This topic is very important to me not because I’m good at it, but because I was once very terrible at it. Ok, so there are a few more reasons
An immensely big part of making a home is knowing what not to keep and when it’s time to let go of things that no longer add function or happiness. With all the home projects I’m up to, really narrowing in on my style, and finding over and over that minimal spaces turn my eyes into hearts, I’m standing strong in my mission to be bold with decluttering. It’s also simply a very healthy and happy thing to do, to make sure we’re only rolling around in things that are awesome and not in garbage that stresses us out and hides where our favorite pair of pants are (I clearly remember that long day.)
I started last year with my closet, dedicating almost an entire Saturday to go through every single piece of clothing I owned. After many why-the-hell-do-I-even-have-this and who-keeps-a-dress-for-over-10-years-that-isn’t-even-cute-and-doesn’t-fit-anymore moments, I ended up getting rid of about 80% of my closet. That’s clothing, bags, shoes, jewelry, all of it. 80%! Things I held on to thinking “one day” I’ll need it and then after getting real with myself was like “nuh uh” and it’s true- I don’t miss or remember any of it. Tossing all those extra hangers and being able to stick my head in the closet to breath in empty space was a sensationally proud moment for me.
While I wouldn’t regard one amazing experience as a claim to mastery, I think it can be helpful to share what worked and still works for me, for anyone who wants to ride along on the purge horse. I consider these tips a reminder (and actually a timely one for me as I’m planning on attacking my desk supplies this weekend), and some basic guidelines on what I’ve confirmed for myself to be the best way to approach clutter.
Take every single item out into one pile
I used to scan the area that I’m trying to declutter and only take out things that I could for sure say I didn’t need anymore, then leave everything else where it was. No good. It’s harder to be honest with myself this way, easier to gloss over things, and the things that stay aren’t as likely to be tidied or organized thereafter.
Having everything in a pile first forces me to not miss a single thing, to touch and pick up every item one by one and really reflect on what’s best to do with it, keep or not. Then, when I put things back, I’ll for sure be tidy about it. Win!
Separate into keep, toss, donate, and sell piles
Whatever mechanism you use, baskets, bins, or just the floor, use it for only the keep, donate, and sell pile. For the “toss” pile, I like using an actual trash bag to stuff the rejects into. I’m far less likely to go rummaging back through it and it makes the decision more final. I also like the feeling of emphatically tossing things into the bag. Perhaps this is weird, or maybe you can let me know that this is normal because you do it and like it too. If it’s something that was at all hard for me to part with though, I’ll place it gently in the bag. Perhaps this is weird as well.
I don’t do “maybe” piles. I like to be straight with my decisions because it’s what works best for me. If I had a “maybe” option, I’d be putting too many things in there!
Ask these questions for items you’re struggling with
If your answer is “no” to all the questions that apply, get rid of it.
1. Does this make me happy?
2. Is this sentimental?
3. If I saw this at a store right now, would I buy it?
4. Have I used this in the past year?
5. Does this still fit me?
Through paying attention to the ways I’ve challenged these questions or defended myself, I found out that the biggest reason I held on to things is because I considered it a waste of money to throw anything away. That’s why in most situations I’m able to almost exclusively narrow down the questioning to only question 3. That question made a lot of this click for me, realizing that on the other hand it’s a waste of money to buy things I don’t like, so cutting my losses and parting with those objects of bad decision’s past is essentially a form of redemption. It’s a much more empowering angle to look at it from.
I wanted to be like yes I’m going to declutter the entire bedroom now, but it’s really really hard to get started when the task is so huge. For my closet purge, I actually started with my sock/undies drawer and set out just to at least get that done. Once I completed that, I felt like the king of the world and kept going with what ended up being an entire wardrobe purge. It’s so cliche but it’s so true that getting started is the hardest part. Once I felt that little victory I didn’t want to stop. It becomes addicting.
Organize in style
This is one of the most motivating factors in maintaining all those decisions I just spent forever on. Style matters. I trust that the bottom line reason you even visit my blog is because you agree with this! Whatever supplies and knick knacks you now need to reorganize your collection of only awesome things, make sure you love it, because that way you’ll keep up with it. If you’re using a shoebox to organize your socks, you better love that shoebox. Don’t use a red shoe box if red makes you meh (paint it or cover it up!) It’s that simple, yea? I used to do this step first to get myself excited about decluttering and organizing, but it can be difficult to predict ahead of time what items and tools will work best, so decide all that last after assessing what’s needed.
Hoping these might spur some interesting discussion, if you agree, disagree, have your own tips, going on a decluttering spree lately as well or maybe want to share your biggest reason(s) for hanging on to things. Leave me any thoughts you have!
