When you think of decluttering, it may seem overwhelming. You have all this stuff. You’re not exactly sure how you’ve accumulated such an absurd amount of things, but you have. All you know now is that you need less stuff.
There’s the KonMari Method, which gets it done all at once, and that in itself can be overwhelming. Especially if you drag out every piece of clothing you own, and then run out of time before you’re able to put it back, causing even more clutter.
Many methods recommend doing it all at once. If that works for you, do it. But only you know how you are. And I know how I am, and I am not a declutter-the-entire-house-in-a-weekend kind of guy. While Marie Kondo has some great ideas and unique ways to fold your clothes, her method isn’t for everyone. I do like her show on Netflix though… it’s always nice to see people’s lives with less stuff and more freedom.
If you’re not trying to put in 40 hours this weekend decluttering your home, you’ll appreciate some of these slower steps that anyone can use.
Why We Keep Things
Before the “how,” let’s go over the “why” and the “what” of decluttering. I’ve read several books on minimalism and decluttering for my own sake, and to help others who may have even more clutter than we did when we started minimizing.
I’ve narrowed it down to three reasons we tend to keep things:
- We overpaid for something. Or at least, we paid a lot for something that we no longer want or need. We know we can’t sell it for much, so we hold on to it. Holding on to an item we don’t use that we paid a bunch of money for will only keep us focused on how much money we spent. Give it a new home. Someone else may actually use it.
- We’re afraid we’ll need it later. But we almost never do. We’ve given a lot of stuff away, and I would say we ended up needing about 1% of it, but even then, we were able to either just do without it or buy it again for cheap from someone else who doesn’t think they need it anymore.
- We’ve attached sentimental value. This is the hardest, but it’s also the most important when decluttering. It’s important that we don’t tie up our feelings in material objects. You won’t lose memories just because you gave something away. If the item makes you happy, keep it. But if it’s a burden that you keep out of some sort of obligation, keep the memory of the object, and get rid of the object.
Now let’s move on to how you can get started…
Go at Your Own Pace
This is obvious, yes, but important enough to note. If you’re in a chaotic season of life right now, with kids in school/sports, and a hectic work life, it’s not going to be the time to dedicate two hours a day to decluttering. But you may be able to dedicate two hours a weekend, or 10 minutes a day.
Do what you can. You don’t have to tackle the most difficult area first. You don’t have to start with the junk drawer. Anything is better than nothing, which I assume is mostly what you’ve been doing. Yeah, I know, I’ve been there.
If you can only declutter one cabinet a day, or one drawer, or a quarter of a room, then do that. Think of what your home would look like now if you started this slow method six months ago, or a year ago.
But Take Action
Your own pace must still be a pace. And one room per decade is probably a little too slow. You want to reap the benefits of a more minimalist lifestyle. Let that motivate you, but we’ll talk about motivation in a moment.
Sometimes the most productive thing you can do is be productive before you feel productive. If you get in the garage or the living room and start working, motivation will generally follow, but not always right away. The good news is that, if the motivation doesn’t come, just do your one little piece for the day and stop.
Decluttering is going to take a lot of action. It can be spread across a long time period, or fit into a short one. Decluttering shouldn’t lead to stress, because the point of it is to reduce stress. So take action, but if you’re getting stressed, you may want to take a little less action.
Or, you could always use that stress as motivation to finish the house. It’s up to you. When you take action and don’t feel stressed, you’ll become motivated. Once that happens…
Then Ride the Motivation Wave
If you set parameters, or goals, on your decluttering, that’s great. But don’t let them get in your way. You may have a goal to declutter one cabinet a day in your kitchen, but you get up early on a Saturday, feeling motivated, and feel like decluttering the entire kitchen. Do it.
That’s called a motivation wave. Motivation breeds more motivation, and we don’t always know when motivation will come. It’s true that action leads to motivation, but then there are the times that motivation hits us randomly. Don’t waste those times.
Dr. BJ Fogg introduced the idea of motivation waves in his Tiny Habits method. Check out the video on motivation waves:
I’m sure you’ve experienced motivation waves before, the difference and the secret is to look for them. Instead of finishing a project and thinking you were more motivated than expected, wait for that wave, and then ride it.
But don’t forget to…
Donate or Sell as You Go
It’s up to you whether you want to donate or sell your things. I lean more towards donating, especially when you look at the work that goes into selling. But do your own calculation. If you think it will be worth your time, sell it.
Regardless of how you do it, you must get rid of the stuff as you go. Don’t throw all your donations in the garage for a year. That will just lead to another project in the garage, sorting through stuff to remember what was for donation and what you’re keeping. And it will be a major project to get rid of all that stuff.
When it comes to donating, get into a routine of taking all of the week’s or month’s donations at the same time, on the same day each week or month. That will ingrain the habit in you, and keep your house clutter-free as you go.
It’s Not About a Method
If you want a method for decluttering, there are plenty. Go ahead and KonMari your house if that’s what works for you, but if that’s not practical, find your own way.
My point was not so much to give you a method, but to give you permission (that you never needed in the first place) to do it your way.
Further Bible Study
Further Book Reading
- The Minimalist Home by Joshua Becker
- Clutterfree With Kids by Joshua Becker
- The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
- Goodbye, Things by Fumio Sasaki
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