How to declutter. Minimalist life

As I stood looking at it all prior to Christmas, I realised something, that light bulb went off. I don’t actually need to declutter. Clearly, the “definition of insanity is doing the same things time and time again and expecting a different result”. What I actually needed was drastic action, an apocalypse of the domestic kind. The kind that can only happen when something monumental shifts in your mind and in your heart. Perhaps following a comprehensive room by room de-cluttering, the type you do when you are moving houses would come in handy.

Either that or you get completely jack of the crap.

While I am only in the first throws of this process, it is moving along at a screaming pace, with the intent to be complete by the end of January when school goes back. All the thoughts and ideas that have come to mind while my hands are at work, are things I want to share with you. Some of these tips you may have read before, others may be totally new to you. Either way, if this helps you on your own personal journey to clear out the crap, I want to know!

The First Step

Know why you want to declutter or minimise.

  • Is your stuff stressing you out? Is it causing arguments, yelling, tension, wasted time?
  • How often can’t you find things?
  • How much money are you wasting on things you don’t need or looking after all the excess you have?

Really, ask yourself these questions because when you get tired or your resolves starts to break, you only need to be reminded of the truth here.

My personal answers are ‘yes’ to all of the above. The biggest factor is the amount of time I spend looking after stuff, both mine and the rest of the family’s. And it drives me fricken nuts! Collecting vintage has been a wonderful pastime, but when you consider how much time it takes to restore, clean, mend etc.. Then add two primary school kids into the mix, everything becomes a burden and the beauty fades.

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Specialty Vintage Stylist, Blogger, and Presenter; Candice DeVille has been writing Vintage Current since early 2008. Based in Melbourne, Australia, she's always in search of the next glamorous adventure. Bringing you vintage style, glamour and inspiration for the 21st Century.

34 COMMENTS

  1. Wow Candice – tackling everything at the same time is a big ask but I also think you are on the right track. Like you I too have tried to cull previously on a box by box basis and it ‘sort of’ worked, but I am off work this week and my partner goes away tomorrow … so I have the rest of this week to pull out ALL of the boxes in the spare room & make a start. Wish me luck!

    • Mish: It is so much easier to tackle these jobs alone I find. when there are others around it tends to bring their emotional baggage into the mix. I like putting on some great music (eye of the Tiger is a great start), and really digging in. Good luck!

  2. 80% sounds like a lot! I see the value in it though. Some parts of my life are easier to declutter than others. Like you, I digitize photos and documents. I don’t struggle with getting rid of clothing either. When I go shopping, I tend to remove a few pieces from my wardrobe. Some day, I’ll have a massive dressing room, but until that day comes, I’ve got two wardrobes so space is limited. If something goes, something’s gotta come out. I struggle with getting rid of my books. I aim to check books out from the library and buy ebooks and reserve my shelves for only the most beloved titles.

    • Cosette: Books are such a big one. I’ve always had trouble parting with them. I’ve decided to keep my favourite art, photography and vintage reference books. Other than that, I am looking for libraries that need donations. I’m working toward having everything on Kindle, and even though it isn’t the same as paper, it’s much lighter to travel with and I read a lot! 🙂

  3. Good luck! I too am trying to do this. I actually got to the point where I considered buying a new house and moving just so that it would force me to pack, de-clutter and start all over again. After looking around at other properties I did realise that I love my house and then problem isn’t the house, it’s the stuff. I have too much and it bogs you down. The constant looking for things is the thing that bugs me the most. My kid produce so much art work that I had to join the digital artwork bandwagon long ago. These days it doesn’t last long in our house unless it’s exceptional. The rest of the stuff… sigh. One room at a time I guess! I look forward to seeing how you go.

    • Debs: It is very much a ‘moving house’ mentality. If you think about clearing out what you have and starting from fresh, as though you’d just moved into the space, it changes your whole perspective. Of course, now I plan on some serious redecorating as well. 😉

  4. Candice, I am so inspired by you. One of my main challenges is that it’s not me, but my husband who is the keeper! So for now, it’s baby steps but we just did a huge clean of the kids’ stuff, so that’s a start! We have agreed to keep two plastic tubs for each kid – one for sentimental memorabilia and one for school reports.

    Anyway, I’ll be following your journey with keen interest!

    Best wishes!

    • Michelle: I feel your pain. My Dad is like this an has kept the boxes things came in from the 70’s! He’s much better now that they live in a smaller house, but when they had a huge garage… wow.

  5. This is one of my grand plans for this year, too, although I have to approach it by stealth. Actually, I almost feel as though I’m cheating because my plan is to start with the bathroom. There’s not much sentimentality attached to bottles of shampoo that don’t suit your hair or heat-protectant sprays you can’t stand because of the smell, is there? That’s the theory, anyway.

    Good luck with your plans to cut back on the things you don’t need!

    • Katie: Today is my stealth day here too. The kids have gone for a sleep over with the grandparents and I am taking some extremely large boxes into their rooms. I pack things away into separate boxes of general crap and things they might still love; then if a few months go by and nothing is missed, it all goes!

