16 February 2012

Step 13: Declutter Your Life

A full list of the Simple Living Challenge steps can be found here.

"Out of clutter, find simplicity. From discord, find harmony. In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity." Albert Einstein
Much has been said about decluttering and much more is being discussed daily on blogs about simplifying and slowing down. I guess, the topic has become banal but that is usually a sign of intransitive importance.

I loved a sentence in Karen Lee's consumerism post of yesterday and I have to quote it today:
And, now, we are grappling with shortage of resources while we are living with garbage and clutter of "stuff" that we have to be encouraged to de-clutter and simplify.

Our greed or rather, misunderstood notion of well-being has turned us into pack rats. We have become slaves to our vices and with time we have learned to love this self-imposed slavery. But freedom is just the first step. Because after we have freedom of clutter we will lay the basis for freedom of mind. And when it comes to the mind, the sky is the limit.

Because there is an amazing number of information on the Internet about decluttering in any area of modern life, I would like to give you just a few points to think about before I list a few decluttering information sources for further reading. 

Photo via Pinterest

How we accumulate clutter
  • We love to identify with the stuff we own. It boosts our confidence and places us in a particular emotional spot, we think that the objects we own will show our belonging to a particular caste of people.

  • Humans have a natural tendency for over-stocking for rainy days. We all have it to some extent and while no two people are alike, I bet that even the most minimalistic of people, say for example Leo Babauta, can find a thing or two to declutter today.

Why would we want to clutter
Only a small percentage of people actually realize what they are doing while they stuff their homes with useless clutter. It is only after a little long while that some of us get a different perspective and wake up to a suffocating home.

So, the answer to this question is: We don't strive to clutter. Clutter happens when you are not careful what you buy, and most importantly when you don't ask yourself whether you need the things entering your house.

Why would we want to declutter
For all the good reasons of course! Clutter takes away energy and positivity from us.  I have woken up to a messy, cluttered house and I don't ever want to remember that feeling again. Even the thought of it burdens me. I like to start my days in a clean, uncluttered environment that will set the tone of the rest of my day.

I have noticed how my surroundings affect my thinking and working in a cluttered environment doesn't lead to creative results.

On the contrary, working, or just being in a clean, organized space gives space for my imagination to roam and I am able to enjoy even the most mundane of activities.

How to start decluttering
Start slow. Start small. But start.

You can set your timer on 20 minutes and devote them to a drawer, a shelf or a cupboard that needs a little decluttering love.

Big plans usually end up plans forever. Instead of overwhelming yourself with the idea of decluttering all your rooms in a week, take your journey one day at a time. You will keep your enthusiasm longer and you will have the job done!

Photo via Pinterest

How to stay decluttered
Read! No matter what promises you make to yourself, in a couple of months they will fade. To avoid frustration keep on reading time and again, go through decluttering stories, yes, I mean all those endless posts on all blogs. Just read and the decluttering bug will get to you sooner or later.

And to make sure you have materials to read, here is a list of useful posts on decluttering in all spheres of life:
  1. How to Declutter
  2. Ecokaren's 2012 Declutter Challenge 
  3. Five Ways to Simplify Your Virtual Life  
  4. Declutter Your RSS 
  5. A 3-Step Cure For Digital Pack Rats 
  6. Declutter Forever 
  7. Organizing 101: Resolve to Declutter 
  8. Declutter 101: Where Do I Start?

Share your experience: Do you think you are the cluttering type? Even if your answer is no, I challenge you to go ahead and open a drawer. Get rid of 5 things that you should have long time ago. Do you think you can do that tomorrow again? And the day after tomorrow, until you have only the most important and valuable objects left to serve you?

See also: 
Step 1: Embrace Your Imperfections
Step 2: Simple Living as Men's Trait
Step 3: The Rules of Simple Home Organization
Step 4: Simple Crafting for Happy People
Step 5: Simple Scheduling and Planning Routines
Step 6: Spend More Time With the People You Love
Step 7: Spend More Time Alone
Step 8: Connect to Your Inner Self 
Step 9: How to De-Stress 
Step 10: Learn to Live With Less and Enjoy it
Step 11: Start a Debt-Free Life
Step 12: How to Overcome Consumerism 
Step 14: Get Rid of Toxic Cosmetics and Reclaim Your Natural Self  
Step 15: Wean Off Plastic  
Step 16: Celebrate Your Story  
The Final Step: Gratitude 

Make sure you stay up to date with the Simple Living Challenge and subscribe by email to receive each post straight to our Inbox or by RSS if you are using a Reader.


  1. Wise words as ever. So glad I decided to follow: a good combination of common sense reminders and also fresh inspiration. Rx


  2. I totally agree Rachael! This is Sonya's genious. She tells us what we need to know and points us to the path to decide for ourselves, no guilt, no brainwashing, just common sense and support. That's why we love her! :)

    1. Dear Laurie, you are too kind! I really wish that I am doing what you say. I am humbled.

  3. I love decluttering - which is totally interesting because just a couple years ago I was a total pack rat. It really helps to find someone who inspires you to keep going on your decluttering journey - for me it was Bea from The Zero Waste Home (great blog, check it out). Her simplicity and green-living helped me get going on decluttering for real this time, and I am pleased to say I am in a much happier state now!

