Tips to Start Decluttering

by Nov 4, 20214 comments

Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.


William Morris: 

How to Start Decluttering

Take the first step

In the last few posts, I have presented an overview of minimalism and some things to consider as you consider this approach. But you might still be asking yourself where to start. If you are just beginning to use this approach, it can be especially overwhelming. The idea of streamlining your life and letting go of things that you have gathered over many years can be daunting, to say the least. So, today, I’ll share a few tips on how to downsize and simplify. Remember that none of this needs to be done immediately and you might find that you make a few steps forward and then revert to old patterns for a bit. Don’t be too hard on yourself but resolve that you will not let a little backslide be a reason to give up on yourself and your goal to live a life of intention and more simplicity. Getting started is the best way to take control, one step at a time. Keep reading for some things to remember as you get started.

It’s not a Race

While you don’t want to procrastinate about trying a minimalist lifestyle, it is important to understand that it doesn’t have to happen all at once. Don’t be too hard on yourself. As I wrote yesterday, you can take your time. Yesterday, you started the process of identifying your priorities and your reasons for wanting to simplify and embrace minimalism. That helps you take actions that will help you to reach your goals. However, it is a process, and it will take some time to reach your vision, perhaps even to work out exactly what your vision is. And no doubt, it will evolve as you adapt and begin to see the impact on your life. It is more a journey than a destination and there is no fixed timeline.

There is no Perfect Action

Like any adventure, you need to start with that first step. You can keep planning, analysing, and thinking it through, but your journey does not begin until you take action. Don’t overthink or get mired down with trying to get it just right. Taking that first action is what lets you begin to build momentum, which can, in turn, prompt you to make more progress. If you are feeling overwhelmed, making small changes with simple actions can give you a sense of control and confidence.

Take a small step.  It might be a simple action:

  • Think of one thing that you can get of now, today – and do it. Then, take it out to the trash or put it in the car to take for donation.
  • Tear down empty boxes and put them out for recycling.
  • Throw out old broken toys that are unsafe or unused.
  • Get rid of all the junk mail from its landing place.
  • Discard kitchen gadgets that you don’t use.
  • Give away that box of craft supplies that your kids have outgrown.

Rather than being discouraged by how much stuff you have in your house, decide to tackle just one room or one cabinet or drawer and start it. It doesn’t matter where you start. It only matters that you start.

It Requires Some Tough Choices

If you have a hard time letting go of things, you might need to ask yourself hard questions with each item that you try to clear.

One of the challenges with letting go is that you fear losing memories associated with the item.  But not everything has a story.  Check out my blog post Is There a Story for a step-by-step process to help determine if you need the item to capture its associated stories.  The exercise helps you decide if you need an object to tell its story.  It can also make it easier to let go if you determine that you are unlikely to lose important personal history by getting rid of this particular object.

Once you answer that questions there are others to consider.  For example:

  • Does the item bring up positive or negative associations? If it doesn’t have positive associations, let it go — throw it in the trash or give it away.  You don’t need to keep things around you that don’t make you feel happy, comfortable or inspired.
  • Will this help me create the homeland life that I want to build?
  • How long it has been since you’ve used an item.  If you haven’t used it in a year – or more – you probably don’t need it.
  • Do I have duplicates of similar items?  If you have multiple of the same tools or gadgets, try to consolidate or eliminate.
  • Do you know someone who could put it to better use? Pass it on to a new home.

I hope that these few tips will make it easier to get started on a minimizing path.

Take Action

Challenge Questions for Day 4

What decluttering action will you take today?

How will you motivate yourself to keep going with efforts to live with intention? It helps to have a plan for this in case you get off track.

 Declutter Challenge for Day 4

Still in the kitchen.  Clearn and reorganize the pantry. Throw out expired items.  Donate surplus to a foodbank or community organization


Banner Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Mary Elizabeth O'Toole

Mary Elizabeth O'Toole

Educator, Artist, Storyteller


  1. Kate McDonald

    These are great points. I’ve been decluttering for over a year ! I have a lot of clutter.

    • Mary Elizabeth

      It sure does accumulate doesn’t it Kate? Good luck with the ongoing efforts. Thanks for your comment

  2. vidya

    tough choices!! that is what decluttering really boils down to 🙂 I am doing some this weekend so will keep this post in mind as I clean up

    • Mary Elizabeth

      Thanks for your comment, Vidya. Sometimes it does seem like that sums it up for sure. Good luck with the decluttering – and the tough choices.

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