The powerful difference between organizing & decluttering

Since we’ve been back from our spring-long road trip, I’ve been getting rid of a lot of stuff. I mean, a LOT.

Partly this has to do with our family’s upcoming Big Trip, which is rapidly approaching, but it’s also because I was reminded of something valuable while we were on the road for two months—something I’ve known for ages, wrote a book about, and even continue to preach whenever it deems necessary:

You really, really don’t need a lot of stuff.

I know this idea backwards and forwards. And yet we’ve lived here in our town for not quite three years now, and we’ve found ourselves slowly amassing things that—well, we just don’t need. Probably not a ton compared to average American standards, but it’s definitely more than we ever meant to accumulate.

So these past few weeks we’ve been rolling up our sleeves and making multiple trips to the donation station at our favorite thrift store, tossing out broken or worn out items, and continually unearthing more. And so we repeat the process—more thrift store runs, more tossings, more head shaking in wonder.

And while I do enjoy a good decluttering session, these hours have reminded me of a truth I can’t escape right now, try as I might:

Living with less trumps organizing because organizing is temporary.

Let me explain.

Organizing might feel good… for awhile. Your ducks are in a row, your kids’ toys are nicely labeled in their bins, and your socks are huddled in their respective nooks in the appropriate drawer. You’ve cleaned out the kitchen cabinets, then restocked them with its contents in a logical fashion. Your craft supplies are organized ROY G BIV-ly.

Living with less trumps organizing because it truly begets freedom. Freedom to live with more clarity, freedom to pursue work and hobbies we truly love, freedom to spend more time with people instead of taking care of our things.
Photo source

But it’s temporary. If you live with other humans, like me, you’ve had the experience of watching your hard work slowly crumble over time. And there’s the rub with organizing—you’ve got to keep it up. Or at least dedicate a few weekends per year to the task.

Decluttering—or, just getting rid of stuff, is permanent. It leaves your four walls, and immediately you have more visual and physical space. Your shoulders feel lighter, you know where everything is, and you truly love everything left. And you love your home just a little bit more.

Have you ever taken several loads to a thrift store and later thought, “Nuts—I wish I had all that stuff again.” Rarely. The majority of us love the look of empty spaces and clean lines. (There’s a reason people stage their homes this way before selling them—we’re naturally attracted to clutter-free.)

And then there’s the beautiful aftermath that follows decluttering. You find yourself happy to own less, so if you consciously keep stuff from entering your door again, you start owning this habit. You genuinely don’t want to shop because then you’d have to do something with the new stuff.

Your money starts acting more like the responsible tool it can be.

You have more free time because you don’t have to clean so much, and taken full-on, you don’t even have to work as much because you’re content with a smaller budget.

You somehow tend to sleep better, eat better, and take better care of yourself because of said extra time.

And perhaps best of all, you pass this on to your kids through modeling and through intentional choices. You’re not buying stuff for fun.

Our kids were genuinely content without their toys for two months—they’d play with whatever they could find, activating their imaginations on overdrive. And since we’ve been back, they’ve barely touched more than a few loved playthings.

The five of us were perfectly fine with just a few shirts, bottoms, and shoes, and oddly enough, we continue to mostly wear what we had on our trip (that’s because of the 80/20 principle—we all tend to wear 20 percent of our clothes 80 percent of the time).

Living with less trumps organizing because it truly begets freedom. Freedom to live with more clarity, freedom to pursue work and hobbies we truly love, freedom to spend more time with people instead of taking care of our things.
Photo source

Living with less trumps organizing because it truly begets freedom. Freedom to live with more clarity, freedom to pursue work and hobbies we truly love, freedom to spend more time with people instead of taking care of our things.

It’s risky, yes. It’s often scary making that first run to the donation station. But you’ll get braver and braver, and nine times out of ten, you’ll never regret parting with those things you stopped loving or finding useful.

Have nothing in your homes that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.

And then you’ll find this purging a little addictive, and before you know it, you’ve become a full-fledged, card-carrying minimalist. I know I’m ready to get back to that pursuit. Because all this stuff around me? I’m kinda ‘meh.’ But seeing the world? Yes, please.

For more inspiration on decluttering, you can check out my first book, Organizing Simplicity. I also dig the blog Becoming Minimalist, written by my friend Joshua.

