Declutter my life

7 ways to declutter your life


Travelling a lot, living out of my backpack not needing much made me think it is better to completely declutter my life. Where to start? How to do this?
I will tell you why I wanted to declutter my life, how I decluttered my life and I will also tell you about 7 ways to declutter your life.


Why should I declutter my life?

Well, what is said above, I travel a lot and I don’t need that much actually. I can live out of a backpack for months, so probably that is all what I really need. Everything else is unconsciously pulling me back. It asks for energy because I have to deal with it. Energy I can better spend on something else.

We are used to the idea that we need just a little bit more than we have. Sometimes that we desperately need something, that we’re not good enough if we don’t have this new-to-buy-thing. Or even that you need different versions of the same thing. We have clothes, but every year they do new fashion styles. So should we buy every year everything again, just because our old clothes are not from this year’s style? Or in the supermarket, I almost get the feeling that I have to buy 20 kinds of peanut butter because every kind is slightly different. So at several places, we get the feeling we have to buy different kinds from one thing or new stuff because it is better.

This society wants us to buy more and more, and so I did. And now I do have way too many clothes, nail-polish in all the colours you can think of, shoes, bags, etc. I almost drowned in my own stuff. When I had my own apartment that I had so much stuff, that I sometimes even didn’t know I had it or I was sure about having it but no way I could find it. I wonder how much time we lose with so much stuff, searching for things, buying more stuff etc.

The promised feeling?

Sitting on top of my own pile of stuff I wonder: why should I declutter my life? And maybe you too? Because it doesn’t bring me the happiness that was promised, to safe fix that energy leak and to not get drowned in uselessness. And also maybe too safe our world. We have so much stuff that we don’t need at all, or what could have been borrowed for that one time we needed it, instead of buying our own. We are wasting our money, precious resources, lots of energy and creating a huge pile of waste.


My experience

Short about my life. I travelled, had my stuff in storage where it could stay for a certain period but after this, I had to clear that out. I made up my mind and decided I don’t want to keep moving my stuff or pay for different storage, for things that I don’t even need in the first place. My idea for the future is more travelling and hopefully one day owning a tiny house. (read my blog about this here).

So I made the decision to get rid of everything else that didn’t fit in this plan. When I came back to The Netherlands, my home country, I decided to go through everything. Did it according to through spreading it over three piles with my plans in my head. One pile that I definitely wanted to keep or needed, one ‘maybe’ pile and one big pile of stuff that I was deleting out of my life.

So I kept some useful stuff for living in a tiny house. Like some cutlery, kitchen stuff and a few small storage boxes that are useful in cabinets. I kept stuff that I take with me while travelling and things that I really want to keep. Stuff that makes me happy or has emotional value with it.
Because this life I have now and the way I want to live I don’t need furniture so I got rid of all of that too.


It takes some time…

Well, that’s to say, it is not gone yet. I made the three piles, already got through the maybe pile, most of it I placed it on the ‘get rid of it’ pile. So I know what to keep and what not to keep but I don’t want to throw it out in the garbage so I try to sell most of it and what is left I will bring to a second-hand store.
Because I can really use the money for my travels I decided to sell most. It is a little bit more work and takes some effort but clearing my stuff feels good.
I already stood at a flea market. It was really fun until it started pouring out of the sky like crazy. Everything was soaking wet. Back home, it took us two days to dry everything. So the clearing process takes time especially if you decide to sell things But yeah, it took me several years to collect all the stuff, can’t expect it to be gone just like that. So I tell myself: don’t give up, it will feel good.


I want to declutter my life but what to keep?

This is a bit personal and also depends on your situation. It is important to keep a good balance between what you need and what you want.
You need for example a bed or something to sleep in, things you use in daily life, but you want different dresses, to not have to wear the same one every day, things that make you happy or have an emotional value for you.
If you have to declutter because of space, keep in mind that what you need is more important than what you want.
The things you need you keep. The things you want you are going through again and make sure you don’t exaggerate. Like you want several outfits but more than 20 is way too many.

Don’t throw out important things you need to make more space for things you (just) want. That is not how decluttering works, you have to learn to let go sometimes. Make choices, change your mindset.


