4 Tips to Declutter and Keep It Out

I created space limits for my wardrobe by replacing my giant dresser with this smaller one.

Minimalism is a flexible term and looks different for every personality and family. Some people live with a certain limit of things and for others it’s about downsize homes or reducing excessive purchases. Depending on each situation, the process and end result will look different for everyone. For me, minimalism isn’t about the lack of stuff. Well, it is, but focusing on the stuff comes second to ensuring that I can function effectively, be more mindful, and pursue what I feel called to without being tied to unnecessary things or responsibilities. I started simplifying because I was completely overwhelmed by my things and didn’t have time to pursue what I felt called to. Though as I started to weed out, I realized that my overabundance of stuff wasn’t the problem—the way that I handled my stuff was.

My inability to determine what was essential or most valuable, emotional buying, idol of wanting to have the best, and fear that I wouldn’t be provided for in the future left me in a pile of stuff. I hid it well—pretty storage systems neatly tucked things away that I didn’t actually need (like snorkel gear when we lived in North Dakota, ha!), arranging artwork that I didn’t actually like in creative ways, buying or making home decor to cover it all, and just working hard to keep it all organized. The stuff wasn’t bad, but I just needed to learn how to curate my collection and refocus my priorities from pursing a perfect, self-sufficient home to what actually mattered.

Getting rid of excess was fairly easy for me, but I wanted to find a way to easily note my hoarding tendencies and prevent the idols from returning. So I created a system based on the next four tips that helped me pare down and keep it that way.

4 Tips for Effective Minimizing

1. Identify goals and pain points: I worked backwards—determining overall goals and the pain points that hindered them in every space of my home.

My main goal was to have more time and contentment, but I also had sub-goals to eliminate or reduce certain chores, to have less clutter, and make it easier to find things.

My major pain point was the time it took to maintain and organize all of our stuff. I wanted to spend my evenings with my husband and friends rather than doing chores.

2. Let go of things that are multiples, expired, or haven’t been used in the past year: This was a great place for me to start since it was easier to let go of things that had little meaning to me. I used the following methods to help me pare down trickier items.

Make a list: Writing down a list of everything we owned helped me contemplate each item’s purpose without having them in front of me. It provided a little perspective, especially when I saw our things in terms of numbers.

Packing party: I found these to be really helpful! Though, instead of packing up my whole home at once, I only packed up things that I was on the fence about getting rid of. I stored them out of sight for a few months and only opened the box to retrieve things that I actually needed. I donated or sold anything I forgot about.

Reverse hanger method: This awesome little trick helps in assessing what clothing to keep.

Take pictures: I took pictures of things that I needed to get rid of but wanted to remember. This was especially helpful for letting go of artwork, printed pictures, knicknacks, and memory items.

3. Create space limits: Creating space limits reduces the ability to store too many things and naturally prevents re-accumulation.

Example: I replaced my behemoth dresser with a smaller, prettier dresser from Ikea. Less storage space forced me to reduce the size of my wardrobe, and since additional items don’t fit, I’m naturally prevented from adding to it. It means that laundry is way less of a chore because I have to wash all of my clothes at the end of the week instead of letting them pile up into a mountain (limiting sheets and towels to one per bed and one per person also significantly reduces the amount of laundry) and less time choosing an outfit since I love every piece and clothes are easier to find. I also spend way less time and money at the mall, hooray!

4. Give every possession a logical home and make it easy to put things away: This makes straightening up quick and finding things simple. An item will become clutter if it’s too time consuming to return to its home.

Example: Storing our seasonal outdoor items like our hammock, sunscreen, and frisbee in a storage bin near the door helps collect our things when we enter. Also, since it isn’t packed to the brim, it’s simple to put items away and easy to find items quickly. In the winter, this bin stores our hats, mittens, and scarves.

So, that’s it. I knew that my system was working when the clutter didn’t return. We use the same methods to reassess our space every once and a while, especially after Christmas when we’re trying to figure out where to house gifts, but the process gets easier as we become more decisive and see value of living simply.

Would love to know if anyone’s found a method or trick that rocks at keeping things out? Feel free to comment!

Simply, Becky