Tips to Declutter and Organize: My Minimalist Progress

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My mission for a simpler life continues, and I’ve been looking to the experts for more tips to declutter and organize my home and day to day life. I’ve worked incredibly hard over the past couple of months, but I’ve found decluttering  is more of a challenge than expected. The more stuff I get rid of, the more I find.

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*This post contains affiliate links. This means I get a small commission from Amazon if you decide to purchase one of the books I mention. This does not affect the price of the item.*

Following my initial post about the need for minimalism, I’m celebrating my wins, sharing what I’ve learnt, and highlighting tips to declutter and organize from published gurus. I’m working hard, but am certainly not at expert level yet! 

What I have learnt since starting ‘the purge’ 6 weeks ago:

I have spent a lot of time removing ‘stuff’ from the house. Some of it trash, some recyclable, some donatable, and some sellable. Making a decision about which one of these routes each item goes is a task in itself. I’ve learnt a lot during this process, and I’m already feeling unshackled from hoarding unnecessary items. Here are my key mental breakthroughs since the start of my decluttering journey:

Sell valuable items quickly or they will haunt you

If you’re considering whether to sell/donate/recycle/trash, I would highly recommend going for whichever option is ranked below your initial thought. Is it really sellable? I have hung on to so many things because I believe I will get round to selling them on EBay or Craigslist. Unless something is highly desired or highly valuable, consider whether it’s worth the effort. And more importantly… are you actually going to do it, and do it now?

The things I have sold, I have sold cheaply and quickly. I purposefully sold my stroller for half what other people were advertising. I took a box of clothes to sell at a store, even though with some work I may be able to get twice as much on Ebay. I did this because if I didn’t, the items would still be in my house right now. They had been there for a long time already, and the burden of selling them was becoming depressing. “I must do that this weekend!” I would say to myself, every.single.time I looked at the pile in my room. I appreciate you may need the money, but if you really did, you would have sold them a long time ago…

Items I have sold:
  • A box of high quality clothes to a second hand store (made $50);
  • Our original twin stroller ($250);
Items I have donated or given away for free:
  • 14 trash bags of clothes to the charity clothes bin;
  • A mountain of old shelving wood and closet doors picked up for repurposing;
Items I have Recycled:
  • A mountain of cardboard boxes that were taking over the garage;
  • 4 trash bags of paper;
Items I have Thrown Away:
  • 14 trash bags of random ‘stuff’;
  • 5 trash bags of old sheets and fabric;
  • 2 trash bags of broken, incomplete or worn toys (toys are now organized in the toy library!);
  • 1 trash bag of tired old shoes;
  • 2 inflatable mattresses with holes;
  • 1 car expired car seat.

tips to declutter and organize furniture

let go of the Waste Guilt

The most difficult part of this process is the throwing away. I am an avid recycler, and the idea of adding to landfill with stuff I could recycle or find a home for horrifies me. I’ve actually found it quite difficult to admit to you guys what I’ve thrown away, because I feel you judging me… or myself judging me. I have been carrying around bags of old sheets for years, with this obsession of finding a use for them. Maybe I could dye them and make a costume from the fabric at Halloween? I’ll do some fabric printing and make a table cloth… I have had bags of fabric of all varieties that I couldn’t bring myself to throw away. It’s the crafter in me… or the hoarder, I’m not sure which.

Discarding things can be wasteful. But the guilt that keeps you from minimizing is the true waste. (Extreme minimalist Fumio Sasaki talkign to the Martha Stewart Blog)

If you’re really struggling with this, pretty much anything you put on Craiglist for free is gone the same day… it’s really quite liberating. Someone will come to your house in a matter of hours and take it off your hands, and you know it’s going to a home where it will be repurposed.

Most importantly though… be realistic. I don’t have time to do everything I want to do. I don’t have time to take photos and package and mail individual items on Ebay. I’m never going to get round to submerging the inflatable matresses in the bath to find holes and patch them with some kind of puncture kit. Know your limits and free yourself from the ‘stuff’ as quickly and easily as possible.

