Jump to a Section in the Post Below:
- One Thought on “Why” we should Declutter
- Isn’t Decluttering the same as Minimalism?
- 5 Ways I Started My Decluttering Homework
- 12 Decluttering Tips, Methods & Approaches
- What is the Best Decluttering Method?
My wife decided to take a few days off work after the July 4th holiday. She asked me what I wanted to do on those days, and I half-jokingly responded, “How about we declutter?”
She said, “YES!” Now, you may not know much about my wife and me yet, but just know that the division of labor at our house is pretty clear based on our interests:
- She makes the messes (does the DIY projects, home maintenance, cooks, etc)
- I clean them up (organize the house, do the dishes, the vacuuming, etc)
We both enjoy what we do (I find cleaning therapeutic), but we don’t care much for doing each other’s chores or to-dos. So, when she was *enthusiastically* on board with decluttering, I dropped everything for the next week to study the subject. Fun fact: “declutter” and “decluttering” weren’t added to the Oxford English dictionary until June 2015.
Previously, I had never studied decluttering or followed any books or guides. Regardless, I’ve spent the last 2-3 years decluttering my stuff (mostly clothing) and just did it in a phased approach. Decluttered a little clothing the first pass through everything. Then a little more the next time. A little more the next time. And now, after probably 3-4 phases, I’m down to a pretty lean wardrobe.
But I knew this willy-nilly, phased approach wasn’t going to work with my wife. I needed a real plan and help from the experts.
I think this sums up the current reality effectively:
Think of all the time we waste caring for and pursuing material possessions. The average size of the American home has nearly tripled in the past fifty years, and still one out of every eleven households rents off-site storage. The average American house contains three hundred thousand items. No wonder we spend almost 700 hours each year cleaning and caring for our home, and more than 153 days of our lives searching for misplaced items. — Joshua Becker
Nope! You can declutter and not be a minimalist. For instance, I’ve decluttered my way closer to voluntary simplicity and minimalism, but my wife just wants one thorough decluttering to get rid of stuff and get more organized.
Decluttering is an action, while minimalism is a lifestyle…Let’s start with decluttering. After all, that’s where most people’s minimalism journey begins…It’s in the maintenance that I believe many people transition from simply decluttering to becoming a minimalist. — Sarah Anne Hayes, NoSidebar.com
The decluttering stars seemed to align as soon as we decided we were going to declutter.
1) I was already halfway through Joshua Becker’s eBook, Simplify: 7 Guiding Principles to Help Anyone Declutter their Home and Life (see Simplify book summary here). I also remembered that Joshua co-founded Simplify Magazine, and Issue 004 was all about decluttering and included insights and advice from professional organizers, life coaches, authors, and more. Here are some highlights:
- “Removing clutter makes room for a life focused on the things that matter most. It opens up physical space in our home and mental space in our mind.” — Joshua Becker & Brian Gardner
- “You’d be surprised at the results that come from committing to just ten minutes a day of decluttering and organizing.” — Peter Walsh
- “Decluttering is ultimately about alignment. It spurs greater congruence between our values and our actions…Before any of us can minimize our homes and lives, we must be convinced the lifestyle we want is worth our effort…Before you remove even one item from your home, I encourage you to sit down and articulate one or more reasons why you want to declutter your home.” — Joshua Becker
2) On July 4th, I received an email from Leo Babauta announcing “The Declutter Your Space Challenge.” You can join the conversation on social media using #declutteredspace. Here’s what it entails:
- “Pick a space each week (your bedroom closet, the kitchen counter), and focus on clearing it out.”
- “Narrowing your universe to one single thing: you look at it and fully consider it. Is this worthy of space in your life? Does it bring you joy or fill space needlessly?”
3) I was also already aware of some other decluttering challenges:
- Project 333 from Courtney Carver: “Project 333 is the minimalist fashion challenge that invites you to dress with 33 items or less for 3 months.” “Identify 5 favorite outfits. Statistics show we wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time, but we still ask ‘what am I going to wear?’ every morning. Instead, photograph yourself in your 5 favorite outfits and before you even look in your closet, choose from your favorite looks.”