    1. It sounds like I should check Bea's blog right now. Thank you for mentioning it! Whatever you strive to achieve it is so much more pleasant when you have company and people to support you, that is why we started on our simplification journey together and I am glad that you have joined us!

  4. I love to declutter, but the boyfriend likes to clutter... it's a never ending circle...


    1. He may be just creating challenges for you :)

  5. I have a mental list going right now of several things that I want to corral up, take photos of, and either list them on eBay or Craigslist, but I won't have the time to do that until this weekend (at the very soonest). It's so funny when you start decluttering and then you get *excited* about it. Like, I am really, really excited to have the time this weekend to purge more items. My life is thrilling. ;o)

    1. I too get excited when I start decluttering and tend to try and do everything right now! But that leads to a complete burnout, so I try to take it slow. Good luck to you!

  6. Stopping by from Lucy in the sky! Oh how I need to do this! I must say I did work on my kitchen and work area this week and was so pleased I could see the tops of everything. :)

    1. You are on the right track, keep going! We are with you :)

  7. The best lesson for decluttering was when I went to Africa for a month and was only allowed 40 lbs. I learned real quickly what was essential. Camera bag, hiking boots and journal took 20 of my 40 lbs. I was so stressed out when I packed trying to get the best combination of clothing and supplies and stay within my weight limit. Once I was out in the bush and I 'had what I had' it was heaven. I had only what I needed and valued. It was a powerful lesson I have tried to incorporate once home. I am in the constant question "What is essential?" But, try as I may...STUFF keeps sneaking back into my space...and once it is there...it is a BUGGER to let go of. It reminds me of the story of the monkey trap. Apparently...certain monkeys upon reaching inside a small hole in a box for an object or piece of food...once they grasp it …they cannot pull their hand and the object out of the box...and are caught rather than let go. That’s me...the monkey in the trap. It defies all logic...yet it takes an act of God for me to let it go once it is in my hand. It makes me a real frustrated minimalist. What is it that I can grasp this idea of simplicity intellectually but find it so difficult to execute?

    1. That is a serious question I have to think about. In the name of truth though, I must admit that if it isn't for my husband I too, am quite prone to collecting stuff though in a very tiny extent.

      You really made me think about it though... I will have to sleep on that.

  8. It is all so true!!!! My house is currently a wreck because we have so much junk. Some of it O know I could do without, some of it I'm afraid we might one day use and some of it we actually need or at least use/want. I like the twenty minutes a day idea. That is actually something I could do.

  9. Declutter my RSS feed! ::rushes off to read your post on that::

  10. I think one of the most important things that you wrote was something I too learned awhile back ~ we humans tend to identify with our belongings. Often to such a degree that it actually causes mental pain and anguish to release these material things. Once I realized this it cleared up my vision even more and I can recognize when this feeling starts to creep in. It makes getting rid of things much easier when it no longer feels as though you're getting rid of a piece of yourself. I also do much, much better in clean and organized space. My mind just works better and I'm much happier. :)

  11. I like the idea of decluttering a drawer or a space a little at a time. We get attached to our stuff and sometimes it is hard to let things go. The idea of doing just a little at a time may make it easier. I am not big on having a lot of stuff around that does not get used regularly, but the one challenge I have is my love of books. It's really hard to let them go.
    Everyday Inspired

  12. The entire time I am reading this post - I am staring at the messiest desk ever and thinking about my basement which has SO much crap in it. I really do need to de-clutter down there especially. My biggest issue is that I run both a house and a business in the same place. That always makes for a tight fit and a lot of "stuff" around. When prints are drying, you can barely walk through the house.

    Anyways, spring is coming which is the perfect time to de-clutter! Thanks for the motivation!!!!


  13. I like the idea of taking one thing at a time, instead of trying to do the whole house at once.

  14. I think decluttering can become addictive. I also find watching Hoarders, or any other "messy" show makes me want to clean and declutter like nobody's business.

  15. I agree, Sonya!! Waking up to clutter is hardly fun, and when my room or workspace is too cluttered I feel crowded in. It's always so nice to clean it up and put everything in its correct spot! :D

    We have a rule in our house - don't buy anything unless you have a place to put it. It was a way of life when we were kids and wanted to spend our allowance on some new toy - Mom would ask if we had anywhere to put it, and we couldn't get it unless we did! Nowadays it's become such a habit we don't need Mom to remind us anymore...except when it comes to pets, haha. Then it really takes some thinking to find a place for a new cage! xD

  16. I am new to reading your blog and I know this post is rather old but I have to say that your notes on deck uttering your home and the affect it has on your day and your creative inspiration is fantastic! It really struck home for me. I don't like messes or clutter but they do end up in my home anyways it is something you really have to stay on top of.
    Thank you for sharing

    1. Hello Keia, thank you for taking the time to comment on this post. Although it is roughly a year old I think it is relevant and I could have written it yesterday! I am glad it resonated with you and I hope you will join us in this month's topic Listen to your heart!