Yes, it’s a buzzword. Yes, everyone is getting into it. And, yes, for a while I felt like that was the only thing I was writing about.
As a result, I actually stopped posting about decluttering because there is a lot more to creating a simple life and a slow home than sorting through our stuff.
But every day, more and more people decide their lives are too full of stuff and need to be simplified, and I want to help.
Early in January I started a Facebook group for those who are participating in the 2014 in 2014 Declutter Challenge*. Over 600 people have joined the group, which is truly one of the most supportive and encouraging spaces I’ve seen online.
We share ideas, struggles and problems, as well as links to interesting articles about simplifying. Some of our members also post amazing before and after photos of their homes, as they continue to work through their space and simplify. It really is an inspiring place.
Some of the advice being given is incredibly valuable too, so (with permission) I’m sharing some of the best crowd-sourced decluttering tips from our online community.
Some of this advice may seem basic, some may seem too advanced, and some will contradict other suggestions. This is because we are all unique, and what works for one of us will not apply to another. It’s important to find a path that suits you, and yet still challenges you enough to make a difference.
On Feeling Overwhelmed
- Pick one pile, or one drawer or one corner. One bit at a time, one bit every other day. And smile and just keep swimming. (Kellie)
- Take a before photo, so you can see how much better it looks than before. Even if its just a small job. (Sally)
- Set your timer for 15min. Make it a game, see how much you can sort, organize, clean before the timer goes off! Remember: baby steps, a little at a time. (Heather)
- Sometimes it helps to get one big thing done, such as a piece of furniture you want to get rid of. Sell it, donate it or whatever. That big change can be a catalyst to keep going since you see progress right away. Also I sometimes force myself to do something hard – get rid of something I know I don’t really need or want but am keeping for guilt or other emotional reason. After that big push, the little stuff seems easier. (Bridget)
- Just go simple. One step. One thing a day. Don’t think about all of it, or getting rid of 2014 items. Just one thing a day and you’ll be on track (Deborah)
- Being overwhelmed can be debilitating. Sometimes having a decluttering buddy may help. Someone you trust and is supportive to get you started. (Elisa)
- Be proud that you have started. Also I think that decluttering is like a lot of other skills – you get better at it as you get more practice. (Tess)
On Decluttering Childhood Items:
- I only keep a very few of the tiniest clothes – one outfit and maybe a special pair of shoes or cute wee hat, a stuffed toy perhaps and a blankie if it was special. With one child already 18, I can see that he isn’t going to want a huge box of baby things. My mom kept a few little things for me from my babyhood and it was sweet, but I didn’t want a load of clothes or babythings from the 1970’s for my kids. (Bridget)
- I kept a first or favourite stuffed animal and books for each daughter, 2 infant jacket, hat, booties sets knit by my late mother, and a very few baby toys. (Cathy)
- For me it helps to know that there are babies who really need clothes, blankies, etc. and donate to them. Much better use than storing multiple outfits that may never, or barely, see the light of day again. (Bridget)
- I took a ton of pictures, and they take up less space. There are only two articles of clothing – the first one i bought for her, and the first thing she wore. (Anna)
- Toys get passed along. Clothes, I’m keeping sentimental clothing items, and really good ones that I would want if we had another child. I have one 60L plastic tub that they’re in. It’s maybe 1/4 full. That’s my limit on keeping clothes. (Holly)
On Dealing With Paperwork:
- Quickly work through the papers [that are currently covering the entire office], put them in a tote so the office is picked up and usable again. From then on, file mail properly and vow to look through the tote once a week and keep weeding it out. This way I’m not so overwhelmed! (Julie)
- If you get really behind, declare a “backlog” and get it out of your intray (email or post). Then you have a clean slate to go forward and work on your backlog for the first 10 minutes each day. (Anna)
- It has taken a lot of practice, but I find that it is easier to not bring in paper than to get rid of it afterwards. It seems like everywhere we go, they try to give us hand-outs, info we “need” etc. I often find that I can say no at that point, or read it there and then leave it or drop it in the nearest recycling bin before I go home. The other thing I do is rarely print things on my printer. Instead of printing receipts, etc. I just file them digitally. (Bridget)
- I usually ask myself, “Can I get this information online?” If the answer is yes, I file the paper in the recycle bin. (Elisa)
On Storage ‘Solutions’ and Organising
- I knew enough was enough when I was spending $100s on organizing. I was buying stuff for my stuff. Now I have very few bins or baskets because I got rid of all the stuff that was in the bins and baskets. So much better. (Jen)
