Embracing Minimalism: Decluttering and Donating

When we moved into our house it was a year of transitions.  It was a year full of adventures and exciting new things.

In 2013, we were recently married, expecting our sweet baby girl, and had just purchased our first home.  I told Zach then, “when we move into this house, we’re getting RID of all the physical extra in our lives and we are not dragging it into this new home!”

Well… easier said than done.  

 
Decluttering.jpg
 

We moved in the late spring/early summer.  It was perfect weather for moving.  It was also perfect weather for getting a lot of other necessary house things “checked off” before our sweet babe came along.  So clearing out and decluttering were unfortunately pushed down my list.

I made a mental note of coming back to the “decluttering” during my maternity leave… (First time mom.. cough, cough.)

Fast forward to having a newborn baby, working full time night shift, and finishing up my bachelors degree online.  Then move along to life in general happening, starting a new business, and finally in 2017 working from home full time with a three year old.  Life has ALWAYS been full and joyful.

However, it hasn’t always been clutter free.  I’ve prided myself as a wife and mom on keeping our home always pretty clean and “picked up.”  Of course, there have been days and weeks when I could do better, but we were busy living.

You can read the full story in this post on when and why I finally decided that 2018 would be the year of embracing minimalism.  Today I want to share with you how I’ve made steady progress on my journey towards a more simplified life,

A Fresh Start With Less Stuff

Starting in January, I knew that the first and best place to begin would be to FINALLY tackle all of the extra clutter in our lives.  You may know that I read Emily Ley’s book A Simplified Life and implemented many of her useful tactics in this part of simplifying.  

 
decluttering my home and embracing minimalism in 2018
 

I had made small attempts to rid our home of clutter in the past, but they often included walking through a room and gathering the “obvious” items that were no longer in use or necessary and attempting to sell them or packaging them up for a future garage sale.

Unfortunately, the small amount of items I did remove really didn’t make a significant impact on our home.  I sold a rare few items that I had hoped to, but the time that it took to sort, price, take pictures, and sell these items were rarely worth the effort.  And the packed up boxes only migrated from the upstairs to the basement.

So this time around, I decided that I was doing things much differently.  My process of tackling a room, gathering items, and actually REMOVING them from our home had to be different. I had to be ruthless.  And so I have been.  And it was honestly made ALL of the difference in our day to day.

Where To Start

Starting is honestly the hardest part.  It can feel incredibly overwhelming to take stuff out of your home, when you already feel overwhelmed by the stuff in your home.  I used to just walk room to room, already feeling exhausted at just the thought of trying to decide what to keep and what to toss.  

This time, I decided that just like everything else in my life that I want to accomplish, I needed a plan of action and it needed to be written down.  I decided to start with the areas of our home that had the biggest impact on me personally.  Small wins make a big difference.

Ideally, I wanted to tackle one room at a time, but TIME itself being an issue with a toddler in the house, I started with two rooms - our master bedroom and the kitchen.  This way, I could work on the kitchen at any hour of the day while Kenna was awake, and I could work on the bedroom during nap times if needed without disturbing her nap.

I have found that working on ONE room (or two if it depends on when you can work) is by far the easiest and less overwhelming way to start.  In each room, I then broke the areas of the room down to easy to tackle projects.

Bedroom:

  • Closet
    • Hanging
    • Shelves
    • Floor
  • Dressers
  • Nightstands
  • Storage
    • Such as under the bed if you have any
  • Shelves, etc.

Kitchen:

  • Cupboards
    • This can be divided into sections or by items to help
  • Drawers
  • Fridge
  • Pantry
  • Open Storage
    • Shelves
    • Kitchen buffet, island, etc.
  • Countertops

When To Start

I like to think that January inspired me to start this project, but honestly I believe it was just coincidence.  I had already made a small start on our closet before Christmas because I knew that the Holidays meant one thing for our house, bringing in more stuff.

There is no “perfect” time to start a project like this.  

I would recommend taking a look at your calendar and circling days when you are off and know that you’ll have one hour (or more) of time that you could dedicate to working.  It can be really difficult to estimate how much time it might take to work through each area of your home, so I wouldn’t worry about setting a deadline.  Simply write down “DECLUTTER” on your schedule and get started.

As you start to clear stuff out, your progress will be motivation enough to keep you going.