17 comments on “Top 5 Decluttering Tips”
Many great points. I find myself always having a difficult time de-cluttering my closet and office. As a designer, I horde things, from knick knacks to books. I always wanted to simplify, but find it to be very challenging because mannnn it’s hard to throw away things, and as you mention I think it has to do with the mentally of thinking that it would be a waste of money. I will try your method and see how it goes by challenging myself with these questions! Thanks for sharing. ^^ And yes, the reason I go back to your blog is because I love your style! It’s an inspiration. ^^
Yup yup, magazines especially are so easy to hoard, thinking I’ll someday go back through them for inspo but the truth is I’ve NEVER done that. Those are going to be the first thing I toss! Books are tougher because even if I might not read them I like the idea of knowing I can lend them out to people… although I hardly do that either haha! Lots to get rid of.
Thanks for your input Nye, and for continually being here <3.
Love this, especially taking everything and putting it into one pile. It’s much easier to give away that way. I recently went through my closet but I could definitely still give away a lot more — might have to take you up on this!
I’m thinking I might want to do some more closet purging, too. After living with my “new” wardrobe for a bit I’ve noticed I’m still not wearing a lot of things I thought I would. I like your idea to give away more ;).
These are great tips! I’ve been trying to declutter because I’m sick of every storage space in my apartment being crammed so full, this post has inspired me to not give up! And question number 3 – if I saw this in a store right now would I buy it – is genius.
Yes girl. Our storage spaces are doing a lot better but still I’d like more breathing room because some of our cabinets are avalanches about to happen ha!
Glad you find question 3 helpful, too! I believe I picked it up from this book, which pretty much taught me everything I know about decluttering- highly recommend!
Such great tips. Especially the tip of taking everything out, not only the things that we know we don’t want. It’s much more efficient. Great post!
Definitely, taking everything out is probably the biggest game changer for me. Glad you found this helpful, Emma!
One name: Marie Kondo. I always was a minimalist organizer, but reading her book has made it much easier for me to be very honest about what works and what doesn’t! Your points come across in the book as well, so I think you’d recognize a lot, but somehow, the Japanese girl just has a way of kicking her reader’s asses and make them clean out their mess for the last time.. highly recommended. BTW love your blog XOXO
YES, I read her book and it totally kicked my ass!! She’s also on my list of people I want to meet ;).
Thanks so much for loving the blog, Nienke!!
Good tip to remove everything first. I’m starting with this step first from now on. Plus you can vacuum, dust, wipe down or even paint the inside, when that’s an option–that would encourage putting back only the best. But the “maybe” pile is so helpful, for me. Usually the sentimental stuff goes in there, but at the end of the purge, after the taste of success, I’m ready to let go. After a couple of purges, I should be rid of the pesky sentimental things, and can skip this step thereafter.
Very true about being able to thoroughly clean the space first once items are removed.
I hear ya on the sentimental stuff. I think I’m at that point you’re referring to as “skip this step thereafter,” since I’ve pretty much purged down to those few sentimental items that are automatic yes pile candidates. I agree though, for early on in the process a “maybe” pile can be helpful. I once had a “maybe” bag of some handwritten cards and after forgetting about them for close to a year and not reading any of them once and then accidentally coming across them again, I could decide it was time to part. The temporary holding of a maybe pile brought to light how much they were actually adding to that “sentimental” part of my life, and they weren’t!
Great tips!! I also did a closet purge last year, but it’s actually high time to do it again. :)
That closet likes to grow haha. I’ve been strict on myself to not get any more hangers. That helps me keep things under control!
My closet is the WORST problem in the entire house…so much so that instead of actually dealing with it, I just keep spreading out to the other rooms in the house. FOUR to be exact, I have taken up EVERY closet in my house. I need a day (maybe a week) without children do take this on…that’s probably an excuse but that is what I am telling myself….Maybe I could try this tip one closet at a time.
I love this! & You’re so right about the style. We visit your blog because we love your style! I love minimal bedrooms and homes, but I have trouble making it happen. One of my biggest problems is that I love books, movies, and craft supplies. They’re colorful and take up a lot of room! Is there anyway I can ever have a minimal home with all those things? I’m talking hundreds of movies and books – not just a few ha.
I know what you mean, ESPECIALLY with the crafting supplies. The way I’ve handled those is to keep them in a closed storage space (we use a tall ikea bookshelf with doors). As much as I love open shelving, it’s really, really hard to maintain a clean look with them, but I totally get that those are ideal for things like books and movies. I also think it’s really cool and way more interesting to display your collections. I think you can definitely have a minimal home, or at least a minimal “feel”, with all those things as long as you figure out the storage/organization that works best for you!