What do you prefer—organizing or decluttering?

Top photo source

Tsh Oxenreider

Tsh is the founder of this blog and just finished traveling around the world with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

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  1. Honestly, organizing is more fun (the ROY G BIV-ness of it and IKEA and Container Store shopping) but decluttering has far more worth.

    • That part is totally fun for me, too! But I’ve also learned the futility of buying “meta stuff” (stuff to hold your stuff) without first getting rid of everything that should have a home in your home in the first place. 🙂

  2. I am so onboard with this idea. I am writing this in front of my open closet and I am itching to purge.

    But t my 3 sons and husband, they want to keep everything!! I’ll continue with what I can and hope I inspire them to jump in.

    • Yes—continue with what you can. Do a small part of your home, and maybe they’ll be more on board after they see how great it feels to be in there…

  3. This topic came to mind today when I was going through my enormous collection of sheet music. I was overwhelmed by how much I had (I’m a music teacher), so I thought, “Declutter or organize?” I went with decluttering because then there will be much less to organize!

  4. “Living with less trumps organizing because organizing is temporary.” — ooo can you put that phrase on some cute background and post it on Facebook so I can share it?? 🙂

    I agree with Jennifer that organizing is much more fun in the short term, but decluttering has far more worth in the long run. We’re getting into the habit of having a garage sale every two years, and it’s so freeing to see the boxes of stuff we don’t need piling up, making us a bit of money, and making us happy because we then enjoy the things we have left that much more.

    • The immediate problem I have with this is that I do enjoy decluttering… but I also enjoying buying (every now and then)! Decluttering is not a *permanent* solution for me. But I can agree that living with less IS a solution! 🙂

  5. Hi I just found your website here after reading an article called “8 Ways to be a Happier Mom”. Anyway, I just wanted to say I am an instant fan of your website already and hope to follow along now (I just found you on Instagram too.

    And to comment specifically about this specific article, which I think is brilliant. I am an American, but currently living with my husband and two children in Oxfordshire England for over six years now. As an American I grew up accumulating a lot of stuff and living in a very big house to contain all of that stuff. Since moving to England I’ve had to completely change the way I live. Houses here are tiny tiny tiny and there just isn’t space to constantly acquire new things. Absolutely every time I want to buy something new I have to ask myself where am I going to put it and what do I have to get rid of to make space for the new item. I simply love living this way! It saves us money, we aren’t drowning in our own ‘stuff’ We have nothing in our house that we don’t need. I rarely impulse buy. I’m constantly decluttering, organizing, and donating un-needed items to the charity shops. I like to live by the motto: Form follows function. If an item has no real function, we get rid of it. It’s a fantastic way to live and I hope that when we eventually move back to the states I will not forget these valuable lessons I have learned from living abroad.

    p.s. I loooove that William Morris quote!

    • Awesome! I love that you’re learning this, particularly as an expat American (that’s my background, to0, of which I share a lot more in my books).

      So glad you’ve found this space, and I’m happy you’re here! Welcome. 🙂

  6. I actually enjoy doing both, but certainly decluttering is wonderful. We made several piles of clothes, toys, and books to donate during our spring cleaning. For me, decluttering just makes the house feel more relaxing, more spacious, more peaceful.

    And I love your point about how organizing is only temporary. Within a few days, all the organized toy bins and art supplies are once again a mess, and we do it again, and again…..

  7. I love to organize, tuck things neatly in their bins with labels, and smile at the order. But, I get much more satisfaction purging first. The bins look better with less in them. I’m not digging through things I don’t really need or want to find the thing I’m looking for. Letting things go makes me feel so much more light and free.

    I’m trying to teach this to my girls as we go. They each have a set space for their toys, if they get something new, something old has to go. They are surprisingly happy to pick the things they aren’t playing with to give away, and seem to enjoy the boundaries of only having a set space for things.

  8. Yes!! We have lived in our house for almost 9 years. This is the longest I have EVER lived in one place. It is crazy how much ‘stuff’ two adults and two children we have accumulated.

    This week we are starting a ‘De-materialization Revolution’ in our house! Getting rid of at least 50% of all things. Including furniture. (I am posting about it later today.) I am so excited! My children, not so much. It will feel great to everyone when we are done. I hope it will lend to our ‘new habits’ and ‘gratitude project’ too. There is so much potential in letting go of stuff. So much freedom!

