Looking for a list of things to declutter? Here’s a different type of decluttering list to consider—one that might surprise you!
Lately, on my internet wanderings, I’ve been noticing that most conversations about minimalism are turning into lists of things you can declutter: goodbye ice cream maker, old magazines, and college textbooks!
And look—don’t get me wrong—I believe decluttering your home is obviously a big part of a minimalist lifestyle, but I can’t help but feel that that part of the conversation is missing.
I believe minimalism is less about the number of things you own and more about intentional thinking. It’s about considering the purpose and value something (physical possessions, ideas, or even people) brings into your life and then being intentional about what you choose to keep.
This is why I’ve decided to share a different kind of decluttering list—a list of things to declutter that aren’t things. Instead of physical decluttering, I’m looking at ideas and mindsets that aren’t contributing to my life and could use letting go.
15 Things To Declutter (A Different Decluttering List)
Before jumping into the list, I wanted to make two quick points:
- I’m still working on A LOT of the things on this list, and to be honest—I’m writing this for myself as much as my readers. Life is a work in progress!
- Not everything on this list will make sense for everyone. Please don’t view this as an authoritative “master list” (or my attempt to write one). Instead, my intention is to inspire you to think outside the box with your minimalist lifestyle and to consider other aspects of your life that may require a bit of decluttering.
On that note, I’m sure there are a ton of things I’ve left off this list, so if you have any ideas you’d like to share please feel free to add them in the comments!
Originally published in March 2016, updated for clarity in June 2023.
1. Unnecessary deadlines
I can’t tell you how many nights I’ve spent stressed and nearly in tears because I had a project or chore that I really, really wanted to finish before going to sleep—even though there was absolutely no reason it couldn’t just be left to the next day.
Yet for some reason, I’d created a self-imposed deadline that was causing me ridiculous stress. If you’ve ever caught yourself in the same boat, join me in just letting go.
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“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”
– Eleanor Roosevelt
We all know this one. It’s a lazy habit, so let’s be intentional in breaking it. Also, on a side note, I’ve noticed that the more critical I am of other people, the more critical I become of myself. It’s lose-lose all around, and a good reason to break the bad habit.
3. A goal weight or size
Instead of focusing on an arbitrary number, chose to focus on feeling healthy and well. Healthy living is easier when it’s about feeling good instead of battling the scales.
Side note: the same goes for your decluttering projects! Focus less on how much stuff you own, and more on how you feel in your home.
Have you ever had that “I’ve been so busy working all day, but somehow I’ve done nothing” feeling?
Yep. Me too—and we can thank multitasking for creating lots of busyness minus productivity. The alternative?
Try slowing down, doing one thing at a time, and being mindful about the task at hand. (I’ve been trying time blocking lately, and it’s really been working for me.)
Is your inner perfectionist holding you back? Maybe you stress out because your home doesn’t look like something out of a magazine? Or your decluttering journey is more like a roller coaster, because you get rid of stuff and then find yourself shopping for the “perfect“ replacement?
This is, of course, the tip of the iceberg and perfectionism can hold you back in almost all areas of life. Especially in today’s edited world, where everywhere we look there are airbrushed photos and curated social media feeds.
But here’s a gentle reminder: ‘perfect’ isn’t real. It’s an illusion, and until you get comfortable with it, no amount of simplifying will ever be enough.
The Simply + Fiercely Show is a podcast for women who want to clear their clutter and create space for freedom and joy. If your life keeps getting bigger—but not better—then it’s time to declutter from the inside out. LISTEN NOW
6. Feeling trapped
Tough love time: stop believing you’re trapped. If you’re not happy with your life, acknowledge that you are in control.
You may not be able to change all the circumstances of your life, but don’t let what you can’t change keep from noticing what you can. (Ahem, I was guilty of this for a LONG time!) I won’t deny that it’s hard, especially when there’s a lot outside your control, even more so when it’s systematic and related to your gender, race, etc.
But don’t give away your power. Even baby steps can completely change how you feel.
7. Guilt about self-care
If you feel guilty in any way about making time to take care of yourself, please stop and let it go. Practising self-care is important because if you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of anything or anyone else.