  6. I’ve spent the last few months doing this myself. I have culled my wardrobe at least 6 times now, and I’m finally getting down to the good outfits! I decluttered my whole house over the course of three months and it has helped me not feel as stressed, I love it!

    I highly recommend;
    The Mary Organizes Declutter Challenge http://maryorganizes.com/tag/91-day-de-clutter-event/
    The Becoming Minimalist website by Joshua Becker
    The Life Changing Magic of Tidying by Marie Kondo
    Essentialism by Greg McKeown

  7. Wow, getting rid of 80% of your belongings is huge!!!
    I am going through a similar process though, realising that I felt weighed down by my belongings and not actually enjoying them at all. I have already gone through my bookshelves and removed enough books that I have a whole bookshelf empty!
    I am also getting rid of an old single bed- my couch folds down, so the rare guest I have can sleep there. I’m going to try and sell this furniture, and some of the books- I’m going away and would like some extra money for my trip.
    But if I can’t sell them, I’ll be happy to donate them and move on with my life!

    • JessB: I’ve also been trying to sell and pay off all my small debts. Sometimes though, I’ve found that having them here for the long winded process of selling, can be dangerous and they make their way back into rotation. Now I’m just giving things away to deserving homes.

  8. I am happy to be the recipient of part of your decluttering 😀
    Though we have been going through a declutter phase at home too. Getting rid of excess bits and bobs. Cleaning the dreaded place under the stairs. I have been fairly ruthless with my clothes but its probably time for another review. Its really cathartic getting rid of what you dont need isn’t it!

      • I can’t tell you how excited I am by it. Going through the process of sorting and piling all your fabrics up on my shelves, I am coming up with all kinds of ideas for what you’ve given me. And its often clear what ideas you had too! Those boldly printed cotton sateens NEED to become 50’s dresses (for you of course – maybe as autumn wardrobe – just let me know what kind of garment you feel wont hinder your process of decluttering!). 😀

  9. Great tips!! Pinned.

    I’ve just done the biggest de-clutter of my life! (Moving to another country is a good catalyst – ha!). Feels good! And it has made me ever more determined to make some changes to the way I live my life.

  10. Would you believe I am half way through reading Marie Kondo’s book on just this?!?! (BTW, you have to read this just to see how she ‘feels’ about her clothing and possessions and thanks them for their purpose – it’s a bit cute, and very Japanese!). I am feeling motivated! Now to return from holidays so I can get started. Good luck with your journey.

  11. I’m in the throes of culling my wardrobe, and have found it easier for me to tackle it in one sweeping gesture as well. Being 35 weeks pregnant also helps, because I can’t really try stuff on “just to see if it still fits” which has stuffed me up in previous attempts. I have also taken the bags of clothes straight to the salvos, so I’m not tempted to rummage through and save items. After this, the next goal is all the stuff stored in the garage that we haven’t seen or used since moving house 3 years ago, and clearing our sitting room so we can use it for something other than a dumping ground.

  12. You are a woman after my own heart.

    I spent 2014 tripping over stuff, yelling about stuff, and rearranging stuff. All just stuff. None of it was making me happy. Actually the sheer volume of it was making me very very unhappy. I was hiding in bed because there was nowhere in the house that I could sit. The kids couldn’t play and I was relunctant to have people over because the pre-visit tidy up took too long.

    I vowed that 2015 would not be the same. So, I took a deep breathe (and sent the Hoarder and the kids off to his Mother’s)

    And then… I took four trailor loads of rubbish to the tip. Eleven boxes of books, 4 of magazines, 8 bags of clothes, 2 boxes of toys and a lot of baby equipment all went to the Lifeline op shop. I sold a few things very cheap on gumtree and gave away a lot on gumtree.

    I still have a way to go (Linen press – which holds sheets that don’t fit any of our beds, Pantry – which has more out of date stuff that I can count and the grown ups wardrobes – which will fill at least four bags)

    BUT… the whole family survived. The kids haven’t missed a thing. The husband misses a fan that he had since he was 17 but hadn’t used for two years!!

    And me… Well I feel absolutely fantastic. I can sit in the lounge. I can walk in the Laundry. Tidy up is still a chore but is actually doable.

    I don’t think I could do your 80% but I’m never letting STUFF clag up my life again.

    Even just writing about it is catharic.

    THANK YOU

    • Donna: YES! IT is SUCH a good feeling! I still have a long way to go, trying to fit it in around working and school holidays, but the motivation and ruthlessness is there. I am just so over it! eBay is about to get some serious bargains hit it 🙂

  13. I’m also decluttering as we are in the process of moving. Books and magazines are the hardest for me to let go of. I have quite a pile of how to declutter books but the book I resonate to the most is the Marie Kondo one mentioned above The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I love the idea of bowing to your house and everything having spirit even socks. Good luck with your decluttering efforts. xx

  14. […] Decluttering with clarity can be the hardest thing when emotion is involved, especially when it comes to memories, but just like the girl friend from high school who once held your hair back, they are now just poking you on facebook. They aren’t actually serving any enriching purpose in your life right now. […]

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