How I Decluttered And Simplified My Life

“Less is more.”

In the last few months I’ve been on a major decluttering kick.  It took a while to work up the motivation – I’ve been putting this off for years – but once I got started, the process became positively therapeutic and very liberating.

The original view was towards eventually downsizing our home, but the idea of living a simplified, uncluttered life with less stuff sounded more and more attractive to me.

Nothing makes a room – or an entire house – look better than clearing up your space.

Related: How To Stage Your House And Sell It Faster

Here are some things I’ve learned from my decluttering experience.

1.  Free up space

Our homes are filled with very useful items – they are just no longer any use to us.  You can even make some extra cash if you’re willing to have a garage or yard sale, sell items on eBay or Kijiji, or try a consignment store for new looking clothing, kids’ and baby items, and good furniture.

What doesn’t sell – if it’s still in good shape – can be donated to various charity organizations.  Old, dirty, broken and very used-looking items should just be tossed.  Let go of the idea that you may eventually use these items again.

Related: Will The Gifts You Give End Up At The Thrift Store?

Get rid of VHS tapes with old recorded TV shows and that box of your old school textbooks, gifts you will never use, clothing from when you were a different size, knick-knacks that have no sentimental value, kitchen items and small appliances that haven’t been used in a long while, out-dated electronics, and furniture you don’t need but keep – just in case.

I still had unpacked boxes from when we moved to this house over eighteen years ago.  What was in them?  I wasn’t sure.  I obviously no longer needed them.

2.  Let go of the past

There’s nothing wrong with feeling sentimental, but do you really need to hang on to every craft project your children made throughout the years?  Save a couple, or three, (why not display them artfully?) and toss the rest.

Believe me, your children will not be upset – or even know.

When we organized our photos, we couldn’t believe how many of them were of people we either didn’t know, or couldn’t remember who they were or what the occasion was – “Do you know who this person is?  Is it one of your old friends, or a relative? – I have no idea!”

Related: Who Are You Calling An Antique?

Other relatives may appreciate certain old photos and heirlooms.  Let them store them.

3.  Re-organize

Decluttering is the first step to getting organized.  Instead of buying more nifty new storage containers, redefine your space and establish new habits.

Find out what you already have.  Do you know what’s hiding in the dark recesses of your basement closets?  Perhaps there’s something there that you can actually use.

Related: How Many Clothes Do You Need Anyway?

I found three 20 pound sterling notes that I had brought back from a trip to England a few years ago in the back of my closet.  Why was I holding on to them?  Was I planning another trip?  I don’t know.

You can also avoid buying duplicates and triplicates by re-discovering what you already own.  I bought my third bottle of Worcestershire sauce in as many weeks because they kept disappearing in my cluttered pantry and, you know, my short-term memory isn’t what it once was.

4.  Make space for hobbies

When you declutter, you can create new space to pursue those hobbies you’ve been putting off for so long and re-ignite old interest in projects you’ve long forgotten.

Turn a spare bedroom into a craft or sewing studio, make some space in the garage for a woodworking shop, organize your gardening tools so you’re not pruning the hedge with an old pair of scissors.

You might even turn that hobby into a money-making part time activity.

You can set up a home office where you can budget and pay bills, and organize and file your important paperwork so it’s easily accessible.

5.  Save money on storage

Self-storage units are one of the fastest growing areas of commercial real estate.  For the most part they are a really bad idea.  It’s a waste of money storing items that you haven’t used in years and are likely never going to use again.

Final thoughts

Both of our parents were borderline hoarders and we also tend to accumulate lots of stuff.

It was disheartening to clean out their homes (one set passed away, one set moved to a retirement complex) and deal with all the items they had bought or were gifted over the years that they had loved and valued.

Related: 9 Ways To Avoid Buying Things You Don’t Need

Only a few items of sentimental value were kept.  I’m sad to say the remainder was tossed into several dumpsters to be hauled away.  Even the charity organizations didn’t want them as they were too dated and worn.

Preparing for retirement, downsizing, or living in a newly empty nest is the perfect time to take stock of your belongings and part ways with everything that no longer serves you.

