One of the most important aspects of cleaning is decluttering. This is something that I really struggled with at the beginning of my cleaning career and I still often find it difficult to this day. Decluttering is a constant work in progress for me and my family, which is why I have pulled together some of my favorite decluttering and cleaning tips here that will really help you ease into the process of minimalism.
If you like the idea of approaching a messy room with a strategy, try checking our eBook the 3 Wave System. It is an approach I came up with several years ago, when I started my cleaning business, to teach myself how to clean and get the best results when tackling a really messy room.
Live it Like a Lifestyle
I think the fallacy with minimalism is that people think it’s sort of a one-time event, where you go through and get rid of everything in your home, and then, voila, you’re a minimalist. Well, to me, a minimalist is sort of an evolving process for each individual. Everyone takes it differently and everyone has a different idea of what it means to them. If you used to have a lot of stuff in your house, it might not feel reasonable or realistic for you to have only a few things, but minimalism might mean that you have halved your stuff, and now live in a much more free and airy space because that’s what feels good to you. Essentially minimalism is what it means to you, but there are a few things to keep mind when getting rid of stuff.
Remember that it is not a one-time event, but instead an ongoing process. It has to be something that you maintain, kind of the way that someone makes a lifestyle change and it affects there their whole routine. If you’re committed to minimalism it can do wonders for your decluttering and cleaning, saving you time, effort, and money in the long run!
Check out our eBook My Secret 3 Wave Cleaning for a quick and easy way to tackle any messy space!
Embrace Empty Space
Someone once commented, “Melissa, how can I take decluttering advice from you when you went from living in a small house to moving into a much larger home?” Now, this is true, Chad and I did jump up in square footage with our new home, but what we have tried to do in this space is learn how to embrace empty and open space.
We definitely did not plan to live sparsely without anything exciting or beautiful to look at, but we do like to try and be open to having empty spaces throughout our home. In our old house, we just had a lot of stuff in there that wasn’t serving us, so we began to declutter and it is something that we do to this day, even in our new home. We didn’t move into this house because we wanted to fill it with junk and more stuff, so we try to declutter as we go.
So long as your space suits your needs and your lifestyle, there’s a way that you can approach minimalism by simply living in a space that’s not cluttered. Instead of responding to the urgency to fill a space with stuff and clutter it up with extra things you don’t need, give yourself some time with a room and feel out what would work best for it and for you.
The Six Second Rule
We’ve all heard of the 5-second rule but there’s now a 6-second rule for minimalist living that will change your mindset and the way you shop. When you pick up an item that you are considering buying, ask yourself, “Do I need this? Do I use this? Do I love this?”. If you can’t answer yes to all of those questions, then you probably don’t have to spend the money on it. When you’re going through your space, always think critically, pick up that item, think of the 6-second rule, and really consider whether you need it or not.
Actually Donate Things
It’s easy to say that we’ll donate a pile of stuff at some point in the future, but when does that time actually come? Throughout my cleaning journey, I have talked about how Chad and I have what we call a waste station in our house. This is, simply put, a little area in our house where we put stuff we don’t think we want or need anymore. Now, at any point, while that item is in the waste station we can go and take it back if we truly do need or miss it, but most of the time we put stuff there and never think about it again.
The one thing I will say is that we aren’t necessarily the best at actually taking that stuff and donating it. Often times the waste station just collects dust. So, this is a reminder for you, and for us, that if we have things piling up and know we want to donate them, then take them today, or tomorrow, or sometime soon! Don’t procrastinate and let that pile of stuff overtake your house. I assure you, as soon as I am done writing this, I am taking all of our waste station stuff right to the donation center!
Vote with Your Dollar
Being a conscious consumer means that you can vote with your dollar. If you are interested in the political or environmental climate, or if there’s a cause that’s particularly meaningful to you that you want to support, it’s always best to vote with your dollars and be conscious of what you buy and how much. It’s always good to do research before you buy new products and try to support companies that are aligned with your beliefs.
For our family, we have begun to notice that we buy a lot of things off of online marketplaces because it is cheap and efficient. I don’t need to name company names, but you guys are smart and you can pick up on what I’m putting down. So, we’ve actually decided to start looking for more local sources and more sources that have meaning to us when making our purchase decisions. We’ve really dug into supporting small, local businesses during this time. We’ve been taking our money out of those big online market places and actually putting it into other economies and other business that we feel are important to us. So, as you think about your budget and the way in which you’re spending your money, think about the quality of items you’re buying and also where you are buying them from. Make conscious buying decisions and vote with your dollar!
Nighttime Cleaning Routine
I have to admit, I’m not the best at tidying up, and although I have improved a lot since my years of getting into the cleaning business, I still find it a drag sometimes. However, one of the things that makes a huge difference for me, is to tidy up nightly and put things back in their place at the end of the night. This has become a sort of habit, with Chad and I sharing the duties. Sometimes I do it and sometimes he does it, and we find a bit of teamwork goes a long way.