2023 Update: I originally wrote this post in 2016. Back then I knew that self-care was important but struggled to make it a priority (even after writing this article). Then I spent most of 2022 in bed dealing with some health issues, and learned this lesson on a deeper level. Now, I have zero guilt about self-care because there truly is nothing more important.
8. Blaming others for your mistakes
We know this, right? But boy is it hard to remember in the heat of the moment. I’m trying to learn the power of “pause”, to stop for a moment and think before I react, giving myself time to accept responsibility for my own actions.
9. Waiting to be happy
Stop waiting for a new job, a new month, or a new boyfriend to make you happy.
I hate to be morbid, but tomorrow is never guaranteed—and besides, it’s more than that. Over the years, I’ve learned that looking outside myself for happiness is a recipe for disappointment.
Now to be clear, this isn’t about false positivity or pretending that negative feelings don’t exist. But as cliche as it is, there’s so much to be said about gratitude and taking responsibility for our own happiness.
Take a long hard look at what‘s inside your control, and what you can do to spark joy in your everyday life. (And if this feels overwhelming, check out my mini course, 7 Simple Days. It will help you press the reset button on a busy and cluttered life.)
*Don’t forget to talk to a professional if happiness feels impossible. The obvious exception to this point is if you are struggling with mental health.
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10. The glorification of busy
Busy does not equal better.
- If you find yourself complaining (or boasting) about being busy, stop.
- If you’re too busy to do what’s important to you, look at your priorities.
- If you have downtime, enjoy it without feeling guilty.
Of course, the reality of your situation might mean this is a busy season of life (working two jobs, caring for others, etc.) and it’s not always possible to live a “slow life”. But regardless, it’s a shift—we can be busy without the glorification, without making it part of our identity.
This is something I struggled with for q long time and you can read my story in this post about why your life is busy and cluttered.
11. Any definition of success that does not serve you
I want to scream this one from the rooftops. It is SO easy to get caught up chasing other people’s dreams, checking things off some master to-do list of things you’re ”supposed” to achieve.
But before you do, pause. Ask yourself—why am I doing this and who am I doing this for?
At the end of the day, one of the most powerful things you can do is define your own version of success. Create your own standards, then build your life around them, and stop worrying what everyone else will think.
RELATED POST: How Defining My Core Values Changed My Life
12. Deflecting compliments
Learn to accept compliments with grace, instead of responding with a self-deprecating joke. (Yes, you do look nice today, and no—it’s not the flattering lighting.)
13. Obsessing over things you can’t change
I know this isn’t easy (I’m still putting some serious work into this one) but I truly believe that one of the greatest things we can learn in life is how to let go of what we can’t change. (Goodbye: replaying things in our head, constant obsessing, and unnecessary stress.)
If you’re not sure how to start with this, practice being present. Also, don’t be afraid to reach out to a professional if you need support.
14. Anger and grudges
It’s OK to feel angry, and negative emotions aren’t bad. But sitting with them for too long, and letting them rot you from the inside out … well, that’s another story, isn’t it?
Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.
15. Self-limiting beliefs
And finally, let go of any thoughts that begins with “I could never …”
For a long time, I believed I could never get out of debt, or end my first marriage, or start a blog that people actually read.
But guess what? I learned that I’m brave and capable of more than I thought and you are too. Say goodbye to any thoughts (or anyone) that tell you otherwise.
Decluttering Advice for Your Actual “Things”
Obviously, this was a different type of decluttering post! But in case you need tips on how to let go of actual things, here are a few blog posts that will help:
- 5 Helpful Decluttering Checklists For Your Home – If you want to be told exactly what to declutter, from your medicine cabinet to your junk drawer, this post is for you.
- 4 Thoughtful Questions to Ask When Decluttering – Deciding what to declutter can be a daunting task. These questions will help.
- One of the hardest things is decluttering sentimental items, but this guide has some tips you may not have heard before.
What ideas or mindsets could use ‘decluttering’ in your life? Let me know in the comments – I’d love to add to this list! x