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8 Lessons I Learned When I Decluttered My Home For A Year

It’s been a year since everything changed.  A year since I started decluttering our home.

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 decluttering 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 truckloads and truckloads of my possessions be carried off to new homes, thrift and garbage.

pile of clutter and stuff in basement

Most of us can agree that we have too much stuff. Most of us will get fed up and try to declutter our homes. We turn to decluttering because 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.

Prefer to listen_ This post is also availble on the podcast. Click here for the episode

These are some of the things that I have learned/relearned/realized during my past year of decluttering 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.  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. I’ve been filling space for the sake of filling space

In decluttering 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,  clothes, whatever. There wasn’t thought and attention put into the things I spent money on, I didn’t see it as an investment in creating a home rather just a quick way to fill the space. I just bought what I saw in the store because I felt the need to have an ‘adult’ living space.

 

basement full of clutter

 

4. I’ve made so much waste

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 decluttered 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?  (And disintegration ain’t’ pretty right!?) And what about the dozen pieces of plastic toys my kids just brought in the door? 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?

The sad this is I KNOW what happens, and maybe this is why it bothers me so much. I have a degree in Environmental Health but I was being blind to my little part in the big picture of what is happening in our world. We can all take little baby steps that help us move more towards zero waste and I realized I wanted to start by not buying crap stuff that would be discarded in the next months or year. 

 

kitchen table full of items being decluttered

 

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.

get unstuck from autopilot living and take control of time and energy in all nine areas of your life
 

6. Life is still messy

Our house is still messy (if you have seen my Instagram storieswe are minimalists, but we also live here“). 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. I believe that minimalism is about clearing out the clutter and excess so you can live life in your space. Life still happens and life gets messy.

table full of kids crafts

 

7. It is a mindset, not an end goal

I would love to say 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.

 

8. It leads to more

In my case, decluttering my home lead to me reassessing my whole life. I realized I was painfully complacent in how I handled my stuff, my relationships, my health, my dreams.

Minimalism became the action that brought me face to face with my decisions, my clutter and the way I just let life pass me by. It has spurred me to think about what gives me passion and purpose, and really try to live LIFE ON PURPOSE. This has even led to me becoming a Life Coach and helping other moms get ‘unstuck’ in feeling restless, overwhelmed and angry.

 

Thank you for coming on this journey with me and my family. Make sure to check out the Simple on Purpose PODCAST! to stay in touch and encouraged on your own journey!

 

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

 

get unstuck from autopilot living and take control of time and energy in all nine areas of your life

 

You might also like:

Simplifying Your Home (landing page for all posts about decluttering)

Hygge vs Minimalism

Real Reasons Why You Can’t Finish Decluttering

How to Build the Culture of Your Family

 

8 lessons i learned when i decluttered my home for a year

36 thoughts on “8 Lessons I Learned When I Decluttered My Home For A Year”

      • Wow. I love the article because it was to the point, i can sympathize, I’m not alone in this journey of been the best of me n competing with my old self to be better in every way!

        Reply
        • What a powerful insight of your current self competing with your past self. I can see how that would translate into a lot of confusion about what stays in the home and what goes. Thanks so much for sharing this, it’s making me think!

          Reply
    • Thank you so much for what you wrote, I really needed that info.
      In the process of buying a smaller house, so hard to make decisions.

      Reply
  1. I could not have said it any better myself… But reading it from someone elses words put my thougjts into much needed perspective… Countless dollars spent frivolously on stuff that has no long term meaning or value. Just a nuisance when it comes to storing, only to eventually place a relentless burden on me and my home down the road. Thanks for the great article. I feel ya sista friend.

    Reply
  2. Hi I am from Pakistan I have read this document and this was awesome because I have a mind set
    I can’t say that I do it completely but I have a mindset
    Thanku for ur words

    Reply
  3. Ok – just read this and felt emotional numerous times…I think it resonated with me! So much stuff to sort through but I will get started today with a slightly changed mindset I think. Thank you for the renewed inspiration ❤

    Reply
  4. This is was such an emotional yet complete eye opener of an article and made me really think about all the shopping I do just for the sake of filling up an empty space in my home. This made me realize that there is nothing wrong with having an empty space in a house, all you need is planning and organising with what you already have and come up with innovative ideas and styles to make it look homely and welcoming. Thank you for such a hearty, well thought of, personal article that really touched my heart!

    Reply
  5. Thank you for putting into words what I’ve been feeling since we built a big house 20 years ago. All this “stuff” … truckloads of things, but the emotional garbage , too. I started decluttering a year ago. Even after purging several carloads, it has seemed a hopeless venture. Thank you for giving me hope.
    I now know I can do this, and realize that it will be a LIFETIME venture… with the purpose of cleansing… both physical and emotional, and that’s ok.
    Thanks for being such a blessing!

    Reply
  6. With a degree in Environmental Health, one would think you would have learned these lessons sooner but at least you FINALLY did.

    Reply
  7. I am in the process of decluttering years of accumulated items from my relatives and our own family. My parents lived through the Great Depression. The mindset was to save everything because you never knew when you would need it. My collections also got out of control.

    Your experiences and insight have been both helpful and inspirational! Tomorrow, I will conquer more of what we own! Thank you!👍😊

    Reply
  8. Wow! I needed to read this. I have some soul searching to do… why all the stuff? I couldn’t find what I have and or need if I needed to and probably run out and grab it again to save time. I’m not sure where to start. But, I’ll keep reading so I can learn and hopefully declutter in a year as well.

    Reply
  9. Thank you. I’m lying here in bed dreading facing my house clutter. So your inspiration has made me consider getting up and try making a path to the kitchen for breakfast. Pray for me.

    Reply
  10. After retiring 5 yrs. ago I knew the clothes would be the first place to begin, jeans and t-shirt are my go-to now! Knickknacks were a definite second! That was hard because some were from my childhood or gifts from friends who’ve passed away. I still enjoy decorating through the seasons so I have an excuse to keep some.
    The yr. of quarantine due to Covid really helped. I didn’t collect clutter and my bank account reflected that! I try to live by the motto of buying “consumable only” now.

    Reply
  11. Thank you for sharing your journey. I can relate to almost all of the thoughts and feelings you mentioned! I found this very inspirational…. thank you 🙂

    Reply
  12. Greatly said. My husband is a maintenance supervisor for a 300+ apartment complex. He often brings home things even new things people leave behind that I’m sure they had to have. I sell many things and donate many more. It’s very sad the money spent on things that are not thought important and later left behind. What a waste. Thankfully I make a thousand or so a year so I can use to purchase clothes for our 4 children. We have consignment sale here 2x a year. Selling things in there is a great way to declutter & buy good used items your children need & not pay new price for them.

    Reply
  13. I loved this article Shawna. I really loved the part about buying stuff to fit a mold. I think that’s what so many young people do. I know we did and that stuff is the stuff we had to get rid of. The things that truly represent us and our needs and interests are the things my husband and I still have today.
    I have also become more aware of how much our consumerism affects the environment and it makes me nauseous. I’m trying not to feel too guilty but rather to look to the future with a more careful intentional approach to consuming.

    Reply
  14. I am decluttering as well. I am going through 40 years of family items. It is a struggle to part with some things…sentimental items. They have no value or purpose.

    Reply

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