How to Effectively Purge + Declutter Your Home (and Life)

Design Tips, Personal Growth

Welcome to the Living with Less Boot Camp, y’all. Just kidding – that’s probably a real thing and I just infringed upon someone’s copyright DON’T SUE ME.

We’re all wired differently, having varying strengths and weaknesses; something that is really difficult for me comes quite naturally to you, and vice-versa. For me, paring down my possessions, identifying things of true value/use, and just editing in general comes somewhat naturally to me. Part of it is my rather black-and-white personality (it’s easy for me to say “yes”, “no”, “keep”, “toss”), and I think part of it is a kind of low sensory tolerance (I really detest loud noises, crowded anything, big messes, chaos…I’m so much fun, guys). I’ve done multiple BIG purges over the years, which has then kind of led to a constant posture or lifestyle that rejects clutter. In other words: this didn’t happen over night, and it is now rarely a “big event”.

It feels very on-trend to use words and phrases like “minimalism” or “capsule wardrobe” these days, but without knowing the “why” behind these ideas, it’s hard to get motivation to go through with it. For me, it’s simple: less stuff = less stuff to clean + more time doing things I love + more visual freedom (less stuff to look at).

All that to say, I know this is potentially something a lot of people find tricky or daunting to navigate, so I wanted to offer some pointers.

  1. Read this book. It feels so lame and obvious to point back to Marie Kondo, but the fact of the matter is she is onto something, and her perspective was a major catalyst for me in ridding our home of excess. One MAJOR caveat: Kondo talks a lot about joy, and one of the biggest filters to use when deciding to keep or toss something is to ask the question “Does it spark joy.” HEAR ME: your objects and possessions will never. bring. you. joy. They are of this world. They will break. They will be lost or stolen. You will change as time goes on and value different items that serve you better. To look for joy in something as fragile and fleeting as your stuff will lead only to frustration, disappointment, and loss. I get the gist of what Kondo is saying, but I think I would probably word it as “Do I still really like this item?” Stepping down off my soapbox now.

  2. Remove everything, put back what stays. This is the most impactful practical tip I have for you. When clearing out a closet, drawer, or cabinet, the first thing you need to do is remove every item. Clean the empty space, then go through the items and begin your edit. This way you’re deciding what stays, rather what goes. There is something so game-changing in choosing to put something back into a clear space, rather than removing items from an already overwhelmed space. I know it feels like an extra step, but I’m telling you – it’s critical.

  3. For clothes, don’t make frequency of use your main filter. What do I mean by that? Most people will simply look at their wardrobe and ask the question, “Have I worn this in the last year?” If the answer is yes, it stays; no, then it goes. It’s not necessarily a bad question to ask (you absolutely shouldn’t have clothes in your closet you aren’t wearing), but if the goal is to have a smaller wardrobe full of pieces you love, it’s not the only question. I have had pieces that I wore constantly because they were easy and available, but never felt like my best self in. So did I wear it recently? Definitely. Is it a part of the wardrobe I want to build for myself? Definitely not.

  4. Parents: Don’t try to do this while your kids are around. You’ll get interrupted. They’ll feel neglected. You’ll be annoyed. They’ll be sad. It’s a whole deal, so don’t do it, k? Wait until they go to bed, pour yourself a glass of something, put on a podcast and make a night of it.

  5. Maintain reality. That’s really a rather harsh way of saying evaluate needs/usages based on your actual experience, not a future hope. I used to hang onto old packages and containers because I thought, “One day I may want to repurpose this/make a craft for the boys/wrap Christmas presents in it…” etc. But you know what? I never did. So now, unless I have a specific upcoming need for which I will use this empty box/bin/container, it gets recycled. Same goes for clothing – if something doesn’t fit, it doesn’t get to stay. If you lose weight and drop a jean size, you’re going to want to celebrate with a new pair anyways.

  6. Be careful with multiples. As you’re clearing out a space, truly consider how many of an item is used at one time. For example, casual drinking cups (you know, the plastic ones with a logo on them that came from an event, kids’ meal, etc.): do you need 15 of them? No. You’re probably not giving them to guests, so the most you’ll really need at one time is the number of people in your family (and honestly even that seems unlikely – our fam drinks mostly out of our own personal water bottles throughout the day). In my experience, most duplicates are not necessary; and if they are, the most I have seen is one for each day of the week (looking at you, underwear).

  7. Donate and dispose responsibly. Dumping everything in the trash is not okay for obvious reasons. Yet thinking you can sell everything will leave you with heaps of junk collecting dust and making you mad for weeks on end. Something will obviously go into one of these two categories, but what about the others? Obvious answer is to donate, but that can prove tricky in these times of quarantine. In Dallas, Goodwill is still accepting donations (stores are closed, but donation drop centers are open daily as of April 15). Click here to check for your city’s Goodwill closure status. Habitat for Humanity ReStore, unfortunately, is closed and not accepting donations. I asked you guys on Instagram if you’ve donated recently and to where, and got lots of good ideas. Check your local pregnancy resource centers and foster/adoptive advocate organizations to see if they’re accepting donations of gently used baby items. Post what you have on Facebook, but be sure to mention pick-up timeline and procedures (this both keeps you safe, and gets the items out quickly). Be leery of those parking lot donation bins; not saying don’t do it, just do some research first (this article was kind of eye-opening).

Now comes the time in the post when I look back over what I’ve written and think YIKES THAT’S A LOT (and also I have more). I’m going to have to come back for another post at a later date and deal specifically with closet clearing and paring down your wardrobe because I feel so passionately about it, and I have a lot of tips that deal specifically with clothes.

What about you? Do you have a big decluttering tip? Are you more of a “hoarder” or “tosser”? I really hope this was helpful! Feel free to drop any questions or thoughts in the comments!

Happy Thursday,


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