Decluttering. The endless pursuit of less when you’re surrounded by so much. How do you start? When you are absolutely overwhelmed by the stuff, how can you possibly make a dent?
I sat in my living room looking around at the wreck that was my home, feeling guilty over the fact that my toddler had just spent the entire morning watching “Spirit” and “Coco” and “Dory” so that I could get a few moments of extra sleep in, and would likely be put back in front of the TV after naptime so I could sleep a little more because I was exhausted.
I was foggy, overwhelmed, unmotivated, depressed.
And then it came up in my news feed again. Yet another webinar promising me life and freedom and unicorns and rainbows.
So I registered for it and promised myself I’d take naptime to listen and watch.
While I didn’t come out on the other side of that webinar with a million bucks and no more problems, I did end with a sense of curiosity.
What if decluttering could minimize my stress? What if I could spend more of the day enjoying and less of the day cleaning, stressing, and feeling guilty? What if I could enjoy this motherhood thing?
Don’t get me wrong. I adore my kids (I can hear you gagging over the mushiness, but for real – my kids are the coolest), but I hate being a glorified housekeeper. I was meant for more than picking up the same junk every day.
So I went on a rampage.
Before Zach got home, I’d already filled a couple boxes and a few trash bags worth of junk and was ready to start decluttering the entire house.
I subscribed to that blogger’s podcast, cranked it up, and started tossing things in trash bags while soaking in some motivation from her chipper voice telling me I could have more if I just had less.
I started decluttering a little bit at a time. A cabinet here. A drawer there.
The day after my husband came home to seven bags of stuff I’d purged, he woke up ready to help me tackle my next big project. We dove into our most visible cluttered areas and started decluttering as much as we could. As a result, our most visible spaces became uncluttered, our motivation grew, and we couldn’t wait to start tackling the rest of the house.
Ladies, I don’t say this to say you should expect your husbands to jump right in. He may not, and that’s okay. Don’t force your husbands to be a part of your crusade. Lead by example, express why you’re pursuing less, and place enough value on your time to follow through.
You were meant for more, mama.
So how do you get started? How do you tackle the behemoth that is an entire house of clutter? A marriage’s worth, or maybe even a lifetime’s worth, of clutter?
First, and most importantly, you need to decide you want more for your life, your motherhood, your time.
Decide right now that it’s time for a change.
Nothing will happen if you deem it optional. Don’t wait until tomorrow.
Get up right now, grab something you don’t want in your house anymore, and toss it in a donate box.
Commit to yourself that it’s time to do what it takes to take your day back. To be able to be in charge of your day, instead of letting your house rule you.
Put on your boxing gloves, mama, and get ready for the fight.
2) Lower expectations temporarily
You want your whole house decluttered. Or at least an entire room.
But start with ONE drawer, ONE flat surface, ONE shelf.
Usually, lowering expectations sounds counterproductive, right? But if you anticipate clearing out an entire room in the 30 minutes your newborn is napping, you’ll quickly get discouraged and give up.
You know what you can tackle in 30 minutes, though? Your cup cabinet. Your bathroom drawer. The counter where you toss all the random junk that accumulates in your pockets by the end of the day.
ClearONE. Do it well. Do it thoroughly.
3) Do the easy stuff first
Start in a place that you know you have several things you want to get rid of.
For me, our mug cabinet was a great place to start. We had so many mugs, shaker bottles, and thermoses that we never used, it was easy to ruthlessly go through and chunk the excess.
Start with the things you don’t really have an emotional attachment to because those items will be the easiest to toss.
Throw away the trash.
Find a small place filled with the stuff you’re just dying to throw out.
Consequently, this will help build your momentum.
4) Make some “white space”
Growing up, I didn’t exactly live in a minimalistic home.
My family loves creating cozy spaces by surrounding themselves with the things they love. Not a whole lot of “white space” in my life for the first 28 years.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the coziness of it all, but there’s a difference in surrounding yourself with the things you love, and being surrounded by clutter for the sake of eliminating the areas that look “bare,” which was my problem.
While my mom could create a cozy space filled with memorable items from their travels, I found myself decorating with stuff I didn’t love for the sake of filling a spot.
Clear a spot, create some “white space” (space that has nothing in it), and leave it alone.
Get comfortable with that space.
Appreciate that space.
Use that space to launch you into clearing another space.
5) Utilize your momentum
At minimum, get rid of one thing a day.
Generally, I can’t get rid of JUST one thing. That one thing leads to a few things, which leads to an entire box or trash bag of stuff.
Keep this momentum going DAILY.
I’m fully aware of the idea of tackling your decluttering all in one go (hello, KonMari!), and if that’s how you want to do it, more power to you mama! I just didn’t have the energy, will, or time to tackle everything at once.
If you’ll commit to getting rid of one thing daily, your mindset will start to shift.
You’ll start looking at everything in your home and weighing whether or not you want that object in your home taking your time.
You’ll start getting excited to chunk that book you’ll never read, the shirt you never wear, and the purse you think is ugly.
Each time you throw something in that box, you’ll feel lighter. Furthermore, you’ll feel more in control of your life. And that, mama… that feels good.
When you aren’t sure, take some time to really think about how much value that little owl mug is going to add to your life.
If you really can’t live without it, keep it. Otherwise, bless someone else with it.
Zach and I were clearing out his closet recently when I held up two identical jerseys. He told me to donate one and keep the other. When I asked him why, he simply responded with, “I don’t know. Let’s donate that one, too.”
Think about why you’re holding on to items.
If you don’t have a reason, let it go.
As a result, you’ll create a home full of purposeful, intentional items that lead to the life you want.
You cannot expect your spouse to be willing to get rid of his possessions until he sees you on the front lines.
Show him you’re serious. Show him you want to simplify EVERYTHING, not just his areas of the home.
Start with your areas – the kitchen, your closet, your part of the bathroom, etc. Move to shared areas. Tackle the playroom.
Then work on having the discussion with your spouse to see if you can get him on board with your pursuit.
9) Be intentional
Finally, decluttering is not just about a clean home, it’s about taking back your time, your motherhood, and yourself.
Commit to it, because this isn’t a “one and done” type of thing.
It’ll take daily diligence to choose less.
Be more intentional about the things you bring into your home and the things you allow to dwell there.
It’s time to take your motherhood back.
Your kids are only little for a short time.
Do you really want to spend that precious time constantly cleaning? Or would you rather wake up to a clear and simple home, curl up with your kids to watch some cartoons, and spend the morning playing and learning?
You don’t deserve to feel “behind” in your housework because you chose to spend time with your children or your husband.