    “Because all this stuff around me? I’m kinda ‘meh.’ But seeing the world? Yes, please.”

    Thanks for the great post! Fueling my fire!

  9. Both.because we moved from a three bedroom house to a room in someone’s house – across the country – then back again in a toyota – we don’t have much stuff. We actually wear ALL our clothes (not having a washer/dryer when our drawers are empty we head to the laundry mat). Because he’s still growing I am constantly weeding out outgrown clothes and I don’t save any since he has no siblings. My biggest chllenge is convincing my son to get rid of toys. He has far too many and I have them organized but despise it! Because there are so many! I had the rule get rid of one to bring one in and he would buy toy as tall as him and get. Rid of one the size of his thumb. So that is my goalthis summer. Get rid of some of his stuff that he truly never even looks at. The thing is he also has an amazing memory so I put something away to get rid of it and a few weeks later he’ll be like “where is that one inch thing I found on the road one day?”

    • I have one of those kids too. She’s 13 now and I never know when she’ll ask me for “that toy I got in my Happy Meal the day we went to the park and I tripped over the tree root. I was wearing a blue shirt and a blue jean skort, and you wanted me to wear sneakers but I wanted sandals. Remember that one? I need it.” Uh, no. If only she could apply that remarkable memory to her math homework!

  10. I need to hear this. We’re getting ready for a HUGE move with two little kids from Italy to California, and all our stuff is staring me in the face. Sometimes I blame my husband, who’s a bit of a pack rat and sentimental, but really it comes down to me and how I’m going to manage the decluttering before our move.

    • It is so hard when sentiment enters the picture! Can any of it be captured in a digital form? You will thank yourself for being a bit ruthless !

  11. I literally went and cleaned out my drawers yesterday after what you mentioned on FB. I can only imagine what today will look like after reading this post ;).

    I had planned for 2014 to be the year of purging, but you’ve inspired me all over again!

  12. As a Professional Organizer, I have thought about this a lot. Despite the fact that I love bringing order to space and time, I have never particularly liked the word “organizing.”

    But I have come to appreciate it more as I have developed a fuller definition for it: organizing, at its core, is not really about cute boxes and bins and labels. True organization is about examining your space and time and re-forming them so that they fit YOU–your needs, your family’s needs, your goals and dreams and purpose. It is about “organizing” your life around what is most important to you.

    This can look different for everyone, but decluttering is an absolutely essential part of this process. So I have to respectfully disagree with the statement that “decluttering trumps organization,” because I believe that true organization always includes decluttering within it.

    But I do completely agree with the benefits you describe from decluttering; all of us need the reminder that we can live with far less than we have!

    • I think we’re saying the same thing, just using different verbiage. I’m all about organizing—wrote a book full of ideas on it, in fact—but I’m just saying there’s not much use in organizing without decluttering running the show.

      Love what you say about making your space work for what’s best for you. YES. All about that. XO

      • Thanks for your response, Tsh! You’re right, I think we really are agreeing but maybe using slightly different definitions of our terms. I love your book on organizing–that is actually how I found your website years ago! Your book and your website are definitely among the things that have helped form my “holistic” view of organizing. Thanks for all the great work you do for your readers. 🙂

  13. I’m so hopelessly disorganized, that organizing only lasts 2 days, maybe 3. And then I often can’t find the stuff once I’ve “organized” it! Decluttering works better for me everytime. I’m amazed at how much STUFF I’ve amassed living in an APARTMENT, for heaven’s sake, after 3 international moves…

    So glad I’m reading this now that I have a huge pile of summer clothes Ijust got out, a lot of it we never wear…

  14. My word of the year is simplify. I’m trying so hard to de-clutter. It’s hard to get rid of stuff, but I know when we end up moving some day, I’ll appreciate that I did. It’s such a work in progress.

  15. We are preparing for a move two states away and I have been doing so much decluttering, but it’s still not enough. I’ve toted loads of stuff to the donation center and can barely miss it. The house we are moving to is a little bit smaller than this one and I am a huge fan of the minimalist look in theory, but the reality is we’re surrounded by clutter. I lived so much of my life with very little money that I still have a “poor” mentality. I’m not used to the idea that if I need it, I can afford to buy it now, so I tend to hold onto everything, thinking that I can’t afford to replace it if I need to. I also like to blame my children, because I do have that one who remembers every single toy she got in every single kids’ meal in her 13 years, and will ASK me where they are. The other one has a few special items but for the most part, she has never played with toys. I loved this article and will be keeping it in mind as I pack up for our move!

