D is for Decluttering: A-Z of Simple Living

D is for Decluttering: A-Z of Simple Living


This January, we’re taking an in-depth look at the why and how of simplicity with the A-Z of Simple Living. If you want to make 2015 the year you create a simpler, slower life, why not join us

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Simple living is all about…well, simplicity.

Yet so many of us (too many of us) are weighed down by our stuff.

Belongings, possessions, accoutrements. Keepsakes, mementos, sentimental items. It doesn’t matter what shape it takes – if it’s weighing you down, it’s clutter. And you need to lose it.

Lose it so you can move forward to living the simpler, slower life you crave.

This means one thing: DECLUTTERING.

Yes, it’s a buzzword. (On trend.) Yes, it’s hard work. (Sorry.) Yes, you’d prefer to be sipping cocktails in the sunshine. (Who wouldn’t?) Yes, you may have to face some hard truths. (I’m not apologising for that – it’s worth the effort!)

But do you know what? When you’re done – even decluttering one single surface in your home – you will feel lighter. You will feel proud. You will feel a sense of calm. You will want to do more.

The Basics of Decluttering

Start with one small thing. Don’t tackle the store room, the garage or the toy box[es]. They’re too big. You may get halfway through, become overwhelmed, stop, get disheartened and find yourself more discouraged than before.

So trust me, start small.

When people are trying to pay off multiple debts, they’re often told to put all their efforts into paying the biggest one first. Which seems to make sense.

But the better way is to pay off the smallest debt first. It will take less time, and you get a victory. You win right from the start. You beat that debt and won’t ever go back to it. This makes you hungry for more victory. So you focus on the next smallest debt. And so on. It snowballs and you build momentum.

My decluttering journey has been the same.

One day I cleaned out the kitchen drawer. You know the one – random utensils, chopsticks, some random LEGO bricks and a fine dusting of crumbs… (Come on – everyone has a drawer like this. There’s no shame in it.)

Next I tackled the medicine cabinet. Then the:

  • bathroom cabinet
  • hall stand
  • fridge
  • Tupperware drawer
  • laundry shelf
  • cleaning cupboard
  • dry goods cupboard

None of these is a big thing on its own. Most took me between ten minutes and an hour to do. But the combined impact of having a clean, decluttered kitchen, organised bathroom cabinets and tidy wardrobes was amazing. And I hadn’t even started the big stuff.

So give yourself15 minutes – set a timer if you need to – and tackle one thing.

Your Never-Fail Decluttering Technique

Follow these steps regardless of what part of your home you are decluttering. They will never lead you astray:

  1. Decide on which single surface you will declutter. Once you begin, do not move on to another until this one is completely clutter-free and (preferably) well organised.
  2. Establish an area as your work space. You need a clear flat work surface to use for sorting, organising, etc.
  3. Grab three boxes or bags.
    1. Donate box – for anything in good condition. These could be donated to charity, given as hand-me-downs to friends or family, or given away for free using Freecycle.org or hard rubbish collections.
    2. Throw away box – anything that is not in good, useable condition
    3. Recycle box – for any items that can be recycled, instead of simply thrown away
    4. Holding box – this is an optional fourth box to keep any items you are unsure about. The holding box can keep them out of the way for six months, when you can decide (based on whether you have missed or needed the items) if you will keep or donate the contents (preferably without opening it).
  4. Remove everything from the space you are decluttering. Place everything on your newly cleared work surface, leaving the decluttered space completely empty. Clean it with a damp cloth.
  5. Pick up each item individually and ask yourself the questions below. The amount of time you spend on the decision of whether to keep or toss the item will depend on what it is and how much is has meant to you in the past.
    1. Do I want this?
    2. Do I use this? (Or have I used it in the past year?)
    3. Do I need this?
    4. Do I love this?
    5. Is it beautiful?
    6. Is it meaningful?
  6. Decide to keep the item, donate it or throw it away. Only then should you put the item you are keeping back in its place.
  7. Work through each item until all the contents have been sorted.
  8. Box up the items for donation and recycle/throw away the things you can’t give away.
  9. Sit back and marvel at the beautiful clutter-free surface you’ve just created.
  10. Be sure to keep it that way – because clutter attracts clutter. And you don’t want your hard work to be in vain.

I know this might seem overly prescriptive, but once you’ve found your decluttering groove and strengthened those muscles, this will become second-nature. Then the fun really begins!

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14 Responses to D is for Decluttering: A-Z of Simple Living

  1. I’m not ready to face the big D right now, but I think there is a big D session in my very near future. I’ll keep this post handy for that day (month!).

  2. […] Decluttering is a huge part of creating a simple life. It’s one of the first steps people look to take, and it is by far one of the hardest. When you’re faced with literally years of accumulated mementoes, clothes, papers and junk, the idea of ridding your home of it is really daunting. […]

  3. I really wanted to show this posting, “A-Z of Simple Living:

  4. Thank you so much for spending some time in order to create _A-Z of Simple Living: D
    is for Decluttering | Slow Your Home_. Many thanks
    once again ,Michaela

  5. […] or two on how to declutter. (If not, or if you’re still looking for help in how to begin, try this A-Z post, this one that asks three questions for decluttering sentimental items and this post on the five […]

  6. […] while there are so many ways we can ease those responsibilities (declutter, get organised, discover what’s important) they will always remain in some […]

  7. Shanda says:

    Hi! My issue isn’t with decluttering. I can declutter my whole house in 30 min if need be. My issue is the horrible habits that let it get that way. I need an easy step by step guide to training my mind to avoid the clutter in the first place. It haunts me. Lol

  8. […] A-Z of Simple Living: ‘D’ is for Decluttering […]

  9. Christine says:

    Hello. I just found your blog over a month or so. I just recently started my simple living journey about six months ago. I started reading lorilee lippincotts book, which kicked me to the curb. I didn’t realize that I was doing this with my life. As i continue to do more research I came across your blog. I think it is awesome, everything you say i take into prespective and just makes sense. I will continue to read your blog thank you for the amazing tips! Please come check out my blog….
    http://www.thisisreallife.co

  10. […] D is for Decluttering from Brooke McAlary’s “Slow Your Home” blog […]

  11. […] we last moved, Mia was one month old and we’d just completely de-cluttered our house in order to prepare it for sale. I thought that move would be a breeze because isn’t the […]

  12. […] on writing about the basement so soon, but my husband was ready to tackle it – he had decluttering momentum, and as anyone knows who is decluttering, you go with decluttering […]

  13. […] I want to start by saying there are so many wonderful resources on this topic, my favourite being “Slow Your Home”, where Brooke writes about how to create a simpler life. So what better place to start then to quote one of her recent posts on decluttering: […]

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