In the past week, I decluttered 9 things from my house. Three items were sold and the rest were Freecycled.
Here’s how things unfolded. I sold:
- One pair of Ugg boots (They’re cozy but oh-so-slippery!),
- One pair of Nikes (I only realized I actually should have sized up after wearing the wrong size for…weeks), and
- A pair of moto booties (I actually don’t even know what I was thinking besides they were on sale).
I donated extra crib sheets and changing pad covers that were adorable but unneeded.
From posting to packing and coordinating Freecycle pick up times, I would say I spent maybe 20 minutes. I walked away with $72 and a lot more closet space. I was deliberate, I was intentional, and I was efficient.
I’ve come a long way, baby.
When I first started decluttering, I was a mess. Ba dum tss! Actually, I wasn’t messy; I lived with hidden clutter instead. But I did make a mess of the decluttering process.
While I’m glad I started the process, I made many starts and stops along the way. Here’s what I wish I would have known from the get go:
1. Don’t be so easy on yourself.
When I first started decluttering, I went for the low-hanging fruit. Expired coupons, junk mail I wasn’t sure why I had saved in the first place, the odd receipt tucked in a drawer. Then, I decided to tackle kitchen tools. We had a drawer full of gadgets that looked really impressive but largely stayed put. Because what the fine people at OXO don’t tell you is that while a hard-boiled egg slicer seems like a good idea, it’s actually a beast to clean. I think I’ll stick to a knife, thanks.
All of that was productive. And it counts. It built momentum. But it also gave me a lot of false confidence. When I look back at some of the blog posts I wrote about it, I can’t help but laugh. Over two years ago, I was acting like I was nearing the end of my journey. Truthfully, I had barely left the starting block.
2. Don’t be so hard on yourself.
Long-time readers have learned exactly one thing from my blog: I talk out of both sides of my mouth really well. So yes, I know this lesson is a direct contradiction to the first one, but it is absolutely crucial.
My instinct has always been to overcorrect. Spend too much money? Go weeks or months without spending any. Eat too much? Count every calorie in a journal marked 1000 Calories or Bust. Rinse and repeat.
It takes me a long time to find a normal, healthy, happy sustainable place of balance. While I’m there now, I wasn’t.
I got really frustrated and impatient with myself when I ran into some rough patches. It’s OK to be sentimental. It’s OK to take breaks. It’s OK to actually question if decluttering is a good thing. It’s all part of the process. Now, I don’t beat myself up. I let myself move at whatever pace suits my mood as long as I’m still working on it.
3. Don’t make it about money.
The biggest hurdle that I keep having to overcome is my willingness to conflate minimalism with money, decluttering with frugality. It is absolutely true that owning less has financial benefits. But trying to turn decluttering into a side hustle was actually devastating to my progress.
I cannot think of a bigger momentum buster than trying to slow down and sell every gewgaw and thingamabob.
Now, if I don’t think something can be listed for over $20, I don’t list it. If it seems complicated or exhausting to try to photograph or describe, I don’t list it. If I can recoup a little money here and there, that’s icing on the cake.
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But it’s not my purpose. My space and my time are worth more, so I don’t make my decluttering process about money anymore.
4. Find the right motivation.
Reading about other people’s journeys–whether they are pursuing minimalism, they are decluttering, or they are tidying up–can be so inspiring. I constantly go back to The Year of Less and The More of Less on my commutes.
A few months ago, I was re-listening to a bit from Joshua Becker’s book, and I felt like I finally got the permission I needed to actually throw things out. I had been feeling so much guilt about making more trash, but I finally realized that some things just belong in the garbage pile. I can’t undo the past, but I can do better in the future.
However, I also had to realize that my journey won’t ever totally match someone else’s. So as much as I try to mine other experiences for inspiration, I’ve also had to find my own. Recently, I discovered a clothing pantry in my community that takes donations and gives them away to people who shop at a food pantry. There’s no vouchers, no money, no nothing. It’s the most direct way that I’ve found to get masses of stuff into the arms of people who need them most.
For me, that reignited my desire to declutter. But for someone else? Maybe they do want to earn money. Maybe they want to start a blog or a side business about profitable decluttering. That’s great for them, and I’m happy to find what works for me.
5. Know it is incredibly worth it.
I don’t know that I’ll ever feel that all the clutter is gone from my life. But after getting rid of thousands of items over the past few years, I can honestly say that I feel so much better. Clutter makes me anxious, and clutter eats up my time. There are still days when I have to search for things, but far fewer.
