Inside: Here you’ll find five tough love decluttering tips to help you not only declutter your home, but live a clutter free life.
We’ve all got that one person in our lives, or at least we all should. You know, that one friend, or perhaps a sibling, you can count on to just tell you like it is. They don’t waste time beating around the bush or coddling your feelings. Instead, they listen to your problem and then smack you right upside the head, figuratively of course, with the very tough love advice you need to hear in that moment.
I know which friend to call when I want to vent and be reassured, and I know which friend to call when I need the cold hard facts.
Sure, there is a time and place for coddling. We all need it now and then. But the same goes for that tough love. Sometimes it’s what we need most.
While I deeply believe grace is the number one ingredient when moving from an overabundance of stuff to a clutter free life, it’s easy to get stuck stocking up on feel-good tips when what we need is a heavy dose of reality.
At the risk of being a bit too aggressive, I’m going to be that one friend for you. The tell you exactly like it is friend. If you’re not in a place to hear it like it is, here’s an article you may enjoy a bit more today. Just be sure and hold on to this one for the future.
If you’re desperate to get decluttered and in need of some tough love, proceed.
Here are 7 Tough Love Decluttering Tips to Help You Make Real Progress.
1. Stop Overvaluing Your Stuff.
Years ago, when my kids were babies, I pulled up to a garage sale loaded with kids’ stuff. I’m a big fan of thrifting. Especially kids’ clothing. You can find some high-quality pieces if you know where to look. #iykyk
As I started to sift through her collection of baby items I noticed she had priced her stuff super high. I’m talking oddly high for used clothing. Like any good garage sale-er, I naturally I tried to negotiate. When I offered her a more reasonable dollar figure for a couple of used onesies she turned to me, offended, and said, “No! That’s less than I paid for them.”
Confused, I nodded and subtly moonwalked back to my car. Clearly, we had different garage sale philosophies, but I imagine at the end of the day she was still left with a pretty full garage.
Remember, when selling your excess stuff, it is only worth what a stranger will pay for it. They don’t care that you bought that fantastic dress with the money from your very first paycheck out of college. They simply want a good deal on something they need. Remember, it’s used stuff.
On top of listing an item for a reasonable price, I recommend limiting how long you try to sell it for. Give it a few days. If nobody bites, donate it. Overvaluing your possessions will keep your home cluttered indefinitely.
2. Stop buying Stuff You Don’t Need
There is this great SNL skit with Steve Martin and Amy Poehler from 2013 called, “Don’t Buy Stuff.” You can watch it here. It’s a bit snarky, but if you’re still reading, I think you can handle it.
My best tip for living clutter free is to stop buying stuff you don’t truly, deeply, actually need. If your home is filled to the brim, stop bringing more stuff in. My grace-based approach to minimalism encourages readers to declutter at a pace that works for them, ignore minimalist misconceptions and set realistic decluttering goals. It encourages people to stop focusing on how their minimalism looks from the outside, but rather how it changes you and your home from the inside out.
That said, it doesn’t really matter how much you declutter if you don’t also stop bringing in new, unnecessary things. Figure out what you really need (for each of us, it’s going to be different) and then keep those things. Ignore changing trends and don’t spend your life trying to keep up with what everyone else is buying for their homes.
3. Wherever You Go You Take YOU with You
I know the feeling of wanting to just run. To want to either donate it all and start from scratch or even move into a new home and start over. Maybe you think a larger home with more space or closets would do the trick. Or maybe you feel like you don’t have the energy to tackle the clutter in your current home.
I get it. We almost moved too. Not because we needed to, but because we thought we needed more space for our “growing family.” However, it wasn’t our children who needed more room to stretch their legs. It was that the amount of stuff in our home was beginning to crowd out the people!
Here’s the tough love: Wherever you go, you take you with you. It may feel nice to start over somewhere new. Perhaps a few extra closets could help hold back the tide for a couple more years. However, the reality is, if you haven’t done the deeper work to understand why you had so much stuff in the first place, history is bound to repeat itself.
In my book, Messy Minimalism: Realistic Strategies for the Rest of Us, I spend an entire quarter of the book discussing foundational mindset shifts we must make in order to maintain our clutter-free homes. What’s all the effort for if we can’t also keep it that way for good?
4. Your Family Doesn’t Want Your Stuff Either
This can be a tough pill to swallow. If you’re holding onto piles of stuff thinking your children and grandchildren will appreciate it all once you’re gone, you’re likely wrong. Now there may be a piece or two they treasure, but for the most part, they don’t want to sift through your belongings when you’re gone. Statistically, they already have a home full of their own stuff. They don’t have the space or capacity to mine for gold in your home as well. If there are treasured pieces you hope to one day pass down, consider doing so sooner than later. At the very least, ask those family members if they actually want the items you’re saving for them.
If you haven’t read the book, The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margareta Magnusson. I highly, highly recommend it. It’s a shorter book packed with gentle and wise advice for decluttering as you age.
I’ve watched as my grandmother has done this very thing over the years. She’s given me glassware we use daily, and she’s generously offered her children and grandchildren cookbooks, home decor and pieces of furniture she no longer needs. Sometimes they’re accepted and sometimes they’re declined. Her home has slowly become a space filled with only the items essential and fulfilling to her today.
5. You’re Holding on to “Someday” Stuff Someone Else Needs Right Now.
While your extended family may not want your stuff, there are plenty of strangers out there in need of the stuff you’re still holding onto, “just in case.”
Generosity is the secret weapon to combat clutter. We can spend months hemming and hawing over whether we’ll one day need those extra baking dishes. Or we can drop them off at the rescue mission thrift store and let them find their way to someone who could actually use them now, while funding a worthy community resource.
6. You’re Not Just Messy or Disorganized. You have too much crap.
Okay, you may also be messy and disorganized, (same here) but your home is a mess because you’re trying to hold on to as much stuff as an organized individual. There are people who are just great at managing more stuff than others. I am not one of those people. It’s time to ask yourself if you aren’t as well.
For more on minimalism for messy people (and organized people), read: Messy Minimalism: Realistic Strategies for the Rest of Us
7. Your Clutter is Robbing You of Your Life.
Unlike cash, time is something we can never earn back. All of that stuff you spent your down time shopping for, your weekends organizing and then every January decluttering, is distracting you from fully engaging in your life.
There’s good news though. Today is a new day, with new moments and memories to engage in.
I’ve found over the years, whether in the form of stuff or something else entirely, distraction threatens to steal our time by luring our minds from the things that matter to the things that don’t.
It’s time to stop wasting (in the words of poet Marie Oliver) our “one wild and precious life.”
For more on living undistracted read: Things that Matter by Joshua Becker. Available now where books are sold.
I get that there will be exceptions to these tough love tips. I’ve watched Antique Roadshow enough times to know that holding on to your Aunt’s pottery collection occasionally pays off. There will be exceptions, but for the majority of us they aren’t exceptions but rather excuses. They’re “What ifs?” keeping us cluttered rather than living free of the weight of too much stuff.
Do you have any other tough love tips to add to this list? Comment below.
Need Some Serious Decluttering Motivation?
Here we will tackle 3 common decluttering obstacles so you can let go and get uncluttered for good. If you’ve ever gotten started and then gotten stuck, this FREE resource is for you!
For more information on Messy Minimalism head to MessyMinimalism.com
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