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How to Declutter Your Life: Building Good Decluttering Habits

How to Declutter Your Life: Building Good Decluttering Habits

So much of learning how to declutter your life, and how successful you’ll be at clearing the clutter, comes back to your mindset.

The thoughts, beliefs, habits and limiting beliefs you hold about yourself and your relationship with “stuff” can have a big impact on your success in clearing the clutter from your life.

In today’s post, I want to dive into how you can build strong decluttering habits. Not only to make it easier to clear the clutter. But also, to learn how to make lasting change in your home and your life.

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Outcome-based vs identity-based habits

In his book, Atomic Habits, author James Clear extensively explores the subject of habits. Including how to break bad habits and how to build more positive habits. But more importantly how to make those positive habits stick and last long-term.

One thing that really stood out to me was his exploration of outcome-based habits versus identity-based habits.

Outcome-based habits focus on what you want to achieve. Identity-based habits focus on who you want to become.

In Atomic Habits, Clear says, identity-based habits are the habits that tend to be the most successful at sticking with you for the long term.

According to Clear, “The ultimate form of intrinsic motivation is when a habit becomes part of your identity.”

“It’s hard to change your habits if you never change the underlying beliefs that led to your past behaviour. You have a new goal and a new plan, but you haven’t changed who you are.”

“It’s one thing to say I’m the type of person who wants this. It’s something very different to say I’m the type of person who is this.”

How to Declutter Your Life: Building Good Decluttering Habits
Photo by Spacejoy on Unsplash

How to declutter your life: the role of habits

This concept of outcome-based versus identity-based habits really applies to decluttering your home and life. And could impact your success at clearing the clutter either positively or negatively.

How you identify

First, let’s look at where you start.

If you identify as someone who is always messy, never has a tidy house, loves shopping, is never organized, always has a lot of stuff, etc. those beliefs and habits become part of your identity.

It’s hard to break those habits and beliefs because you truly think that’s who you are.

However, shining light on those habits and beliefs is a great way to first identify them. And then, once you’re aware of them, recognize you don’t have to continue holding those beliefs or habits.

For example, if you identify as someone who is always messy and never organized, your home will probably reflect that. You won’t feel that you are someone who can have a tidy or organized home, so you don’t even try to live in a different way.

But when you recognize that as a limiting belief or an identity-based habit you hold, you can start to change it.

Maybe you’re not someone who finds being neat and organized comes naturally. Maybe you’ll have to learn and practice those skills until they do become habits for you.

Or maybe you just have too much stuff to manage. Maybe you’re not the problem. Maybe the amount of stuff you are trying to manage and take care of is the problem!

Either way, the identity-based habits and beliefs you hold can definitely influence what you believe you are capable of. And what you feel is achievable for you.

Shifting how you identify, might have a huge impact on the beliefs you hold about yourself and the actions you take to support those beliefs and your identity. As well as your confidence in yourself and the likelihood of you making the changes to become the person you want to become.

Building identity-based decluttering habits

Using this information, outcome-based versus identity-based habits can apply to the approach you take when decluttering your home.

For example, saying you want a clutter-free, tidy, organized home is great. But it’s an outcome-based habit. The outcome you hope to achieve is a clutter-free home.

But what if you approached it from an identity-based habit instead?

What if instead of focusing on the outcome you want to achieve, you focus on the type of person you want to be?

Instead of saying you want a clutter-free home, frame it as an identity-based habit you want to build. Focusing on becoming a tidy/organized/clutter-free/minimalist/etc. person instead.

If you decide that you are a tidy, organized, clutter-free person, what would that look like? How would it feel? How would that shift how you approach decluttering and learning how to declutter your life?

Would it make you more confident in your decluttering decisions? Would it change the way you tend to and take care of your home? Would it help you focus on building habits to keep your home tidy, organized and clutter-free because that’s the kind of person you identify as?

Identity-based habits shift the focus from only focusing on what you want your home to look like. And instead, move the focus to who you want to be and the kind of lifestyle you want to lead.

Giving you a clear identity to guide your decluttering decisions and the way you manage and take care of your home.

Identity-based shopping habits

Using the concept of identity-based habits can not only be helpful when you’re decluttering your home. It can also be helpful when you’re working to be more mindful about the stuff you bring into your home as well. Helping you re-evaluate items you’re considering buying when you’re shopping.

Remember, when you’re working to declutter, it’s important to be as mindful about the stuff you’re bringing into your home as you are about the stuff you’re decluttering. If you continue to bring more stuff into your home, your progress in decluttering your home will be slower. Or might not even be noticeable at all if you’re bringing more in as quickly as you’re clearing stuff out!

But when you build identity-based shopping habits, it can help guide your purchase decisions as well.