  16. Declutter, all the way! I don’t remember who said this or where I read it, but several years ago I read something about being a “stuff manager” and it really stuck with me. At the end of my years on this planet, I do not want to look back and reconcile the fact that I spent a large amount of my time managing “stuff” I don’t need. It is easy to fall into that trap, especially if you are a homemaker or work the majority of time from home. It has been a process for me ever since, and I’m humbled each time I take a load of “stuff” to a place that can really use it. Humbled is actually a kind word for it, really I’m a little ashamed at how much I’ve been able to unearth from this home. Now, I’m working with a community of friends to make sure our belongings end up in places of true need where they will be used right now.

  17. As I am preparing to move for the 4th time in 4 summers, I am making several trips to the thrift store. I love the feeling of seeing the stuff leave my home. The wonderful thing about moving often is that it does make you really evaluate what you want to keep.

  18. Over the past two weekends, we’ve sold 4 game consoles and my wedding dress. This weekend I’m donating one of our two tvs, a dvd player, and several more bags of clothes. My husband worries one day that he won’t be paying attention and I’ll put him in a donation box.

  19. We’ve put our house on the market just yesterday and the two week period that preceded the MLS listing was BRUTAL! After living abroad for five years, we had accumulated SO SO much and it was just TIME!

    I’d guess we moved out 60% of the STUFF that was in our home and it feels SO great to not be moving all of that stuff AGAIN.

    Decluttering DOES trump organization!

  20. I am yearning to get back to some serious decluttering. It’s crazy how if you aren’t intentional about it, things just creep their way in! And while I love organizing, I love decluttering more. Because lets face it, my two year old “reorganizes” everything I organize. 🙂

  21. I think the hardest thing about this is not having the rest of the family on board. My girl and I could be total minimalists. My husband and son–total pack rats. Nowhere near Hoarders, but still, too much stuff for me. Our move across the border this summer (moving from WA into Canada) will force us to get rid of even more stuff because we’ll have to downsize our living space based on cost. I’m totally up for getting rid of some of those toys that followed us out here!
    Sarah M

  22. We are a military family moving overseas at the end of the summer. We already know well only be there for a year and then we’ll be moving to another different overseas location for at least 3 years. I’ve been sorting through and clearing out. The more I clear out and think on what’s left, the more I find to clear. We are lucky to be able to hold some things in storage for our year hiatus, but I get stuck with how much will be too much? I hate to get rid of something only to find it useful later. All those blankets we don’t use on a day to day basis actually do get used for visitors and I’m anticipating at least a few visitors while overseas. But meanwhile they are crammed into the small hall closet.

  23. Thanks for your post. Inspiring me to re-purge and re-consider future purchases. Would love to get to a point where the consumption slows so the purging isn’t required as often.

  24. I love organizing, but I also love having less to organize! For us, we ask ourselves if what we are buying adds value or stress to our lives. It’s not always easy, but it sure is worth it.

  25. Thank you, this is my favourite post from you so far 🙂
    I feel inspired to really tackle this: make a difference, streamline, make more room for the important things by removing the extraneous, be honest about what stuff I should be spending my life with!
    Today is the day to get started.
    Today I will stop organizing the unimportant stuff.

  26. Sometimes I feel great after decluttering, and other times the bare shelf or bin makes me feel empty… I wonder why that is… did I go too far?

  27. I SO want to go on a major decluttering spree. My husband thinks things are meant to be kept/accumulated “just in case”. We have several boxes in our basement (family room) and in the garage – all HIS stuff. I think if he can’t even find a place to empty them (after TWO moves), that clearly he doesn’t need them. He disagrees. But, even ignoring his stuff (that I can’t control), I think the kids need to purge old/unused toys and I should get rid of (or make available for use) all of my old scrapbooking stuff that I never really got around to using. At least if we use it, it will be gone eventually! It would be so nice to have less stuff!!!