- I spent some money recently on bins. Part of it was on new bins to make my recycling easier. Part was on 60L tubs with lids to store craft room stuff in until I have time to go through it all. I don’t get a lot of time to actually declutter/organise, with work and a little one. But for me the cost was totally worth it, as it means than in the meantime my sewing room is usable, as all the clutter is in tubs (loosely sorted, so I know where to look for things). (Holly)
- I do spend money on containers but only after I have decluttered. (Alicia)
- Getting rid of storage containers that I had managed to empty was one of the things that felt the best! It is such a mental shift. (Andrea)
- My next goal is to empty two storage containers and give the containers away! (Kasey)
- A friend was able to finally get me to see that so much of my clutter was organizing boxes and such. She showed me I was doing it all backwards! That got me getting rid of stuff and then I didn’t need all those organizers! (Linda)
On Yard Sales vs Donations vs eBay
- I found my last garage sale very disappointing for the money made versus time and effort put in. I am considering having another one but with the primary goal of getting rid of a lot of little things I don’t want anymore, versus making money. Most everything would be a buck or two or less, and there would be a lot of free items like books. I think this would move a lot of stuff, leaving very little to donate to charity shops. (Cathy)
- My mindset had to change from making money to the actual goal of just getting rid of the stuff. (Mandy)
- My friends did a Yard Giveaway. They put signs up saying that as of 9am everything on their lawn would be free, first come first serve.s Everything was gone in 2 hours. (Andrea)
- I find more value in the peace of mind I get from having a clutter-free space, rather then the monetary value. (Tee)
- My last (ever) garage sale wasn’t about the money, it was about the stuff leaving. The feeling of donating the left overs and coming home to knowing there wasn’t anything left to “rehome” was so great, that the value of what left was bigger than the cash in my hand. (Kellie)
- For me it’s about having a way of moving things on. I find it easier if I know it’s going to a good home or cause and not just to landfill. I’ve never had a garage sale. I eBay at my own pace. Lovely people come to my house and take away my clutter and give me some money too. Our lifestyle is always changing, outgrowing toys, clothes or items, so I like to move things on. (Elisa)
- I will try to sell things that are in good condition, especially if they were expensive. I am pretty tight on cash. I use an online method to sell things and it has been very successful. I plan to have a yard sale in the spring too. For me, the little bit of extra money helps pay the bills and reduces my anxiety. If I’m anxious, I don’t do any decluttering so for me, this works. If you are not worried about money, then giving away to a charity would probably be the best. Every situation is different so do what is best for you and your family. (Christina)
- There is a monetary value in what I have sitting around but the money it cost is GONE. I can’t spend it so I am letting go of it, letting family and friends know that they are free to take whatever they want and the rest goes to the op shop. (Sue)
- If I delay getting the clutter OUT of my house, stuff tends to sneak back in – so now the box of unwanted stuff sits by the door and once filled, it goes in my trunk and right to a donation place,. Done – out – gone. (Linda)
Generally Excellent Tips:
- Clutter is always delayed decision making. Good luck. (Elizabeth)
- Make it a daily routine, always thinking when you walk past something, “Do I really need that?” (Linda)
- In general [decluttering] is much easier than it was in the beginning, but sometimes I still have to give myself that pep talk. (Bridget)
- When stuff is made to last, you can live with less. Because less is more. (Sally)
- As I started decluttering and finding items that didn’t belong in any of the other rooms, I placed them on [a central] shelf. Every night I walk past and make a decision about an item or two. [Loose ends] are all in one spot and not making anywhere else untidy, plus it kept busy fingers away from things best not played with. Now with 2 shelves cleared I can see the process working! (Kellie)
This is by no means exhaustive, but it will hopefully help you tackle some of the most pressing and common roadblocks that we often face when simplifying life and home.
Do you have any additional tips or suggestions to add? Pop over to the Facebook group and introduce yourself, or let us know in the comments below which of these suggestions has been the most helpful to you.
* I know not everyone who reads here is on Facebook (often this is a direct attempt to declutter your online lives – a move I applaud greatly!) but at the moment this is the simplest way to host a large group discussion. I am considering creating a forum space where the entire community can discuss simple living and slowing down, regardless of whether you use Facebook or not. If that is something you’d be interested in, let me know. But for now, Facebook is the imperfect solution, unfortunately.)