The time spent at home this past year has made me abundantly aware I value time spent outside of the house. It’s also made me realize I own way too many things. In fact, the average American home has 300,000 items! The average home size has tripled in size in the past 50 years. Basically, we’re buying bigger homes to store more stuff. When the stuff takes over, we feel we need an even bigger home to store it.
With the extra time on my hands thanks to COVID, I've spent the last 9 months decluttering. I’ve thrown stuff out. I’ve organized. As time progressed, I realized the clutter in my home contributed to my stress.
I drink coffee on the couch with my husband each morning. We don’t have much of a foyer in our small split-level home. Shoes, jackets and backpacks clutter the storage bench. It’s the first thing I see every morning when I drink my coffee. It took straightening up each evening to realize how good it feels to wake up, sit down and drink a coffee without seeing a mess! Over time, straightening up in the evening has become a habit. It took time to get there. Before you can quickly straighten up a room, each item needs a spot. To get there, you need to throw shit out. A lot of shit.
I’ve spent the past 9 months purging our belongings. I purchased organizers, threw things out and organized what was left. Even as I organized, I continued to discard items. It’s difficult to part with things you’ve collected but being unsure is the decision to throw them away. This process felt so freeing, I continued.
My husband often jokes he doesn’t understand how people call themselves minimalists but constantly need to declutter. If you are a minimalist, you don’t purchase things you’ll eventually need to throw away. In my mind, minimalism is a journey. Now that I understand the value of experiences over material things, I am slowly becoming more mindful of what I purchase, for myself and my children. This means less junk overall but there’s still previously collected junk. Minimalism with children also looks slightly different than true minimalism. As long as you adopt a less is more mindset and are conscious of what you own and how they make you feel, you’re a minimalist.
Below are five steps I've taken on my journey to minimalism. If looking around your home leaves you feeling overwhelmed, it may be time for you to consider taking these steps as well.
1. Schedule a bulk pick up in your town.
The first thing I did after realizing how good it felt to declutter was to schedule a bulk pickup. I knew once it was scheduled, I couldn’t back out.
By this time, I had purchased many organizers and had already gone through drawer after drawer, closet after closet, discarding items and organizing the remaining. The bulk pick up was scheduled to discard a bed in my guest room that I’ve been hating for years.
I scheduled the bulk pick up 3 days after Christmas. I figured there would be other things to declutter at that time as well. As I was disassembling the guest bed, I thought it would be a good time to redo my daughter’s room as well. She’s 6 and was still sleeping in a toddler bed. Her room is very small and I thought a loft bed with a desk underneath was a better idea. So the bulk pick up was for the guest bed, the toddler bed and a kid’s kitchen. The day the truck came to the house and picked up that junk was a good day. I felt good. I felt relieved. I felt ready to move on to the next step.
2. Make your most used rooms minimal, functional and beautiful.
With a small house, two children and two dogs, it’s difficult to keep my home beautiful at all times. The dogs shed. There’s fur on the couch. I can literally vacuum 20 times a day and there'd still be hair on the couch. I’ve accepted it. But with my recent awareness, I like to start off my day not feeling overwhelmed so I now take the time to clean up the night before.
With the guest bed gone, I have made that space my office. I’m in the room the majority of the day working and wanted to make the space beautiful. I now walk in and breathe a sigh of relief because the space is open, clean, tidy and inviting.
Find your space. Declutter. Organize. Keep it tidy. Purchase some plants you love. Make the space so inviting that it’s a relief to walk inside.
3. Donate, donate, and donate some more.
Do you have a cause you’re passionate about? You can see if nonprofit organization for that cause will pick up donations. It’s the easiest way to get rid of unused items. Take the time to go through your items. When was the last time you used the item? Does it bring you happiness? If you were in a fire and had to run out of the house, would you bring it? If not, would you regret not taking it?
We recently received a flyer in the mail from the United War Veterans Council. They were in need of clothes and household items. I’ve scheduled a pickup for the end of the month and am currently filling up boxes. Clothes are easier for me to give away. I have a challenge going through household items. What if I have a party and need a piece of serveware? It sounds ridiculous but these are the questions I ask. I don’t need the serveware. It’s in the donation pile.
4. Purchase a dumpster bag.
If there are no bulk pick ups in your area, a pricier option is to get a dumpster bag from your local home improvement store or Amazon. These bags, and pickup, usually cost around $150. While pricey, they are a good way to get rid of a lot of junk.
5. Rather than furniture, or nonfunctional décor, consider purchasing a plant instead.
With all the donation and bulk pick up going on over here, I now have extra space in my house. After removing a piece of furniture in the corner of my dining room, I showed my husband a shelf I wanted to replace it with. He commented about the need to replace furniture with more furniture. It didn’t make sense. For some reason, we dislike open spaces. We feel the need to fill them. I’ve left the area empty. I plan on putting a fiddle leaf fig plant in the corner eventually but for now it’s bare.
If you’re struggling to leave space empty and considering a purchase, ask yourself these five questions.
6. Start from step 1 again.
Minimalism is a journey but once you accept that you’re ready to live with less and experience more, you’re well on your way. There will be clutter you’ll need to continuously sort through, especially if you have children. Since habits take time to change, you’ll probably purchase an item or two that you’ll later regret. It happens. The important thing to realize is you can always start again.
I know this journey will take time. But I can honestly say I enjoy living in a clutter free space.
If you’re done with clutter, start slow. Start with a couple drawers. Take the items out, throw things out, put organizers in the drawer and give everything that’s left a spot. When each item has somewhere to go, there’s no room for clutter. The second you put something in an organized drawer that doesn’t belong there, you’ll either throw it out or decide you need a new place to store that item.
Since I’ve started this journey, I feel a weight lifted from my shoulders. I feel less stressed. I am enjoying what I own more. I have a long way to go but at least I know I’m moving in the right direction. Here’s to living with less in order to experience more.