Personally, I find it helps to take inventory of everything that I have so that I can come up with a good understanding of what needs to get done. Do I have to add something to the shopping list? Is that a duplicate? Are all the items in my space back in their rightful place? This is so important to do because your home is like a living and breathing thing, constantly changing to meet your needs. It’s moving, it’s changing, and it’s dynamic, so we have to be attentive to the ebb and flow.
If we aren’t in tune with our space and our needs, then things tend to get cluttered up and it is hard to live a minimalist lifestyle. This is also a great chance for you to take stock of everything you have and start to decide what you don’t need or want to get rid of. Stacking these two tasks is a great way to efficiently get your cleaning and decluttering routines done at the same time!
Quality Not Quantity
In a world where dollar stores are plentiful and constant consumption and buying feel pervasive, I’m a big fan of buying fewer things that cost more and are of better quality. That way, I only need to buy them once and they actually last! Quality over quantity, form over function. That’s what I think about when I make purchase decisions.
Now, growing up, I was so budget conscious and I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on something, but over the years I’ve changed my tune because I realized that when I buy something inexpensive and cheap in terms of quality, it doesn’t last as long or look as great. If I spend more on a well-made thing and I buy fewer of them overall, such as 3 good shirts instead of 10 cheap shirts, then they will last longer, look better, and hold up over time, doing a better job in the end. Minimalists look at things like quality over quantity and form over function to get the best use of their space and items!
Avoid Single Use Items
Buying something for one specific purpose can end up costing you a lot of money and give you an item that you simply store for a long time that you aren’t really going to need. I’ll give you the perfect example.
A couple of years ago Chad and I joined a couple of friends at a cottage that was rented up North. We had all these grand plans of spending days on the lake so we bought ourselves a couple of lifejackets. Now, normally, when Chad and I go out on the water, we go somewhere where we can rent the vessel, which always comes with lifejackets. Perfect, safe, and non-expensive. But for this particular weekend the cottage didn’t have any so we bought two, and guess what? They have been sitting in our garage for 2 straight years, untouched, and we barely even used them at the cottage. The point is, we’re getting rid of them now as they’ve become just another point of clutter. Avoid single-use items and you’ll find yourself on the road to a beautiful minimalist lifestyle!
Check out our article on Polybags and Plastic Waste to learn more about avoiding single-use items that clutter up our houses, garbage cans, and landfills.
Don’t Second Guess Yourself, Clear Surface Challenge
Second guessing is a trap I often fall into and I know many others do as well. You have gone through the decluttering process, and you look at something and say, “Maybe I still need this”, then you just leave it where it is. The truth is, if you’ve already deliberated to the point of first deciding to get rid of something, the chances that you will use it, in the end, are quite slim.
If you questioned it in the first place, you’re probably not going to need it. A recent example for me was a hair product that I picked up. Hair products for me are so guilt-ridden because you use them once and if they don’t work well, you never want to use them again, leaving you with a bottle full of product. Anyhow, I had this product sitting on my bathroom counter and I considered using it again, but then I remember it turned my hair into a nest and it had been weeks since I had used it. So, I took it and got rid of it. Just like that. Although I second guessed myself, I made sure to follow through with my instincts and get rid of it asap. If you have stuff that you are unsure of but don’t think you’ll need or want, just toss it in the waste station and forget about it. Take away as much stress as you can, so you can focus on the things that are most important like enjoying your home and space.
I have an experiment for those of you who are feeling like sticking your toes into the pool of minimalism but aren’t quite sure how to get started. Clear all of the surfaces from your home, from every table to every counter. Find a temporary place for each item and live for a bit with clear surfaces in your home. The period of time you’re going to try this for is up to you. Could be a week or maybe two, but the idea here is to experience what if feels like to live in a very sparse space.
Then, when the experiment is over you can begin again to place things back on your surfaces, but you’ll notice that you’ll be more conscious of the empty spaces in your home and what you decide to keep around versus what you decide to ditch. Perhaps you’ll put only half of the things back on your surfaces, perhaps less, but either way, you’ll be more deliberate with what you leave around.
The problem we often encounter with our surfaces, and spaces as a whole, is that we tend to get used to things without realizing it. We don’t really pay attention to things because we have to put so much on autopilot to focus on the things that we really need to work on. A lot of clutter just becomes background noise, but it does buildup overtime. Decluttering and shocking your system like this, really helps you rethink your space and everything that you have in your home. It’s a great experiment to try and is a great place to start when looking for a more minimalist lifestyle.
Thanks so much for reading today! Hopefully you can walk away with a few tips and tricks on how to declutter your home and start enjoying your space more!
Looking for a BETTER & EASIER Way to Clean Your Home?
Cleaning Expert Melissa Maker is here to help with her game-changing 3 Wave Cleaning System that will help you clean your house faster and easier than you ever thought possible!