    • I think we might be living with the same family! LOL! My husband has boxes everywhere (to include his moms house, his grandfathers house, our garage, our storage room at this house, our storage facility in the states–we live overseas for his job right now), and won’t let me get rid of anything that is “his”…….the kids are pretty good though and like new things at Christmas, so are happy to purge in September! 🙂 I just can’t get him over the hump, tho all the pics of dream houses he shows me are minimalist style. 🙂 LOL!

  28. I am reading the Little House books to my four-year-old daughter right now, and we just got to the part where they were moving their belongings from the dugout into their newly-built house on the Minnesota plains. I am always struck by how very little they owned: a checked table cloth, a little china figurine, a couple pieces of furniture, a rag doll, a broom, and the like. And I always feel a pang deep down, wishing that I weren’t tied down to so much stuff. I do love a good decluttering session, and have had my fair share over the past few months before and after our recent move, but the truth is, I still have way too much. I guess that’s one of the ironies of living post-industrialization: Cheaper stuff=more stuff.

    But my question is, how do I snip emotional ties to the things I own? For instance, my aunt’s hand-made ceramics. They are beautifully and carefully made, and though they are small, I’ve amassed quite a few of them over the years. Not all of them are my favorite, but most of them give me a little surge of joy every time I look at them. I would like to say, “my aunt made these 5 pieces,” instead of “20 pieces”, but I don’t know how to pare them down!

    And keepsakes! I have 6 boxes full (I used to have more, but I weeded through them after the move) that I’ve collected since childhood, from my blankie, to sketchbooks and journals, to little odds and ends, each one telling a story. Ack! What to do? HOW to do…or do without… 🙂

    • sarah- the emotional ties are hard. a lot of times the emotion i feel most is guilt- how could i get rid of something so special in our family? through practice (and marriage to a total purger) it has gotten more and more freeing.

      with your aunt’s pieces, you would likely feel happy to part with some of the lesser-favorites if you knew they were going to be enjoyed by someone else. a niece or nephew? maybe you mail one out every time a cousin or younger family member has a birthday? then they are free to enjoy them too.

      i don’t know- that’s just an idea. i know i am happier to pass special things on if i have any inkling that they will be enjoyed well by the next owner.

    • That is very hard, I agree. I loved this from zenhabits:

      “Sentimental: The truth is, neither our love for the person, nor their love for us, nor our memories, are in the possession. The love is in us, and so are the memories. Letting go of the possession doesn’t mean we lose the love or the memories. Maybe a digital picture will help us remember — take some snapshots, upload them to Picasa or Flickr or iCloud or something like that, and you’ll always have the memories. Then focus on giving love to your loved ones now.”

      Here’s the link to the actual post:

    • I had an issue with reducing the “sentimental” after my first husband died- I couldn’t let go of anything that we had together, and to be honest, looking at each thing did give me a sense of our love and positive memories. When I started dating again, I slowly put things away and only pulled them out occasionally- I didn’t want to forget my first husband, but I also didn’t want to live in the past. Over time, I realized that I had a stronger emotional pull towards certain items (not necessarily the items I expected!). Since I didn’t want to store tubs of things that would just be pawed through once or twice a year (or less), I kept only the ones that gave me the greatest reaction, and I displayed as many of them as I could without creating clutter. The rest were passed on to those I knew would appreciate another memento of their brother/son/friend or they were donated/recycled.

      So my advice is to keep out the ceramics/childhood memories that you think are the best, and put the rest in a box. See if the ones you leave out are enough for you to remember the highlights. Actively use them to reminisce on your stories and memories, and see if you can still remember the things you used to mentally tie to other items. Eventually (maybe even soon!) you’ll begin to reorder your sentimentalism, and when you go pull out that box of the “others,” you might just find the story you used to associate with it is now even stronger with another item. Combined with other tricks (like photographing items, keeping a physical part rather than the whole item, and giving things away to those who will enjoy them), it will likely be much easier to let them go.

      Good luck!

    • If you cannot give them to other family members, what about taking photos of the entire ‘collection’ and then getting rid of the pieces you like the least (to a thrift store). This way you would still have the memory of the entire collection, but only actually physically have the pieces you treasure most.

  29. I’m in Yard Sale Mode, so I’m right there with you on decluttering! I do love having things organized, but I don’t love giving up my time to organize my things. I’m determined to be a lot more conscious about what we bring into the house and to be realistic about what we actually use vs. what we’re holding onto just in case. It feels like a constant battle.

