Before I began decluttering my home and embracing minimalism, I often felt frustrated with how much time and energy I was spending managing our stuff. I spent so much of my day picking up, cleaning, maintaining, organizing and dealing with STUFF. Finally I had enough and began to massively minimize our home and our lives. Embracing minimalism and decluttering has benefited my life in so many ways. It is so freeing to declutter and let go of the excess stuff we owned and only keep what we love and use regularly.
If you are ready to start decluttering your home and life, and move towards a simpler, minimalist life, here are some tips to help you get started. Taking the first steps of decluttering are often the hardest. The thought of decluttering your whole house can often feel overwhelming. Here are 7 steps to start decluttering and keep up your momentum to declutter you home and embrace minimalism:
Step 1: Get clear about your vision and your “why”
Why do you want to declutter your space and start living a minimalist life? Get clear with yourself about why you are doing this. What matters the most to you? What do you want to gain by living more simply and minimally? Ask yourself how your space is currently making you feel? How do you want to feel in your home?
What’s your vision?
Without a clear vision of why you are on this journey, it’s easy to get sidetracked or lose momentum. Decluttering your life takes a lot of hard physical, mental and emotional work. It’s hard work physically to sort through every item you own. Letting go of your stuff is hard mentally and emotionally. We have attachments to our things (it was a gift from someone special, holds special memories, etc.), and we often feel guilty about letting things go (it was a gift, getting rid of it feels like wasting money, etc.). It is easy to let this pull you off track and distract you. When you’re struggling to continue decluttering and embrace minimalism, it helps to have a clear vision of why you’re putting in all this work.
What do you want minimalism to look like for you?
Although minimalism is more about the journey, and is something that requires ongoing diligence to maintain, it helps to have a goal in mind. How will you define when the amount of stuff is enough for you? What do you want minimalism to look like for you? Everyone’s answer will be different, but starting with a goal in mind helps you maintain your momentum. Minimalism is a lifestyle that will always change and evolve as the season of life you’re in changes. But if you don’t know what you’re striving for, you’ll never get where you want to go. Clear goals and visions make it easier to follow through with your intentions.
Get clear about your vision for how minimalism and simple living will look in your life. Clarify why you are putting your time and energy into decluttering and simplifying your home.
Step 2: Make a plan, but don’t forget to take action
Creating a plan about how you want to work through decluttering your space is important. Having a plan to follow makes it easier to dive in and get to work, instead of worrying about what to do and when to do it. Decide if you’ll declutter room by room or declutter all like objects at one time.
What will you do with the stuff you’re getting rid of?
Figure out what you want to do with the stuff you’re getting rid of. What will you do with the garbage/recycling? Decide where you will donate things. If you want to sell anything, figure out where you will sell it. I also recommend giving yourself a deadline to get it listed for sale, and a time frame for when to donate an item that hasn’t sold.
Selling the stuff you’re decluttering can be a good way to make some extra money, but it can also slow down and impede your progress. Selling items takes a lot of time (taking pictures, posting for sale, corresponding with buyers, setting up meet ups, accounting for people who don’t show up, etc.). Holding on to stuff while you’re waiting to sell it means your space isn’t cleared as quickly. And there’s always the danger of changing your mind or the “sell” pile being moved back in to the house (especially with small kids around!). Yard sales are another option, just make sure you set a firm date for the sale to make sure it actually happens. And commit to donating anything that doesn’t sell after the yard sale.
When will you declutter?
Decide when you’ll declutter. Make time for it, put it in your schedule and prioritize it. I recommend adding it to your calendar and treating it like any other appointment. If you don’t set aside specific chunks of time to work on decluttering, it will easily get put off. Decide what works best for you and your schedule. Maybe it will be scheduling 15 minutes a day, setting aside 3 hours on the weekend or somewhere in between. Figure out what works for you, schedule it and hold yourself accountable to follow through.
Prioritize the areas to declutter.
