A Minimalist’s Guide to Decluttering

On social media recently I’ve been seeing a lot of posts and questions about minimalism and living simply. There are a lot of resources out there, but a lot of what we see on the media & television is people taking what’s seen as dramatic, extreme measures to pursue a simple lifestyle.

Before I continue, I have to clarify- I am a big fan of living simply, especially in small spaces and in unique, challenging ways. I think it’s good to be challenged, and I dream of living a nomadic lifestyle in a mobile Tiny Home or even with no home, just traveling the world with the clothes in your bag and your family beside you. It’s beautiful, it’s wonderful, and I do believe those kind of experiences are beneficial and healthy.

However, as great as all that is, the truth is not everyone can just pack up and move into school buses or sell everything they own to travel. It’s easy to get a little overwhelmed by the minimalism movement, am I right? Many of us want to take the first few steps into living simple, freer lives- but it’s hard to know how to start! Especially when the majority of what we see about ‘minimalism’ is Tiny Homes and empty houses and people who travel exclusively and have only 33 items in their wardrobe or live in tents- it makes it all feel like even starting the journey is impossible. How on earth can we get to a point where there’s less clutter and less stuff? There’s no way I could just up and move my family to a Tiny House, we think, and no way I can get rid of my shoes or all this wall decor. How can a family of two or even six impact the environment in a positive way? If you work from home, it’s even more problematic- all the papers and materials and office supplies are necessary and you can’t just get rid of it all- right? Then, some of us throw kids into the situation. Certainly, kids need things. So many things– toys, and diapers and clothes (so. many. clothes) and it feels it’s nearly impossible to have a minimal lifestyle with children.

So where is the balance? How can normal families start pursuing a minimalistic lifestyle with more experiences and less stuff, more space instead of clutter, and more financial freedom and less wasted money?

I’ve been there. Actually, I’m still there. As a work-at-home mom of a active, very opinionated toddler in a 1,200 square foot apartment, I know what it’s like to feel like it’s impossible to do this whole ‘minimalism’ thing when real life and a big space gets in the way.

Fortunately, it’s very much doable! I had the opportunity to live in a Tiny House in the second year of our marriage, with our sweet baby girl in tow. Although we no longer live in our beautiful Tiny Home, the experience of simple living in a small space is one I often refer back on to continue to inspire and shape our lifestyle. Despite the ‘real life’ obstacles of owning your own home business, having more diapers then I know what to do with and baby toys all over the floor, it is possible to live well, minimally, in a way that works well for your specific circumstances and family.

I’ve put together a few steps for people wanting to get started on a simpler journey. Although this was written specifically for families in mind, this definitely can be helpful for anyone looking to start downsizing and decluttering their life.

#1 – Find your ‘Why’

Spend some time finding out your main goal. Are you looking to downsize because you just want less clutter? Or are you looking to experience a sincerely minimalist lifestyle? Are you hoping to cut down your ecological footprint? Knowing the answer to your ‘Why’ will give you the first few steps automatically on what may need to go and what lifestyle changes will be first.

  • For example: Our ‘why’ is to pursuing a lifestyle of community & family that values experiences over technology and materialism. Simply stated, we started our minimalism journey because we wanted less stuff and more time together. Although we’re still on the journey of constantly downsizing and choosing what is important, we’re finally in a spot that we love the space in our home and are less inclined to impulse-buy. Now, we are starting the journey of downsizing completely and buying more ethically. (more on that another time)

#2 – Follow people who inspire you

These people- whether real-life friends or social media personas- don’t have to be on the same journey you are on. But there’s something to be said for getting inspiration from people who are in a place you want to someday be, or have a space & home that inspires you. Be careful not to be so head over heels in-love with their lives that you forget to create the lifestyle & home that works for you – the goal here is to be inspired, not a copy-cat! In the end, creating a life solely based on other people’s and not your own will only damage relationships and hurt your main goal – which is totally not the point of all this energy & effort anyway! Finding people who inspire you (either on Instagram, or the blogging world, or youtube) gives you a starting point for figuring out what you love and what you don’t. There’s something to be said about the advice of others and watching their journey before yours- even if it’s completely different from what you are doing! Continually following these people will help you continue to cultivate your own taste and will make you proud in a few months when you see how far you’ve come on your own journey.

  • My favorite people who inspire me to either live simply or pursue what brings me joy; @TheMinimalists,@Kimberly_English, @this.little.wandering, @householdmagny, @breabird

#3 Decide what’s important to you.

I love the way the Minimalists put it – “Every possession should serve a purpose or bring joy to your life.” Go through (either physically or on paper) each room in your house, each kind of possession you own. Does it serve its intended purpose? Is it a necessary part of your lifestyle? If not, consider getting rid of that item(s). This process will look different for every person.