  30. We’re preparing to go on a 6+ week trip this summer and this post (plus what you’ve shared on FB) has been so timely.
    I’m purging, especially our clothes, because if we won’t wear it during this trip we probably don’t need.
    It’s so freeing, thank-you!

  31. I recently overheard some ladies in the office talking about my lack of office decoration. They chuckled calling me minimalist and weird. Im so happy I’m a minimalist weirdo! I dont like stuff for the sake of having stuff.

  32. We’ve been in a “temporary” living situation for over a year and a half now. This June we will be moving into our new home and I cannot wait to go through and purge all that stuff that has been boxed up in storage for soooo long, that we obviously have lived very well without! I’m ridiculously excited about it and can’t wait to get started!

  33. We’ve been in a “temporary” living situation for over a year and a half now. This June we will be moving into our new home and I cannot wait to go through and purge all that stuff that has been boxed up in storage for soooo long, that we obviously have lived very well without! I’m ridiculously excited about it and can’t wait to get started!

  34. Perfect timing with this post! I guess you probably figure most of us are spring cleaning! 🙂 I am slowly working on de-cluttering and live by that quote of not having in your house that you do not find beautiful or useful!

  35. De-cluttering makes my heart sing! We (5 of us) recently moved into a 797-sq. ft. apartment, and YOU WOULD THINK that our clutter was gone for good, but there’s STILL MORE! Every day in May, I’m doing an Enough Experiment (inspired by Jeff Shinabarger’s book, More or Less) on my blog. On May 31, there will be NOTHING in my home that isn’t 100% useful or beautiful (and even some of the useful/beautiful will go, just because less is more). It’s so freeing!!

  36. My husband and I have been decluttering for a couple of weeks. After we filled an entire bay of our garage with items for donation, we realized that we could do even more! We have now decided to get rid of anything that we have not used in the past two years.

    Organizing is so much easier when you have less stuff! Now to take a look in our bureau drawers and closets…

  37. My husband have been saying this for years and finally has become my mantra just recently; “Less is More”…if you have less stuff, you don’t spend as much time to clean/take care of, thus more time in your hand, the time we often complain not having enough. We are gradually working towards becoming the “less” family, although there are constant fights with myself and excuses!
    Thank you for this post, I’m so encouraged.

  38. Thanks for this! 🙂 Exactly what I needed to hear as I begin the spring purge. We move out to summer camp every year and I’m reminded of how little I need and the kids need for day to day life. Also an encouragement to those of us who love the idea and the look of organization but just can’t pull it off. Eliminating is huge!

  39. Nailed it, friend!

  40. I read “Organized Simplicity” while I was nursing my newborn 24/7 two years ago. Our home has never been the same since I read your book and “got it.” I continue to implement so many principles and lessons I learned from your book, and it is one of the few books I refuse to loan out since I want to keep it on hand for reference — I just gift a new copy to friends so that they can have their very own “Organized Simplicity” manual. 🙂 We recently moved, and it has been so wonderful to be able to implement more and more of the principles outlined in your book as I unpack and settle into a new home with the opportunity for a fresh start. Thank you, Tsh! My husband and I both love you! 🙂

  41. Great post! we made two cross-country moves in the last two years, and both times we decided to purge – giving away/selling about half of our “stuff” and almost all of our furniture. It made moving ( especially with little ones) so much more relaxed, and was so freeing! It’s also great once we’ve gotten into our new places to make careful decisions about what gets to enter our four walls. As much fun as organization may be, I’ll take purging and then staying “lean”any day!

  42. My motto is, “I’d rather get rid of it than clean it up!”

    My poor son recently told someone, “My mom gets rid of toys!” Uhhh, yes. I guess that’s true.

  43. I so badly want to hire a dumpster and just throw stuff out. Big stuff, little stuff, red stuff and blue stuff. I just want it to go away. But, alas, my husband is a packrat (i clean out the holey socks when he’s at work and buy new ones for the drawer before he comes home) and my kids are starting to get sentimental about some things (and are amassing some little collections of rocks and keychains from our travels while living overseas).

