I’ve been having lots of online and offline conversations lately where I am asked HOW I STARTED DECLUTTERING.
I want to give you my best advice without giving you some prescriptive formula on it that will magically change your life (because I don’t think there is one). So, I will tell you what has worked for me and take what works for you and run with it.
Let me start by saying that decluttering is an action, it is a tool in the larger picture of what minimalism is. So when we think about getting started with decluttering we need to muster up the motivation to get our bodies moving and our space moving. It will require energy, time and acceptance of a little bit of chaos now for more peace in our space later.
FIND YOUR ‘WHY’
I grew up in a cluttered home. I was in constant interaction with boxes and boxes, and piles of paper. It became part of my scenery. All the while I felt overwhelmed by it and embarrassed by it.Before I knew what minimalism was, I knew I didn’t want to have a home that would elicit these feelings in me – yet we were still finding ourselves with rooms full of ‘stuff’.
When I read the Joy of Less and learned what minimalism was, I suddenly felt like I had permission to live in a different way. I could see the opportunity to live in a new way that sounded freeing. Less stuff owned meant less cleaning. Less stuff wanted meant less hustling and spending. Of course, I might have also had some unrealistic visions of my life after decluttering.
My ‘why’ was this drive to rehaul how I was living in my home with my ‘stuff’. My ‘why’ was to create an atmosphere in my home where my kids had SPACE to play, create, imagine. My ‘why’ was to create a place that was inviting to anyone who came to our door.
Why do you want to declutter your home?
KNOW IT IS ENOUGH
Before I had even heard about minimalism I feel like I had always been practical enough about how much we accumulate and buy the kids. But, when I look back, I realize that we were saturating our home with stuff and our life with the work required to keep buying more stuff. Stuff was becoming a burden and I didn’t even realize it.
As I started decluttering I felt overwhelmed, not necessarily with the decisions on what to keep, but more on the number of decisions I had to make. There was just so so much stuff that I had to go through. We had enough stuff in our basement to furnish my niece’s living room and enough doubles in our kitchen to help her get stocked there too.
When I started decluttering and was face to face with how much stuff I had bought that I didn’t like or didn’t need or never have used – I got this achy knot in my stomach. All that money that I spent, all the time I spent shopping, all those things I thought I needed.
I just stood in rooms full of boxes and said, this is enough. Enough.
I have more than enough. I have enough clothes (that I never wear), and kitchen gadgets (I never use), and books (I never read), and why do I have like seven half used conditioners and four curling irons in the bathroom??…you get the idea.
KNOW YOUR LONG GAME
I want to give a step by step guide to decluttering to help people, but I don’t have one. I think we all need to enter this at our own pace. Some people need to jump right in and some people need to start with a slow challenge to make it habit in their life.
In my case, I needed to be all in. I knew if I was trying a challenge where I cleaned out something each day that I would either lose steam or would look at it as optional after the challenge was over.
I needed to be all in because I knew that I wanted this to be a major life change. I didn’t want to declutter my wardrobe or clean out the basement. I wanted a restart. I wanted to declutter my entire home and start a life where I live with less, need less, have less.
With this mindset, I could commit to making this the long game. I had spent my adult life building up this life, so I knew I wouldn’t be able to declutter my home in a weekend. I held the vision of how this could possibly change my home and my life and it helped me get started and keep going.
DECIDE TO START
One day or day One? You decide.
The old Shawna would see this quote and roll her eyes at it. I have been a serial procrastinator and hate people telling me to ‘try harder’ or to ‘just do it’. I would cozy up to my excuses and stubbornly feel that they were wrong about life. I would continue to live my life on autopilot just waiting for the ‘right time’ to start these big projects and changes. (Type Nine Problems)
It hit me hard when I realized I was in a perpetual waiting pattern, I was stagnant. I knew I needed to be more proactive with my life. So I started doing some of these hard things I had planned on doing ‘someday’ and I understand this sentiment now.
I’m not sure where my discipline came from to help me declutter but I see that it required me to push myself, something I avoid doing. It required me to get messy and uncomfortable. It required me to be hard on myself and go through the motions even if I didn’t feel the feelings. The emotional rewards of decluttering come after decluttering in many cases.
Stop looking for checklists and free weekends, just decide to start, however, that will look for you. If this is something you say you want to do then make it happen. Feel free to roll your eyes at me now, but hopefully, a year from now you will be happy you started today.
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