A year ago I read the New York Times Best Seller by Marie Kondo, titled The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Its principles really grabbed me, and I determined to clean out the clutter of my life. I started with my closet, and didn’t stop until I’d cleaned out clutter from every nook of my house. Then I worked on clearing out the clutter of my mind. It was such a valuable experience for me as I learned how to declutter my life and my mind.
Many of you are recognizing the dissatisfaction found in the excess of things, and are beginning to do some major cleaning. You are simplifying your lives, and as you do you are finding great freedom in owning less. All over the world, people are embracing simplicity as a way of life. There is even a growing trend to tiny house living, which is living in less than about 300 square feet.
One of the top trending topics in the Health and Wellness world right now is just that—learning to live with less. Part of the trend is due to Marie Kondo’s book, but there are so many other contributors to this trend. Some of them are:
- The discovery that accumulating more stuff just doesn’t lead to more satisfaction in life.
- The rising costs of Living Big, and the parallel rising consumer debt.
- The ache in people’s hearts to get back to a simpler lifestyle, like we did.
- The clutter of stuff in our homes that just keeps us busier taking care of it all.
- The ability to consolidate the kitchen tools needed with one power tool (such as the Instant Pot popularity).
- The lack of storage for stuff, such as closet space, kitchen space, storage space in the garage, and rooms too-full of furniture for ease of entertaining.
- Seeing your family closeness disintegrate as each member focuses on individual goals for getting more stuff, more technology, the latest iPhone
- Growing old and recognizing that you have more stuff than you do friends.
So I want you to take a look at the possibility of living with less—and the benefits it brings you when you do. We’ll concentrate of three steps of how to declutter your life:
- Learn why and how to get rid of your stuff.
- Find ways to store the things you keep.
- Now that you are living with less, focus on things that make you love your new life.
Learn Why and How to Get Rid of Your Stuff
It is important to start with the Whys of decluttering your life. That’s where I had to start. I had to ask questions like:
- Why did I buy all these clothes?
- Why do I spend time looking through catalogs and online stores even though I have so much already?
- Why do I envy the things I see others able to accumulate?
To be successful at decluttering your life, you must begin by decluttering your mind. Maybe you buy all the latest styles in clothing because as a child your mother could only afford to give you hand-me-downs from garage sales and used clothing stores. Maybe you envied the got-everything girl in your high school class, and determined that when you were leading your own life, you’d find a way to get everything you wanted. Maybe you missed out on real family closeness as a child, and as you grew you learned to satisfy the longings in your heart with stuff instead of relationships.
Asking yourself some hard questions about your reasons for having stuff isn’t easy. It makes us wonder about the true motivations that drive us to the actions we take in life. But until you recognize your cluttered thinking, and take steps to declutter those thoughts that drive you to accumulating more stuff, you won’t be successful at decluttering your home.
When you are ready to move on, you will probably discover that you really don’t know How to get the job done. How do you start? Where do you start? Marie Kondo says this:
Tidy in the right order. There are only two tasks involved—discarding and deciding where to keep things. Discarding must come first. Be sure to completely finish the first task before starting the next. Do not even think of putting your things away until you have finished the process of discarding.
So how to get rid of the stuff in your home and life is a lot like how you eat an elephant—you do it one bite at a time. You might want to download the free “Konmari” APP so that you can keep track of what you have done and what you need to do next.
Let’s take a look at how you can find the right order to begin your decluttering. There are two guiding principles you can use:
- Think in concrete terms so that you can vividly picture what it would be like to live in a clutter-free space.
- Take each item in your hand and ask: “Does this spark joy?” If it doesn’t dispose of it.
What is the right order for you?
The right order for you is very likely to be different than the right order was for me. Maybe you start with where you have the biggest mess. Maybe it’s where you don’t have enough room? Or maybe it’s where you know in your heart that you have simply accumulated too much.