    Any tips for just taking the plunge and tossing stuff? I’ll donate lots, but there’s a lot that is just plain trash too. And how do I keep from getting in trouble with the husband?! LOL!

    • I have this problem with my husband too. I just declutter my stuff and the common areas and let the atmosphere sink in. Eventually the contrast between serene and uncluttered versus nerve-racking and cluttered will penetrate his conciousness, at least it worked a bit for me.

  44. It’s amazing how decluttering never finishes. Our biggest challenge is Christmas and birthdays – no matter what you tell people, they will always load your kids up with toys that get played with once and then take up space forever. Same with clothes. I’m resigned to it now, and it’s useful to teach the kids to prioritize and value what they really want.

    That said, I’ve learned an important lesson when it comes to the declutter – be the change you want to see. It is sometimes tempting to try and give your stuff away to people you know, because this will somehow make you feel better about letting stuff go. Bad idea. Just perpetuates the problem around. Donate it to charity if it’s worth anything/useful, but otherwise just pitch/recycle it.

    Great post!

  45. This is so true! I actually moved recently to a *larger* house, and it has tons of closet space where my old had next to none. The temptation can be to just shove anything and everything into a closet, but I still am striving to pare down to those things I love or truly use. Now, with a bigger home, that means a lot more hospitality-centered items (guest bedding, serving dishes, glassware, etc.) but not just hordes of junky-junk-junk.

  46. Agreed! But here’s my honest question, what I’ve been pondering all afternoon as I polished off yet another load for donation into my vehicle: will I ever be satisfied? Will I ever “arrive” and feel that our home is truly it’s most simple and satisfactorily decluttered? (Without becoming a radical minimalist, that is?)

  47. D Roseboom says:

    I always declutter FIRST… Getting rid of stuff is FREEDOM!… But, the few things that remain are also organized … Even if I only have 5 blouses & 5 pairs of pants… if they are jumbled together with shoes, old newspapers, etc… that makes getting ready every morning more difficult.

  48. I’m sorry if someone’s already asked this. I’m having a bit of a mental block with visual decluttering/minimalist style because… well… it’s not my style. I really only display items that have some level of sentimental value, but decorative clutter, in a highly curated Anthropologie-esque way, is kind of my thing. It’s like I know I need to declutter – we have too many knick knacks and they never get dusted and it’s time for a change. But how do I minimize without losing the style that makes my home distinctively MINE?

    • Could you try removing one or two things from a room at a time? I’ve found that letting my eye readjust to fewer items takes a little while, but then that becomes the new normal and adding things back in seems wrong- and suddenly, it’s harder to add than just leaving the space with less.

      Over the last year or two, I’ve gotten rid of TONS of decorations and furniture- but I keep a small box of my favorite, unused pieces to swap out on occasion. Keeps things fresh and satisfies my needs for both sentimentalism AND change.

      PS- my 130 year old farmhouse is furnished with inexpensive, comfortable antiques that give it a laid-back, rustic charm (or so I imagine!). It’s exactly a reflection of my lifestyle and tastes, which were actually honed through a reduction in stuff. I feel more “me” than I did when I had five times as much. Also, I find that having integrity in materials and craftsmanship makes me much happier with less- I don’t have to cover up a shoddy replica with distractions!

    • Hi! I want to be very careful how I word this as I don’t want to offend anyone nor do I want to discount the message the Tsh and so many others share – a message that inspires me personally as well! But not everyone is a minimalist. Not everyone feels great with bare walls. You may not be a minimalist. The fact you are reading this blog may mean that part of the message resonates with you, the desire to live with a little less and a little more organized, the benefits of having fewer things, etc., and there are lots of tips and tricks for experimenting with that, as the above post-er shared. But try not to squeeze yourself into a look or feel that isn’t yours. If your closets are so full you can never find anything, de-cluttering may be just what you need. But if your Anthropolgie-esque table displays bring you great delight, enjoy them! 🙂

      • PS: I have some of Tsh’s books and just bought another one today so I’m definitely not against the declutter/simplify message!

  49. i’m a purger. like to the point where i’d often have to go back to the thrift store to re-buy something i’d cleared out. but still, clutter assaults my personal peace, so that’s the tune i jive to. 🙂

    i was just in ecuador, and i hadn’t bought a single blessed thing to bring back with me, and i wasn’t lamenting that fact until i saw The Blanket. it was alpaca and cream and beautiful and well-priced, and i mooned over that thing for a solid twenty minutes. but at the end we parted ways because all i could think about was the unfortunateness of hauling that thing back and forth across the world.

    it will be warm and lovely in someone else’s home, i’m certain. good enough for me.

