10 Lessons Learned after a Year of Decluttering

Last year when I started this blog, I was at a place where I was highly motivated and ready to seriously declutter our home. Last night I reread all of my decluttering posts in order to summarize what I have learned this past year. These are lessons and tips that I personally want to remember as I enter 2016. Most importantly, these are things that I hope encourage you as you start, continue, or maintain your decluttering efforts. Here are 10 lessons learned from a year of decluttering.

10 Lessons Learned

The Mindset needed

The actual process  and results of decluttering can be really rewarding. I love before and after photos just as much as anyone else. I’ve learned, however, that our minds and attitudes need serious decluttering while we are decluttering our spaces.

  1. Declutter from a place of “enough.”

For me, I wanted to hold onto things because I was functioning from a place of poverty and fear.

2. Declutter with the present in mind.

I am constantly tempted to keep things “just in case” for the future, or due to sentimental reasons from the past. In order to get clutter under control, we need to evaluate our stuff with the present in mind.

 3. Redefine value.

The value in an item is not so much in possessing it, but in experiencing it, then passing it along to share when it stops being loved and used by your family.

4. Cherish Memories, not Objects

Sometimes items remind us of very special times. Often, we don’t have to hold onto the items themselves to hold onto those memories – they live in our minds and hearts.

Our minds and attitudes need serious decluttering as well as our spaces. #declutter #simplify… Click To Tweet

Practical tips

5. Stop the flow

While you are decluttering, it’s important to stem the tide of things coming into your house as much as possible. Refuse free things, ask for clutter free gifts in order to keep the number of items going out of your home greater than the number of things coming in!

6. Find a System that Works For You

There are many online challenges right now that can help you work in a systematic way through your home. One thing we did last year was the 30 day Minimalism Game. Most of the year though, I tackled the area that bothered me most. I started with the entryway and then tackled the children’s toys. Many people are finding the KonMari Method really helpful in systematically going through their items.

7. Take Before and After Photos

It will encourage you down the line to see how far you have come – even when there is still a lot of clutter surrounding you. We have been encouraged when we look at the before photos of our basement. 

4 mindset shifts and 6 practical tips needed while #decluttering #simplify #minimalism Click To Tweet

8. Get rid of furniture and flat surfaces

Flat surfaces and furniture that has cabinets are my nemesis while decluttering. That might sound dramatic, but I’m finding it to be true. If you can do without the table, cabinet, dresser, or any other piece of furniture in your home – donate it! We got rid of a cabinet in our very small bathroom and haven’t missed it a bit.

9. Schedule your donation drop offs

When you make the piles to Keep/Trash/Donate – make sure and take care of them right away. Nicely contained clutter is still clutter if it remains in your home! I am guilty of piling things up in our van and then forgetting about them for weeks. Schedule donation pick ups if you have a thrift store that will pick up, or write it in your To Do list to drop off the donations.

10. Get Support

Whether you do it with one friend, or join a Facebook Support Group, it’s important to get the encouragement you need while you’re decluttering. You are not alone.

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77 thoughts on “10 Lessons Learned after a Year of Decluttering

  1. melinda says:

    Wow, Angela! You’ve hit the nail squarely on the head! It’s OUR heads that need the most de-cluttering!!
    Changing my attitudes twards stuff has made the most impact on my house. Like you, I was holding on to stuff out of fear. As soon as I realized that it was Fear, I repented, and changed my ways. Well, AM changing my ways. It’s a journey!
    Just today, I swept thru the house and gathered a medium moving box to donate! So proud of myself!
    Plenty more to go, but rejoicing in today’s victory.
    Thank you so much. I’m so happy I found you.
    And making reading my Bible first thing in the morning a priority, has really helped my spiritual growth too!

  2. Lisa says:

    #5 Stop the Flow has worked well for us! I am much more intentional about what I buy; and clothes have the one-in and one-out rule now. Also I wanted to mention that we declutter in spurts. We did a lot last spring, very little this summer, a good amount in September when our daughter moved home from college, and then only a little this winter. That’s ok. Even though our house still has a lot of things (like I don’t even want to think about moving) right now they all have a place and we coexist peacefully. You don’t have to declutter down to nothing!

    • Angela says:

      Its true Lisa. We decluttering in spurts too, although the one thing I’m trying to do continually is evaluate things and putting them in the donate bag if it’s time (outgrown clothing or toys, etc). That’s encouraging that you’re at a peaceful place! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Shari Eberts says:

    Thanks for these tips! I hadn’t thought about how furniture plays such an important role in clutter. You are right – if you can hide it behind doors it is easier to ignore. Going to go open some doors now…

    • Angela says:

      It’s true! We’ve donated bookshelves and cabinets and trashed a broken dresser and haven’t missed them at all! We reduced enough not to need them.

