5 Steps to Eliminate Clutter

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Kate Carpenter of enuffstuff.wordpress.com.

There are countless self-help books out there that outline the basics of decluttering for you. And everyone with an interest in encouraging you to simplify your life will try to make his or her advice and instructions the simplest. But decluttering IS simple, right? Just like losing weight – eat less, exercise more – we all know how to declutter: put the clutter into a box or bag and take it somewhere (anywhere!) else.

And yet, success often eludes us. Why? Because even more important than the physical, practical steps necessary to complete the task is an often-overlooked prerequisite: the ultimate goal of decluttering. That goal provides our motivation, and it will be the number one factor in our success or failure.

This method won’t tell you how to organize your silverware drawer or pare down your library of books. Those things will come after you’ve completed these 5 steps – 5 steps leading to a goal that will help you identify WHAT is clutter and WHY it’s clutter. Once you can easily recognize clutter and fully understand its burdensome effect on your life, getting rid of it will become almost effortless.

The Five Steps

  1. Find a quiet, comfortable place to sit with a cup of coffee or a glass of wine.
  2. Close your eyes and think back to high school and the people you admired most – the “in” crowd, the cheerleaders, the brains, the jocks, the musicians. These people were not more special than you – they just recognized that they had special gifts to share earlier in life than most of us do.
  3. Life is like the Olympics – anyone can participate, but most people will only excel in one sport. You may not have known what that was in high school, but now that you’ve had some more time to think about it, what’s YOUR “sport”? What does your heart tell you that you should be doing with your life? What talents or interests have you always wanted to showcase in your life? What do you want to bring into the world: music, inspiring blog posts, art, beautiful surroundings, happy children, comfort for those in distress, rescued animals, balanced spreadsheets, laughter? What gift were you meant to share?
  4. Imagine a class reunion a year from now. When you go back to it, you’ll have faith in the fact that YOU have something special to give, too. You will have remade your life into exactly what you want your old classmates to see. You’ll have your gold medal to show them! What “sport” is it in? What do you look like? What are you wearing? What do you like to talk about? What are you proud of? Which classmates interest you now?
  5. Focus on your special gift. Imagine the person you will become when that’s what your life is all about. Imagine how good it will feel to know that you’ve identified and cultivated your particular talent.

Clearly defining this goal will provide you with the motivation to declutter. Once you know exactly what it is that you most want to bring into the world, you can easily begin to get rid of anything and everything that doesn’t contribute to reaching that goal.

Because THAT’S what clutter is!

Read more from Kate Carpenter at her blog at enuffstuff.wordpress.com, or follow her on twitter.



  1. stephanie says

    I feel as though I consume a lot less than my former high school classmates. I still have that insecure feeling though about going to my high school reunion. I feel as though I am not doing something (living simply) rather than doing something (making a lot of money through a profession). I don’t feel like I am giving to the world by living with less. Any advice?

    • says

      Living with less is a noble pursuit in itself, but it sounds as if you’re not sure what your gold medal sport is – the one you’re able to concentrate on BECAUSE you’re living with less worldly clutter. You might think about that. And I have to suggest you read Bertabean: A Storybook About Self-Esteem for Grown-Up Girls (yes, I wrote it – but it’s only 99 cents on Smashwords and I really think it will help you!) Sometimes I think I’m a bit of a reverse snob – people who just work to make a lot of money and spend it on themselves seem awfully selfish and greedy to me. I much prefer people who live simply. Buy yourself a button that says “Live simply that others may simply live” and wear to to the reunion. Be proud of your priorities, and seek out like-minded people. And remember: you are giving to the world precisely because you are not taking more than your fair share!

  2. Kathy Mader says

    Very nice article. I’m a little confused by the Olympics analogy because not everyone can participate in the Olympics, only the very best make it to the Olympics. But I “get” what you’re saying. It’s so true, we spread ourselves too thin whereas truly successful people focus on their special gift and let the extraneous fall by the wayside. Thank you!

    • says

      Yes, I see your point – it is a little confusing! What I mean is that even Olympic-caliber athletes only excel in one sport – they’re nor medal-contenders in EVERY sport. If they tried to be, they wouldn’t know the “clutter” from the essentials. Focus leads to a lack of clutter (and vice versa).

  3. says

    Thank you, Kate. When I saw 5 steps, I thought, I’m not sure I can do another five step procedure, but this one is very doable. I spoke with a woman today who said, “I hope they (the school) calls me to sub because my daughter just graduated and my son is in 8th grade, and I am trying to find my purpose.” I wish I had seen your post earlier, and I would have shared it. I will try it out myself, and if I see her again, I can tell her about it too!

