As a former shopaholic turned minimalist, I know that decluttering can feel overwhelming. You might start off really motivated … but when you have a LOT of stuff to deal with, it wears you down and before you know it, you’re stuck.
If this sounds familiar then rest assured you’re not alone. I’ve been there too and I promise these 10 simple decluttering tips will help.
I know it’s hard but don’t give up! Just keep going and before you know it, you’ll be living the minimalist lifestyle you’ve always dreamed of. Let’s get started!
Benefits of Decluttering
First, let’s take a moment to talk about the benefits of decluttering. This is important because the more clarity you have about why you’re decluttering, the easier it will be to stay motivated.
A DECLUTTERED HOME IS A TIDY HOME
This isn’t rocket science. When there’s less stuff in your home, it’s easier to keep it clean! Vacuuming, dusting, laundry—it’s all easier to do with less clutter. My minimalist cleaning routine rarely takes me longer than 30 minutes a day to complete.
DECLUTTERING SAVES YOU TIME, MONEY AND ENERGY
Decluttering also saves you time, money and energy. I’ve already mentioned that you spend less time cleaning but it’s so more than that.
You also save time because you’re not wasting it looking for stuff or double handling things. That five minutes you spend looking for your keys or digging through a kitchen drawer trying to find the right measuring cup … it might not feel like much but it all adds up!
Clutter also costs you money whether you realise it or not. You pay for cleaning supplies, organising supplies (how much have you spent on storage tubs and baskets in the past?) and don’t forget that your time has value. Every minute that you spend dealing with your stuff is money down the drain.
Finally, it’s so important to realise that clutter steals your energy. As Barbara Hemphill famously wrote, “Clutter is postponed decisions.”
Think about what that means for your life? Can you ever truly relax if you live surrounded by clutter? Even if you don’t realise it, it’s always on your mind and it will drain you.
DECLUTTERING TEACHES YOU ABOUT INTENTIONAL LIVING
The final—and arguably most important—benefit of decluttering is that it teaches you about intentional living.
Every time you declutter something, you have to think intentionally about its place in your home: Why do I own this? How is it adding value to my life? Why should I keep it?
You’ll repeat this process hundreds (if not thousands) of times while decluttering your home … and you know what?
I can almost guarantee it will change how you think about everything—your schedule, your spending, your relationships and more. Before you know it, what started out as “decluttering a few things” leads to a complete lifestyle change!
Why Decluttering Is So Hard
Now that you know why decluttering is worth doing, let’s talk about why it’s so hard.
Obviously, it takes a lot of time and energy—especially if you have a lot of stuff. (I was a shopaholic for more than a decade so trust me, I know exactly how it feels!) Even if decluttering was “easy” to do, you’d still need time and energy to do the work.
But … decluttering’s not easy, is it?
Instead, it’s draining and emotionally challenging. The unspoken reality is that you’re not just decluttering old books and excess coffee mugs. You’re also decluttering your hopes, dreams and perhaps even your sense of self.
You have to deal with tough emotions, like shame and guilt, and you have to do this over and over and over again. It’s absolutely exhausting.
On top of the emotional challenges, there’s a layer of confusion. Where to begin? What to keep? What to do with my unwanted stuff? Questions like these can leave us feeling stuck before we’ve even begun.
I don’t bring up these challenges to discourage you. Instead, I believe that knowledge is power. If you know why you keep getting stuck, then you can tackle the root of the problem and finally move forward.
10 Simple Decluttering Tips For When You Feel Stuck
If you’re ready, these 10 simple decluttering tips will help you make progress, even when you feel stuck.
1. WORK ON YOUR MINDSET FIRST
Before you start decluttering, I recommend that you spend some time working on your mindset. Here are a few things to focus on:
- Get clear about what matters to you — the more you know about what matters to YOU, the easier it will be to make decisions about what does (or doesn’t belong) in your life.
- Work on your self-worth — when you don’t feel “good enough”, it’s common to turn to stuff as a way of self-soothing. Work on your self-worth and your clutter will lose power over you.
- Know who you are and what you believe in — the things you own say a lot about what you believe about yourself. If you’re not clear about who you are then your home will reflect this.
2. BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND
Before you start decluttering, take a few minutes to think about the end result you want to achieve. What will your space look like when you’re done and how will it make you feel?
This vision will help you make decisions about what to keep and it will also help you stay motivated. It’s a mindset shift—instead of focusing on what you’re giving up, your attention is on the home and life you’re creating for yourself.
3. DECIDE AHEAD OF TIME WHAT TO DO WITH YOUR UNWANTED STUFF
Decluttering is overwhelming because you have SO many decisions to make. Reduce decision fatigue by thinking about what you’re going to do with your stuff before you begin.
Will you donate it? Or sell it? And if so, how and where?
Make that decision once before you begin and it’s one less thing you have to think about. Plus making a plan ahead of time encourages you to make more responsible decisions and increases the likelihood that you’ll actually follow through with the job.
4. CLARIFY YOUR FEARS
When people get stuck decluttering it’s often because they have fears like:
- What if I need this again later?
