This post is from KS Site Editor Helen Thomas. Find all her posts here.
Decluttering is all the rage right now. I started seeing The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up everywhere on social media. What finally convinced me was seeing my friend Stacy post her decluttering escapades on Instagram.
Now, I’m usually one to say you should first check out the library for a book. But with wait lists hundreds long for both the hardback and the eBook, I’d say it’s absolutely worth the price to head over to Amazon to buy it and start reading it immediately. This book really IS Life Changing. I don’t say that lightly!
Side Note: Depending on your faith you might need to “spit out some bones” from this book, but her spiritual side isn’t front and center and isn’t part of the actual decluttering method.
Note from Katie: I actually DID wait all summer to get this book from the library and finally got it last week – I’m skeptical. I don’t think I can do it. But maybe if I want it badly enough…? Although I don’t think I can be as ruthless as Helen – wait till you get to reason no. 6!!
The Practical Side of Decluttering
There are many blog posts and Pinterest boards that can help you with the HOW of decluttering – but I’m here today to share the WHY of it, and how it has really changed a lot of things in my home for the better.
1. There is less to clean
I know, I know. You’ve heard this before. But it’s true. The less there is that is OUT the less there is to dust around, or to pick up before vacuuming, or even to put away before bed so you don’t step on a Lego in the morning, amirite?
2. Have more room
Getting rid of items (and not buying replacements!) means lots more room to make everything look nice. Everything can be “just so” and also easy to find, and easy to use.
The kids have more room to spread out on a project. My desk has been super clean, making it easier to actually focus on my work.
Where we often go wrong is that we buy more and more organizers (Rubbermaids, drawer dividers, underbed storage, etc.) to fit our stuff. Instead, try paring down your belongings first and making them fit into the storage at hand. And if you DO need more to sort your items, definitely hit up the dollar store. I got all these colorful bins there and it makes my drawers and cabinets so cheerful.
I was really getting into the “make the stuff fit the space.” Knitting is my hobby, and I had bins in the basement, in my closet, and under my bed. I put it all in one spot and really thought about what I would be using in the near future, and what I would honestly never touch. I got it all to fit in the three underbed bins and am very satisfied with it. Now when I’m ready for a new project it will be a cinch to find.
3. See everything at once
Seeing everything at once (after getting rid of the unused items!) can help you actually use the stuff you have. After I pared down my kitchen, I used Bethany’s tips for organizing what was left.
My husband was a little wary at first, but once he saw how his t-shirts were stored vertically instead of stacked, he was sold. Now it’s easy to pick a specific shirt, and it takes up SO much less room once you fold items this way. I was able to pull his long sleeve t-shirts out of his closet and fill an empty drawer. This means his dress clothes have room to breathe and not wrinkle.
4. Make some cash
Going through all of your belongings can bring some cash to the table. Once you are ruthless and determine what you truly no longer need to hold on to, you can figure out what to sell, donate, or trash.
If an item is in working order, and is something I feel could be sold (no stains, broken or missing parts, etc.) then I take it to my favorite local thrift store that supports a women’s shelter. There are also the major charities that have stores (Goodwill, Salvation Army, St. Vincent DePaul) with drop off centers or even those that come pickup at your house (Easter Seals, Purple Heart Veterans).
I also have a local children’s consignment shop that I take all my higher-end kids’ clothes to so I can then turn around and buy the next size up. There is always Craigslist, Facebook groups or of course, eBay. I listed some knitting needles I no longer use and in two hours I had sold them for $30!
5. Fix up the house
We had let quite a few small home repairs and other items go for about 18 months due to some uncertainty in our housing situation. Once I started decluttering though, it showed us what we needed to fix to now truly enjoy our clean space.
It can be very satisfying to fix something, like a new storm window in the basement or a loose heat register, especially when you aren’t very handy.
We now also want to paint and maybe actually hang some stuff on the walls (having lived here for 4.5 years with nothing on the walls but clocks).
It’ll look worse before you get done:
The Emotional Side of Decluttering
6. Throw out your photos
Yes, yes I did. I had 11 albums in a Rubbermaid bin from my mom. One was a scrapbook of every. single. greeting card she had received from the time she announced she was pregnant with me through my second birthday.
Did it make me smile? Yes.
Did I throw it out? Yes.
I then flipped through every page in the photo albums and got it down to 5 to keep. A huge helping point is that you don’t need a TON of photos to remember a single event. Keep the ones that show who was there and your birthday cake, and you opening presents. That’s it – now those pull up the memory and you still have photos to show your own kiddos.
Don’t worry, I kept my baby book.
But now all my childhood photos, my wedding album, baby book, and a few scrapbooks, all fit in ONE bin. It feels like a weight has lifted off my chest after the stuff leaves the house!
7. You will feel better
There truly is something to be said for reducing visual clutter. I enjoy walking around my house now. Not only am I not tripping over toys, but I have more joy.
Because it is easy to keep the house clean, I am not focusing on dust or crumbs on the floor.
Even better – once you start in on this, the whole family will get on board with the project. Everyone now looks for items to declutter, and we truly think hard before purchasing something new (even when thrifting).
Folding laundry is no longer a chore when this is the end result:
White space is great – it helps clear the mind. I think you can head towards the path of minimalism after decluttering, if that appeals to you! I’m not quite that far yet.