This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I make a commission if you purchase through my links, at no extra cost to you. Disclosure here.
In the past year, I’ve been on a minimalism journey.
We’ve been working on decluttering and creating a calmer home that we can manage more easily (especially with two kids, one of them being a baby).
Life can get hectic, so we need a streamlined and simplified home to avoid feeling overwhelmed every day.
Throughout this journey, I’ve been sharing tips and insights that I’ve learned from reading books and doing research.
I find it fascinating how clutter can affect our stress levels and mental health, especially as parents.
So I’m taking you along for the journey, and today I wanted to share something I’ve discovered in this process:
I had been decluttering all wrong for the longest time!
I wrote this article because I wanted to share with you my big mistake and to tell you why that is, and what you can do instead.
Feel free to watch the video or keep reading below:
What should you NOT do when decluttering?
My biggest decluttering mistake was that…
I felt like I needed to take everything out at once.
For example, while decluttering my wardrobe, I would take everything out and put it on the bed in a big pile.
Then I would sort through them one by one, looking at each piece of clothing and asking myself, “Do I still want to keep this? Is this something I’m going to wear again?”
I had always felt like this was the way to do it, take everything out, sort it out, and then put what’s left back in.
Let me tell you, this process can take hours, obviously depending on how much stuff you have.
But for me, it would take hours upon hours, and it felt so overwhelming.
I know this is actually something that Marie Kondo recommends. That’s her signature thing.
I watched her Netflix documentary, and that’s what she recommended, to take all the clothes out, put them on the bed, and have this mountain that you can go through.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a pro and I’m not one to disagree with Marie Kondo here, I still love her.
But for me as a mum, this process was just way too overwhelming, especially with two small children in the house.
Imagine me, taking this big pile of clothes out, and then my kids coming in and rummaging through it – a sure recipe for a disaster.
So I used to take all of these clothes out, and I was motivated and excited at first to get this decluttering done.
But as I was going through them, I would get more and more tired.
Half-way through, I would feel like I don’t want to deal with this anymore.
Let’s just pop them back in the closet and be done with it.
And I would have decluttered a little bit, but not a lot.
The decision fatigue would kick in – this is a phenomenon that I have read about.
Why is decluttering so exhausting?
Decluttering is exhausting because of something called decision fatigue.
For example, when you’re decluttering your wardrobe, you have to take it piece by piece and make a decision for every single piece of clothing.
When we are faced with a series of decisions during a long session of decision-making, the quality of our decisions starts to deteriorate as we go on.
I have definitely found this to be true for myself because, by the end of it or even half-way through, I would feel like, ‘Yeah, I don’t want to do this anymore. I’m just going to pop them back in and be done.’
It would be just way too overwhelming to finish such a big project.
Maybe if you have a team of people helping you, that situation might be different.
In a Netflix documentary, they might have that kind of help.
But if you’re just by yourself with your entire wardrobe, it’s simply too overwhelming and daunting.
You are more likely to just put things back in your wardrobe and make quick decisions like, “Oh yeah, I’m just gonna keep it,” rather than just making good, rational decisions that will actually help you down the line.
How do I stop feeling guilty about getting rid of clothes?
Another aspect is that going through some items, including clothes, can be really emotional.
We often have many memories attached to some of these pieces.
We can often have guilt attached to them.
We feel like we bought a piece of clothing and we haven’t gotten our money’s worth.
Maybe we haven’t worn it as much as we thought we would.
We might even feel shame because we spent a lot of money on some of these clothes and we haven’t worn them at all.
All of these feelings can make it so much harder to go through the process.
And when you have a mountain of guilt and shame and decisions to make, it can be too much.
This is often why we like the end goal of decluttering, but we don’t really like going through it.
Once I understood what wasn’t working for me, I got to a point where I can actually enjoy decluttering. It doesn’t feel like such a big chore.
This is how we managed to minimise a lot in our home.
I also shared how I got rid of probably 80% of my wardrobe.
We’ve gotten rid of toys, kitchen items we weren’t using and so many different things.
I got a boost and I had a weekend where I decluttered 600 items from our home.
And it has been so liberating just getting stuff out of the house and making space for the things that we actually value and that we actually enjoy.
Taking everything out in one go?
That was definitely the wrong way of decluttering for me. So I’m going to share with you what’s the right way for me, and what actually worked.
It might be different for you, maybe you deal well with having a huge pile to go through. Everybody’s different, so try and test and find what works for you.
How do you declutter when you’re busy?
Here are the things that work for me.
Tip 1: Pick one category
The right way for me was to go through one category, one drawer or one cupboard at a time.
