Minimalism – Your Guide to Decluttering and Editing

Last month we kicked off our three part 90 day minimalism challenge introducing the ideology of minimalism as well as the manipulative marketing tactics that can lead to aggressive consumerism. It is important to understand both sides of the spectrum in order to appreciate a simplified style of living. Let’s embark upon phase 2 of the journey: letting go of life’s excess aka editing.

“Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts us from it.” – Joshua Becker, Becoming Minimalist

  1. Get the ball rolling

The idea of going minimal is appealing to many, however, the implementation can be a bit intimidating to put it mildly. The challenge can feel even greater if you share your home with more than one or two people. For very large families, the idea of minimalism can feel downright terrifying. But then again, it may be the most liberating choice out there!


The question, “where do I begin?” paralyzes most human beings not only in organizing but in almost any life scenario. As we all know taking the first step is the most challenging. Energy feeds on energy. Once you get the balling rolling though you may not be able to stop the momentum you’ve created.


Eliminating excess doesn’t have to be an unpleasant process. The fear we create in our mind is usually much bigger than our reality. Once you have made the decision, remember to stay connected to the intention you set in part 1. As a gentle reminder, your intention should focus on how you’d like your home to FEEL? Decluttering is often a cathartic process, healing countless emotional struggles as you feel and integrate the benefits of lightening your load physically, mentally, energetically and emotionally.


But, How do I Get the Ball Rolling?


Start Small Please do not think that you need to edit your home in one session or all in one day. That would overwhelm even the most skilled professional organizer out there! Attempting to take on too much will lead to loss of motivation.


Pick one category to start with and make it an area you know you have time to complete. Ideally, the choice is low on the emotional charge scale, meaning you have the least attachment. A few suggestions: a purse that has been neglected, an overflowing junk drawer, the trunk of your car or your reusable tote bag collection.


Every now and again your ego is going to try and keep you “safe.” It’s going to convince you that your old ways of doing things are better and all of this evaluating and letting go is just way too hard. Use your intention as an anchor when distractions or fear start to set in. Staying connected to your WHY will be like having your best friend right there holding your hand.


Build a Support System When we begin a new project or journey, surrounding ourselves with like-minded individuals has proven to help maintain accountability. Besides, no one really likes to be the lone wolf 24/7, right? Going it alone is necessary in certain situations but their is nothing that compares to the support from a like-minded tribe.


Consider challenging your neighbors, friends or spouse to join the minimalist path and have a multi-family yard sale. Profits can be invested in fun conscious adventures or to cut down on single use products and wisely purchase items that can be used in more than one way. Hint: coconut oil, amset of chef’s knives, mason jars or socks that hold a lifetime guarantee. When you buy sustainable items you set yourself up to connect with a huge support system. Mother Nature also notices when you support her by making conscious decisions that help the environment.


Memorabilia and Sentimental Pieces Remember when I said editing might be challenging and you were going to have to have an anchor to keep your head on straight? The memorabilia category is the most emotionally charged, therefore it is generally speaking the most challenging and the most time consuming to edit. Most truly sentimental items are irreplaceable and that’s the rub. How do we let go of something we know we may never be able to replace?


The easiest solution is to take a photo of the item and create photo albums accompanied by journal entries. This way, the memory has been recorded and the photo album is much smaller and easier to store. Ideally, the “album” is a digital creation that lives on an external hard drive eliminating even more clutter. Think about all your kids art projects taking up space in a bin in the garage that could easily be photographed, categorized, noted and then responsibly recycled. It won’t be easy with each sentimental item so follow your gut. Recognize when something truly sparks joy and when you are holding on for less productive reasons.  


Let go of Guilt and put Your Needs First Quite often people have a hard time letting go things that were gifted to them. There is an underlying fear that the gift giver will be upset if the receiver discards the gift. Let’s be honest here. Guilt is self induced. No one can make you feel anything.


Gifts are lovely sentiments but they don’t always match where we are with our lifestyle. And that is OK! Honor the intentions you set for yourself and let go of items that you don’t deeply love or feel have a purpose in your life. Once you understand that you are in complete control of your emotions, letting go of what’s weighing you down gets a whole lot easier.

