What Do You Really Need? Thoughts on Decluttering Your Home


Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful. – William Morris

I’ve moved about 35 times since I was born. Probably more than that, but, while compiling my list, I lost count around 1995 (I was able to pick my count up again around 1997. So… there’s that…)

Moving is a big pain in the butt, and the less you have, the easier it is to do. Moving frequently provided a constant excuse to sift and toss stuff that had accumulated since the last move.

Until I had children. Then it became harder. And harder.

It is near impossible for a new mother to fathom ridding a storage container of even one horribly blurry photo, congratulatory card, or itty bitty unused newborn diaper.

It would have been easier to rewire my house.

Despite my best efforts to avoid ever being featured on an episode of “Hoarders”, when the kids and I moved to Alabama to join Randy, there was much tossing.

Interestingly enough, I had thought I was all packed for the move. When the kids and I had moved to my parent’s I’d kept everything boxed and packed, except necessities, since the stay was (supposed to be) temporary. All I thought we had to do was load it onto a truck.

But once I tried to view the things moved into our home, it became apparent that, even if all of it did fit, it wasn’t necessarily needed. We didn’t need two blenders, or three can openers, or sheets for mattress sizes we didn’t own. So we went through every packed box, tossing and combining contents.

In the end, we probably tossed (either in the recycle/trash or to donations) a third of what had been packed.

Of all of that “stuff”, the only thing I have missed was an art portfolio that was accidentally thrown away *slight stifled sob* – but even that gave me an excuse to create new art. Other than that? I couldn’t tell you a single thing that was thrown out, and neither could the children.

I’m not just talking about getting rid of clutter. I’m talking about going beyond that. If it doesn’t add beauty or usefulness to your home, take a really good look at it and consider if it’s worth keeping/dusting/cleaning/washing etc.

My point is not that ‘stuff’ is bad, but rather our relationship with it can be. It weighs us down.

It was freeing to leave so much of what I had thought was important in a trash bin.

Some (very basic) Steps for Getting Rid of Things

There are thousands of fabulously written articles by honest-to-goodness organizers on the internet, and I encourage you to do a search on them, and try their suggestions. What follows are just some of the things that have worked for me.

Assess: Does it bring beauty and pleasure to your home? Does it make a regular task more simple? If not, toss it. Our small home has made us live more purposefully. We have to think about the things we own and why we own them.

Start small: a room in your home, a corner of that room, a drawer. Break it down to as small as necessary to remove the feeling of being overwhelmed by it.

Time yourself: set the timer for 15 minutes and go through a spot in your home.

Sort: Keep, Trash/Recycle, Donate. Quickly place things into one of the piles. Don’t hold on to any one object too long before deciding which pile to place it in. Go with your first reaction. Add a ‘Maybe’ pile if it’s a struggle but then go back through the piles once more, quickly. Box up anything left in the “Maybe” pile, and give yourself 3 months before revisiting the box and either tossing or keeping.

One in, one out: Every time you purchase a new book, an old one needs to go away (donate, give to a friend, sell)

Make it a regular task: Because we live in a small home, any clutter is quickly felt. While this makes it easier for me to stay inspired to stick with it, it’s still something I have to set aside time for, nearly weekly, just to stay on top of it. Whether it’s my computer desktop, the floor around my desk, the children’s bookshelf, the kitchen counter, there is always some place in the home that needs de-cluttering attention.

What are your decluttering tips? What are you holding onto, physically or emotionally, that you need to toss?

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  1. says

    I have been going through the same thing, but without moving. I realized that despite the fact that we have THREE storage buildings on our property that are all full, our house still edged toward an episode of “Hoarders.” It’s definately a process. I have been through our kitchen and laundry room at least twice so far, and there’s still a ton of stuff that I know could be discarded. The living room/den still needs a lot of decluttering. It houses most of my decorative clutter that’s so hard to separate yourself from. I’m just trying to take it 15 minutes at a time. Progress, not perfection!

  2. says

    Great post Karla! It can get overwhelming going through the internet for inspiration from all those professional organizers. like you said, BABY STEPS! :-)

  3. carrie says

    The hardest part of this for me is parting with the items that are part of my daughter’s childhood. I have saved items from when she was a baby thinking she may want them when she gets older. I do that with other family heirlooms as well. I only have her so I keep thinking she will want them and they will be important to her. She is 15 and I feel if I give away some of these items, I am losing that time of her life.

    • di says

      I did the same, but my daughter become a minimalist and requires very little. Instead, she travels and has more free time to pursue her career.

  4. Freya says

    One site that can definitely help you deal with clutter and unneeded stuff is Freecycle. I’ve gotten rid of a lot of items that way! For books, there is BookCrossing.com, making the whole world one big library.


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