When I became pregnant, I panicked for a bit… Where were we going to put the baby?! When we moved into our home in 2014, I thought we would never be able to fill all the rooms. Five years later, every room and closet was full, made worse by the fact I was blogging full-time and packages of skincare, makeup, and clothing arrived every day from PR companies. It sounds like that would be a great thing, but truthfully, I felt like I was drowning in STUFF. And the last thing I wanted to do was bring a baby into our clutter.
I read books on tidying, looked up decluttering articles online, and watched Marie Kondo’s TV series for inspiration. My mom offered to help and over the course of 2-3 months we donated or gave away 50% of our belongings. This includes furniture, some of which we replaced with newer and baby-friendly versions, so I suppose the actual percentage is closer to 30%… But still… It’s something I never thought could be done when we started.
The change I’ve felt since letting go of items that didn’t fit, items I didn’t use, and items we simply didn’t need has been incredible. I felt this immediate weight off my shoulders and my mind felt less cluttered too. After actually realizing how much we had I felt wasteful. The feeling of letting it go was so freeing, I promised myself I would never let it happen again.
#1 – Totality is Key
I don’t think the Marie Kondo method needs to be followed exactly, but I do agree with her on one thing. If you’re going to clear out, you need to go through the entire house. It will take time, but it’s worth it… If you don’t, you’ll find yourself shuffling stuff from room to room and closet to closet. And you won’t have the freeing feeling when you let go of so many unnecessary things.
Start with your main living area – which room or rooms do you spend the most time in? We started with the main floor of our house. Once we had decluttered there, it felt so good to walk in and spend the majority of our time in a tidy space it was easy to find the motivation to declutter the other two floors. Every drawer, every cupboard, every closet, and every container in those spaces. My mom and I would go through items and sort them into piles. John would load everything into his truck and take loads to Goodwill and Salvation Army when it was full. If you can only do one room a weekend, that’s fine. But don’t stop until you’ve gone through your entire house or apartment.
#2 – Four Piles
Keep, Donate, Give, Trash/Recycle. Take a look at your space and assess exactly how much room you have for items if they are displayed neat and tidy as if they’re in a shop. That’s what you can keep. Continue looking at your keep pile – if it grows too large to store in your space neatly, edit it down and move it over to the other three piles.
The donate pile is to drop off at Goodwill or Salvation Army (nicer items going to consignment could go here as well). The give pile is for items that will be given to friends or family. And the trash/recycle pile is for paper items or items that are damaged or beyond use.
You could add a fifth pile for items you want to sell on eBay or Poshmark, but I wanted things out of my house so badly I avoided selling online and chose to send/drop off at consignment shops. Kouture and Rags in Cherry Creek and Common Threads in Wash Park are consignment shops you local Denver girls suggested.
#3 – Focus on Joy
The best takeaway from Marie Kondo is the question she asks declutterers to ask themselves when choosing whether to keep or discard an item. Does this item spark joy? It’s sounds silly, but its incredibly effective. When you walk into a space, when you are choosing what to wear, when you are applying skincare or makeup… You should feel joy. You should feel excited to wear that dress, excited to apply your favorite lipstick, excited to walk into your home office and sit down in your favorite chair. When you pick up or look at something that sparks joy, it should feel like seeing a great friend across the room. Ahh… There you are!
Damaged items, clothing that doesn’t fit, pajamas that look old and sloppy… These items don’t bring you joy. They are disappointing and bring you down. Don’t you deserve to have a drawer full of pretty bras and panties? You are worth looking neat and tidy, even if you’re just at home. So say goodbye to your stained sorority tee and those saggy old yoga pants. You deserve better. You’re worth putting on an outfit that makes you feel amazing every single day. How you look on the outside will, without a doubt, affect how you feel on the inside.
When you walk into a space, does it bring you joy? If not, keep tidying and tweaking your decor until it does. Your physical space should be full of useful things and items you actually love. I used to fill every surface with little decor elements, potted flowers, and stacks of books, thinking more was more. My mom started taking them away and… My living space felt clean, fresh, and organized! Less is often more when it comes to interiors. Try taking everything off a surface and only adding back three items. Does it look better to you?