    • says

      Thanks, Tammy. These 5 steps just involve getting into the right state of mind, and once you do that – and identify your purpose – the decluttering is simple! I hope you get to share this with your friend, too.

  4. stephanie says

    Just purchased Bertabean! Love it and wish I read it in high school. Getting rid of clutter comes easy to me, self-esteem, does not. I was told that I was selfish when I did things for myself and am learning that it is good to focus on myself. I still don’t know what sport my gold medal would be in. I feel as though as a woman it would need to be in something that helps others. Maybe by helping others we help ourselves or maybe by helping ourselves, we help others.

    • says

      Right on – it goes both ways! Do me a favor, Stephanie. Since you already bought Bertabean, send me an email at nuffer@yahoo.com and I’ll give you a coupon code for a free copy of ENUFF: Eliminate the Needless, Useless, Foolish, and Frivolous. There are chapters that will help you identify your “sport” and write your Vision Statement.

  5. says

    Kate, this was wonderful. I wish I had read this when I felt lost a couple of years ago and wanted more meaning in my life. I’m going to save this to pass around to those who might appreciate your wisdom.

  6. says

    I agree that motivation is the key to decluttering, whether you’re just staring out or whether you regularly declutter. Having a goal and visualising your life and home as being more simplified and purposeful helps. I need all the motivation I can get, so thanks Kate for inspiring me again. Now where’s that glass of wine…

      • says

        Ek kahavat bhi hai punraa sau din naya nau din.Pehle ki cheejein sachmuch kafi tikau hoti thi mere ghar me to meri umar se jada ki cheejien aaj bhi upyog ho rahi hain.

  7. says

    Great, great post! Nicely said. You are absolutely right. The physical things in life often times act simply as barriers to restrict our true selves. The clutter in our lives is always there in our subconscient, preventing us to think clearly and appreciate life more fully. Thank you for writing and inspiring us!

    • says

      We’ve been so brainwashed by advertising into thinking we can buy happiness and fulfillment. Now we’re left trying to dig out from under all the cr@p – and wondering where we went wrong and where we REALLY should have been headed with our lives.

  8. says

    Thank you. This spoke to my heart at a time when I’m looking for new direction.

    Since infancy I’ve wanted to provide a shelter for vulnerable animals & after a serious illness ‘woke me up’, I even trained & qualified as a Vet Nurse. Sadly, after five years, more ill health ended such a physical career.

    I, like many people, I should imagine, let life get in the way of my dreams, but reading this post, I remembered how scared I am to reach an age where it’s too late to have fulfilled this life’s goal & go with regret to the grave.

    Now, how to make it so….

    • says

      I’m so glad this has inspired you. My only advice would be to take it very slowly. A few hours one day a week or a couple of days will bring you closer to your dream than a hectic schedule you won’t be physically able to keep up. You know, the 40-hour work week has been the norm since Henry Ford instituted it in his car factory! As I write in ENUFF: “Three decades ago, experts predicted that labor-saving devices in the business world from voice mail to personal computers would save office workers so much time that they would only have to work 14 hours a week by the year 2000.” Of course, management “lets” us continue to work 40 hours – but who says that’s right – or even normal? Set your own pace and give what you can. The world will be better for it.

  9. Jayme says

    I never leave comments on posts, but this one is just too good to not comment. It’s like a lightbulb went off in my head. I have struggled finding my “sport” after chasing one “sport” after another and never really following through with any of them long enough to really enjoy or become good at any of them. The chasing one after the other is the clutter, much more so than the overpacked junk drawer in my kitchen. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!

    Off to look up your ebook ENUF.


    • says

      Dear Jayme,

      Readers like you make what I’m doing a joy, and I’m so grateful to you for taking the time to leave your comment.

      When I started writing, I was really terrible. In fact, after a while, I threw away my first drafts (which I had been keeping for sentiment) because I didn’t want anyone to find them when I died! (It’s true.) But I wanted to keep trying, to keep going. I was having fun! And over time, I got better, and it got to be even more fun!

      Find what really brings you joy – that will become your compass. Your sport may be really off-the-wall and hard to discover – like custom-fitting prosthetics or inventing new varieties of mustard. Listen to your heart, not your head – if you can. The answer is there! It’s buried under the clutter! :-)

      All the best to you – Kate