  4. Sheryl says:

    I so agree with you in regards to not having a table if you don’t need it . Those surfaces simply hold things you don’t need. This is my year of decluttering.

  5. Jill says:

    #5, #7, and #9 have been big lessons that I have learned over the past year. Sometimes when I am feeling discouraged or unmotivated, I scroll back through my before and after photos to see how far I have really come!

  6. Katie @ Talk Less, Say More says:

    Love it! Definitely some great tips! It works in my favor that I’m a bit OCD and clutter drives me bonkers! I’m not perfect though and definitely have some decluttering that I could still do and plan to in the coming months. Time for a garage sale! 😉

  7. GiGi Eats says:

    I have started to separate myself from things… And throwing stuff out! It feels sooooooo satisfying to throw things away! LOL! I do not need BILLS from 2011, from my OLD APARTMENT… Yeah, no.

  8. Carmen Gomez (Lilly) says:

    I am currently reading Marie Kondo’s book and I’m looking forward to decluttering my house this year! I’m always holding on to things just in case for later and I have to stop doing that my basement will be the biggest challenge ever but I’m looking forward to a new way of living at home!

  9. Kim M says:

    Somedays it drives me a little batty but for the most part I am thankful to have a clutter hating husband. LOL He is quick to remind me that I don’t need all the things I see. And when people compliment my neat home, I silently thank him every time!

  10. Kelly says:

    I respect the decluttering movement because we do have too much stuff. But one person’s stuff is another’s non-negotiable. Finding what works for you is key. Great post!

  11. Ally Fiesta says:

    I have learned how little I need to live a comfortable life. I also realized how I typically wear the same items so I donate my clothing regularly. Over this summer I donated 150 lbs worth of clothing and I am not missing any of them! Less really is more.

  12. Kathy @ SMART Living 365.com says:

    Hi Angela! What great lessons to learn and good for you for making it past year one! My favorite is finding people to support and encourage us to live a more sustainable lifestyle. If we hang out with people who are after more, more, more and bigger and best we will never find peace. Far better to find out what “experiences” make us happy and live that with friends who get it! Thanks for the good reminders. ~Kathy

    • Angela says:

      So true Kathy. As a family were really trying to move towards experiences rather than things. You’re point about surrounding yourself with people who have the same values is also such a good one. Thank you for sharing!

  13. Carol @ The Red Painted Cottage says:

    Hi Andrea, I had to come over and check out your blog and find out about your major decluttering mission you’re on. My husband and I downsized over two years ago and we got rid of lots of STUFF. We actually had a two day estate sale. There’s a few pieces of furniture I wish we had kept, knowing what we know now, but that was then and this is now. I’ve got tons of projects I’m working on and in between them I’m going to be going through our clothes. I know I’ve got clothes I haven’t worn in years and it’s time to let them go. I applaud you for taking this huge step. FYI, we have a cottage we live in for the summer months and it’s less than 700 sq. ft. and we have all we need to be comfy in it.

  14. Trena says:

    I so need to find the motivation to de-clutter. We’ve lived in the same home for over 9 years. Prior to that, we moved every 2-3 years so you were somewhat “forced” to de-clutter in the moving process. I really need to get back at it, but just never have the “brain power” or “energy”. Found you from Small Victories link-up.

    • Angela says:

      Hi Trena! We’ve been in our home for almost 10 years now and I think that’s part of the reason for the build up of “stuff”. I’m trying to adopt a mentality of moving – were not moving anywhere but it might help us evaluate things from a better perspective.

  15. Stella Lee@ Purfylle says:

    I’ve really enjoyed following along with your decluttering adventures. I’ve been a bit in awe of how well you are able to articulate your lessons learnt along the way. Number 1 was a huge one for me to get over right along with 2 & 3.

  16. Kristy as Giftie Etcetera says:

    I like the idea of decluttering with the present in mind. I do have things I use annually (like Christmas decorations), but I also have lots of stuff that I don’t use, and just think I’ll use someday. The truth is that I will likely buy another black suit if I ever have another formal interview – and as a 40-something year old out of the workforce, such an interview is unlikely.

    Out it goes.

  17. Heather @ Simply Save says:

    These are great lessons. I’m with you on so many of them, especially stopping the flow and flat surfaces. They’re just asking for clutter and knick knacks and then constantly need to be dusted! Thanks for sharing on the Small Victories Sunday Linkup!

