Decluttering – How & Why


Tonight I have copied a piece I wrote and posted on the forum at Simple Savings.

I was intrigued at what seems to be a sudden and exponentially increasing interest in decluttering.  This does not seem to be confined to a particular generation or socio-economic group.  I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences.

I am not sure of the reason but lately there have been many, many posts from people wanting to declutter or who are overwhelmed by their stuff and do not know where to start.

I have written this in order to lay out my thoughts and experiences in a logical manner. I am also happy to answer any questions.

  • I am not a professional organiser
  • I have had a cluttered, messy house in the past

I started my decluttering journey in a very small way about 10 years ago with 2 teenagers still living at home. We have moved house in that time and now there is only The Duke and I at home so our circumstances have changed significantly.

Recently, I have read several books on minimalism and decluttering as well as numerous blogs on the subject. I would strongly recommend that you read at least one. If you have a Kindle, download a book or otherwise borrow it from the library – you don’t want to be bringing more stuff into your home.

Here are a few to get you started.

  • Winning The Clutter War by Sandra Felton
  • The Joy of Less by Francine Jay
  • Simplify by Joshua Becker
  • Basics of Minimalism by Janice Becker

They are all good and have their place but my personal favourite is ‘The Joy of Less’. As well as gentle, practical advice there is a good deal about the psychology of stuff and actually changing your mindset to enable you to let things go. I found this particularly useful.

There are a few things that were important for me to consider.

  • I did not throw things out as I consider this wasteful and would rather take my time and use things up and not replace them.
  • I re-homed things that I no longer required – via either the op shop or Freecycle
  • Making money was not important for me but you may choose to list things on E-bay or Gumtree
  • Do not fill up the space that you create with more stuff – this is why it is important to read and understand the psychology of keeping stuff.

The big question is always ‘where or how do I start?’

This really depends on your circumstances and why you want to declutter. Is a particular thing getting you down, such as children’s toys? Or is it years of accumulated papers? Do you have to eat dinner on your lap because the dining room table is covered with piles of clean washing waiting to be folded?

Whatever the reason, you need a 2-pronged approach. As well as decluttering you need to maintain the regular daily chores such as washing dishes, preparing meals and washing clothes. If the clutter is impacting on your ability to do the basics you will need to address that as a priority. Do one small thing first and work from there.

Whatever you decide only tackle an area big enough for you to actually complete. There is no point in emptying out an entire wardrobe only to find that you run out of time or inspiration and you are left with piles all over the floor. It is better to do your underwear drawer and enjoy the feeling of opening it and seeing everything folded and in its place. Then you maintain the order in it and you will find that you want all of the drawers like this so gradually you will work through until it is all done.

Organising goes hand in hand with decluttering but is not a replacement for it. Stashing things into umpteen boxes and crates is not the answer. I understand that it is difficult in some houses with minimal storage space so you will have to come up with some creative solutions, however, best of all is to ask yourself whether it really needs to stay in your home.

There is a lot more I could write, but it is over to you, now.

What is your story?

8 thoughts on “Decluttering – How & Why

  1. Thanks for this – I’m yet to sign up for simple savings vault. I suppose I feel like it suits people in a different situation to me (namely, older than me, with kids etc). I also don’t have much of an issue with saving money, in the sense that I don’t have significant debts other than my recently acquired mortgage (and I still have savings)

    I don’t think you could say my 66 sqm has a lot of storage, but it does have a pantry and a linen closet, and a few kitchen cupboards and a wardrobe. This isn’t my first time out of home (I went to boarding school from 10yo, and lived in uni accommodation for all my uni life – I went home for about 3 years to save to buy somewhere). I had the strange opposite of all the blogs I read about ‘decluttering’ and I had to FILL my home, which I have done. Very mindfully. There’s no pastry brush (I so rarely would need one – only guests seems to think they’ve needed one on two occasions).

    I started reading decluttering blogs when Brisbane flooded. As my home town, it touched me, and I read about people losing everything. It then got me thinking about what I would save, and then moved to what I could start getting rid of. This in parallel to knowing in 2011 that I planned to buy, and HATED moving (my family moved a lot, and with boarding school, we packed up our room every term, and moved it all to another location for holidays). So over 2011, whilst reading and (predominantly), I started to cull what I did have – books, uni papers, school memorabilia, clothing, gifts, trinkets etc.

    I don’t feel overwhelmed by stuff. But I am vigilant to stuff – I flatly told my parents I didn’t want any ‘hand me downs’ – if I did, I’d ask, and they of course could refuse (in the end, I’ve taken a doona, two pillows, a mini drill… not much!) I’ve said no to friends ‘freebies’ and old furniture (or taking it with approval to freecycle if it didn’t suit me). I constantly look for ways to thin out what is stored – stray plastic lids, things I know I won’t ‘get around’ to using/putting up etc. Making sure I’m using my little space as well as I can, and making my life simpler is the key!

    • I too, addressed the whole Declutter bust around the Brisbane floods. Yes it certainly put material value in perspective. I have since moved back to New Zealand and started up a business relating to this new trend. I constantly paraphrase William Morris…Keep only what’s deemed useful or beautiful.

  2. I agree with all you have said. The thing which struck me as I read your article, was that the authors of most of the books you mentioned are females! Does that tell us something?

  3. Hi Fairy – I did leave a comment on your post over at SS, but just wanted to come back again and tell you how good that book “the joy of less” is… I ordered the eBook and can’t put it down! It has me looking at lots of things in my house and thinking about how/when/why they will be departing or staying…

    I had thought I’d done a “pretty good” job of decluttering when we changed all our flooring last year. Not so now!!!

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