Sentiment is a Hoarder’s Best Friend

Lastly, I have been learning to detach myself from sentimental items. I have finally got rid of two boxes of files, photos and documents relating to my degree, architectural work and teacher training. I don’t know why its taken me so long to let go of this stuff… some of it is 15 years old! And what am I going to do with it? Am I really going to sit down one day with a cuppa and read my Masters dissertation on the social impact of public green spaces? Probably not. Recycled. Done.

I still have a box sat in my closet that I’m finding difficult to get rid of. My Grandfather’s old paintbrushes, an old laptop that crashes before I can copy the photos of my daughter as a baby are transferred, a set of drafting tools. A stack of huge, chunky photo albums from the days I printed a photo of everything I saw. I have some other things that I know will be difficult to get rid of… but I’ll get there. It’s a matter of priority. Those items are not my priority right now while I still have three bags of paper work to tackle and three drawers of cosmetics and bathroom paraphernalia to sort through. Their time will come.

THREE Expert Tips to Declutter and Organize

It’s onwards and upwards in the quest for less stuff. Certain areas of the house are feeling more ordered, others still need a lot of work. But I’m struggling with maintaining the decluttered vibe. ‘Stuff’ keeps creeping in and I find myself resorting to areas I’ve already dealt with. So my next wave of research is to consider behavior. What do the experts suggest for breaking the cycle of clutter and reprogramming to mind to make the right choices? 

Marie Kondo on Designating a Place for Everything:

The reason every item must have a designated place is because the existence of an item without a home multiplies the chances that your space will become cluttered again.

Let’s say, for example, that you have a shelf with nothing on it. What happens if someone leaves an object that has no designated spot on that shelf? That one item will become your downfall. Within no time that space which had maintained a sense of order, will be covered with objects, as if someone had yelled, “Gather round everybody!”

Marie Kondo, Author of: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

I totally get it… who else has a ‘crap drawer’? You know, the default place for any crap that is floating around the house. Batteries, coupons, a padlock without a key, hair bands, a pencil sharpener, a pack of cards that have bust out of the box… I know you have a crap drawer… or bowl, or shelf. The reason these cubbies of breeding clutter exist is because they are full of the stuff that doesn’t belong anywhere. Find a place for everything and the crap drawer no longer exists.

tips to declutter and organize clothes

Ruth Soukup on establishing limits

When it comes to clothing, set limits on what you have space for. (I recommend a 40-hanger closet.) Every time an item goes in, make a commitment that another item goes out. This mentality will keep you from purchasing items you don’t need (to store in space you don’t really have)!

Ruth Soukup, Author of: Unstuffed: Decluttering Your Home, Mind, and Soul

Since I have ruthlessly purged my closet last month, I have purchased a pair of trousers, two tops and a pair of shorts. I could easily purge this many items from the already reduced selection, I still have plenty of pieces I just don’t wear… back to the clothes donation bin it is.

I like limits… it’s very black and white, which I find easier to stick to. I could come up with a limit for a number of categories: toys, kids drawings, ornaments… and don’t forget the fabric! If I have a thing for fabric and crafting supplies, I need a limit. I should probably add DIY stuff to that list… I can’t throw away an old tool or a piece of wood… it might come in handy. But really… will it?

‘The Minimalists’ on just-in-case items and their 20/20 rule:

Anything we get rid of that we truly need, we can replace for less than $20 in less than 20 minutes from our current location. Getting rid of these items clears our minds, frees up our space, and takes the weight off our shoulders.

Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus, Authors of: Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life

The ‘just-in-case’ and the sentimental items are where Husband starts to get grumpy. He’s terrified I’m going to throw out all his beloved CDs that have not been released from the boxes they were packed in over three years ago. What if he has a sudden urge to indulge in heavy metal and teenage angst? He needs to keep them just-in-case. And I get it, sentimental items are the most difficult.

But what about the two pairs of $15 rain boats that were in the closet that haven’t been worn since 2012? Until recently I thought I’d better keep them just-in-case we go somewhere muddy. We live in Arizona… its full-on desert, I think we’ll be OK. And if we do suddenly need rain boots, we can replace them. This may seem wasteful, and again the waste guilt starts to nibble… But really, what proportion of all your stuff is there just-in-case?