For many women the place to start is likely to be the clothes closet. Some women have clothes from every fashion trend, in every size, from every big box store’s sale of the year. So many clothes that there isn’t any room for more—and there hasn’t been room for your husband’s clothes in years. So start here, and be ruthless in your cleaning. Sort your clothes into categories: tops, bottoms, underwear, outerwear, purses and accessories. If each piece of clothing doesn’t give you joy, or it’s stained, ripped, too big or too small, or unworn for a year, decide now to either give it away or toss it.
When you have finished your ruthless assessment of your clothes closet, finish this category by finding more effective ways to store your clothes. Not everything has to hang on hangers. Fold what can be folded, and have bins in which you rotate your clothing according to the seasons. In order to stay true to your new less is more philosophy, make it a rule that every time you bring home a new piece of clothing, you discard one in the same category from out of your closet.
(Here’s a quick folding tutorial video from Marie Kondo)
Follow this way of ordering your decluttering for each area in your home. Probably the next biggest stuff problem is in the kitchen. The kitchen gets heavy traffic, and is often overused, overstuffed, and over dirty. You have too many dishes, too many kitchen appliances, too many pots and pans, and too many bulk items in the pantry. Start here by sorting the kitchen into categories, and then tackle each category one by one—not stopping until you are finished with this one. Get rid of items you don’t need, appliances and kitchen tool you never use, duplicate dishes and pots and pans (duplicates that are not needed), and stuff you have too much of: mugs, food containers, storage containers, pot holders, countertop clutter, and stuff stored on top of the refrigerator or on its doors (pictures, etc.). Don’t forget to clean out the fridge, freezer, and pantry. It’s likely you have items with expired dates, freezer-burned foods, and spices several years old.
Find new and better ways to store things
Then tackle the second step of organizing and finding storage solutions for what you keep. I love using mason jars for storage, and other large, glass storage containers. Because plastic containers have been proven to leach chemicals into our food and drink, I do not use plastic in our kitchen. Glass and stainless steel are much safer options.
Determine that you will continue through the categories of items in your home that need to be considered for discard. Don’t stop until you have finished with everything. Years ago my mother told me the story of the woman who was given one white rose. She sat that rose on her kitchen table, and immediately thought, “I can’t leave it there with all those dirty dishes and things,” so she proceeded to clean her kitchen table, then her stove, then her sink, and finally her entire kitchen. Then she took that one white rose in to sit on the living room side table beside her favorite chair. The same thing happened, and she proceeded to clean up her entire living room. Then she continued until her entire home had been dejunked, cleaned, and was sparkling clean. Visualize your home without any distracting clutter. What would it look like?
Now that you are living with less, focus on
things that make you love your new life.
The magic of decluttering lies in the newfound joy of discovering all the stuff you really can live without! You will find greater contentment in your life, and in the growing relationships you now have time to build upon. I believe there are at least four important principles for learning to be contented with less. They are:
- Live beyond the temporary—I like the verse in Matthew 6:20 (niv): “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.”
- Learn to give—Giving expands our heart and helps to keep our hands open to receive gratefully and to give cheerfully.
- Grow a thankful heart—Change your focus from what you don’t have to what you do have. Contentment is not the fulfillment of what you want, but the realization of how much you already have.
- Live within your means—That is a practice that Frank and I are attempting to incorporate into every day of our life. For example:
- Our farm pickup is years old, rusty, dirty, but perfectly suited for what we use it for.
- I still buy the majority of my clothes from second-hand stores.
- We try to live sustainably, using the things we raise and grow instead of shopping at the high-priced and unhealthy big box food stores.
- We love to furnish our home with gently used or repurposed furniture, loving the look of what I call our shabby chic home.
If you put your house in order now, you will be able to pour your time and passion into what brings you the most joy, your mission in life. Life truly begins after you have put your house in order.
 Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press, 2014), 35.
 Ibid., 36.
 Ibid., 41
 Ibid., 204