15 Things to Declutter (That Aren’t Things)

Lately, on my internet wanderings, I’ve been noticing that most conversations about minimalism are turning into lists of things you can declutter. (Goodbye blender, spare phone charger, and college textbooks!!)

Now 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.

When I first started to discover minimalism, I felt like this was something that was talked about a lot but as minimalism has become more mainstream (with the popularity of books about KonMari) … I wonder if it’s losing part of its soul?

Or perhaps this is only what the mainstream media is focusing on, but regardless, it can’t hurt 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.

Decluttering your home is obviously a big part of embracing minimalism - but there is more to the conversation. In this list, I’m looking at ideas and mindsets that aren’t contributing to my life and could use letting go >> A list of things to declutter (that aren't 'things')

15 THINGS TO DECLUTTER (THAT AREN’T THINGS)

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 makes sense for everyone. Please don’t view this as an authoritative “master list” (or as my attempt to write one); instead, my intention is to inspire you to think outside the box with minimalism 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!


Sidenote: While we’re on the topic of decluttering…

I know this post is about decluttering ideas and mindsets BUT if you do need help with physical stuff, then Mindful Decluttering is for you! (Post continues below)

Mindful Decluttering is a free guide and workbook, where I share step-by-step exactly how I decluttered my home and life (and spoiler alert: it started with a mindset change!).

There’s also practical advice, personal stories, and a troubleshooting guide to help you overcome your decluttering challenges! Subscribe to get your free copy.


UNNECESSARY DEADLINES

I can’t tell you how many nights I’ve spent stressed to near tears because I’ve had some sort of 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.

RELATED POST: 5 Ways To Be Kinder To Yourself

GOSSIP

“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”
– Eleanor Roosevelt

We all know this one. It’s a lazy habit; let’s be intentional in breaking it.

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.

MULTITASKING

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 block scheduling lately and it’s really been working for me.)

PERFECT

Perfect isn’t real; it’s an illusion and it’s holding you back. Progress over perfection every time!

FURTHER READING: Check out my friend Wendy from Ditch Perfect, – she has a free workbook to help you let go of perfectionism – or check out this guest post she wrote for us, sharing 10 truths every perfectionist should know.

FEELING TRAPPED

[tough love] 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 you can always choose your reaction and start taking steps in a new direction.

GUILT ABOUT SELF CARE

If you feel guilty or in any way negative about making time to take care of yourself, please stop and let it go. Practising self-care is important because it creates a strong foundation (YOU!!) for everything else you want to do in your life.

RELATED POST: 12 Practical Self Care Tips (How I make self care work in my real life!)

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.

WAITING TO BE HAPPY

Stop waiting for a new job, a new month, or a new boyfriend to make you happy. You aren’t waiting, you’re making excuses. Make the decision to start living and loving life today.

RELATED POST: 14 Ways to Stop Living for the Weekends

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.

ANY DEFINITION OF SUCCESS THAT DOES NOT SERVE YOU

Define your own version of success. Create your own standards and build a life that makes you feel good (and stop worrying about how it looks to everyone else.)

RELATED POST: How Defining My Core Values Changed My Life

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.)

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, try meditation.

RELATED POST: A Practical Guide to Being Present: How to Live in the Moment

ANGER + GRUDGES

When you’re angry with someone, deal with the issue and then move on. If you’re struggling, ask yourself what’s more important—the issue or the relationship. (And if the answer is the issue, then perhaps you should move on from the relationship.)

Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.
– Unknown

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.

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

photo credit: Vladimir Kudinov // Used with permission

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42 thoughts on “15 Things to Declutter (That Aren’t Things)”

  1. Jennifer – I recently discovered your blog posts via a link from another website and I must say that it feels wonderful to read the words of a like-minded person 🙂 I completely agree that there is more to declutter than the physical aspects of your home (which itself can feel very rewarding, and slightly addictive – haha).

    Recently, in a bid to help placate my anxiety and the nay-sayers in my head, I started to journal. Just emptying my head of all the words. It truly feels like a “decluttering” of my mind. I have found it to now be an essential part of my day as I have noticed that I am a happier, lighter person for it, able to address many of the items you list above because of it. I no longer WANT to be “busy”, I am making a concerted effort to single-task as much as possible, am focused on being more present in each and every moment and am slowly starting to turn off the constant replay of situations in my mind.

    Each time I approach a new day with intent, I am being exposed to so many more positive experiences and meeting so many amazing people. Decluttering my mind has empowered me to focus on the good and I am so grateful for the life I am starting to live.

    Thank you so much for your blog (and the emails I receive)…it is refreshing to have more positivity in every day! xx

    Reply
  2. I love this angle that “clutter” can be so much more than physical. Self-imposed deadlines and anxiety about things I can’t change (or which might never happen) are big ones for me.

