7 Tough Love Decluttering Tips

Inside: Here you’ll find five tough love decluttering tips to help you not only declutter your home, but live a clutter free life.


tough love decluttering tips

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.

tough love decluttering tips

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?

messy minimaism
Messy Minimalism: Realistic Strategies for the Rest of Us.

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.

Tough Love Decluttering Tips
This is my most favorite coffee mug passed down to me from my grandmother.

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.

Things That Matter

Exceptions

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?

Sign-up for the, FREE 3 Day Email Series, Unstuck.

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!

minimalist bloggers

Messy Minimalism, Available Where Books Are Sold

Sick of the clutter, but not quite sure “minimalism” as you know it is for you? You’re probably right. Minimalism as you know it, probably isn’t for you. It wasn’t for me either.
Because of that, Messy Minimalism was born. Messy Minimalism is a doable, grace-based approach to living a clutter free life. It frees you up to embrace the mess, live with less and create an imperfectly perfect home for you.

For more information on Messy Minimalism head to MessyMinimalism.com


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7 thoughts on “7 Tough Love Decluttering Tips

  1. Love this post!! I want to share it with everyone! It’s hard to let go of family heirlooms, but I also would keep them in a box and not display, so out they go!

  2. I’m in a situation where I can’t for the first time in my life figure out where I go from here. Had a plan, got overwhelmed, had a plan, got overwhelmed. We moved in 2019 and 5 weeks later had over 25k worth of storm damage. Water pouring in from the damaged roof forced things to be jammed and crammed into available totes. Covid prevented the construction crew from being able to come back to finish so we are left with that. I have MS and the last couple years have been bad health wise for me and we added a wrist surgery that I’m getting better from along with mandatory overtime for my husband who has been left taking care of everything “normal” while I heal up. I’ve been working on things as I can but we honestly do not have a single room, closet or space that we don’t have to finish something on/in. And it will be dusty work besides. We don’t even know what we use regularly because we haven’t had the opportunity to find out. I do know if I don’t want to reclean absolutely anything/everything (again) we do need to keep it will all have to go into totes encased in garbage bags and it’ll be move, shift, rotate from area to area again. I get an area purged out and cannot set up anything for any kind of convenient usage or to make it feel like home. It’s literally sucked the life, energy, hopefulness and motivation right out of me. Looking at piles of totes makes me want to throw everything out but replacement of items we will need is not something we will be able to just replace. I’m sorry for the long and whiny rant. I know there are so many that don’t even have a roof over their head. I was more organized when homeless but it was just me and not the pups and the husband and family when they come to visit. This usually alphabetical order, color coded with sub category organized everything person doesn’t even know what is here or where it’s actually at. Yes there’s a whole list of items we wish we knew exactly where they are hiding. Sorry I’m still going on with this, I really am beyond blessed compared to so many others.
    So I will continue to sort into donate, toss, keep n pack n label for location when needed and keep n pack until I’m sure it’s not something that my husband was hoping would be found or can be used here to make daily living better with my MS at the end of this home repair hell or until I’m sick of looking at the totes (which I already am). Unless someone has an idea and it’s something I’m so blocked I cannot see

  3. Hubby and I once had a holiday home which we loved to visit because it was filled only with what we needed, it was so peaceful and relaxing, that glimpse of how our actual home and lives could be has inspired me to declutter our home, rehome heirlooms to now adult children, preserve family history in 3 display cabinets – his, her, ours and above all look closely at what is brought into our home…its a work in progress but the pieces are coming together nicely and we are already reaping benefits with peace of mind.

  4. Thank you Rachelle! I have been decluttering for about of years now and absolutely love the feeling of owning less.
    But with three (always growing) kids in the house, things find their way back in.
    And my weak spot is to get a bargain some times. It feels almost like when you eat all healthy but one day just have that cake and ice cream.
    So it’s a great reminder to look at that again. Thank you for your work and your fun writing style.

  5. Like you I have to remind family and friends, I am blunt and give my honest opinion so if that is not what you want to hear do not ask my opinion or advice on anything. LOL. That being said, I preach #1 to a few family members and others if asked, but you could shout it at them and they will hold onto that article of possession and refuse to get rid of it till they get “fair market value”. Drives me crazy. I just don’t understand the mentality of it. Once you are 60 its easier and easier to follow along with your 7 tips here. I no longer want to burden myself or my loved ones.

  6. Having cleaned out the homes of our departed parents and a great-aunt (that’s FOUR homes) my husband and I very much appreciate the tough love tip that your family does NOT want your crap! I cannot tell you how many dumpsters we mercilessly filled with their “treasures” which no one else treasured. We found it stressful AND expensive AND very unkind to have to clean up someone else’s mess. And so now WE are on a quest to ensure we do not punish our children/grandchildren with that kind of ordeal. It’s not the kind of “memory” we want to leave them with about us. /S

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