I’m feeling pretty awesome this week and do you know why? I’ve finally made it through sorting out my home office and all my old files, folders and things. From a whole filing cabinet and built in cupboard I am down to ½ a plastic storage box! There’s nothing quite like a big clean out to make you feel mentally refreshed.
It’s amazing how much you can accumulate if you just ignore it, placing paper and things in various places to “sort through later”. Hanging onto items for the memories or “just in case” events which never actually arrive. Over the last 5 years I have been working towards a more minimalist lifestyle and so I thought I would share with you my Top 10 Tips for Decluttering and starting to create a more Minimalist Home.
1. Don’t buy what you don’t need – I know, it’s not really a tip for decluttering. But dah, if you don’t have too much stuff in the first place you won’t have any need to throw it out. Too often people buy things for the little thrill of having something new and not because it will actually benefit their everyday life. Every time you go to buy something ask yourself do you really NEED it? Is having this thing really going to make you happier? Wait a week, a fortnight or a month before buying. If you truly need something you won’t forget about it.*
2. Attack one bite at a time – I think the main reason why it’s so hard to declutter is not the physical task of sorting through your things but the emotional burden. Like it or not, we are tied to our material goods and sorting through clutter usually equals sorting through and re-living old memories (whether they be good or bad) which can be exhausting and overwhelming. Don’t attempt to declutter a whole house or room in one go. Instead, set aside one hour on the weekend or after work (or a time that works for you), choose one small location to attack, put your headphones in and a timer on your phone and have at it. Dealing with the clutter one small bite at a time will make it easier and won’t leave you mentally exhausted by the end. If you build enough momentum to keep going, go right ahead! But don’t feel bad if it takes a few weeks or months to sort through your items.
3. Stick to a 6~12 month rule – This is easier said than done, but if you haven’t used something in 6~12 months you probably either aren’t going to use it or should ask yourself if it is worth hanging onto if you only use it once or twice a year? When sorting through your things be real with yourself about when you actually used it last. If it’s been more than 12 months, get rid of it! Chances are you will forget you even owned it after a few weeks.For items you’re really not sure about, put them in a “maybe” box or location, set a calendar event on your phone for 6 months’ time and then see how many of those items you have actually used since then.
4. If everything was to burn in a fire – If your house was to burn down in a fire, what would you save? Thinking about your most precious items and what you would grab in the case of an emergency quickly puts into perspective the things you actually find important enough to keep. For me, it would be my digital files (handily kept on a USB) which stores all of my photos; a few pieces of my art and my kitchen knives (cook needs her good knives!). When sorting through your things keep this question in mind when deciding if you actually really need to keep something.
5. Go paperless – Wherever possible, change from paper to digital files. Swap all of your bills and bank statements to email. Keep lists and notes on your phone (I use Out of Milk for my shopping list and ColorNote for other general notes / lists). Get your news and entertainment from the internet and cancel any newspaper or magazine subscriptions. For those special items like cards and letters, take a photo of them and save them to your computer / storage drive and throw out the original. Make sure to regularly back-up your digital files to external storage or a cloud service.
6. Sell – Don’t just throw your unwanted items out if they hold value. There are numerous avenues for selling your things and making a few extra dollars:
- Gumtree (Australia, US)
- Local Facebook Sellers Groups
- Buyers / Sellers Markets
- Consignment Shops
7. Re-gift / Pass it on – Consider re-gifting items to someone that will appreciate and get use out of your un-used items. I come from a large family so more often than not, one of my brothers or sisters might be able to get some use out of whatever I am trying to get rid of. It is always better to pass on an item than just throw it out – help each other and the environment.
8. Donate – if you can’t sell or re-gift your items then donate them! I’m sure you’re sensing a theme here but I’m a big believing in not wasting anything if you can help it! Take any leftover items that are still in usable condition to your local charity shops or schools (for computing items, stationary and books). If you have leftover textiles H&M runs a recycling program where you can bring in your old clothes / fabrics and receive a percentage off your next purchase (check with your local store).
9. Organise afterwards – There is no point buying additional storage or cute organisation solutions until AFTER you have cleared out your things and are left with what you are definitely going to keep. You may be pleasantly surprised to find you end up with less than you thought and can then re-arrange a space or room into something completely different.
10. Don’t let clutter sneak back in – YAY! You’ve cleared out your clutter and gotten rid of all your unwanted items – now to keep it that way! Commit to a single space for any new paper items that come into your home and clear them out / deal with them every week. Don’t buy any additional storage and try to stick to Tip #1 Don’t buy what you don’t need. Encourage family and friends to gift non-physical things such as movie tickets, concert tickets, dinners, adventure vouchers, pamper packages, holidays etc. to avoid un-necessary physical items sneaking into your home. You remember and gain more enjoyment from experiences rather than material goods** so I love both gifting and receiving experiences from sites like Groupon/Scoopon.
*Extra tip! Two for One – If you convince yourself you really need to buy something (like that new dress you’ve been eyeing off for the last week), commit to getting rid of two items in exchange for the new item. Buy that new dress, but donate or throw out two other items of old or unused clothing. You’ll eventually end up with a smaller but more useful wardrobe full of quality, timeless pieces you actually want to wear.
Goodluck with your decluttered home and a more minimalist lifestyle!
Share your tips below in the comments 🙂
This week’s favourite Ted Talk: Graham Hill – Less stuff, more happiness
“I bet most of us have experienced at some point the joys of less: college — in your dorm, travelling — in a hotel room, camping — rig up basically nothing, maybe a boat. Whatever it was for you, I bet that, among other things, this gave you a little more freedom, a little more time… I’m here to suggest there’s a better way, that less might actually equal more.”
**Reference: Science Daily “Experiences Make People Happier Than Material Goods”