- What if it’s worth something?
- What if my children want this someday?
If you struggle with similar fears, tackle them head-on. What’s the worst-case scenario? What WILL happen if you need it again someday? How will you react? Be as specific as possible—the details will help you feel less afraid and empower you to make confident decisions.
5. SET REASONABLE EXPECTATIONS
Another reason people get stuck when they’re decluttering is that they have unrealistic expectations. This isn’t a personal criticism—I struggled with the exact same thing when I was decluttering my home and life.
I know how hard it is when there’s an ocean between where you are and where you want to be. You want to see overnight results and when you don’t, you feel discouraged.
But here’s the thing … odds are it took you years to accumulate all your stuff. It’s probably going to take a while to declutter too! So set realistic expectations for yourself.
Think about how much time you realistically have available for decluttering and set small goals. Then when you achieve them, you’ll feel good about the progress you’ve made instead of feeling like you’re falling behind.
6. USE “RULES” TO HELP YOU DECLUTTER
As I’ve already mentioned, decision fatigue is a real thing. When we have a lot of decisions to make, our brains get tired and we end up feeling “stuck”.
One way to reduce the number of decisions is to use rules when you’re decluttering. I talk about this a lot in my Simple Guide to a Simple Wardrobe but in summary, ask yourself what broad generalisations can you make about the space you’re decluttering?
For example, I know that I never get around to dry-cleaning my clothes, so when I decluttered my closet I made the rule that I wasn’t going to keep anything that was dry-clean-only.
This made my life so much easier—I decided what to declutter once and then I didn’t have to think too much about the individual items. This saved me time and helped me make better decisions about what to keep.
7. ASK “HOW DOES THIS ADD VALUE TO MY LIFE?”
Marie Kondo famously encouraged us all to ask, “Does this spark joy?” … but personally, this question never resonated with me.
Of course, if it works for you then that’s great! But if you’re in the same boat, try this out this question instead:
How does this item add value to my life?
I believe that everything in my home has to earn its right to be there and this question helps me get to the heart of the issue. If it doesn’t add value to my life, it doesn’t belong in my life. (This goes for everything, not just physical clutter!)
8. DON’T SPEND MORE THAN 5 MINUTES ON ONE ITEM
One simple tip that really helps me when I’m decluttering is I never spend more than five minutes deciding on a single item.
I know that if I do, I’m likely to end up down a dark rabbit hole of nostalgia, shame or distraction … and this is how I get stuck. I lose my motivation for decluttering, and next thing I know a few hours have passed and I’ve gotten nothing done.
If this sounds at all familiar, then try this: set a timer for five minutes and if you can’t make a decision in that time, put it aside and move on. I think you’ll find you get a lot more done that way!
9. INSTEAD, USE A “MAYBE” PILE
Right, so those items you can’t decide about? I put them in a “maybe” pile and I know this goes against a lot of popular decluttering advice but here are my thoughts on the situation.
If you can’t declutter something in five minutes, there’s likely some deeper underlying issue that you need to tackle—identity issues, guilt, shame, fear … I’ve learned that in order to declutter your stuff, you often have to declutter something deeper first.
This can take time and that’s OK. Put your “maybe” pile aside and give yourself permission to work through one item at a time. It might take a while but remember, not everyone can declutter their home in a weekend. Don’t feel bad if you need time to let go.
10. TALK ABOUT YOUR DECLUTTERING CHALLENGES
Finally, if you’re struggling to declutter a particular item, then I highly encourage you to talk about the challenges you’re experiencing.
Why? Because clutter thrives in secrecy. The more you try and hide it, the more power it has over you. It’s a bit like the monster that lives under your child’s bed … it’s scary in the dark but the fear goes away when you turn on the light.
Do the same with your clutter. “Turn on the light” by talking about it with friends or even by exploring your feelings in a journal. I think you might be surprised by how an honest conversation can completely change the way you feel—and in turn, empower you to move forward.
Free Decluttering Guide
If after reading the above tips you still feel stuck, then I recommend downloading Mindful Decluttering, my FREE decluttering guide and workbook.
You’ll get my step-by-step decluttering process, my top troubleshooting tips, as well as a few personal stories to inspire you. Get your free copy by subscribing using the form below:
PRAISE FOR MINDFUL DECLUTTERING
“Hi Jennifer! I just wanted to let you know that even after starting my minimalism journey 9 years ago, I got real value and direction from your Mindful Decluttering e-book. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, you have a wonderful way with words. Love Michelle x’
More Minimalist Lifestyle & Decluttering Tips
If you enjoyed this post, here are a few more minimalist lifestyle and decluttering tips you might enjoy:
- 17 Heart-Centred Ways to Simplify Your Life
- Minimalism “Do’s and Dont’s”
- 20 Ways I’ve Simplified My Life
- 6 Gentle Reminders About Minimalism
- How I Became a Minimalist (Why I Choose to Live With Less)
Thank you for reading and I’d love to know—what are your top decluttering tips? Let us know in the comments! x