While you’re shopping or considering buying something, you can focus on who you want to be.

Maybe that’s a thoughtful and intentional consumer. Someone who only buys what you truly need or love. Carefully considering each purchase to avoid adding something that will eventually end up as clutter in your home.

Or maybe you identify as a frugal person. Someone who takes intentional stewardship over your money and how it’s spent. Aiming to buy less, make intentional purchases, use what you have and have more financial freedom to put your money towards your values, goals and priorities instead.

Using identity-based habits to learn how to declutter your life

In Atomic Habits, Clear says, “The most practical way to change who you are is to change what you do.”

He says, “Each habit not only gets results but also teaches you something far more important: to trust yourself.”

Clear goes on to say, “1. Decide the type of person you want to be. 2. Prove it to yourself with small wins.”

As you’re working to declutter your home and simplify your life, remember the power of small changes and choices you can make to support who you want to be. Small changes and choices you can make to support the identity you want to have and the identity-based habits you’re working to build.

For example, every time you work to declutter your home and get rid of things you don’t use, need or love, you’re proving to yourself that you are a tidy, organized, clutter-free person.

Every time you choose not to buy something you don’t really need or love, you’re proving to yourself that you’re a thoughtful consumer who intentionally chooses not to fill your home with clutter.

Believe you are who you want to be

Learning how to declutter your life and home is not always easy. It usually takes a lot of time and effort.

But seeing yourself as a minimalist or a clutter-free person (even before you actually feel like you are) is a great way to harness the power of who you identify as to support the outcome you want to achieve.

First, believe you are the person you want to become. Then, allow that identity to guide your actions and help you make that identity your reality.

Can you see the value in shifting from outcome-based habits to identity-based habits to help you declutter and simplify? Leave a comment below and let me know what you think!

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Tuesday 12th of July 2022

This article has come to me at the right time. I love how you said to “believe you are the person you want to become.” That really resonates with me. I’m trying to do that with my eating and exercise choices too. Just rearranging a couple of areas in my kitchen the other day and deciding what else I can do without, really made me feel better. Finding your website and using some of your methods have been helpful. Reducing my wardrobe is a bigger challenge but I’ve started doing so slowly. I also have been watching Tiny House Hunters and TH Nation and that’s also been helpful to see how people are reducing their belongings. Thanks again for sharing your tips and inspiration. Jenn

Simple Lionheart Life

Friday 22nd of July 2022

I'm so glad the article was helpful for you. It sounds like you're doing a great job of making changes that will work for you! Thanks for reading and sharing your experience :)

Denise McAndrews

Monday 4th of July 2022

I love this different way of viewing our hoped-for new habits, to switch to more identity based thinking rather than outcome oriented. To start actually thinking of myself as the person I want to be, not just the things I hope to accomplish in my home is such a different concept. I think that’s one of the things that I value most about how I’m feeling now, after being in my declutter journey for a couple of years, as opposed to how I felt about myself prior to starting. I really do ‘feel’ different which is so. dang. Powerful! And I feel different because I have been able to accomplish things I never thought I’d be able to do. I never believed I could let go of as much as I have let go of. Once I started and saw a few things I was able to let go of, my identity shifted to a person who WAS able to let go of stuff that I previously clung to. And, better yet, I really really liked my emerging identity. It was like after all these years on earth I was still able to change and I really, really liked the new changes - owning less stuff, buying less, seeing more space, FEELING more space within. Great stuff, thank you Melissa 🥰

Simple Lionheart Life

Tuesday 5th of July 2022

This is amazing to read! So powerful and encouraging!! The work you've done and the progress you've made it fantastic. Thank you for sharing this with us and way to go!!


Monday 4th of July 2022

I have deleted many sites over the years, but I always keep your site as a priority, to keep me motivated and on track.

Thank you!

Simple Lionheart Life

Tuesday 5th of July 2022

Thank you so much! I really appreciate you being here!!


Monday 4th of July 2022

A great article. Not only can I apply this to my decluttering but it has also made me think of other areas of my life where I could implement identity based habits,the main ones being around my physical and mental health.

Simple Lionheart Life

Tuesday 5th of July 2022

Yes! I think it can be a powerful practice in so many areas of life!

Angela Norell

Sunday 3rd of July 2022

Melissa, Thank you for this insightful and powerful message! It confirms what I am learning in other contexts, that "your identity guides your choices". I am encouraged to apply this concept to decluttering, because it almost seems things have gotten worse since I started this journey ~~perhaps I am working against myself. I choose now to believe that I am a 'mini-malist' instead of a 'messy' ;-D

Simple Lionheart Life

Tuesday 5th of July 2022

That's great Angela. I'm so glad you found it helpful. Thanks for reading!

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