If you would like some specific guidance as you prepare to spring clean, check out my previous post on the subject.
But if you're new to minimalism, or just starting to declutter (or even if you're an old pro, and just want a little tune-up), you need to understand why you're doing what you're doing, where to start, and how to maintain all of your good work. Here are some basics to help you on your way.
9 Basic Decluttering Principles
1. Identify your values.
Minimalism highlights the things you value by removing everything else. But it's a personal decision. What's important to you will be different from others. The goal isn't deprivation – it's satisfaction.
So maybe you need plenty of extra seating because you entertain often, or you sew your own clothes and also make the costumes for a local theater group. You want to make space for these activities and their tools, even though a formal dining room with fancy dishware or a dedicated sewing room might not look "minimalist" to someone else.
Remove what doesn't matter to make room for what does.
2. Include your partner.
A common question asked by people who long to simplify is "What should I do about my roommate's/spouse's clutter?" And the answer is: you must respect him and what he values. Work on your own clutter first, and reach some agreements about shared spaces. Talk about what you each want from your home, and keep talking until you arrive at guidelines you both feel comfortable with.
3. Don't simply reorganize – declutter.
It's common for people to confuse "organized" with "clutter-free." But minimalists know you can't organize yourself out of a mess. You must start by choosing the possessions you need and want, so that you know exactly which things to remove.
Don't run out to buy new containers or a fancy organizing system. Instead of filling each space in your home with as much as you possibly can, even if it looks organized, choose the best, the most useful, your favorites. Those things get first dibs on the space, and the rest can be purged. It's not an emotional decision, it's a practical one.
4. Start with the easy things.
You don't start simplifying by getting rid of your beloved grandmother's china, even if you never use it. You start by getting rid of duplicates, freebies, things that don't work the way they're supposed to, things you've never liked (even if they were gifts), and dusty boxes in storage with contents you no longer remember. You know these things aren't important and that you won't miss them.
As you live with some newfound space and clarity, it becomes easier to determine which of your remaining items actually contribute to your life, and which are unneeded.
5. Have a place for everything.
You know you've decluttered successfully when everything you own has a home and can be retrieved or put away with a minimum of fuss.
6. Create new habits.
Habits keep your home clutter-free. Don't just put things down in a random spot – put them away. Make your bed, and keep up with laundry, dishes, and the mail. Take 15 minutes every week for a quick purge.
7. Be mindful.
When you're not paying attention, clutter could creep back into your home. Without thinking about it, you might return to old habits of acquiring things on impulse and hanging onto things "just in case." You might be influenced by advertising or by what a Facebook friend has or does. Practice being a gatekeeper.
8. Remember the benefits.
Clutter isn't cute. It's not funny. A cluttered life is frustrating, stressful, wasteful, and exhausting. Once you understand the freedom and ease that minimalism can bring, don't look back.
9. Make your own choices.
As you practice a simpler life, you get good at focusing on what you need and want, regardless of what other people do with their time, money, and energy. You may choose to live in a smaller house, keep only one car, or give up TV and a few social obligations because doing so makes you happier. Follow your head and your heart, not the crowd.
For more practical inspiration to make room for what you really want in life, look for my newest book, The Minimalist Tool Kit: Habits and Strategies to Help You Find Freedom and Happiness with Less.
Photo by Elena G. on Unsplash