Summing Up

My journey continues, but so far by best tips to declutter and organize are:

  • Make it easy for yourself: Find the easiest way to sell/recycle/throw items;
  • Don’t allow guilt to stop your progress;
  • Sentimental items can become a burden: find another way to hold on to those memories;
  • Find a place for EVERYTHING;
  • Set limits to reduce the invasion of new clutter;
  • Get rid of low value just-in-case items.

Good luck on your decluttering quest… we’ll get there!


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About the author

Katherine is an electrochemist, hiking enthusiast, and family lifestyle blogger. As a mom of three, including twins, she enjoys DIY, travel, and eating good food. British born, Katherine moved to the US in 2014, and now called Las Vegas home.

27 thoughts on “Tips to Declutter and Organize: My Minimalist Progress”

  1. As I sit at my work desk surrounded by a bunch of junk mail, I totally want to start the journey towards minimalism…but I love clothes and shoes sooooo much!

  2. I have a basement full of sentimental junk my SO refuses to get rid off. A shopping cart from the grocery store his father owned (and no longer exists). A console television that was his great aunts (and doesn’t work, and is water damaged) VHS movies recorded off the television (commercials included) and we don’t even have a VCR. I should just start sneaking some of that stuff out to the dumpster every day while he’s at work. LOL

    • Wow… that sounds like quite the stash! A friend was saying the same thing yesterday about VHS and cassettes ?? They’re so bulky and they’ll never get watched!! Good luck Becky!

  3. sentiment has always been a big problem for me for forever… I always look at something and remember something that happened while wearing it xD I gotta get better at cutting things out of my life for sure xD

    • You can allow yourself a few things, just set a limit and ditch the rest! Otherwise it’s going to keep getting worse as more memories are born!

    • It is difficult. I think sometimes… if the house was burning down and could grab three thing so save, what would they be? That’s probably the only sentimental things you need!

  4. So much great advice in here that I need to take to heart. The points on sentiment items really speak to me because that is where a lot of my clutter comes from. I have gotten better about the last few years (having to move from house to house makes you want to throw things out), but now that I have a daughter, I have even more sentimental stuff of hers!

    • Kids definitely breed sentimental things. But you have to think about how many things you’ll have when you’re a Grandma of you keep everything!! ?

    • So hard! But when the twins are raiding the cupboards and everything is sprawled across the floor, I suddenly feel less sentimental ?

      • I’m excited that you are in Arizona too and doing the same thing I am! I just finished reading Marie Kondo’s book for the second time. I started my mass purge back in February and have been at it ever since. Purging by category has definitely helped. I have also been living in my dream version of my house in my dreams o lay for so long that, as I have been clearing clutter, I have also been painting, redoing shelves and creating the organized spaces of my dreams as I’ve been purging. Slow going, but it’s exciting to see rooms finally getting painted, closets DI ally getting organized… sure my house gets a. It messy while all the stuff I love is out waiting for its remodeled home, but it’s sooooo much easier to clean up since I purge the area first.

        Good luck to everyone!

        • Hi Wendy! Congrats on the decluttering! I’ve had a stagnant week on my mission so your message is giving me a boost! I did get through the two junk drawers though so I’m feeling pretty good about that, whoop!!

  5. This is such a good article! Man I struggling with so many of these guilt and hording issues! But you really explain well why do to it anyhow! So I’m going to do it this fall! Really do not!

    • Yay! Join the declutter mission! It does feel amazing when you’ve cleared a cupboard or got rid of some boxes that haven’t been opened it years! I still has so far to go but I’m definitely making progress… good luck!

  6. Sometimes it can be hard to let go of the stuff. However, through a terrible experience, I have learned that it’s not the stuff that’s important it’s the people and the memories with them.

  7. This is so great, “The most difficult part of this process is the throwing away. I am an avid recycler, and the idea of adding to landfill with stuff I could recycle or find a home for horrifies me.” Totally me!

    • It’s so tough but I suppose the damage was already done when we bought the stuff in the first place. I wish I had the time to sift through and recycle and rehome everything with yard sales etc. But in reality there is so much to do I just had to get stuck in and deal with the guilt! ?

  8. Sentiment will be the end of me while I drown in things that I don’t have the heart to throw away. My wife, to make me use a logical approach, helps me evaluate my things with the 90/90 rule. Have I used it in the past 90 days and will I use it in 90 days. When the answer is no to both…well, we purge. Great post!


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