  18. savvy says:

    For me using the word enough has really helped. Especially when it comes to beauty products and clothes. Trust me I have enough. I am also on a mailing list for a donation pickup. I keep an ongoing donation box in our spare bedroom then donate it during their rotation.

    • Angela says:

      I love that word “enough”. I am constantly reminding myself to declutter from a place of enough. It sounds like you have a great system to get those donations out the door!

  19. Katie says:

    Well isn’t this just the absolute truth! One of my lessons I have learned and am trying to stick to is – do it now! I put things off when I “think” it will be a better time, but there is not time like the present! Great post – tweeted! :)

  20. Tanya @ Mom's Small Victories says:

    I am terrible at asking for clutter free gifts. I don’t want to sound unappreciative, but I just don’t need any more STUFF! I am always trying to declutter, thanks for sharing your inspiration with us at Small Victories Sunday Linkup. Pinning to our linkup board and hope you found some great posts to visit this week!

  21. Lou Lou Girls says:

    Great post! Pinned and tweeted. Thanks for coming to our party and sharing this with us! I hope to see you next Monday @7 because we love to party with you! Happy Wednesday! Lou Lou Girls

  22. Tina says:

    I also am a clutter bug. I am just now starting to declutter my home we have lived in for 3 years. We filled the garage and there is so much out there I haven’t even thought of for the past 3 years so it needs to go. I really enjoyed reading your post.
    Three years ago I lost my grandmother who was more of a mother to me. At the time I grabbed everything that nobody else wanted, I just couldn’t imagine someone wearing or using her things. I finally started going through the stuff and realized I don’t need the items, I have the memories. One thing I did was buy large clear Christmas ornaments you can put things in, I used some of the things that made me think of her and made me and my family memory ornaments and this Christmas is was so nice to pull it out and think about the special memories I had with her. I also did this with a few of my children’s items I haven’t been able to get rid of and its nice to have very special memories I can hold in one hand and fun to make.

    • Angela says:

      Hi Tina! Thank you so much for sharing some of your story. I love the idea of the clear Christmas ornaments. What a wonderful way to remember your grandmother. She sounds like she was a very special lady. Good luck in cleaning out the garage. I know our basement hasn’t been easy, but we’re making progress. I know you can make progress too. Please let me know how it goes!

  23. Mary Hill says:

    Flat surfaces are indeed a clutter trap. I have lots of books piled up on a small table now, but I am doing better in the kitchen. (At least I hope so.) I also find a one touch rule on the mail helpful. Look at an either discard or file in a time-sensitive folder so that you deal with it on time. Especially helpful for bills. Thanks for sharing on Literacy Musing Mondays.

    • Angela says:

      Isn’t it Mary! Flat surfaces are not helpful to decluttering! That’s a great tip about the one touch rule with mail.I have most of my bills automated which is helpful (and avoids late fees!)

  24. Cynthia. Smith says:

    I am not certain I what it is all ab out. So it seems a little of everything . I had a feeling the last time I was trying to clean up. I* can’t put my finger on it but it is there. I feel a new and more determined mind set on – clear, cull and clean. My three C’s … I have been away frome the house for most of a year now. My hubby works 4 hours a way from home. I was down with him in the Detroit area undergoing Cancer treatment for the last year. My thoughts are certaintly scattered yet, the mind set to Declutter is bigger than ever. I am now a cancer survivor. But my brain is still in a fog, that I have to clear along with our home and family. We downsized about 11 years ago and still have things much like we had in the house twice the size we have.. However I just shipped my dresser to a sister in SC… She can do with it as she chooses.. That in its self is freeing.

    • Angela says:

      Hi Cynthia, I’m sorry to hear about your cancer diagnosis. I hope you are doing better and that the treatment was effective. It sounds like it was. You are a trooper for decluttering while still recovering. Shipping the dresser was a great step and sounds like you experienced the freedom that comes with letting go! Thank you for reading and commenting, I truly appreciate it.

  25. Lynn B says:

    My problem is that I am a stay at home Mom. When I look at things to get rid of, I think of their value and how much I could sell that item for. Yes, our family does donate to others in need, but larger things we don’t need, we try to sell to bring in money for the family. This takes more time than just throwing things into a box. This is where I get frustrated. One thing at a time leaving the house. Oye…..it feels like it can take forever! So, things sit until there is time to list them and sell them.

    • Angela says:

      Hi Lynn! I understand that feeling. I still try and sell “bigger items” or “more valuable” items. The little things – like toys and clothes though – I’ve learned to just donate or give away to other friends. I actually have a couple piles sitting there that need to be donated and I need to do it pronto!

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