Identify what is causing you the most stress and overwhelm in your house. Is it the toys? Your clothes? The kitchen? Figure out what creates the most stress. Make those areas priorities. Make a list of all the rooms or types of stuff in your house and rank them from highest to lowest decluttering priority. The highest priority areas should be those that are causing you the most stress.
Don’t forget to take action!
Having a plan about how you will declutter is great, but don’t get too caught up in the planning. Don’t spend so much time making a color coded map of your house and corresponding decluttering chart that you run out of steam before you even begin. Remember that a plan is only effective if you actually do the work and put the plan in to action. Make your plan, but more importantly, don’t forget to actually START decluttering!
Step 3: Do a quick sweep through the whole house
This is how I started when I began decluttering. I took a box and went through the whole house quickly removing anything I could see that we didn’t use or love. It was amazing how much stuff I gathered relatively quickly. I had so many things sitting out that I had no attachment to and realized I didn’t even care if they were in our house! Many of the things were decorative items that were just filling the space, but served no purpose and held no sentimental value.
This is a good way to ease into decluttering. It removes a layer of surface clutter and doesn’t require you to make any difficult or emotional decisions. It lets you start building momentum and gaining confidence that you can do this. You can change your lifestyle and take control of your stuff!
Step 4: Clear your surfaces and work on keeping them clear
Clearing the surfaces in your home, kitchen counters, entry way table, bathroom counters, night stands, coffee tables, etc., has a huge visual impact on your space. Find places for the things that are usually cluttering your surfaces. Make a spot for mail, papers, charging cords, keys, books, magazines and anything else that you often find cluttering up your surfaces. This will require some decluttering as you go to make spots to keep the things that usually sit out on surfaces. Once you’ve made space for these things, work towards maintaining your new routine of putting things away in their new spots.
Keeping these surfaces clear will immediately make your space look less cluttered and more visually appealing. This big visual impact will encourage and motivate you to keep going.
Step 5: Declutter somewhere easy
You want to maintain your momentum and continue to have successes to gain confidence and encourage you to continue towards minimalism. Find somewhere easy and relatively quick to declutter. A space that is not overly sentimental or too much work. Start small, don’t take on a whole room. Instead tackle a smaller area like one drawer, one shelf or one section of a room. Good places to try are the bathroom, the pantry, the coat closet or a few kitchen cupboards. Work through the space. Then celebrate another decluttering success under your belt!
Step 6: Next move on to the area that is your highest priority
In step 2, you identified the area that causes you the most stress and made it a priority. Move on to that area next. Tackling this area will give you the biggest impact for your life.
For example, if the toys and play area cause you the most stress and take up most of your time picking up and maintaining, start there. Or maybe it’s the space you spend the most time in every day.
Ruthlessly decluttering this area will create so much more time for you and space in your home. It will have a big positive impact in your life and the benefits of your work decluttering will be abundantly clear. Nothing motivates you to keep decluttering and minimizing like having a huge source of your stress removed and seeing the positive results right away!
Step 7: Follow your plan and work through your whole house.
Now that you’ve had success decluttering the area of your house that causes you the most stress, keep following your plan to work through the rest of you house. Work from highest to lowest priority. Continue to schedule and devote time to decluttering. Make your decluttering work a priority in your schedule. Hold yourself accountable to it and follow through.
You’ve had several successes by this point, use those to motivate yourself to keep putting in the time and effort. Taking before and after pictures of your spaces is a great way to keep track of your hard work, especially if you’re slowly working through your home. Another good motivator is to keep track of the amount of stuff you’ve gotten rid of. Keeping a tally shows you that you’re making progress even if you feel discouraged or unmotivated to continue.
Celebrate your success as you keep working towards a clutter free and minimal home! Start to notice how your newly decluttered spaces make you feel. Do you feel more calm? Less stressed? Excited to have company over? Are you spending less time cleaning and picking up?
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