- 30 Day Minimalism Game from The Minimalists: “This month, each of you must get rid of one thing on the first day. On the second, two things. Three items on the third. So forth, and so on.” By the end of 30 days, you will have decluttered 465 things! Use #MinsGame to see other people who are playing.
5) And, of course, I read the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo (see Magic of Tidying Up book summary here)
I looked at everything I could get my hands on over the course of a week. I wasn’t surprised at the variety of ways to declutter that I came across. Seems like everyone wants to put their unique twist or stamp on it. I’m going to share these tips and approaches with you, but then I’m going to tell you why you shouldn’t follow (most of) them.
1) The Minimalists claim, “Decluttering Doesn’t Work.” However, they have multiple approaches and challenges of their own for decluttering (e.g. the Mins Game mentioned above, or their Packing Party where you pretend like you’re moving). Their main point is that you should have a “why” or purpose behind your decluttering. I agree with that, but I also think decluttering does work if done in an effective way.
2) The 3 or 4-box method: Divide things up into different boxes as you go through them. For instance, you could do the 3-box method and have boxes for: 1) keep, 2) give away, and 3) sell.
3) Clean one room at a time: Simple enough, right? If only it worked…
4) Closet Hanger Method (or Reverse Hanger Trick): This idea has potential. I think it gained popularity after Oprah mentioned it. You turn all the things in your closet around so the hanger is facing the wrong way. After wearing something, you turn the hanger the correct way when you put it back. After a set period of time (6 months, 12 months), you get rid of anything that is still facing the wrong direction because you haven’t worn it.
5) Wear what’s next in line: You could follow this for a closet or dresser. Imagine that everything is in an order. The next t-shirt in line, the next pair of underwear in line, etc. If you get to something in line and don’t want to wear it, that should be an indication that maybe it’s time for it to go.
6) Do it in phases: Declutter once a year on the anniversary of your initial decluttering.
7) Set the mood/tone with music and scents: If you’re going to declutter, you may as well try to make it as enjoyable as possible, right? Well, not everyone agrees with that (*cough* Marie Kondo *cough*).
8) Take pictures: It makes it easier to get rid of sentimental items if you take pictures first.
9) Avoid pile moving and leveling: Pile moving is just moving clutter from one room to another. Leveling is moving clutter from one floor to another.
10) Start with hardest clutter? Or easiest? Start small? Or big? Marie Kondo says to knock it all out in one go. Others say to start small to get the compounding momentum of small wins.
11) “One In, One Out” Rule: Don’t buy anything new until you finish decluttering. If you must get something, use the “one in, one out” rule. Or, better yet, try one in, two out.
12) Personality & Professionals: Some people even recommend different decluttering methods based on your personality type. And, if all else fails, hire a professional declutterer or professional organizer to come do all the dirty work for you.
So…that brings us to the ultimate question:
We wanted something faster than 1 month, 3 months, or even longer. And, 10 minutes a day (forever?) just didn’t seem like it was going to cut it. I knew I had one shot with my wife to really make this decluttering process successful. She even told me that she wanted to the follow the best of all the approaches and methods that were out there.
So, I turned to the expert. Marie Kondo.
As I outlined in my book summary of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, she debunks a bunch of the tips mentioned above. Here are all the methods she says don’t work: getting rid of one item a day, decluttering one room at a time, doing a little at a time, listening to music or the TV while you declutter, trying to get your possessions down to a certain number, getting rid of something you haven’t used in a set period of time, getting rid of one thing every time you buy something new, and most storage solutions.
In my next post, I’ll outline how my wife and I used the KonMari Method to massively declutter and organize our clothing. We also added #2 and #4 from the list above: the 3-box method (keep, give away, sell) and the Reverse Hanger Trick to everything in the closet.
Have you decluttered? What method or tip worked the best for you? Or, what are you most excited to try? Please share in the comments!