I receive lots of questions about how to begin the decluttering process. I am not a decluttering expert and I don’t claim to know everything, but I have been decluttering for the past six months. I feel I have a solid understanding of how to get started and how to keep going.
I was talking with my amazing cousin recently and she asked if I would ever consider helping someone else declutter their space. After talking about it she agreed to be my guinea pig for a day of decluttering, to see if it’s something I could help someone else do!
I’ve decided to document the process here so you can get a better idea of how and where to begin! I also love looking at before and after pictures of newly decluttered spaces, I thought you might too.
So here we go!
My cousin has read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up so she was in the perfect mindset to get started. I strongly recommend this book. It really can change your life if you let it. You have to be in the right mindset to declutter.
The motivation to change your space comes from visualizing what kind of lifestyle you want. Do you want to live in a clear, clutter free space? What do you want your life and your space to look like?
When you have a clear mental picture of what you want your life to look like, you are ready to begin. Proper mindset comes before decluttering because when things get difficult during the process, you can remind yourself of the overall vision you have for your life.
After you have your mind and heart in the right place I recommend following the KonMari decluttering method. Click here to read in detail what the KonMari method entails.
In short, it’s about decluttering by category rather than by room and touching each item you own to see if it sparks joy. If it does keep it, and if it doesn’t- thank it and let it go.
My cousin and I started with her clothes! Clothing is the best category to start with because we’re all pretty familiar with sifting through clothing and donating what we no longer wear. The KonMari method is a more intensive way of sifting through.
We went around the house and gathered every clothing item that she had! (Remember to only declutter your own items. Never declutter items for someone else. You can set an example by decluttering your own things but it is not okay to give away items that belong to someone else- we don’t know what does or does not spark joy for others.)
Here are a few pictures of us gathering clothes!
We piled everything on her bed- always have a central decluttering location. Remember to check everywhere. Check every closet, in your car, and under the bed.
Whatever clothing items you don’t add to the pile, and you find later, need to immediately be donated. If you can’t remember you own it, it probably doesn’t spark much joy.
Next we separated the clothes into three piles: donate, maybe, sparks joy.
My cousin did an amazing job. Her smallest pile was the “spark joy” pile! She had a very clear vision of what she wanted and she ended up donating 90% of the “maybe” pile as well. As you begin to touch each item your sense of what sparks joy becomes stronger. It will keep getting stronger the more you declutter.
After reorganizing the clothing that sparked joy we immediately took the donate items to the car.
I think it is best to immediately remove the items that don’t spark joy. Thank them for sparking joy at one point in your life and get them to your local thrift store or donation center. Try not to let them stay in your home for more than a day.
It is also important to not let other people see what you are letting go of. Family and friends always mean well but they may see you giving items away that are “perfectly fine,” but if they don’t spark joy you shouldn’t keep them.
Other people can often misunderstand the process, “keep it secret keep it safe”.
After breaking for lunch something really great happened! My cousin’s husband (cousin #2) came home and quickly decluttered some of his clothing items while on his lunch break!
Letting things go
The joy of decluttering will spread if you let it happen naturally. Gentle suggestions are far more powerful than telling someone else what to do.
Because we had coats to hang up in a different closet after decluttering clothes, we naturally moved to my cousin’s coat closet and the space surrounding it! We wanted her coats that sparked joy to be in a location that also sparked joy.
We did the same thing in this space, my cousin picked up each item and if it didn’t spark joy she thanked it and let it go. Her sense of what made her joyful and what didn’t was so strong at this point I barely needed to do anything!
Decluttering is so powerful and addicting- in a good way!
Here are pictures of the decluttered closet and the space surrounding it.
Something really beautiful happened as we continued to declutter. My cousin shared stories of where her items were from or why they sparked so much joy. This bench was a church pew that belonged to her husband’s grandpa. Her favorite jacket? She got it on sale in New York City and the first time she went out in it, a man on the street stopped her and said, “I just LOVEthat jacket!” Her favorite sweater is bright and colorful and makes you smile when you see it.
The story of her joy sparking items are the story of her. She is colorful, vibrant, warm and full of love and so many cool life adventures.
We don’t need endless amounts of things. When we begin to let them go the items that are part of our heart come to the forefront. They no longer have to hide in dusty corners or under beds because they become part of our everyday. Shouldn’t our favorite things constantly be in our life sparking joy?
I say yes, yes they definitely should.
Our final project of the day was decluttering the bedroom and making it a clear, comfortable space. She wanted it to be a space she loved being in. What a wonderful vision. I think all of the rooms in our homes should be places we just love being in- decluttering can give you that.
We went through all the items in her bedroom to see if they still sparked joy. The joy sparkers stayed and the rest she let go.
Her bedroom went from something like this:
That is a space I think many of us would be more than happy to be in.
Surround yourself with only the items that spark joy in your heart, let the rest go.