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  3. Yes Yes Yes! When people thing of minimalism they automatically think of decluttering and ‘things’. I think this side of minimalism is much more important xx

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  4. Everything about this post is so spot on! There is so much of the minimalism movement that is mindset related. For me, once I got through the physical minimizing, the mental minimizing was so much clearer and easier to accomplish. I also get super annoyed when people write ‘decluttering’ lists- what I want in my life is going to be different than anyone else. Minimalism isn’t one size fits all!

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    • Hehe – I have to admit I feel the same way about decluttering lists, which is part of what inspired this post, but it’s a bit of balance!! Sometimes they’re great for a bit of inspiration, as long as you know to be true to yourself first. Thanks for reading! 🙂

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    • Oh my goodness – sorry I’m only replying to this now! But thank you SO much fro your kind words 🙂 I especially appreciate the bit about being non-threatening; I really try not to “preach” in my blog posts so I’m so relieved to hear it doesn’t come across that way. Thanks for reading! x

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  5. This blog has so much going for it, so it’s disappointing to me that the author proffers a negative opinion which is attributed to a book that she has not read. I’ve read the book, it’s wonderful and covers many things, it talks about “sparking joy” (the title of her follow-up book which I have yet to read but have ordered). It made me want to learn more, not less, about other types of downsizing and decluttering, which is what led me to this site. KonMari method and book is about decluttering not minimalism, and I’d be very interested to know what Jennifer thinks of the KonMari method she actually read the book, but in the meantime I feel somehow insulted at the suggestion that I and the very many people who have taken up decluttering by following the KonMari method are contributing to a decline in the minimalism movement.

    Reply
    • Hi Margaret, it’s a very fair point that I haven’t read the book and perhaps I haven’t expressed myself well (or with enough tact). I’m sorry if I implied the KonMari method is bad in any way.

      The point I was trying to make is that KonMari has brought a lot of attention to minimalism and, as often happens when anything becomes mainstream or popular, I feel in some cases the focus is lost. I’m apologise if this comes across as derogatory to the KonMari method – it certainly wasn’t my intention to do so.

      I appreciate your comment and thank you for bringing this to my attention and taking the time to share your feelings.

      Reply
  6. Ugh, I absolutely adore this blog post. Thank you 🙂 I agree with everything you’ve mentioned and even though I’m new to living more mindfully/being frugal/being minimalist (whatever you want to call it) I really appreciate your perspective.

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  7. Hi, Just found your blog, I’m in a place in my life to really be receptive to intentional living and your articles are really inspiring. I think I would add to this list Friends. In the same way you have been talking in other articles about material possessions not fitting the you that you want to be, I think it might be helpful to look at the people who we are friends with and recognize which people make us happy and fulfilled and which it is perhaps time to let go of.

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  8. A lot of the things you mentioned are things I’m currently struggling with. It’s been a bummer week for me, and I think I needed this inspiration more than I am realizing.

    I need to focus on waiting to be happy and defining my own success. Thank you for the read, Jennifer!

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    • Hello Micha! I’m so sorry to hear that you’re having a rough time ? I completely understand the whole ‘waiting to be happy’ thing, I know it’s one of the hardest things to do.

      I’m so glad that you’ve found some inspiration in this post and I’m sending you positive vibes. Feel free to message me if you feel like talking things out. x

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  9. This list is fantastic. I feel like if I could actually do all these things I’d be in nirvana! Oh well – progress not perfection right? Thanks so much for these great reminders of the most important things to minimalize.

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  10. I spend SO much time obsessing over things I can’t change. I’m always having to remind myself that “I can’t control this. Let it go.”

    Thank you for reminding us that decluttering our minds is vastly important to live happily!!!

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  11. I’m so, so guilty of making self-imposed, totally arbitrary deadlines! I hadn’t really thought about that until now, but it can be painful and anxiety-making. Going to try to work on that this month – thanks for your thoughtful words!

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  12. This is so great! Everyone always talks about getting rid of things, but I think these concepts are even more important. I especially agree with the parts about glorifying busy and feeling guilty about self care. I need to work on those for sure.

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  13. I love this! So honest and true. I am now writing a piece not too dissimilar from this about decluttering our lives digitally. I think people find it easier to declutter physical things as they are able to see the evidence right there and then whereas other aspects of decluttering do not give such short-term results.

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  14. I’ve read the KonMari books, & she actually agrees with you & me about how it’s about all the things you own having a purpose (useful & bringing joy). I think some fans have been taking it to the extreme because of the thrill they get decluttering physical stuff (in the sense that you can see the results around you quickly).

    Reply
    • Hi Daisy – that’s great to know! I think you’re right … decluttering is of course a fantastic feeling! As long as there is balance (I’ve seen a few posts online where people have described how stressed they felt because they couldn’t decide if they should have 4 or 6 dinner settings!) Thanks for commenting 🙂

      Reply

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