  • For example: One thing that a lot of people struggle to downsize is their wardrobe. Although clothes bring some people joy, it certainly does not to our family! I mean, obviously clothes are important, but we don’t see a big point in keeping clothes that don’t fit, have holes, or that we just don’t like. Clothes bring laundry (which brings stress, the opposite of joy!) so our family is quick to cut the cord on extra, unwanted clothing.
  • On the contrary: For me, I have quite a few coffee mugs, glassware and am actually growing my collection of plates & bowls. For our family, it’s important to have people over for meals and to practice hospitality. Because this is important to us *and* we’re looking to cut down on the amount of waste we produce, it makes sense for our family to have enough tableware for the amount of people we usually enjoy have over. Plus, pretty plates & mugs really bring me to my happy place when serving a meal or drinking coffee. For other people, this isn’t the same- they just don’t need lots of a tableware and it’s good for them to downsize and get rid of the extra stuff!

#4 – Create a plan

It’s okay to take it slow- but DO get started! Pursing a simpler, clutter-free lifestyle for any reason doesn’t just happen over night. Depending on our life’s circumstances and where we’re at, it can be very overwhelming! Create a plan that works best for you – whether it’s attacking your house room by room weekly (or monthly!), or first cutting back the amount of ‘things’ you bring in and what you are spending your money on. No matter what you decide, whether it’s a slow transition or a hardcore change of habit, it’s important you get started. Although doing research is helpful, it won’t actually make your clothes dwindle and the clutter magically disappear- you need to take that step and do it!

  • For example: When we first started downsizing, we spent a whole day attacking our home. For probably two weeks our house was completely in disarray as we had piles of clothes, clutter, and EVERYTHING out in piles of ‘keep’, ‘give away’ and ‘maybe keep’. This was when we had no children or pets…
  • This time around, as we’re committing to purging nearly everything we own, we’re going much slower. A kid will do that to you. 😉 Weekends is usually my ‘attack days’, with the baby down for a nap and no work on the agenda. There’s nothing wrong with moving slowly and methodically if you know your end goal and continue striving towards it!

#4 Finally, know what you are going to do with all that stuff!

I definitely urge you not to throw away unwanted items, and it’s certainly not helpful to have boxes of things you don’t want just sitting around! Unless they are broken or clearly unusable, try donating the things you don’t need to shelters, thrift stores, or even giving away to people you know who might need them. Although your clothes from the early 2000’s seem dated, there are people who may love what you don’t – and there are thrift-store queens who know how to take the ugliest clothes and transform them to something beautiful. Most thrift stores & shelters donate to good causes, so do a bit of research and know what you want to support.

  • Here in Asheville, we are fortunate to be surrounded by so many giving charities and organizations! My favorite place to donate Joy’s old clothes & toys is the Bear Closet, which accepts gently used clothes & toys to give to low-income families in need. I also like donating to the Rescue Mission Thrift Store, where all profits stay inside our local county helping people who need basic necessities and support Western Carolina Rescue Missions & their shelters.

There you have it- 5 simple steps to starting your journey to minimalism today! I can’t reiterate enough how different this journey will look for everyone, but the important thing is to create a plan that works for you and to get started.

In short (in case we already forgot what we talked about)-

  1. Find your ‘Why’
  2. Find some inspiration
  3. Decide what’s important to you
  4. Create a plan
  5. Get it out of the house!!

I know this topic is something I don’t typically post on, but I get too excited about it not to share about it! If you on looking for a simpler lifestyle, I’d love to have a conversation with you. Let me know in the comments where you are at in your journey, and if there is any ‘steps’ you think I missed.


The links in this article feature bloggers & charities. I get no compensation for referring- these are genuinely people & charities that get me excited and I and wanted to share with you! Please see our disclosure policy. : ) 
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6 thoughts on “A Minimalist’s Guide to Decluttering

  1. Hi there. Yes, I believe in minimalist style of living but somehow I just cannot do that myself. At the ripe age of 62 I need more than just my stuff & my husband’s stuff. I need grandkids stuff too & it is a must have item. Also, I think as we get closer to the sunset of our lives we older people begin to enjoy our play toys too all over again. I enjoy a big swimming pool although it is above ground & biking & workout machines that I have a great selection of. I do need to get going with the plan I had for clearing out some stuff that I do not need or use or truly just must have. I started this plan & it was going well except for time I must spend working on a large corporation. My clutter comes from client files and the to do stack & completed stack or boxes. Accountants are pack rats by the nature of the job. I am at least trying for an organized mess. Hugs!

    1. Cheryl, there is nothing wrong with that. 🙂 You remind me of my mother in law! Grandma’s have such an important role to play, and there’s nothing wrong with keeping things that are special to you! Having a business and all the paper that comes with it is definitely a challenge, but when it’s well-organized you hardly know its there. Grateful for you!

    1. Hey there Shawn! Finding the time is a huge deal – decluttering can take a lot of time and effort. Sometimes, starting with the smallest, easiest steps is the best way to begin. Thanks for reading! Take care. 🙂

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