Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Claire Wilde of Want Less.
Embracing simplicity: the idea just sounds so good, doesn’t it? Can’t you just feel those tense shoulders loosening at the thought?
So many people feel overwhelmed, overworked, and overloaded, often living in homes which are overfilled… yearning for a simpler way to live.
A couple of years ago, I too was crying out for simplicity in my life, my bank balance, my schedule, my mind, and most definitely my home. I had somehow accrued a lot of consumer debt through a spending habit which never brought me happiness.
Becoming Minimalist and a handful of other sites inspired me to make some big changes, which in the end, came easier than I had thought.
First, I stopped buying things I didn’t need. It was a transformation. The stream of gadgets and trinkets coming into my life dried up. Sure enough, my thirst for new toys soon dried up along with it.
This in turn allowed me to simplify my money. I began spending less than I made. Whereas once I was drowning in debt, now I am surfacing. Soon I’ll be breathing again.
Then, once I had asked myself how I could be a more responsible consumer, I started asking myself how else I might be a better and happier person. Where I had been prone to envy, too often comparing myself with others, my focus gradually began to shift. Of course, I’m not magically immune from jealousy now, but at least I recognize it when it does rear its ugly head.
Simplicity has also allowed me to rethink and readjust the way I spend my time. Much of this has been easy, like selling all my computer games and rediscovering the simple pleasure of curling up with a book.
But there’s no doubt about it, I have found one aspect of simplifying very, very hard: drastically reducing the number of possessions I already own.
I have gone from having far too many things, to having a few too many things. This alone has taken more than two years, and I have to confess to feeling frustrated at times with my slow progress.
It was easy at first: gathering up a box of unwanted belongings gave me a thrill each and every time. But then, out of nowhere, I hit a wall. And I’ve been struggling to push through it ever since.
I’ve removed a third of my belongings. But I still own neglected nineties CDs and reference books I never use. I think I have not one, but two dead laptops haunting me. And I definitely have a lava lamp with no bulb, in a box somewhere.
I recently decided to start over, and now after a period of reflection and inspiration, I’m fired up and ready once again to dig deeper, go further, do better.
If you want to declutter your home but have ever felt frustration or disappointment with a lack of progress, know that you are not alone and it’s okay. While some people feel able to jettison all their stuff overnight, others will take their time.
Here are eight ideas for when you’re struggling to declutter:
1. Take things one step at a time.
If you are struggling with overwhelm, concentrate on one room, one piece of storage, or even one shelf at a time—especially if the job as a whole seems insurmountable. Your speed doesn’t matter, a step forward is still a step forward.
2. Find your people.
Online support can be a huge help, but there is nothing like meeting up face-to-face with other people who are pursuing simplicity. Depending on your immediate surroundings, this may or may not be easy to do. But the more you share your story of the change you are trying to make, the more people you will find drawn to it.
3. Take before-and-after photos.
Often times, being able to see the progress you have already made is helpful —especially if we start to feel frustrated during the process.
4. Do half-a-job (at least for now).
So you still have, let’s say, a vintage teddy bear collection and you’re afraid to say goodbye to it completely. Could you let go of half of them? This strategy can be particularly helpful for some of those hard-to-remove items (books, sentimental collections, souvenirs, hobby stuff).
5. Inject some fun into the process.
There are loads of decluttering games you can play. I came up with one called the five-in-five challenge: can you find five items you don’t want in just five minutes? You could even challenge your whole household to compete against each other. Or check out some of these ideas.
6. Quarantine your belongings.
Try boxing up items you fear you might need one day, and hide them away for a set period of time before letting them go. If there’s anything in there you truly do need, you’ll realize before you’ve given it away.
7. Work out your weak-points.
What have you found easy to declutter, and what have you found hard? Why is that? Perhaps you worry you’d later regret saying goodbye to sentimental trinkets or just-in-case items? Maybe giving away expensive toys is a painful reminder of what little value they gave you? Perhaps your conscience stops you from tossing items you can’t recycle? Whatever the hurdle is, there will be a way around it. It may take more time and self-reflection than other areas in your home, but don’t fear the process—it’s always beneficial in the long-run.
8. Practice self-compassion.
Don’t beat yourself up if you’re not seeing instant results. You might take a while to get to where you need to be. That’s okay. If you’re bringing less into your home than you are sending out, you’re decluttering. You’re heading to the same destination, you’re just taking a little longer to get there.