Since embracing minimalism almost a decade ago, I’ve learned there are many ways that decluttering improves your life.
Less stuff leads to less stress, and there is no doubt that I have more time, money and energy than ever before. My home is a blissful retreat and I love walking through my front door. Instead of feeling constantly overwhelmed with housework, I’m able to relax and truly enjoy my living space.
I’m grateful for all the gifts that decluttering has brought into my life … but to be honest, the greatest joy was completely unexpected. Keep reading to hear more about the most surprising way that decluttering has improved my life.
Why We Have Clutter
Of course, this is a complex question and the exact answer will vary from person to person. Still, after many long conversations with family, friends and readers, I’ve noticed a common theme.
A lack of clarity … we’re not sure what we want or need in our lives.
This can manifest as confusion about our personal style. You see it in our closets and in how we decorate our homes. When we’re not confident about what we like, we’re easily swayed by magazine articles and shop displays.
The result? A lot of stuff but minimal satisfaction. When the things we own don’t represent who we really are inside, there’s a disconnect and it leaves us searching for something more. It’s a never-ending cycle … and this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Look deeper and you’ll often find confusion about personal values—who are you and what do you believe in?
If your life is cluttered, then there’s a good chance that you’re not sure how to answer this question and it shows. Without a deep sense of purpose and belonging, you feel adrift and restless. You’re pulled in all directions, chasing every shiny object that catches your attention in search of something that will make you feel whole and satisfied.
A new dress, a new car, a vacation or a career change …
There’s always something on the horizon but it doesn’t matter. There’s still a missing piece to the puzzle.
What Happens When We Declutter?
But what happens when we start clearing clutter from our lives?
As I’ve mentioned, there are immediate benefits. Less stuff means less time cleaning, less tripping over toys and less stress overall.
But then what?
As you continue to declutter, the going gets harder. You’ve cleared the “easy” stuff—old t-shirts and extra coffee mugs—and now it’s time to challenge yourself. The expensive designer handbag you never use, a dusty sewing machine, an unread book collection.
It can feel almost painful to let go of some items … but why?
Again, it’s not an easy question to answer but I do believe that often, there’s a fear of being vulnerable. Owning certain things can be a way of protecting ourselves from the world. It feels “safe” to hide behind clutter, using it as a mask to avoid the risk of exposure.
That expensive designer handbag shows you’re successful, even if you don’t feel that way inside. A sewing machine might prove you’re a “good” homemaker and your book collection is evidence that you’re well-read and educated. These items signal to the world confidence that you might not feel on the inside.
This unspoken relationship with your clutter makes it hard to let go, but when you do something surprising starts to happen.
The Surprising Impact of Decluttering
At first, a decluttered life can actually be uncomfortable. You might feel bored or uneasy with your new space and be tempted to fill it with something else.
But sit with your discomfort for a bit and notice what happens …
When you have a decluttered closet and you start dressing with a simple wardrobe, what do you see when you look in the mirror?
For me, it was an entirely new experience. I used to get dressed while thinking about the persona that I was creating, almost like an actress getting ready to go on stage.
I was “professional Jen” or “easy-going Jen” or “confident Jen”, and I chose my outfits based on the person I wanted to present to the world.
It felt safe but after I decluttered my closet, my costumes were gone. Suddenly, I had less to hide behind and I was forced to look at MYSELF in the mirror. Raw and unfiltered … I didn’t recognise my reflection and honestly, it was painful at first.
Still, I resisted the urge to buy more “stuff” and in time, I was rewarded with the gift of self-worth.
I started to wear less makeup, I stopped colouring my grey hair, and I learned to genuinely love the woman staring back at me. I began to feel comfortable in my own skin and confident too, in a way that had eluded me for decades.
I noticed similar ripples of change in all aspects of my life.
In the past, I had purchased a home that I didn’t really want in order to signal that I was a “successful adult”. After decluttering, I realised my self-worth is not defined by my place of residence. I chose to downsize to a tiny studio and this enabled me to become debt-free for the first time in my adult life.
My increased self-worth also empowered me to declutter my schedule. After a lifetime as a workaholic, I found the courage to step back from a career that didn’t make me happy.
I stopped worrying about what other people would think and decided to take control of my schedule. I started working less and writing more … and this eventually led to a completely new career path.
It may not be immediately obvious, but all of these changes were made possible because of decluttering. I was no longer defined by my possessions and this gave me courage that I never knew I had.
I don’t need “stuff” to protect me because I’m confident in my own self-worth. I know who I am and what I believe in, and this is the greatest gift of decluttering.
Decluttering Continues to Improve Your Life
The good news is this is a gift that just keeps giving.
Decluttering creates a positive feedback loop. The more you declutter, the more you learn about who you are, which in turn makes it easier to let go. You’re no longer pulled in a million directions because you know what matters to you.
It doesn’t happen overnight. You probably won’t feel different right away but keep going and see what happens.
Every time you make a decluttering decision, you’re not just deciding to let go. You’re also making a decision about the type of person you want to be. It won’t be easy— you’ll get stuck, feel confused and probably want to give up on the whole idea of clutter-free living.
Trust me, it took me several years to make any progress with my own clutter and I wanted to throw in the towel many, MANY times! I know it doesn’t feel “magical” when you’re in the messy middle … but then one day you look in the mirror and you catch yourself smiling at your reflection.
And you’ll wonder why you ever needed so much stuff in the first place.
How to Start Decluttering Your Home + Life
If you’re new here, I invite you to download a copy of Mindful Decluttering, my FREE decluttering guide and workbook. You’ll learn the exact step-by-step process I used to declutter my home and life. There are also troubleshooting tips to help you overcome your biggest decluttering challenges.
To get your copy, simply subscribe below and as an added bonus you’ll get my regular newsletter with tips, resources and inspiration for simple, intentional living.
In addition, you might enjoy one of these popular blog posts:
- 10 Simple Decluttering Tips For When You Feel Stuck
- Minimalist Lifestyle Checklist: How to Get Started With Minimalism
- How to be a Minimalist: 5 Things Not to Do + What to Do Instead
Finally, if you want more support then check out my online decluttering course, Clear Your Clutter. I teach a heart-centred, compassionate approach to decluttering—you’ll learn how to think like a minimalist so you can own less stuff, be less busy and stop wasting money.
“This course has absolutely been a game-changer for me. I love Jennifer’s personal stories and simple approach. I had so many “aha” moments when taking this course, and I have finally been able to make progress decluttering my stickiest clutter and making purchases that I don’t regret later. I would highly recommend this course to anyone who has encountered stumbling blocks on their minimalism journey. Thanks to Jennifer, I can now say “I AM a minimalist!”” – Lynne B, Clear Your Clutter student
How has decluttering improved your life? Have you noticed a link between less stuff and increased self-worth? Let us know in the comments! x