Minimalism can be off-putting or scary at the best of times even if you’re someone who’s open to trying new things, likes a challenge or you’re totally convinced that Minimalism is the way to go for a new and better life. But, if you’re a collector or hoarder and prone to keeping everything for that ‘just in case’ moment, Minimalist living (and its benefits) can seem out of your grasp. If you’d like to change your life, simplify what you can and live a fuller life (just with less stuff) then check out my decluttering tips for hoarders.
WHAT IS MINIMALISM?
Before we start, I thought it might be helpful to give you a brief introduction to Minimalism and minimalist living. Minimalism as a lifestyle can mean different things to different people. My interpretation of minimalist living as a busy mum to a busy family will be totally different to that of a single young career woman, and that’s perfectly ok. Minimalism doesn’t need to have rules and to be minimalist you don’t have to fit certain criteria. Minimalist living is for everyone.
Minimalism is a lifestyle that enables me to concentrate on what’s important and let the rest go. It gives me physical, emotional and psychological space to focus on my priorities and spend time, energy and resources on them, without being distracted by things that aren’t important to me. Minimalism helps me create a great life for myself and my family.
There are lots of benefits of Minimalism and a simpler, less distracted lifestyle.
- As a mum I became more present for my kids whilst they were little.
- I spent less time looking after my stuff and more time looking after and playing with my kids.
- I created more free time for myself by decluttering my home and making it easier to look after.
- I prioritised what was important to me, focused on my goals, cut out the things that were distracting me from what I really wanted out of life.
In short, Minimalism was quite a massive lifestyle change for my family and I, but the benefits were so worth it.
So, was it easy? No…
The reason why it wasn’t easy wasn’t actually much to do with me. I’m quite organised and tidy by nature and preferred simple instead of complicated even before I knew that Minimalism and simple living were actually proper lifestyle choices which actually had names. Becoming Minimalist would have been easy for me if it wasn’t for two factors – my kids and my husband.
MINIMALISM AND KIDS
Becoming Minimalist when you have kids, particularly little kids who love toys and collecting things, is quite a challenge. How well it goes and how much success you have, both in the process and sustainably for the future, depends very much on how you approach the whole Minimalist transition. Tell your kids that you’re throwing out over half of their toys and not letting them have any new toys, ever, is not the way to go (and besides, it misses the point of what Minimalism for families is all about).
MINIMALISM AND MY HUSBAND
I had the same problem with my husband who is a collector, a hoarder, a ‘what if’ ‘just in case’ sceptic who doesn’t like change and couldn’t really see the benefits of Minimalist living.
To be fair, he works long hours so it’s mostly my job to run the home and look after the kids after school. The mega impact of decluttering my home and making it easier and quicker to get everything done, and then simplifying the rest of my life through Minimalism, was pretty much lost on him… apart from the fact that he noticed I was happier and the immense knock-on effect for the rest of our family!
So, when it came to me announcing to my family that I was trialling out what I’d learnt about the scientific effects of clutter on stress by decluttering my home and becoming Minimalist, my family thought I was nuts. They gave it a go for my sake, but we had a few challenges along the way.
So, using the benefits of my trial and error and learning how to approach the whole becoming Minimalist thing with my family, here’s my top decluttering tips for hoarders.
DECLUTTERING TIPS FOR HOARDERS
Decluttering Tip #1 Don’t expect to see a difference overnight
If you’re a hoarder, you might well be a little sceptical of the benefits. Hoarders generally don’t become hoarders overnight. It takes time to develop and so it’ll take time to become Minimalist.
If you expect to see a magical difference to your physical space and mental well-being, then you need to give it a little time. Things won’t change overnight just because you’ve thrown something out, and it’s no excuse not to give it a go in the first place just because there’s no immediate difference.
Give Minimalism a chance to work before you think it’s not for you. And, it’s vital that you realise this right from the start otherwise your unrealistic expectations will halt your progress.
Decluttering Tip #2 Pick an easy place to start
If you’re new to decluttering or find the process difficult or emotional, then make it easy on yourself. Admit that you find decluttering a challenge, that you’re easily going to be side-tracked or put off and start in an easy place.
Pick an area of your home, or a room, or a type of item that’s going to be as easy as possible to start with so you can practice your decluttering skills. Decluttering gets easier with practice as you learn to sift through things and become more comfortable making decisions on whether you want to keep or get rid of something.
I always suggest the bathroom is a good place to start as it’s not full of sentimental items to hold you up, you know what you use and what you don’t and it doesn’t tend to be a massive space with huge storage areas so you can get it done relatively quickly and efficiently. Don’t start with somewhere notoriously tough like the attic or garage!
Decluttering Tip #3 Deal with the ‘what if’ scenario
‘What if I need that in the future?’ my hoarder husband would ask. It’s a common reason why we hold on to things and even if you’re a die-hard Minimalist, sometimes you do ask yourself whether you should keep something because you might use it or need it in the future.
I always think it’s best to deal with this question head-on with an honest answer. A hoarder will sniff out a lie from a mile off. I can’t honestly say to my husband that I’ve never needed something that I’ve got rid of. The worst that can happen is that you need to buy another. But that happens so rarely that I don’t even think about it.
