The minimalist approach: how to de-clutter your home

No other phrase strikes fear into the heart of a hoarder like the suggestion that they should take the minimalist approach and de-clutter their home.

Words like ‘impossible’, ‘I don’t know how’, and *ARRRRRGHHHHH* are common utterances to the mild suggestion that a tidy-up may not quite cut it.

But what if there was an easy way?

What if … it didn’t pain you to lose all that stuff you didn’t need anyway?

What if?

Yes, well, the world doesn’t run on ‘what if’, so you’ll probably feel justified not doing so, but just in case the mood takes you, we’ve got some extra special ways you can use to de-clutter your home without pain.

Get into the Zen of de-cluttered, minimalist space

If you haven’t spent the last 20 years meditating, don’t worry, this one’s for beginners.
Sit with your stuff. In your room, cupboards, under the stairs, wherever. Pick things up and look at them, really look at them. Put them down again. Consider where you got each item from, if you really like it, and what it brings to your life right now.

If you can’t come up with something convincing in under 10 seconds for each item, then you probably don’t need that thing, no matter what it did for you once before.
If it’s memories you’re hoarding, well …sentimental value aside, have you got some other way to record it? Why not make a collage of photos of the different souvenirs you’ve picked up over your life.

Can you replace the item if you change your mind? Are you likely to change your mind about a three-legged pottery horse with one ear that your first boyfriend gave you when you were eight?

This isn’t an exercise in how mature you are. If you think you’ll regret the loss later, pop it in a ‘don’t know’ box for now, and move on, move on.

Hong Kong minimalism

Hong Kongers are renowned for their seasonal throw-out. Most people in Hong Kong live in tiny high-rise apartments, where storage space is often designed in the same innovative way as for caravans. When the new season’s clothes and furnishings come in, many Hong Kongers put out the last season’s gear. Thrift shops in the city are second to none.

The short time period that belongings are kept means that sentimentalism stays minimal … just like the size of your wardrobe.

There are downsides, of course. Who has the money to replace an entire wardrobe of clothes every three months? But there’s nothing stopping you selling it on eBay if you think you can make some cash back.

De-clutter, one piece at a time

This is a severely practical route to de-cluttering: take your time, do one piece at a time, don’t buckle, don’t falter, keep going until it’s done.

Sounds complicated, but it isn’t.

Take three black bags or cardboard boxes. Label one OUT, one KEEP, and one DON’T KNOW.

Enter the first room and take a long slow look around.

Now, lift the first item, decide if it’s going, staying, or if you’re not sure. Pop it in the relevant bag or box.

Be tough: if it has no use, if it’s broken, if you don’t even like the person who gave it to you, get shot of it.

Get rid of the ugly and useless

This one’s a special take on the one above: If it has a use, keep it. If it’s beautiful, keep it. Everything else can go.

That means it can’t be broken, useless, pointless, or childish.

Make de-cluttering a game

This type of thing really is a game to some folks.
The principles are the same, no matter what format you use.

One thing once a day

This should be pretty self-explanatory. Heave out one item you don’t want, don’t like, or don’t need, every single day for a month. It’s a slow process, but like losing weight, the slower you do it, the less likely you are to pile it all back on.

If you get to the end of your month and you still need to de-clutter, keep going. Better still, get shot of two things every day for that month.

Every month, increase by one the number of items you throw out daily.

Five items a day for a month

One thing goes out on the first of the month. Two things go out on the second. Three things on the third. You get the picture. Good luck with throwing out thirty-one items on the last day of the month. You’ll be able to get rid of hundreds of useless items in one month, but for some, this method might be a little too harsh.

One thing more every day

Five items every day doesn’t seem like too many, but if you multiply five by thirty-one, that’s 155 items in a month.

Everything goes into a box or a black bag, and is carted to the right place (the tip, the charity shop, or eBay) at the end of each week. Don’t leave it too long, or you’ll need to make room for increasing numbers of full black bags.

De-clutter twice as much every day for a week.

Chuck out one item on the Monday. Two on the Tuesday. Four on the Wednesday. Eight on the Thursday. Sixteen on the Friday. Thirty-two on the Saturday. If you’re up to the extra exertion, try sixty-four items on the Sunday.

Yeah, good luck with that.

A final word

Just one more thing about hoarding. Many of us do it, so much so that keeping things long past their true usefulness date could be considered to be part of the human condition. But why do we do it?

For many people their belongings, no matter how old, strange, or battered, represent part of them. Their lives, their experiences, and their Selves are all tied up in the possessions they drag about with them from one house to the next.

Without our things, we expect to feel bereft, or incomplete. We’re afraid to let go in case we lose something important in the process.

But the truth is, de-cluttering is empowering and freeing. It releases you to achieve greater and better things by providing you with space. If you’ve ever heard the phrase ‘tidy home, tidy mind’, and laughed hysterically at the thought of your home being ‘tidy’, think again. No-one would like having a heavy set of shackles around their ankles day in, day out, but energetically that’s what we’re doing when we pile up our old, knackered, and dusty possessions in our homes.

Minimalists aren’t just smug for no reason. They’re on top of the world because they’ve got so little weighing them down. Most of us would agree it would be very nice to live like that, so here’s your opportunity: take the minimalist approach to finish your living space—declutter your home.

Where are you going to keep the remaining items? Find storage solutions through our Finished Directory and stick to the minimalist approach as you de-clutter your home.

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