  50. We tend to be good at the purging of things. But, then sometimes, it just sneaks up on you a bit, ya know? So, to be intentional about this, we are in throes of purging & downsizing homes. To the tune of 1000 sq ft less space. I’m so excited and overwhelmed. Anyway, I just sat down to write a bit and scrolled through my blog roll to find this jewel of a post! Ha! Thank you! Do you mind if I quote & link you?

  51. Jay_Hind says:

    Hi Tsh,

    I was directed here by Joshua Becker’s newsletter and my first thought was “how cluttred the interface is”.

    I had to actually use Evernote Clearly to remove distractions.

    I hope you work on that some.


    • I like reading your blog but I have to agree with Jay-Hind. I wish more websites would declutter. I also used Evernote Clearly for this. For me it’s really distracting.

      Less is more.. 😉

  52. I agree with you about organization. While it’s fun for some, for me it sometimes means that I still have stuff to account for in my life, stuff I still have to maintain, etc.

    And yes, it feels so good to get rid of unnecessary, unwanted things that don’t bring value to our lives! It makes me feel lighter and like I am really exerting control over my life. Gotta love living more intentionally.

    I’ve made decent progress but like to read articles/blogs/stories like yours to keep me motivated.

    Best wishes on your journey!

  53. Can I organize first? Then maybe the parts can be found to make a whole of what could have been trash before I declutter

  54. Gillie Ruth says:

    Love the ideas and comments. I have a different thing going. Our money is very tight, so, I am buying nothing throwing out only junk and plan to use everything I have accumulated until we MUST replace. So much in the pantry, the bathrooms, wardrobes, that are repeats of repeats that I will use up. The exception is a coffee out now and then, and something usable but lovely for birthdays etc. I WANT to buy as it makes me feel good, but, instead I am going to pack things awayand no t open them for a long while….then it will seem like shopping! Does this sound like a plan?

  55. Sister, Preach. Decluttering only works if you’re not constantly adding more.

  56. My daughter would never be ‘genuinely happy’ without the toys.
    Me and my husband – we minimize our belongings almost constantly – with the exception of books. But our girl collects pocket money and buys jewellery and MH dolls she just likes to have and look at. She doesn’t wear them, she doesn’t play with them, she enjoys having them and being able to look at them and touch them. So unlike her parents.

  57. Hi,
    Your ideas are simple, hurray. I have a lot of decluttering to do, and need to let go of the “someday” mentality. Also, I wanted to share your blog on Facebook, but Facebook won’t let me???
    Thanks for all you do!

  58. sherryanne says:

    Declutttering is a major issue in my family. Especially where it comes to the point that at the end of the day you are just the step-mum. I tried having my step-kids get rid of stuff and I’m known as the bad guy. They have a bunch of stuff that just lies around the place and no one seems to be using them and I’m like “hey guys, would you like to donate this to an orphanage, kids there would really appreciate it” and the reply is “No!My mom gave me that, I can’t give it away” yea my bad. So we came to an agreement to have these stuff boxed and place in a storage. Thanks to A-1 Moving & Storage, the job was done and I can finally call my house a home. Check out their website at

  59. Great article! I started decluttering as my new years resolution and I get rid of at least one thing everyday, which I post on my blog (everyday) ( I found the more stuff was around me, the messier it was, I was less happy and felt it cluttered up my brain, if that makes sense. Loving the change so far!

  60. I love these advices! Last year I moved to another house with my family and I must say that before the real moving we had a lot of decluttering job. We threw in the garbage a lot of useless stuff, others we donate but it definitely was a long process. I think that we should declutter our homes more often.

  61. AMEN! I’m doing a live FB event tonight on decluttering and so I wanted to immerse myself in the topic today. And I ran across your beautiful, calming website. I constantly tell my clients that less stuff equals more time. Not only do you have less to take care of but there is a lot less shopping. And that leads to loads of time for your favorite hobby. I’d much rather be reading or needlepointing than trolling the mall. I SO look forward to your future posts.

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