To refer to my situation. When travelling I only take with me what I need and maybe a couple of items that I really want. That is pretty much similar to what I need if I get back to my home country for a few weeks.
But I always have a bit more clothes in my home-country that I can throw out something that is worn out during the trip or if it is different weather that I can change. And it also makes me happy to finally wear something different than having the same pairs of clothes all those travelling months.


Some advice:

Place everything you want to keep in one room so you can see what you have.

I am going to store the few boxes I am keeping on the attic of a family member so I already placed everything in boxes. This made that I didn’t have a clear view of what I have already. This way it was not easy to really make a good decision about what I need and don’t need, because I couldn’t see it all. So maybe I packed some glasses to many for my kitchen but well that last part we will declutter when I move into my tiny house.


7 ways to declutter your life

Find your own style.

1. Go through it in steps.

Go through your house and throw out (give away or sell) 10 items in each room. This can be from too many shampoo bottles to manuals you don’t need anymore or some of your collections of bags. Don’t take it too difficult the first time. Make sure you do every room in the first week. The next week you do the same, again 10 things. Keep doing this until you only have left what you really need. You unconsciously make steps in decluttering your life. First the easy things and later more difficult things. So also your mind can get used to it. If 10 items don’t work for you, start with 5 or 3 (each room, each week.)


2. Built your progress

Start the first day with three things. Again start easy that shirt you never wear anyway. The next day six things, the day after 9 and so on. (Why three? I don’t know I think it is a good number to make a bit progress but also not too much go crazy).


3. Definitely keeping, maybe, can go… (I used this method)

Another way is to go through all your stuff and make three piles. A pile with stuff you definitely need and want to keep, a pile with stuff you maybe want to keep and a pile with stuff that can go.
After your done with everything, you have to go through the ‘maybe’ pile again and figure out what has to stay and what has to go. Here it is good to know the ‘why’. Why are you decluttering? Are you going to live smaller? Then maybe there is not even room for stuff in the maybe pile. This reason for decluttering can make that your whole maybe pile has to leave the building.


4. Emotional value?

This way you make two piles. One with stuff that is practical, one with stuff that has emotional value for you somehow, Stuff that doesn’t belong on either pile you can question yourself why you have it in the first place and get rid of it right away.
There is stuff like clothes, books, etc that is sometimes difficult to place. It kind of belongs to both. Items that belong to both you definitely keep them; like clothes that you really like, that make you happy, and at the same time are useful, are good to keep. But that pile of shirts that are just nice to have… maybe you can better give them to someone else.
If you are not sure about things, try to place them in a pile. Like cooking books are more useful than Romans. But that one cooking book that you got from your grandma can have emotional value but also useful value, so you definitely want to keep that one.

After you made the two piles you go through the piles again. If you have a lot of nostalgic stuff you can sort out what you really want to keep; what is the best memory. You don’t need to keep 50 pieces what gives you similar nostalgic memories.
Same for the practical pile. You don’t actually need 20 pots and pans. How many do you really use? Keep those. For that one time with Christmas when your whole family is coming for dinner, you can maybe just borrow a big pot instead of keeping yours for this one time a year.


5. One thing a day

If you want to declutter your life but also feel like you are not ready yet, take it slow. Do only one thing a day. You can keep doing this for a month, a year or until you are happy with what is left. And/or later you can change to a different method if you feel ready and want more progress.


6. Boxing it up

Place everything in boxes. Every kind in one box. So a box for clothes, for electronics, for kitchen stuff, for towels etc. Live for a week and everything you really need, take it out of the box. After this week everything that is left in the boxes you can throw out and give it to a friend or to a second-hand store.
I have not tried this way myself, but I would recommend going through the boxes before you throw them out to get a few things out that do have a lot of emotional value for you.


7. One in – two out

I heard of this one but I’m not sure if I’m a big fan of it because I believe most of us have enough already so no need to buy new stuff. But this one goes like this: if you buy something new you have to get rid of two things. For example, you buy a new dress you have to get rid of 2 other pieces of clothes.


Choose a method that feels good for you and go ahead!


Important: also change your mindset, this decluttering is not meant to make space to buy new stuff. The whole idea is to get used to a new lifestyle with less stuff and more of who you are. After decluttering you have to keep up the good lifestyle.
Also if you later see things that you didn’t use for a while, ask yourself if you need it and otherwise get rid of it as well.


Have fun, clear some space in your house and with this in your mind and feel the burden sliding off your shoulders.