How to Minimize Clutter – Step 1: Get Started and Stay Motivated

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series How to Minimize Clutter

Minimizing clutter is important in our everyday lives. It’s especially important if you live in a tiny house or plan to live in one someday. I’m going to take you through some steps that will help no matter what stage of life you may be in.

These steps are based on the KonMari method. This method name comes from the Japanese creator, Marie Kondo, who wrote the books called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and its companion Spark Joy. Her books go in depth on the art of tidying and decluttering your life but here I’ll be giving you the quick rundown and guidance from the experience it gave me and my family.

You can purchase Marie Kondo’ s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, or its companion (and my personal favorite), Spark Joy, to read. But please! Don’t add to your clutter if you don’t plan to read either of them. By following my steps online, you can reduce your clutter without adding anything to it!

Remember that clutter accumulates when you fail to put an object back where it belongs (or you have more things than you need). That phrase, “A place for everything and everything in its place” is a solid outline for how your home should be. If you have too many items for the place it’s supposed to be then it’s definitely time to clear out that excess baggage. Decluttering is a discovery of oneself, not a simple task that can be performed one hour at a time. An excerpt from her book, Marie Kondo states, “Tidying up means confronting yourself.”

You cannot organize yourself by doing a little bit every day

Who has time to dedicate one hour (or more) a day to decluttering and organizing? I know I don’t. I have a 9-month old that keeps me busy. The time I get to myself is precious and I don’t want to waste an hour every day doing it. It would be a never ending battle!

Schedule yourself to spend a day (or at least a few hours, depending on the quantity of things you have) doing each of these steps. I wouldn’t recommend doing them back-to-back, as it can be taxing emotionally and physically. Each person must do their own items individually. DO NOT THROW AWAY OR SORT OTHER PEOPLE ITEMS! Remember that you cannot make a decision for what they feel about an item so please don’t throw away other people’s things. The exceptions to this rule are young children and pets. We are all guilty of buying one too many toys for our fur-babies at times! However, your spouse and older children must make the decisions on their own and in their own time.

This is a great bonding opportunity, though! My husband and I actually did our items at the same time in different piles around the room. If he got hung up on an item I would ask, “Does it really spark joy?” or “Does it serve a purpose?” and it would help him finalize the decision. He would do the same for me. It really helped us be honest with ourselves and not rationalize keeping something that didn’t spark joy.

In this introduction post, I will set up the scene for tidying (or decluttering, I will use both words synonymously through the series) by using the KonMari method, as outlined in her book. I encourage you to go through each of these steps before moving on to the next post in the series.

Commit Yourself to Tidying Up

The KonMari method is not easy. That being said, I can guarantee it will produce results. Her method has created freedom for our family and I want to share that freedom with you. As I mentioned before, schedule your time to make this happen. Creating that commitment will help you achieve a decluttered life forever. That’s right, forever. Once we decluttered, we haven’t needed to do so since. We live our lives enjoying the things around us in our home rather than trying to get rid of junk.

The best result this method gives you is learning the art of understanding what gives you joy. This helped us with future purchases and things around the house that we may no longer need. Instead of holding onto the item we donate it so someone else can receive joy out of it. For the item in the store, we have learned how to pass it by without making an impulse decision to add junk in our lives.

Imagine Your Ideal Lifestyle

This is your goal. It’s hard to move forward if you don’t know where you’re going. If you want to live in a tiny house, imagine what it will look like. Save pictures of tiny houses you think are perfect for you. If you like to draw, grab a pencil and paper. If you enjoy writing, grab that notebook that sits around never being used. Make a picture collage from magazines. Do what feels right to you, but do it.

For our family, I bought a poster board from the store and divided it into a grid of 8 squares. I labeled each square in the upper corner with the name of the room and we stuck it to the fridge door. We would cut out or print (or even draw!) pictures and pop them into the right “room” with a magnet. We soon collected a ton of pictures, which gave us a clear vision of what we liked, our preferences, and what we thought was “ideal” to us.

Go ahead and do this now. I’ll wait.

Finish Discarding First

Don’t give up! Complete every category before trying to store your items. If you try to create storage before you finish, it can create a bigger mess in the long run. You’ll end up with unnecessary items which leads to a relapse of a cluttered home full of neatly stored clutter.

This doesn’t mean you can’t store something temporarily to get it out of the way of your daily life. In our process of decluttering, we would occasionally have a category that was too large to do in one day. We would put what wasn’t sorted into tubs and move it into an unused room (we had a spare bedroom).

You won’t know how or where you can store things until you’re completely done with all categories.

Tidy by Category, Not by Location

This means you should go category-by-category rather than room-by-room. Sometimes we forget that we keep items of the same category around our homes in different rooms.

For example, I never realized how many books I still had until I had gathered all of them from around the house. I never realized why my husband called me a bookworm until I saw the pile!

Follow the Right Order

I will walk you through the order in the following steps! A quick overview of the steps:

  1. Clothing
  2. Books
  3. Papers
  4. Miscellaneous
  5. Sentimental

Ask Yourself if it Sparks Joy

This is the MOST IMPORTANT step of all. This step will help you make a decision to keep or discard an item. All you have to do is hold it. Hold it with both hands. Hug it. Maybe it feels weird when you start, but by the time you’re done, you’ll know exactly what sparks joy and what doesn’t. Pay attention to your body when you hold or hug the item. How do you feel when you hold it? Is there something there, a spark of joy? No? Maybe it’s time to let it go.

Should I wait until I’m ready to move into my tiny house to declutter?

Of course not! You should tidy before you’re ready to move. Besides, it’s the journey of tidying that will take you to your tiny house. Why wait? Don’t procrastinate it! Kondo says:

“If you haven’t found a new house yet, then start tidying right away. Why? Because it’s the house you live in now that will lead you to your next house… So if you want to meet a beautiful home that is just right for you, take good care of the one you live in now.”

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