Only keep things you use, enjoy and cherish.  It’s a great way to enter a new phase in your life.

Besides, the thought of paying to haul all that stuff to a new home makes me think twice about keeping it.

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  1. The Passive Income Earner on July 16, 2013 at 10:35 pm

    I declutter constantly but it upsets my wife 🙂 I like to think that everything has a place and everything in their place. That helps the kids being organized.

    • Boomer on July 17, 2013 at 2:24 pm

      @PIE: My dad is very spartan. He would toss out stuff while we were still holding it 🙂 and my mom is more of a hoarder.

      I ended up with the genes of both – I tend to hoard for a time and then I go crazy and toss, toss, toss.

  2. Jane Savers @ Solving The Money Puzzle on July 17, 2013 at 4:26 am

    I declutter because I am lazy and hate house cleaning.

    Less stuff means less to clean.

    • Boomer on July 17, 2013 at 2:26 pm

      @Jane Savers: You are so right. I like the look of organized closets and drawers and nice empty surfaces – easier to clean and find what you want.

  3. Elizabeth on July 17, 2013 at 4:39 am

    Great tips 🙂 Our family has had the same experience of cleaning out home — it’s sad to see the stuff that could have been useful for others had the owners donated it when they no longer found it useful.

    As a result, when I’m decluttering I often look at things and ask myself “will someone get more use of this than I will?” Often times, the answer is yes. It’s hard to resist that “someday I’ll use this…” urge, but if I haven’t used it in a long time, chances are i’m doing just fine without it.

    • Boomer on July 17, 2013 at 2:00 pm

      @Elizabeth: The problem with thinking you’ll use something someday is, when you might need it you:
      1. forget you have it
      2. don’t know where it is, or
      3. it’s outdated
      So you end up buying a new one anyway.

  4. Derek @ on July 17, 2013 at 5:18 am

    I especially like the “let go of the past” tip. My wife had a box of old trophies from 20 years ago just sitting around… There is really no point in keeping all that old junk.

    I was able to convince her to get rid of it!

    • Boomer on July 17, 2013 at 2:01 pm

      @Derek: I hear you. My husband always laughs at my one and only trophy I won in the eighties and my replica of the Blackpool tower with real Blackpool beach sand in the base. I expect that someday they will both disappear 🙂

  5. Ed on July 17, 2013 at 7:29 am

    It is amazing how we spend our lives accumulating and as we approach the horizon we want to toss it away?

    People used to mock my father for having his favourite and only spoon. He knew the value of items and kept it in perspective his entire life. He started out de-cluttered. A lesson learned long ago.

    • Boomer on July 17, 2013 at 2:03 pm

      @Ed: I guess when we get older we realize we don’t need so much stuff. We usually tend to use the same things over and over anyway – I do at least.

  6. Lynne on July 17, 2013 at 7:32 am

    Wow, how timely is this? I am doggie-sitting today because my neighbour has gone out of town to help her Mum purge.

    Mum and Dad are selling their home and moving to their lakeside cottage. I’m sure they will enjoy reading this at coffee break!!

    Thanks, well done…


    • Boomer on July 17, 2013 at 2:28 pm

      @Lynne: I don’t envy them. Decluttering all at once can take days! They’ll be exhausted when they return, I’m sure.

  7. Robert on July 17, 2013 at 7:39 am

    I had a very lengthy reply but it started to look too cluttered with ideas.

    My 2 tips:

    1. Dump the storage first. Unneeded or surplus shelves, dressers, bureaus, armoires, filing cabinets etc. – they are magnets for things that should not be in the home at all.

    2. Identify an offending room. Promise yourself to go in once a day and remove (i.e. off the property) at least one item. Stop before you pry out the moulding.

    • Boomer on July 17, 2013 at 2:12 pm

      @Robert: Good tips. Spending a big chunk of time seems overwhelming to me. I like to give myself a time limit- say 30 minutes – and permission to stop when the time is up. If I get caught up in the process I can carry on as long as I like.

