Minimalism isn’t (just) about throwing your stuff away; it’s more about deciding what to keep, and what to make room for. If you’re interested in my ‘Why’, you can read it here.
So before you begin your process of decluttering, start thinking about why you’re doing it. Ask yourself the questions ‘What do I want less of?’ and ‘What do I want more of?’
As you work, you might find it useful to take before and after photos, or just take a moment to notice the before and the after.
Ideas from Marie Kondo
What really prompted me to begin was reading Spark Joy by Marie Kondo. I absolutely recommend you do so. There’s a good chunk of it that I found quite silly, but there’s a huge amount that is useful.
Initially, sort and declutter by category. Marie Kondo suggests starting with clothes, but I don’t think it really matters as long as it’s something you don’t feel emotionally invested in. For example, you might start with pots and pans, or books, or shoes.
- Pick an area where you feel you’ll be able to make quick, deliberate decisions. I did clothes and then books, both of which I found quite easy.
- Pick up each item in turn, and ask yourself, ‘Does this give me joy?’. You’re looking for that feeling of ‘yes I love this’, not ‘oh I need to keep this because it was expensive’. Things like a vacuum cleaner can give you a practical joy because, without it, your house would be dirty.
- If you dither for more than five seconds, keep that item. Don’t get bogged down; keep moving in a decisive fashion. There is no ‘maybe’ pile. If you feel ‘maybe’ then it’s a ‘keep’; you can always come back to this category another day for another edit. (I have done my clothes several times)
- When you put things away, make them look as beautiful as you can. For example, my books are arranged in rainbow order, and my dresses too. My tops are folded so that I can easily see what is there.
Move your way through categories of items, leaving whichever category you feel most emotionally invested in until the end. The reason for doing this is that by the end, you will have practised this skill, gained momentum and be good at making decisions. There are lots of category tick lists available online if you’d like help with that.
Ideas from The Minimalists
Marie Kondo got me moving, but it was The Minimalists podcast that really helped me change my thinking about ‘stuff’. You don’t need to listen to every episode (for example I skipped ‘Parenting’) but the vast majority will be useful to most people. I can’t recommend them enough. Here are the ideas I found most useful for the ‘decluttering’ stage.
‘The 90/90 rule’
When evaluating an item, if you haven’t used an item in the last 90 days, and you don’t think you’ll use it in the next 90, donate or bin it. The ‘90’ is arbitrary; pick a number that works for you. I could be a week, it could be six months. Just make a rule and stick to it.
‘The 20/20 rule’
For those ‘just in case’ items, like tiny screwdrivers for your glasses, or travel toothbrushes, or the left-over sizes of paintbrushes that you didn’t use last time you decorated. Can you replace it for less than £20 in less than 20 minutes? If so, donate it or bin it.
I love this idea! I haven’t yet felt the need to do this, but it’s in my mind for if I feel a stall in my progress. It’s perfect if you want to get to a vastly decluttered house quickly. Pack up your house as if you’re moving. Pack everything from your kettle to your toothbrush. Once it’s all packed, unpack only the items you need. Set a deadline (for example 30 days) and at the end of that thirty days, you give away everything that remains unpacked. Not one for the fainthearted, but undeniably effective.
‘The 30 Day Mins Game’
On day one, you get rid of one thing. On day two, two things and so on. Going from 1 to 30 is a great way to build momentum when you’re getting started. If you like to start with the hard stuff first, start with 30 and work your way down to one per day. There are no rules; you can count individual paperclips or a box of them – it’s up to you.
Where am I now?
I’ve gone through everything in my house, and I’m happy with the things that I have. But now the minimalist thinking is second nature and I don’t feel like it’s ever something that will be ‘finished’.
But I will be absolutely honest and say that I still struggle a bit with messiness! My desk is usually under a small pile of stuff – usually things I’ve used and haven’t got around to putting away. I’m not sure that will ever change, but one thing is for sure – my minimalism is here to stay.