Decluttering our way towards minimalism is a three-part series where I talk about, well, our family’s journey decluttering and moving towards minimalism. In part one, I talked about said journey, listed the questions we ask to help aid us in getting rid of items as well as simply determining if this is the right journey for you. If you missed part one, or want to read it again, you can find it here.
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Part two will detail the most difficult areas of our house to declutter, and some helpful tips to get through these areas. The areas include:
- The Kitchen
- Our clothes
- Kids Toys
- Excess paper
Before we move on, if you want to review my decluttering disclaimers, the benefits of decluttering for motivation, or the questions I recommend asking when going through each item, I would highly recommend going back to part one of this series and quickly review.
When we started going through the kitchen, I was amazed by how many unused items we had. The following list is just a snippet of everything we went through, but includes some of the items that stood out to us.
- Extra items for hosting: We had a lot of stuff for hosting, but we honestly only host large gatherings once or twice a year. The remaining times we host friends or family, our regular, everyday dishes are enough. Think about how many times you host gatherings a year. Does that number match up to how much ‘hosting’ stuff you’re storing?
- Duplicate items: How many sets of measuring cups, spatulas, sheet pans, coffee mugs, etc. do you actually need/use? We found we had a lot of duplicate items that were just taking up space. We quickly realized that we use the same ‘favorite’ set of coffee mugs, spatulas, measuring spoons, (you get the idea) over and over anyway. The rest of the lesser used items were just taking up space and contributing to clutter. By getting rid of the extra items we didn’t use as much, it lets the items we love really shine through. Plus, no more digging through the drawer or cabinet to find them!
- Single-use/’As Seen on TV’ items: Ok, we’ve all fallen prey to the super-awesome-will-solve-all-your-life’s-problems-kitchen-gadget. How many times a week do you actually use these items? For us, there were some over others that we use regularly: a rice cooker and bread machine versus the salad spinner, pancake batter mixer, and sushi maker kit. Oh, and that waffle maker you have but never use because you hate to clean it, why do you still have it (theoretical situation, of course…)?
- Cookbooks: Most of the recipes we use regularly are online. After going through our cookbook collection, we set a goal that if we hadn’t used a single recipe within the next six months, we would donate them (remember how I said this process was a continuous process?). Turns out, we actually use our cookbooks a lot more now that we have a few that shine out to us.
Ah, the clothes. The three adjectives I would use to describe our clothes situation would be: Overwhelming, frustrating, and excessive.
My husband and I had both gone through some weight transformation; my husband lost weight, and I was still working on getting rid of the weight I gained while pregnant. We were holding onto clothes that didn’t even fit us! Admittingly, it was easier for my husband to get rid of the clothes that were too big for him. For me, it was definitely more of a mental process I had to go through to accept my body the way it was post-baby, then go out and find clothes that fit me and made me feel more confident. After going through all of our clothes, we had enough space in our 3’ wide x 3’ deep closet to move our dresser from the bedroom, the result being more free space in our actual bedroom.
To start tackling your clothes, I would start by going through and taking out each item. If you haven’t worn the item lately, don’t love the item, are saving the item for a future unknown date/time, think about donating/selling it. And if it doesn’t fit, why do you still have it? By getting rid of the excess clothes you don’t like or don’t fit, you leave room for the clothes you LOVE to wear and that make you feel good. Be honest, you usually reach for the same outfits, right? I know I do.
If the thought of donating a lot of clothes at once overwhelms you, lots of people swear by the ‘hanger’ trick.
Here are some of the ways we got rid of our clothes:
- Like – new, brand name women items: For brand name, like new items, we sent in those clothes to ThredUp, my favorite online second-hand store. If ThredUp accepts your items, you get paid or website credit towards future items. If they don’t accept them you can request they send the items back to you, or have them donate/recycle the items.
- Male Suits: My husband had a number of suits that were too big for him. We decided we wanted to donate them to a local homeless shelter that would give them to men who were preparing for job interviews.
- Bridesmaid and other fancy dresses: Locally we have some charities that accept prom, bridesmaid and other formal dresses for girls for prom.
- Remaining adult clothes: Locally we have organizations who will come to your house to pick up boxes of donated items, which works perfectly for us. We are the type of people who will (and have) drive around with boxes of donated items for a long time because we keep putting off dropping the boxes off at Goodwill or another charity like them.
- Given away to new moms: We have given boxes away to family members and friends who were having babies
- Sell!: We sold kids clothes online through Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or other local sites
- Kids Clothes Swaps: Kids clothes swaps are great. You can bring in clothes that no longer fit, and find ones that do! We have done this for shoes, winter gear, and diapers.