“The true purpose of a present is to be received. Presents are not “things” but a means for conveying someone’s feelings. When viewed from this perspective, you don’t need to feel guilty for parting with a gift. Just thank if for the joy it gave you when you first received it.” -Marie Kondo, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

  1. Guidelines for Editing

Now that you’ve been pumped up and are feeling motivated, you are ready to roll up your sleeves and hit the ground running. For the most part, the rules for editing in each area of your home will be the same, the way you go about it may vary based on the types of items in each space.


Designate a Sorting Area You’re going to need to set aside an open space for sorting. Create clearly marked bags or bins with the following signs: TRASH, RECYCLE, DONATE, REPAIR, SELL, RELOCATE, BELONGS TO OTHER PEOPLE, ETC.


Like with Like Next, choose the category or category you plan to work on. For example, if you plan to organize your pantry take all the food out and begin grouping all the pasta together, all the canned items together, all the cereals together and so on. Some categories make sense to group together such as dried fruit and nuts, oil with vinegar, etc.

Evaluate Start with these basic questions as you look at each and every item in your possession.

  1. Is the item still in good condition and functioning? Are there holes, rips, tears, cracks, chips, etc. If food, check the expiration date and notice if there are any bugs inside of open packages. We see this quite, often so please make sure to look through any and all open food products very thoroughly.
  2. When was the last time you used the item? Unless it’s a specific holiday item that only gets used once a year, the likelihood of you using something you haven’t used in over a year is pretty slim. We tend to gravitate toward the new, the now and what’s right in front of us.
  3. How versatile it the item in question? If it is overly specific (ie avocado pit remover or pineapple corer) there is a good chance that a simpler solution exists. Consider letting go of things that only serve a single purpose and invest in multipurpose tools. A black or tan pair of shoes go a lot further than a turquoise or hot pink pair. You catch my drift?
  4. Do you love it? Or in the words of Marie Kondo, “Does it spark joy?” Yes, even your cutting board and hiking shoes should spark joy!

Sort After you evaluate each item, place it into one of the designated categories outlined above. Exceptions would be large or very bulky items that may not fit into a bag or bin. You may want to tag donations with blue painters tape so that they are easily identifiable once you make the call for a donation pick up. At the end of your session, you’ll need to set aside time to responsibly discard, relocate and drop off the piles that you can easily manage.

Remove the Discards on the Same Day Once you’ve decided what is trash, recycling, donatable or belongs to other people, I can’t stress enough how important it is to follow through on the same day! Take the garbage and recycling out to the bins, drop off any repairs to the appropriate vendors, take what you can to consignment shops or donation facilities. This step is vital in your minimalist commitment. If you leave the items in your possession you may start to have second thoughts and the bags or bins create the kind of clutter you are working toward reducing and hopefully eliminating altogether.

The following charitable organizations offer free pick-up services but make sure to schedule accordingly as it can often take a few weeks:

Habitat for Humanity

National Council of Jewish Women Thrift Store

The Goodwill

The Salvation Army

If you have the cash to spare, another great option we’ve been utilizing are on-demand pick-up services: Buddytruk and Pikkup. They are well worth the investment at $1 mile and $1 a minute to pick up your heavier items and drop them at your nearest donation facility.

  1. References and Challenges to Enhance Your Journey

One of the best parts about undertaking this life-changing transition is the community of people who are going through or have already gone through the same process. There is an explosion of resources and assistance available nowadays that can aid you in achieving your best. A few of our personal favorites:

Project 333

clothing rack
clothing rack

Project 333 is designed to help you reduce your wardrobe. Choose 33 items out of your closet to sustain you for 3 months, and pack the rest away. Exceptions include: loungewear, underwear, athletic clothing, wedding rings and holiday themed pieces (depending on the time of year). There are so many individuals documenting their project 333 journeys online, which can help for inspiration and support! For help getting started, try this article by Joshua Becker: A Practical Guide To Owning Fewer Clothes.


The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up: the Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo

While many people are obsessed with Marie Kondo’s immaculately file folded drawers, others find her tactics a little too intense. We fall somewhere in the middle. We stick by Kondo’s philosophy of only keeping the items that “spark joy” or only what we truly love, but her military style tactics don’t set well with us. We love to treat our items with care but we don’t do high pressure rules. Just as each person is unique, the amount of “stuff” and how they process it will be unique.

Marie Kondo book
Marie Kondo book

You will find great tips, advice and practice guides within the pages of her book

The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up: the Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo. It’s worth the read and as the saying goes, take what you like and leave the rest.