Like I mentioned above, circle dates when you KNOW you can dedicate time towards decluttering and make an action plan paced on WHERE you want to start.  If that means that you can spend time on it every evening of the weekdays, then simply schedule it on your calendar.  

Based on the room you are currently working in, identify your bigger “subprojects” and dedicate any larger windows of time to that area.

I spent an entire afternoon on our kitchen cupboards because I wanted to clear them all at once.  However, I broke our master bedroom down into one hour time frames while Kenna was napping and cleared the room out a little at a time.

How To Start

The biggest mistake I made in the past was walking into a room, and trying to start on all of the obvious surface areas at one time.  I made what seemed like a big impact on the room and felt a “quick win” before moving onto the next room.  But all of the “stuff” in our home is often tucked away in closets, drawers and carefully placed on shelves, taking up precious storage space and mental energy.

All of these “things” are eventually used throughout our home, whether we really need them or not.  Causing us to pick them up, clean them, put them away, work around them, etc.  When the reality is, we truthfully don’t NEED half of that stuff!

The best piece of advice that I was able to take from Emily’s book was to be ruthless.  To pull EVERYTHING out of drawers, off shelves.  Remove it from it’s precious storage location and ONLY put back the absolute necessary items you need to get through each day.

The clothes in your closet?  Do not re-hang the dress you THINK you’ll wear this summer when you never gave it a second glance last summer.  

The utensils in your kitchen?  Do not put the extra spatula back in your drawer because it’s just nice to have two.  You only need one.

I went through each room with the process of KEEP. DONATE. TRASH.

Keep, Donate, Trash

  • If I was keeping an item I immediately placed it back in its original location

  • If I was donating an item, I placed household items/toys in a box and clothes in an extra large black trash bag

  • If I was throwing an item out, I placed it in a white trash bag labeled “TRASH” so there was no confusion

If Possible, Donate Don’t Sell

In the past, I had always cleared things from our home and put it in a storage location with the hope of placing it on a resale site or hosting a future garage sale.  But this process of ruthlessly clearing out of my home has made me realize two things.

  1. Time is precious

    1. One of the MAIN reasons I am embracing minimalism is to help me save my time.  The return on investing time into resale sites or a garage sale can be very minimal.  The time I am freeing up for myself by clearing my home, I would in turn be trading in part by preparing for a garage sale or selling item by item in my home.

  2. Make an impact

    1. It seems a bit cliche to acknowledge that I have SO much stuff in my house that I have to make an action plan to get rid of it… only to turn around and try and make a small profit off of these items I know longer use.  Instead, I could find a way to help someone else in need by providing them with much needed clothing and household items that are still in good condition and I am simply no longer using.

Clothing - All of the clothing was purposefully placed in trash bags because I was able to drop them off at a local church that accepts clothing donations in trash bags for local and national clothing drives.

Household Items & Toys - As an Amazon Prime shopper, I was finally able to put some of the boxes I had lying around to good use.  Enter Amazon Give Back Box.  Simply fill an Amazon Prime box with donated items, tape it shut, and then go to www.givebackbox.com/amazon where you can quickly and easily print a UPS or USPS shipping label and have your donation items picked up and provided to local charity for reuse or recycling.

The impact this has made on our lives so far?  Exactly the one I hoped that it would.

I'm just getting started on this new journey towards a more simplified, minimalistic life and I can already tell how much easier and clutter free our home and routines feel.  There's so much less to work around, to pick up, to put away, to worry about.  

I actually feel as if a weight has been lifted from my shoulders because there's so much less STUFF in our house.  I wish I had kept more detailed track but so far I've already removed 10+ large black bags of clothes, 10+ boxes of items and toys, and 5+ bags of trash.

It's a process, it's a journey, and for a while it will continue to be a work in progress as we learn to not only remove items, but create new habits of only adding necessary items. 

What do you think?  Are you ready to start decluttering as well? Be patient with yourself, give it time, and simply enjoy the small wins.


  • This post is a part of my new Monthly Series on Embracing Minimalism in my life, business and home.
  • It's also a part of my 2018 Goals and is a monthly to-do in my Powersheets Goal Planning Workbook!

    If you enjoyed the posts above, be sure to grab my Defining Time 12-Page Workbook that will walk you step-by-step through the process of not only "creating your perfect day" but understanding your priorities in both your BUSINESS & your PERSONAL life, your time and where and how you want to spend it!
     
 
 

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