I’m not taking everything out and making a huge mess anymore.
I’m just taking one little bit that’s manageable and that feels like I can get through in 15 minutes and be done with it for the day.
You can try this too – not every single day because obviously, life is busy, especially if you have kids.
But whenever you get a chance.
Just find a pocket of time and try it.
“I have 15 minutes to wait around before I pick up my son from school. What’s one drawer that I can declutter quickly?”
Marie Kondo says, “Get everything out so you can see exactly how much you have.”
Because I think she mentions the shock of it, when we realise, “Wow, I have a mountain of clothes” that might make us more likely to get rid of things.
But we do have to think of the overwhelm as well.
So do get everything out, but just from one small category.
Get out all the kitchen spatulas that you have, or get out all the jeans that you have.
Keep it just one category at a time.
And then you can see in that category how many things you have.
You might realise, “I have 20 pairs of jeans. When am I ever gonna wear 20 pairs of jeans?”.
Then you can go through that category, getting rid of the items you don’t need anymore, ones that don’t fit, ones you don’t like anymore and keeping only the ones that you actually love.
Remember, one category, one drawer, one little cupboard at a time.
Don’t overwhelm yourself.
Tip 2: Set a small chunk time
Go for 15 minutes, or even 20 minutes a day.
It doesn’t have to be long.
And if you only take one small category, it’s not going to take you long anyway. You can even put a timer on your phone.
And if by the end of the timer, you feel like, “I’m actually motivated right now. I want to tackle more,” you are more than welcome to do that.
What I have found is that once I get the hang of it, I’m like, “Yes, I want to do more. I want to declutter more things.”
But if you are short on time, then just do those 15 minutes and think of it as a task well done, tick it off your list, and feel accomplished for the day.
Tip 3: Have a bag or box at hand
My next tip for you is to always have a bin, bag or a box or anything that you use to take things out of your house.
When you’re decluttering that one little cupboard or one little drawer, always take the bin, bag or a box with you.
Use it to put things in that you want to declutter, instead of throwing them on the floor.
The goal is not to make a big mess.
The goal is to make it easy to get things out of your house.
Tip 4: Ask yourself “Is it worth selling it?”
When you’re decluttering an item, really, really consider if it’s worth selling it.
I know a lot of us think, “I’ll keep this because I might sell it down the line and make some money out of it.”
But a lot of our stuff doesn’t really have much value to anyone else.
It has a lot of value to us because we spend money on it, and maybe we feel like we didn’t get much use out of it.
We might even feel entitled to getting that money back.
But the truth is our stuff doesn’t have the same value to someone else as it does for us.
It’s considered second-hand, even if you haven’t used it and you’ve just kept it in your wardrobe for 5 years.
It still doesn’t have the same value as when you first purchased it.
If you’re thinking about selling it, I have a video that’s going to really help you sell your clothing for cash, and I’m showing how I made over £1400 by selling my clutter.
Still, for each item, think about if you really have the energy right now and the mental space to deal with selling it.
Because the process can be a bit of a hassle, you need to take pictures, put them online, get offers, package them up, and take them to the locker or a post office.
So make sure that you have the availability to do all this if you decide to sell.
Not “one day”, but right now.
My general rule is, if I put something up to sell and it doesn’t sell within 2 weeks, it goes straight to donations. I don’t keep things any longer than that.
Tip 5: Have an outbox
An outbox is so helpful and it’s been a game changer for me.
We have so many ways of bringing stuff into our home, and we definitely, for the longest time, didn’t have systems to get things out of our house.
Having an outbox is really helpful, especially for things like mine or my kids’ wardrobe, and toys.
I have an outbox in our under the stairs cupboard. It’s simply a basket where I can throw things in.
How we use this outbox is that when I’m going through the house tidying, whatever I’m doing throughout the day, and I notice, “Oh, that item we can actually get rid of”, I don’t just leave it there.
I take it and put it in the outbox straight away.
If I’m going through my kids’ closet, getting them dressed in the morning and I realise, “Oh, this t-shirt’s actually too small for them now,” I take it and put it in the outbox straight away.
I don’t leave them in there thinking, “Oh, I’ll deal with them whenever I do a big declutter”.
It’s so much easier just to take it out and put it in the outbox.
And when I have a trip to a charity shop or when I get a donation bag in our mail to put outside the front porch (something done in the UK), then I can just grab everything from the outbox, put it in donations, and that’s all done.
Taking these five steps makes decluttering so much easier than having to do a big declutter that’s going to be overwhelming.
I hope this was helpful.
Let me know how you’re getting on with the decluttering, and thank you for being on this journey with me!