      I also use advice on clearing “Hot Spots”, “15 min a day de-clutter” and “27 fling Boogie”.

  8. Bet Crooks on July 17, 2013 at 7:57 am

    Digital cameras are a real boon for simplifying. We take a photo of anything that was being kept just as a keepsake of a special time. Then we can move the item out of our home without feeling the pang. We’ve taught our kids to do this with things like favourite t-shirts, artwork, etc. It just makes it easier to get over the hurdle of discarding something that had great memories attached.

    • Boomer on July 17, 2013 at 2:16 pm

      @Bet Crooks: That’s a good idea. Why hang on to the cute baby outfit when you have a picture of the cute baby wearing it?

      We had hundreds (maybe thousands?) of slides packed away – but no projector. I purchased a converter from Staples and now they are all digitized on a nice space-saving CD.

  9. FI Journey on July 17, 2013 at 8:50 am

    My wife and I decided to downsize a few years back and went through a similar “decluttering” process, first to stage the house for selling and then for our own satisfaction.

    It’s amazing how clean and fresh a house feels simply by having less “stuff” in it!

    • Boomer on July 17, 2013 at 2:33 pm

      @FI Journey: I think once you get used to the house being clean and organized you don’t want to start cluttering it up again.

      Now, if I can only stop my husband from setting things down on an empty flat surface “just for now”, I can keep it that way.

  10. Gary on July 17, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    we started decluttering 4 years ago when we decided to move closer to our grand babies. first it was going to be a condo but finally chose a 1200 sqft. townhouse in a retirement community. we had 3 auctions, 2 garage sales, gave stuff to the kids and friends and finally charities and the dump and our garage is still full. we will follow your advice boomer and hope for the best. all i can say is that our garage is full of dead money. i can’t even declutter this comment!!!

    • Boomer on July 17, 2013 at 2:19 pm

      @Gary: We had a flood in our basement a few years ago and a lot of stuff was damaged and tossed out. Except for furniture and a few other items we didn’t even replace the majority of it, so I can’t figure out how we accumulated so much more since.

  11. Cat Alford (@BudgetBlonde) on July 17, 2013 at 5:56 pm

    I so love decluttering! It’s the only way we can survive in 270 sq ft!

    • Robert on July 17, 2013 at 8:59 pm

      Cat, I have no idea how either “270” or “we” can be in that last sentence. Well done!

    • Boomer on July 18, 2013 at 11:14 am

      @Cat Alford: You must be part of the Small House Movement that’s getting attention these days. I can’t even figure out how we’ll downsize to about 1000 sq ft! Good for you.

  12. Bryan Jaskolka on July 18, 2013 at 5:11 am

    I couldn’t agree with you more! We recently moved this summer and lost a garage and a huge storage room (took up nearly all of the basement) in the process. So since April I had been going through everything, tossing everything into various piles – garbage, charity, Kijiji, etc. It was a long process, but with everything that left my house, I felt just a little bit lighter. Now we’re all moved in, and I STILL feel like we have too much stuff! Once a de-clutterer, always a de-clutterer, I guess.

  13. Slackerjo on July 19, 2013 at 8:07 am

    At least everyone is trying!!!

    I have a rule, it only comes into my apartment if it brings value to my life.

  14. Janine on July 19, 2013 at 8:38 am

    I’m in the process of decluttering my life. I’m trying to get rid of one item each week – I called it 52 weeks of less stuff. So far so good and it’s really helping me see that stuff doesn’t make you happier!

    • Kathy on July 21, 2013 at 8:13 am

      Love that idea! 1 item a week for 52 weeks. Makes it less painful. Thanks, all, for the inspiration.

  15. Bryce on July 25, 2013 at 5:23 pm

    I managed to recently declutter our garage enough that my wife could park her new car in there. Some of the larger items, such as a motorcycle and table saw that were no longer used, went via craigslist. I got rid of smaller items via freecycle or the trash barrel. I still have too much stuff in the garage, though. It may be time for a garage sale.

    • Robert on July 25, 2013 at 8:16 pm

      You should have sold the car and got her to start driving the bike! Even less clutter – and more fun!

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