5 Ways to Live More Simply Even If You Can't Declutter Yet

When I began decluttering I had no idea of the time and effort it would take.

I spent many evenings and weekends sorting through stuff I had accumulated in drawers, closets, and dozens of dusty boxes stashed in the garage.  Each item I touched required a decision – what to keep and how to responsibly donate or discard the rest.

Every time I released an item, I felt lighter.  Keeping only my most useful and favorite belongings made me appreciate what I kept even more.

clutter-free home

The essential evolution

Decluttering made a huge difference to my life, but it isn't what made the biggest difference.  Instead, a few simple mindset shifts brought me more peace and happiness at home and work – even before I launched my epic decluttering project.

Even if you can't start decluttering right now, you can start living more simply.

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Do you have a dream?

Imagine if you could snap your fingers, make the mess go away, and start over today!

Isn't that why we love those makeover reveals on HGTV?  Every item has been chosen with care.  Everything is new, fresh, and uncluttered.

Unfortunately, that's not how it works in real life.  If we want to live with less, eventually we have to do the hard work of letting go.  There's no other way.  But if you're struggling with that, you can try a different approach. 

You will get to your stuff.  But first, start with your brain.

You want a simpler, more peaceful life at home and at work, and you're hoping to discover a clear roadmap to get there.  But it takes time and energy to undo what you've done for so many years.

If you can shift your mindset now, you can change your future.  When you create new habits and new ways of thinking, you can cultivate a life you love.

5 practical steps to a more minimalist mindset

Even if you can't set aside time to declutter now, these five simple steps will help you change your mindset for more peace and happiness.

1.  Watch for this cycle.

I used to purge things from my home on a regular basis simply because I wanted new stuff.  I'd donate some, have a yard sale, make a little money, and go shopping.  I was caught in a consume/donate cycle.

Many of us shop because we're bored, sad, or stressed, and it leads to clutter and debt.  Advertisements are everywhere, all of them designed to make us discontented.  Marketers try to convince us that we'll be happier, sexier, and more interesting if we buy what they're selling.

I was never satisfied with what I bought for very long, but I never thought about why.

So before you declutter, think about what matters most to you.  Start with these questions:   

  • If relationships, achievements, and experiences are so satisfying, why do we spend so much time acquiring and servicing our stuff?
  • If buying new stuff is supposed to make us happy, why is the pleasure so short-lived?
  • What are we longing for that all of our shopping doesn't fulfill?

2.  Wear blinders.

I've been comparing myself to others since grade school, either finding ways to feel superior, or (more often) being self-critical and worrying about the ways I don't measure up.  

Most of us have this harmful habit.  Whether it's the car we drive, the clothes we wear, or the bucket-list vacations we take, we convince ourselves that what we have and who we are isn't good enough.

This is a recipe for misery!  But our culture tells us we can buy our way out of the pit.  Don't believe it.  Someone will always have more than you, and striving to compete will suck the joy right out of you.  Comparison keeps you from finding the beauty in your life.

3.  Look at the plus side.

A gratitude mindset didn't come naturally to me – I had to learn and practice it.  But when I started focusing on what I have, instead of what I don't, I gained more satisfaction than any shopping spree could provide.

So instead of letting your mind dwell on your problems and what you lack, make a conscious effort to develop appreciation for the good things in your life.  A journal can help you pay attention to everything you have to be thankful for.

4.  Add some white space.

I used to think constantly rushing around meant I was productive.  It took me a while to realize all those errands, appointments, and other tasks kept me stressed and distracted.  

When I finally made some white space on my calendar – when I placed boundaries and made choices about how to spend my time – I got clear on what I cared most about and what I wanted to accomplish with my one life.

Author Rachelle Crawford is right about this.  She says:

It doesn't matter how much stuff you get rid of
if you don't have the time to enjoy the things that matter.

Unclutter your calendar, and you'll be better prepared to unclutter the rest of your life.

This blog is reader-supported.  When you buy through my links, I may earn a small commission.

5.  Discover your generous heart.

Research shows that when we're generous and helpful to others, we gain a sense of purpose and belonging.  We feel good when we do good.

So whether you share your money, possessions, talents, or all three, you'll bless others and make yourself feel fantastic.

When you have a generous mindset, it becomes easier to declutter.  Not only do you become excited about donating your excess, but you also start to understand how wealthy you are.  If your home is stuffed with things you don't use, you obviously have great abundance!  You can give away plenty and still have enough.

So give because it helps others.  Give because it adds meaning to your life.  And give because all your needs are met.

Minimalism is about more than decluttering.

Purging your excess belongings might not be a task you can begin today or even next week.  But minimalism isn't just about your possessions – it's about recognizing what adds value to your life.

Fill your life with those essential elements, and you'll gradually prune away the things that crowd and distract from them.  And when you do carve out time in your schedule, you'll have everything you need to tackle those dozens of dusty boxes.

When you're ready to get started, pick up a copy of my book Uncluttered: How Minimalism Can Help You Thrive, available on Amazon.  It's a comprehensive handbook for a simpler life – not a one-size-fits-all approach, but a creative, encouraging, multi-faceted guide to help you:

  • remove the stuff that's bogging you down
  • uncover a cleaner, more spacious home that welcomes and supports you
  • escape the consumer treadmill
  • overcome bad habits and practice better ones
  • highlight your favorite belongings and memories
  • find time for what you care about
  • gain focus and peace
  • and much more!

Updated July 2022


  1. Your thoughtfulness and encouragement are amazing! I love this post!

    1. Hello again, Linda, and thank you for reading and for your kind comment!

  2. Hi Karen! Thanks for your recent visit to my blog and the very nice compliment you left me. I'm glad you like my posts and hope you visit again. J.

    1. Hi Jacqueline, and thank you so much for visiting! I love the pretty garden books in your post this week. https://getcottage.blogspot.com/2021/04/pretty-garden-books.html


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