#4 – Create Space for Sentimental Things
When we began decluttering I realized I was holding onto a lot of things for sentimental reasons. I had little boxes and files full of papers and business cards and tickets from fashion weeks and vacations. I was holding on to the memories, but I realized I didn’t need these items to do that. I kept a few things to scrapbook and fondly remembered each item as I let it go into the waste bin.
Marie Kondo has a method for things that are tough to let go. Thank the item for what it did for you and put it into its proper pile. Do you have a gift from someone you’ve been keeping just because it was a gift? Maybe it wasn’t your style or you don’t use it. Simply thank it for being a gift and making you feel appreciated and grateful in the moment. It did its job – now let it go. Think of the person that will stumble upon your sweater from Aunt Mildred and be thrilled when they find it at Goodwill.
Right now, go into the Photos on your phone. Make a new album and title it Things I Want To Remember. When you’re decluttering and you find something from the past you want to remember but don’t need to keep, take a photo of it and file the photo into this album. That way, you can look back on it (much easier than going into your storage and tracking it down, by the way) and remember it, but it doesn’t have to take up physical space in your home. Because physical space in your home equates to physical weight on your mind. I was able to let go of so many things using this technique.
#4 – Time of Last Use
When was the last time you used something? Has it been over a year since you last wore something? If so, chances are you won’t ever wear it again. My mom’s stylist used to say if you’re getting dressed and you say no to something three times or more, you’ll never wear it. We are creatures of habit and we know what we feel comfortable in and what flatters our bodies. If it’s been over a year since you wore something it’s time to say goodbye.
I make an exception for special occasion pieces. My time limit is three years here. The special occasion pieces should spark joy as well – you should want to put it on as you’re looking at it. But if it doesn’t fit and/or you haven’t worn it in three years, it needs to go. I let go of a lot of evening clutches this way; I have two or three favorite clutches I use regularly but the others hadn’t been carried in years… If I was honest with myself I knew I would always choose the two or three that spark joy. The others could go on to Goodwill for someone else to enjoy.
My time limit for skin care, makeup, beauty products, and beauty tools is two years. (I know people rant about expiration dates but I believe most of that is marketing.) You should look at your beauty stash and see things that you actually use and that make you feel beautiful. I had all sorts of gadgets for at-home facials that I wasn’t using so those went, along with makeup that wasn’t flattering on my skin tone and perfumes I didn’t really love.
Are you a sample and hotel product hoarder like I am? Get an apothecary jar and store them in your guest bathroom for guests to use when they forget products. Put them in a small container where you keep your travel bags and use them when you travel. Otherwise, make a point to use these minis up first before you use anything else in your bathroom cabinet. Every year, I go on a beauty buying ban for 3 months to use up my products. Sometimes I do this twice a year.
For dishes and kitchen appliances, my time limit is two years. If you have a shelf of crock pots you never use, get rid of them and create space for something you actually love. We can have great intentions to become the next Martha Stewart, but the truth is, most of those kitchen gadgets are just gathering dust.
The “spark joy” factor applies here too – are those faded souvenir plastic cups really making you feel happy when you open your cabinet? What about that dish towel with the hole in it or your cracked coffee mug? You deserve to have pretty things to use when enjoying your morning coffee or cooking a meal. Every mundane morning feels more special when I give myself permission to use my best china and a beautiful napkin.
#6 – Smart Storage Solutions
Now that you’ve decluttered, the goal is to keep your space tidy… And to want to keep your space tidy. Get yourself pretty file folders for important documents. Tuck one of these spinning shelves under your bathroom sink for easy-to-reach hair products. Contain small items like contacts and bobby pins in these clear bins. Coordinated storage always makes a space feel more organized – get matching hangers and stock shelves with matching baskets.
Get creative with your storage solutions. I love recycling nice accessory boxes or shoe boxes as containers for printed photos and mementos. Then I use my Labelmaker to keep everything organized and store them in large plastic totes.
Most importantly, repeat this exercise once a year to keep on top of it. Once you’ve done it the first time, each year after won’t take you as long. You can quickly assess what you have, remove what’s unnecessary, and move on. But your home (and mind!) will continue to feel fresh and uncluttered.