While I still haven’t achieved my goal of touching everything in my house in one fell swoop, I do feel like I have a much better sense of what we own. No matter how many times I read bloggers and authors say exactly this but in much more elevated language, I had to live it to believe it. And I believe it now.
This journey has been worth every step.
So Tell Me…What’s a journey that you’re on? What lessons do you wish you learned sooner? Do you have an OXO egg slicer?
Britt @ Tiny Ambitions
I completely agree with #2. I’m the kind of person that I’f I’m not immediately amazing at something I’ve never done before (like decluttering), I get frustrated and want to give up. I’m over five years in on minimalism and I still don’t think I’m ‘done’ decluttering. I need to give myself more or less permission (I haven’t decided which) to sell or not sell some things I’ve been hanging onto. Maybe I just need to find the time to make it to the consignment store downtown lol
Diana E Sung
Oh my, yes. Re: #4 Becker and Flanders are so inspiring, positive, and purposeful within the minimalist “giants.” Becker specifically is the only one who has repeatedly said that relationships are not worth sacrificing in the pursuit of minimalism (of which the primary benefit is to IMPROVE those relationships, duh!) I have a husband who brought a bunch of (cheap, hole-ridden) clothing from Korea 10 years ago that he hadn’t worn the 10 years prior and still has yet to wear; decluttering is a difficult concept for him. I have made my peace with the fact that life with my husband will mean living with clutter, but I can manage my own contributions to the clutter much better than I currently do. Also, read Becker’s new book The Minimalist Home; it’s great!
Angela @ Tread Lightly Retire Early
#3 is exactly why I’ve come to the realization that for me I need to sell exactly zero of the things I’m decluttering. Getting it out of the house in an environmentally responsible matter is hard enough without worrying about the money part.
#4. I haven’t found the right motivation to de-clutter any of our stuff yet. My wife and I keep saying we will wait until we buy a home so when we go through the moving process we can filter out the stuff we need and the ones we need to get rid of. We’ll see if that is the motivation to start because we have so much clutter right now. I’m hoping that when we buy a home, it will mean we won’t bring the clutter over there.
“Decluttering at the Speed of Life” by Dana K. White is an excellent book on this topic. She also advocates not selling – as that slows down the process.
For me, the biggest eye opener has been how much *good* I can do by not selling everything. I think it first dawned on me when I was thinking about all the clothes we had to buy my son…and a huge pile of hand-me-downs showed up. It makes a huge difference!
Finding the right motivation and it being completely worth it resonate with me. After my wife and I really got our butts into gear we found the rewards of de-cluttering included much more head space. There is just so much headache that comes along with clutter. Nice read!
Moriah Joy @ Our Table for Two
Ugh it’s so hard for me to part with stuff that I know I could sell…. Which is why I’ve had five pantsuits that don’t fit sitting in my living room. For the past four months. It’s insane how much I’ll hold on to stuff even if it inconveniences me, for the sake of MAYBE making a buck.
Re: not wanting to create more trash. This is, hands down, the biggest mental block I have when it comes to decluttering. I have struggled with this a LOT, especially over the last year, and am only starting to realize exactly what you said – that some things just need to go in the trash, that the past is what it is, and that the focus should be more on doing better in the future. Thanks for the reminder.
Decluttering was also a huge start to our eBay side hustle. I agree with finding the right motivation though. We had a very hard time getting started but once we did it wasn’t as hard as we thought.
I did really well on Poshmark, too! We made a few thousand dollars, but for me, it slowed me down way too much. When I finally gave myself permission to stop chasing the few dollars here and there, I was able to pull 50 more things off hangers. That’s the win I needed!
I’m really happy that selling works for you, though, Jeff!
#3 for me! I feel like I have to try and sell everything, but really some of it should go as a donation or freecycle. Right now my biggest challenge is what to do with all the children’s books. I know we don’t need them anymore, but we have so many memories of reading together.
I’m very good at decluttering but constantly need to remind myself of #3. I have a whole section of my house dedicated to “sell this” or “listed waiting to be bought.” If I lowered prices and reminded myself enough that those things just need to leave my home, I think it would happen even quicker!
It does happen quicker. I still get a pang of “oh, maybe I should have tried to sell that!”, but honestly, our lives our too busy now to have clutter. My son attracts enough “stuff” 😉
Hehe, no I don’t have an OXO egg slicer. My friend has a pineapple slicer/ corer though! Sounds like you’re doing a great job parting with things that don’t bring you joy.
I’m in the process of getting rid of 365 things again and it’s a little more difficult this time around.
I think you would pass out if you came to my house. I’m pretty sure I can hit 365 in a quarter. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. I’m definitely a work in progress, and I’m soaking up all the inspiration from you and others that I can!