I decluttered my home for a year, here is what I learned

It’s been a year since everything changed.

This time one year ago I was reading The Joy of Less and Seven after hearing about them on Instagram.

These books rustled me up, made me uncomfortable, motivated me to make some big changes. They were marked with an obvious purging of the house, but the results have crept into all other aspects of my life.

I have spent the past year getting rid of the ‘excess’ in our house. Nothing has been left untouched. I have rummaged through every room, drawer and cupboard in my home.  I have filled the basement with bags and boxes of ‘stuff’ to be moved out and watched truck loads and truck loads of my possessions be carried off to new homes, thrift and garbage.


Most of us can agree that we have too much stuff. Most of us will get fed up and try to declutter our homes. It sounds like it will clear up our space, make our home cleaner and more organized. So it surprised me, and not at the same time, that as I decluttered I would have to ‘confront my junk’.  I had to acknowledge that I was in an excess and that it felt like a burden. I had to talk myself into letting go of things. I had to wrestle the desires to buy more. All this doesn’t come without its own soul-searching, ugly crying and feeling a bit lost and icky.

These are some of the things that I have learned/relearned/realized during my past year of purging my home. . . . 

1. The line between ‘enough’ and ‘excess’ is easily crossed

I don’t miss anything I’ve gotten rid of. Clearly, I didn’t ‘need’ it.

So, why? Why did I just keep accumulating? Since leaving for college I’ve spent my adult life purchasing and storing, purchasing and storing. To a point that I’ve felt like my home had become a glorified storage unit.

At what point can I say ‘enough’? Logic tells us to accumulate only what we have room, money and use for….I’ve just spent a decade and a half doing the opposite. Illogical.

messy hutch desk

2. I’ve wasted so much money

I think as North Americans we have a certain privilege that we can toss dollars (whether we have them or not) around ‘for fun’. We buy cheap crap that doesn’t work or last, or we decide we don’t like it. Then we brush it off because it was cheap and we just toss it.

We live in a culture of excess and we are so used to accumulating every time that we go out. We have ways of getting money that isn’t ours to buy stuff we don’t need. As I saw truckloads of ‘stuff’ leave my house it was like watching loads of money drive away. I spent money on ALL of that stuff –  for whatever reason I justified at the time. I was so disappointed in the money I had wasted on stuff.

before purging kids toys, simple on purpose

3. Filling space for the sake of filling space

In purging all the items of my early 20s it is clear that I was desperate to ‘adult’ without taking the time to get to know myself as one. Over the years I’ve accumulated two of everything, one for 2013 Shawna and one for  2001 Shawna – who didn’t have a clue about herself and just bought all the token adult items without really loving them.

What’s that saying…’we spend money we don’t have, to buy things we don’t need, to impress people we don’t like’.  At least some of that was true for the young adult version of myself.  I would buy wall art, dishes, lamps, whatever. I didn’t put thought into it or invest in things I loved. I just bought what I saw in the store because I felt the need to have an ‘adult’ living space.



4. I’ve made so much waste

So I must care about the environment. I mean, we are a generation that just knows,

1. Oregon trail is the game that teaches you life skillz yo, and

2. Our land and water are limited, we should be responsible with it.

As I’ve watched truckloads leave my house, all I could think was that I was a shitty steward of the items I chose to take into my care. All of the little plastic things, electronics, clothes, accessories, and discount housewares were things I bought and took ownership of. As I’ve purged I have tried to take the time to find homes for things, but the rest goes to thrift….and if they can’t sell it it’s into the landfill.

How long is my cheap wall art going to take to disintegrate? I mean, if this was the Oregon Trail I could use that tacky canvas art and old trendy necklaces to fashion a barge and use it to cross the fjord. But now we have luxuries like tossing our items without a single thought or indication about what happens to it past our street curb. What does happen to it?



5. This is all just a distraction.

Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t lived a luxurious or indulgent lifestyle (unless you count my need for brand name cheese and two drawers full of makeup and hair products) but I see now that this ‘lifestyle of consumption’ has been a distraction.

The modern definition of ‘success’ is coated in a layer of consumerism and I believe we are the generation that can help shed that as we begin to live our lives based on our personal values rather than based on a culture definition of success.

As I’ve gotten rid of the excess stuff in my home there has been a void. Not only in my living space, but in my time and in my thoughts. I see that those things I held on to for security, identity, value, or whatever reason were distracting me from living a purposeful life. Getting rid of the excess stuff caused me to ask, what do I love and value the most? I feel like I get to live a more genuine and intentional life with this mindset of saying no to the excess.


6. Life is still messy

Our house is still messy. There are piles of craft supplies, books, legos, tools out. But these are things we chose to keep because we value them, so I am unapologetic. Minimalism isn’t about a spotless home. Minimalism is about clearing out the clutter and excess so you can live life in your space. Life still happens and life gets messy.


7. It is a mindset, not a result

I would love to saw I’m done decluttering, but I see that it will be ongoing. There is a constant rotation of clothes, toys and furniture when you have three small kids. I need to constantly be decluttering the space and be protective of what I bring into the home.

For me, minimalism is a mindset of how I approach my stuff, how I shop, I how I store things, how long I keep things. If I look at minimalism as an end goal, I will feel defeated.



Thank you for coming along this journey with me and my family.

Love Shawna, your Nerdy girlfriend who took six months to give up her IPSY makeup bag subscription #noregrets#allthemakeup


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