- Moms Groups: I am part of a local mom group and have given some away to the moms there too, as we have received clothes from other moms!
Kids toys and books. The ultimate clutter causing item. Well, maybe not, but it sure can feel like that sometimes. Here is how we manage our son’s toys and books.
I feel like we ‘cheat’ in this area because we belong to a community organization called the ‘Minneapolis Toy Library’. If you have one in your area, or if you are not sure, take my word for it and go google it RIGHT. NOW. It is exactly what it sounds like: a library, but with toys, that you can check out on a bi-weekly or monthly basis. It is a double win for us because if there is a toy that gets half-played with or E has grown out of, we can donate it to the toy library, and if he decides he wants to play with it again we can simply check it out. We also like that it is teaching him not to become too attached to ‘things’, which is part of the minimalist behavioral shift we are working on.
In regards to the other toys we own, we have one multi-bin organizer that holds toys and books. E has a table with a couple chairs in his room for coloring and crafts. He has one bin for stuffed animals. In our main living and room, he is designated one area in each room where he can keep toys/puzzles. If we start getting to a point where his toys don’t fit into any of these areas, we will go through and see if there are any we can donate or sell. By keeping up with this ‘rule’, it doesn’t take too much time to clean up, and everything has a spot so it actually looks somewhat neat and organized once the toys are in their place.
While that may not sound like many toys, I can assure you that often my husband and I still complain that it is too much. He has many toys he doesn’t play with regularly and I constantly feel like I’m tripping over toys. There are a number of great articles out there discussing why owning fewer toys can actually benefit kids. Check them out here, here and here. One benefit is that by having fewer toys, we find that we spend more time outside which is something we love to do. We love to be outside; going for walks, hikes, nature walks and whatever other adventures we find. We also love just sitting in our backyard (well, my husband and I do, E prefers to be on the move). It didn’t make sense to us to be storing a ton of extra toys that don’t really get played with all that much inside.
Toys are definitely an important part of growth and development for kids. Playing with toys have so many benefits. And we certainly aren’t depriving our son of anything. We have just made it a focus to be mindful about the number of toys that he has and try to focus on engaging him in other activities that we find important as well.
Let me start off by saying that we believe that reading is incredibly important. We started reading to E the day we brought him home from the hospital and continue to do so daily. But books seem to quickly pile up at our house. To combat this, we make use of our local library and donate to our neighborhood free little libraries. This has not only helped reduce the amount we keep around, it also helps our budget!
Paper clutter is the bane of my existence. We have found the key to trying to combat it is to do something, anything with it as soon as it comes in. Make a spot for every type of paper: coupons, mail to file, mail to shred or recycle, etc. Then, as soon as it comes in, take care of it RIGHT AWAY. Do not allow it to pile up because it is so easy to get out of hand. At least for us, it is. Here are two of the key paper pain points (say that three times fast) for us and our solutions:
- Junk Mail: We signed up for the national ‘do not mail’ list which has cut down on the junk mail substantially. You can find information about that from the FTC website by clicking here. The remaining junk mail we either will contact the company (usually an email will do) and ask to be removed. Legally, they are supposed to do so. Otherwise, we use the junk mail for starting backyard fires or we recycle.
- Kids Artwork: Even with E only being a little under 2 years old, we still find we have artwork piling up. To combat this, we have a couple spots the fridge, give some to friends/family, and finally, we have ONE binder that I have started saving some of the really special pieces. As we continue to get more and more, I will go through the binder and slowly start rotating pieces out. As E gets older, I will solicit his help in deciding which ones to keep. I have heard of some people keep a container in their kids closet for this type of thing. Then, at the end of the school year when all the paperwork comes home, they go through the box together and decide what to keep. The key is that it all has to fit within the binder/box. One additional item you can use which we love is this kid’s artwork frame where you can store/rotate up to 50 pieces of artwork.
The areas listed above proved to be some of the most challenging. But by working through them little by little, and coming up with a plan to change our mindset and behaviors around ‘stuff’, we are moving towards becoming minimalists. I talk about these mindsets and behaviors in detail in part 3 of this series. There will also be a free, downloadable 30-day decluttering list!
One other nugget of information: Finding places to donate that were meaningful to us helped us tremendously to get rid of stuff. For example, we had a lot of old and extra towels and we donated them to our local vet hospital that one of our cats stayed at for a while.
What areas of your household are the most cluttered? What tips do you have to help declutter certain areas?