The benefit I get from decluttering my stuff massively outweighs those very, very odd occasions when I’ve got rid of something I later wish I’d kept. And, I’ve got decluttering down to a fine art so I know what I’m throwing out (or donating) and what items I’m keeping.
If something is high value, difficult to replace and I’ve used it a lot (but not just at the moment) then I’ll think long and hard about getting rid of it. Just weigh up in your own mind whether you really, really value that item enough to keep looking after it.
This is probably a good time to remind ourselves what Minimalism is truly about… You’re not getting rid of everything just for the sake of getting rid of it. Remember the reasons WHY you’re doing this and what you’re trying to achieve and hoping to gain.
Don’t throw things out because you’ve read it’s the right thing to do. Force yourself to become Minimalist because it’s cool or you’re hoping it’s a quick-fix to all your problems and you’re missing the point.
Decluttering Tip #4 Declutter in waves
Which brings me on to my next top tip. Don’t go from all to nothing in one go. Try decluttering in waves.
The first time around grab the obvious big things that you don’t like or never, ever use and get rid of those. Sit with that for a bit and get comfortable with what you’ve thrown out and what you’ve got left. When you’re ready, declutter the same area in a second sweep, removing what you can. Keep doing repeated rounds of decluttering until you can’t declutter anything further.
Minimalism isn’t a once-and-you’re-done type of effect. It’s a sustained lifestyle choice and routine decluttering is part of the regular maintenance of a minimalist home. Let’s face it, when you have a family, guarding against the daily influx of clutter is an ongoing job!
Decluttering Tip #5 The waste of money argument
Some people say that decluttering your home is just a waste of money and they use this argument to avoid decluttering. I personally disagree and think that the most waste comes about if you purchase an item unwisely, not when you get rid of it. Check out my post on Minimalism and shopping if you keep buying things you don’t really want or need!
I like to donate most of my unwanted stuff so even if I am getting rid of it, I know someone else will have some benefit. Very occasionally I do have to buy something which I’d previously decluttered but this happens so rarely. Decluttering my home and becoming Minimalist has given me so many benefits that I don’t ever regret throwing something out. I just put it down to one of those things and move on.
The other thing to mention about Minimalism is that it’s changed my approach to life. I need less physical stuff to make me happy and prefer to have ‘experiences’ over things. If I’ve thrown something out which I later think I should replace, I always ask myself do I REALLY want it or need it, or is it just a temporary whim? The chances are that either I didn’t really need it or borrowing from a friend would be ok instead of buying a new one.
Decluttering Tip #6 Not knowing what to keep and what to get rid of
This is always a tricky one for Minimalist beginners and it does get easier with practice. But, if you’re a hoarder, this can be a really big stumbling block to stop you from decluttering. My suggestion would be to keep it really simple.
Just ask yourself 3 questions:
- Do I love it?
- Do I need it?
- Does it add value?
If the answer is no to all 3 questions, then let it go.
For more information on knowing what to declutter, check out this post I wrote on how to decide what to declutter.
Decluttering Tip #7 Have a plan for your decluttered items
Once you’ve put all your effort into decluttering, don’t undo this hard work by leaving your unwanted items lying around. Not only will they still be cluttering up your space, but you might be tempted to dig around and pull out a few things!
Have a plan before you declutter for what you’re going to do with your unwanted stuff and deal with it all as part of the decluttering process. Don’t stop until you’ve taken your unwanted items to the charity shop or rubbish tip!
Decluttering Tip #8 Set a timer
Sometimes things are easier if we break them down into manageable chunks. The same goes for decluttering. If it seems too daunting or too big a job, then set your timer for 10 minutes and declutter until the alarm goes off. Ten minutes each day will be better than not doing it at all, and as I’ve said before, decluttering takes practice. You’ll get more efficient and find it easier, the more you do it.
Decluttering Tip #9 Go easy on yourself
If you’ve been a hoarder for a long time, don’t give yourself a hard time if you find it difficult to declutter. Minimalism is so much more than just decluttering your belongings. Decluttering is just the start of a whole paradigm shift in your thinking and changing your old thought patterns to new ones takes time and perseverance. If you’d like more help on this then check out my post on how to think like a minimalist.
Reward yourself if you’ve completed a decluttering project. This doesn’t mean you can go out and buy loads of clutter again but go out and have fun with the kids, treat yourself to takeaway pizza instead of having to cook. If you’ve decluttered your wardrobe and thrown out 10 sweaters you never wear and have none left, can you buy just a couple of investment pieces that you love and will see you through the winter?
Decluttering isn’t meant to be a form of punishment so have fun with it!
IF YOU LIVE WITH A HOARDER
Decluttering isn’t always easy, especially if you’re a hoarder or live with a hoarder, but these tips will help you get started and starting is the most difficult.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I’m familiar with the arguments and problems that hoarders come up with to get out of decluttering and to put it off, but that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible. It just takes time and perseverance.
If you live with a hoarder (instead of being one yourself) then your journey to Minimalism might be a little rocky and even more frustrating! But, check out this post on what to do if you’re the only minimalist in the house for some more helpful tips!
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