by Kelvin Belfon
The journey towards simplicity is enjoyable and a continual growing process. Minimizing does have its benefits: less cleaning, less organizing, less unjustifiable expenses, less debt, less relational stress, less contribution to landfill waste, etc. The good quality of life that come from minimizing is incalculable. Less is truly more!
Since beginning this website, we’ve met others who share our simplicity passion and would like to make a positive change, but just don’t know where to begin. The consistent reaction is not if we should simplify, but how to start the process.
So in response, we’d like to share a 12 helpful decluttering tips to consider. I hope it will be useful to you as they have been for us.
1. Make the decision. We took ownership in evaluating our past family habits. Then we intentionally researched other strategies before concluding this was the lifestyle we wanted to embrace.
2. Start slowly. We started with the easy stuff that had been a cluttered annoyance to us already. Anything unused in years was an obvious target. When duplicates were found, the best was kept and the others donated or discarded.
3. 5 minutes per day. In our initial attempt to declutter our basement, I was extremely ambitious and worked long hours at a time to make headway. Then I learned about a 5 minutes per day approach recommended by Leo Babauta. Though it seemed insufficient enough time; we gained consistency and momentum without overwhelming ourselves.
4. It’s a process. My wife advised a friend the other day, “It took a long time to accumulate your stuff. It all didn’t just happen overnight. Likewise, the process of decluttering will take some time.” So be patient with yourself!
5. Decluttering shouldn’t be traumatic. We weren’t ready to relinquish certain things at first. But as we got used to making judgment calls on whether to keep or toss, letting go got easier. It was important to allow time for our emotions to catch up with our ambitions as we mastered the important principle of non-attachment.
6. Tackle one project at a time. Once an area is decluttered to the best of your ability, celebrate! Then move on to another project.
7. Get rid of 1-2 box(es) per week. What has kept us on track was an early decision to fill up 1-2 box(es) of stuff each week for a specific period of time. It’s always amazing to see the assortment of items we manage to collect during the week.
8. Use challenges. Courtney Carver’s 86 Your Clutter is a challenge to gets rid of 86 items within 2 hours. Project 333 encourages the not-so-faint-of-heart to live with only 33 items of clothing every 3 months! You can of course adjust the numbers and have fun with it. We even got our children involved in various projects and deliveries to our local charities.
9. Use technology and local resources. Netflix, YouTube, and local libraries are great alternatives to owning. Using these resources helped us eliminate our VHS videos, DVDs (about 90%), CDs (99%) and over 200 books.
10. Let go of the cheap stuff. This can be a hard one, especially when we’re used to justifying why we should keep trinkets around. We changed our thinking and started asking rather, “why should ‘this’ item remain our home?” It’s purpose has to be meaningful or useful. In the end, we determined to let go of “just in case” items if they were relatively cheap or could be easily replaced. By extension, this commitment forced us to shop less, make shopping lists, and avoid impulse buying to reduce the inflow of clutter into our home.
11. Handling sentimental stuff. Because of the memories associated with sentimental things, you may need to deal with them later in the process. Again, tackle what you are capable of doing at this level. As you become more advanced, the decision becomes easier.
12. Keep communicating. It’s easier to declutter if you are single. Since we’re a family of 4, collective decisions on what to relinquish can potentially be challenging. So good communication and getting everyone involved is important. However, when others don’t share your opinion on a decision, do the best you can and model instead of telling, remembering we’re all at different stages in the journey. Ultimately, unity is more important than winning every decision.