Declutter Your Way to a Simple Life

declutter [diːˈklʌtə]


to simplify or get rid of mess, disorder, complications, etc. declutter your life

Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003

What’s All the Fuss About Decluttering?

“Declutter” has to be one of the most prominent topics in pop culture. I’ve been trying to understand why. Many of us feel better and accomplish more in a clutter-free environment, so that may explain the appeal of decluttering our living spaces.  However, I suspect that there are deeper, perhaps even subconscious, reasons that we are drawn to this concept.

In an effort to explore my theory, I have been thinking about the “big picture.” This larger picture involves the lifestyles (or philosophies)  known as “minimalism” and “simple living.” Minimalism is related to, but not the same as, simple living. Both inform us to cut back on what we own and what we do. Both  eschew consumerism and the mindset that says we need more and bigger. That phrase cut back on what we own and what we do is where decluttering comes in.

In fact, Colin Wright notes that decluttering can be applied to possessions and ideas and relationships and activities: “What Minimalism is really all about is reassessment of your priorities so that you can strip away the excess stuff – the possessions and ideas and relationships and activities – that don’t bring value to your life.”

Leo Babauta further delineates the relationship between “”minimalism” and “simple living”:  “So how is minimalism different? It’s basically an extension of simplicity — not only do you take things from complex to simple, but you try to get rid of anything that’s unnecessary. All but the essential.”

Joshua Becker defines minimalism this way: “At its core, minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts us from it.”  He describes his own minimalist journey this way: “We embarked on a minimalist journey to own less stuff. As a result, we discovered more money, more time, more energy, more freedom, less stress, and more opportunity to pursue our greatest passions: faith, family, friends.”

Decluttering Your Home

Now, with the big picture in mind, let’s focus on just one thing to declutter: your home. If the experience of others is any indication, you will likely progress to decluttering other things in your life as well. Many minimalists claim that their “simple living” journeys began with the decluttering of their possessions.

There are a plethora of benefits to be gained by decluttering your home. I was originally going to come up with my own list, but The Green Minimalist has such an excellent list (actually two lists) that I refer you to theirs instead:

How To Declutter Your Home

First let me say – there is no one way to do it. Furthermore, many others have written some excellent articles and even books on this topic. At the end of this post, you will find a list of some good resources.

I will share some guiding principles:

  • The goal of decluttering is not simply to get rid of stuff, but rather to strip away – edit out – weed out – that particular stuff that is not bringing value to your life. It’s not  a numbers game, but rather a values game, and those values are your values.
  • Because some decisions about what to keep and what to discard involve trade-offs, you must  prioritize. The prioritization should be based on your values.
  • The decluttering process should include an evaluation of each item’s true value to you at this point in your life. For example, let’s say that you are cleaning out a clothes closet. You come across some suits that you no longer need, because (lucky you!) you are no longer working in a “suit” environment. Donate those suits to someone who can use them!
  • Decluttering is not a”do it once, and it’s done” type of task. I will say that, at least for me, the initial decluttering of my home was the most labor-intensive. It has gotten easier.

I’ll also share my own decluttering method. It’s very simple. Go through each and every item in your home. As you examine each one, put it into one of three categories: “keep,” “give away,” or “discard.” Do this surface by surface, drawer by drawer, cabinet by cabinet, closet by closet, room by room; until you have reached into every nook and cranny in your house.

declutter your way to a simple life

To illustrate, I’ll describe how I tackled my own kitchen:

  • I started with some built-in shelves. This is one of the few places in my home where I display things that are not necessarily “useful.” For example, I happen to love ducks; these shelves hold ducks of all sorts, most of which are simply decorative. These same shelves also house some useful items (drinking glasses, trays, etc.). With the help of my sister and co-blogger Michele, we took down all of the items. While the shelves were empty, I took the opportunity to give them a good wipe. I decided on what to give away. Michele (who is a far better home decorator than I am) arranged what remained.
  • I then went through each cabinet, beginning with those that hold foods. I don’t like to think that food will go to waste, so I want to either use it up myself, or give it away, before its use-by-date has expired. It’s also a good opportunity to wipe down the insides of these cabinets, so that foods are stored in a clean manner. The process is simple. I like to work with just one cabinet at a time. First I empty it out entirely. Then I clean the insides, wiping down the shelves and the inside of the doors. Next I examine each item. If it’s past its use-by-date, I throw it out. If it’s getting close to its use-by-date, or if it’s something that I am unlikely to ever use, I put it aside to be given to a food pantry. Finally, I put back whatever items are left. As I do this, I try to organize them into logical groupings (baking ingredients, condiments, cooking oils, etc.).
  • Once the food cabinets are done, I tackle each of the other cabinets and drawers, one by one. The process is the same for each. Empty it out, clean the insides. Do the editing – set aside items to be given away, put back the items you are keeping, organizing as you go. As you examine each kitchen tool, remember to consider its functionality. If you have a better tool that does the same thing, then the tool at hand is superfluous, and should be given away.

Are You Ready to Declutter Your Way to a Simple Life?

For me winter is the perfect time to declutter and clean. Since I do not like being outdoors in the winter, it’s a good time to get the indoor chores out of the way. It also seems an appropriate way to start the New Year “off right.”

Please do leave a comment for us and our readers. Have you decluttered your own home?  How did you do it? How did it make you feel afterwards?

Inspirational Quotes on Minimalism

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” – Albert Einstein

“The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.” – Socrates

“One can furnish a room very luxuriously by taking out furniture rather than putting it in.” – Francis Jourdain

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupe

“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” – Hans Hofmann

“Fear less, hope more; eat less, chew more; whine less, breathe more; talk less, say more; love more, and all good things will be yours.” – Swedish proverb

Further Resources

declutter your way to a simple life

Kimberly Lauren Bryant explains how to mindfully declutter any sort of thing we want to let go of: “a stale friendship, a drawer full of junk, resentment about the past, or clothing you haven’t worn in 2 years.” Read her excellent article in Living Green Magazine: Mindfully De-Clutter Your Life: Living Simply in 5 Easy Steps.

These two blog posts pertain to decluttering a home;  the first deals with “principles,” and the second with “method“:

There are several good blogs with a “minimalist” focus. Here are a few of my  favorites:

  • the Simple White Rabbit This blog belongs to Christy King. There are 18 posts that offer practical tips on “Decluttering Your Home.” These cover various rooms in the home, as well as some “special” sub-categories, such as computer, paperwork, and keepsakes. In addition, there are two series that set apart the Simple White Rabbit: “Minimalists in History,” and “Minimalists in Fiction.” These posts are especially interesting, enjoyable, and informative.
  • minimalist on purpose This is one of Raumund Tamayo’s blogs. His blog will “help you discover and live your life purpose through minimalism.” Raymund is one of the best writers in the blogisphere.
  • the minimalists The posts are properly named “essays,” and the ones I’ve read so far are outstanding.
  • handcraftedtravellers The category eco-minimalist focuses on sustainable practices – “skills that will help us all come into balance with our Earth as we know it.”
  • The Minimalist Mom This blogger mom and her family live in Vancouver, Canada. She confides: “I use this blog to document our journey, inspire and inform those new to the minimalist movement and connect with like minded folk. You won’t find recipes for chicken stock here. You will find discussions on how to live a richer life with less stuff.”