: don’t keep the donation bin in your house for long. It’s easy to keep walking past the box and see that old sweater you haven’t worn in years and think of the time that you wore it to your favorite concert and take it out of the box and put it back in the closet. If your first reaction was to donate it, donate it! Get it out of the house and chances are if you don’t see it, you won’t even really remember you owned it.
Questions to Ask Yourself
If you’re struggling to decide whether or not to toss an item in front of you there are some questions you can ask yourself to help make that decision to get rid of an item that’s been floating around your house for a while.
- Do I use this a lot?
- Do I have more than one?
- Is there something else I own that serves the same purpose?
- When was the last time I used/enjoyed this item?
- Do I absolutely love this item?
- Is the only reason I have it because it was expensive?
- Am I holding on to it because it’s never been used?
- Is there a reason it’s never been used?
- Am I holding on to it with the intention of one day fixing it?
- Am I holding on this because I feel obligated to?
- Could this spot hold something of more value?
- If I was in the store, would I buy this item right now?
Check out this Infographic (from wickedkate.com) for de-cluttering:
Sometimes it’s a little easier to declutter if you make it a game or a challenge. A popular one is where you try to declutter one drawer a day for a month or where you tackle a room a week. You can look online for different programs that help keep you on track. Below I’ll attach a list I found on Pinterest that helps you take small steps every day for 60 days to end with less clutter.
Traps we often fall into:
- Stop keeping small mementos (like the bracelet your 4th grade crush gave you, or a ticket to the zoo you went to once) unless you plan on displaying them or making a scrapbook. You don’t have to keep the little plastic cup you got your wine in at an outdoor concert to remember that you were there. You don’t have to keep the little bottle of bubbles from your best friends wedding to know that it was the craziest wedding you ever went to. Take lots of photos and videos of events on your phone and stop keeping the silly mementos. Want to remember the cute color of the confetti at your nieces birthday? Instead of keeping a baggie of it, take a photo on your phone. *Note: But also remember to download the photos off your phone and organize them by year, event or season to also declutter your virtual world.*
- Try to avoid getting joy out of material things. Of course you’re allowed to love the cup your kid painted for you at day care or that beautiful necklace your husband got you for your 10th anniversary, but don’t let those items hold too much weight. Remember that spending time with your kids, spouses and friends is more important than keeping every single little thing they ever gave you.
- Stop keeping things around for “someday.” That bike that has a broken chain that you might fix “someday,” that vase that a chunk broke off that you might glue back together “someday,” that crazy pair of shoes that are uncomfortable but might be needed “someday,” JUST GET RID OF IT. If you REALLY need a pair of shoes or a bike or a vase there are stores that sell them, but for the most part I’m sure there’s something else in your house that can fill that need.
- Don’t declutter once every 5 years! Make it a seasonal thing. As the leaves change color or the grass starts growing again, take a glance through your closets and drawers and purge what you can. It’s easier to keep going a little bit at a time, rather than waiting a year or two and then doing it all at once.
- Think really hard about misc purchases. When you’re at a clothing store or on vacation think before you buy. Do you really need this item? Are you buying it for the right reasons? Don’t buy things because they’re a good price, or the salesperson was really nice or because you might never come back to this little beach town again. Buy things because you need them. *Tip* start a list on your phone of things you think of that you actually need. When you’re getting dressed in the morning and think “I really could use a pair of gray boots, they would go with everything I wear” then type it down. Then when you’re in the shoe store check your list. If the item that you’re looking at (those pair of pink sky high heels) aren’t on the list, maybe leave them on the shelf.
- Don’t just stop in your house! Do this at your desk at work, your car, your garage and any other place that is your space. In the mean time, inspire your office mates and friends to join you.
- We often spend our free time surfing the web on shopping sites or looking at things we want. We live in a world where the things we want on impulse are at our fingertips whenever we want them. Instead of spending your break at the office scrolling amazon’s sales or your favorite stores clearance section, try reading some books or listening to podcasts. (Check out your local library to check out books so you don’t have to keep collecting. Often they also have options for audiobooks or e-books as well which take up even less space.)
Check out this Ted Talk, and also their Documentary: MINIMALISM