Note: This article on decluttering methods is by contributing writer, Tammy Strobel.
In my experience, there isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” decluttering solution. Depending on your time, energy, ability and overall interest, it’s helpful to find an approach that works well for you. One of these decluttering methods may become your favorite way to simplify and let go of your stuff. This requires the willingness to experiment.
For example, my husband and I started to simplify our lives in 2005. Over the years, we tried a variety of decluttering methods like the KonMari Method™, Project 333™, and we even lived in a tiny house on wheels. Trying different approaches was fun. Plus, experimenting with different methods kept us motivated, inspired, and committed to living with less.
From Marie Kondo to Minimalism: Which Decluttering Method Suits You Best?
In this article, I’ll describe 5 different decluttering methods. Experiment and you will find a system that suits your lifestyle.
1. “Spark Joy” with Marie Kondo
Marie Kondo’s books, decluttering ideas, and her emphasis on “sparking joy” has inspired thousands of people. Kondo encourages people to, “Tidy by category – not by location.”
Kondo recommends tidying in the following order: clothes, books, paper, miscellaneous items, and sentimental items. For example, gather all of your clothes from the closets and put them in a pile. Then you can start the process of deciding what to keep. “When you’re choosing what to keep, ask your heart; when you’re choosing where to store something, ask your house!” says Kondo.
Thanks to Kondo’s method, I continually reexamine what belongings give me joy. For example, I donated kitchenware to the thrift store recently. I hadn’t used pie pans or donut trays in years. Keeping stuff that I’m not using doesn’t “spark joy,” so I let my kitchen stuff go.
More importantly, Kondo’s work reminds me that decluttering isn’t about having a perfectly tidy home. As Kondo recently said, “The true purpose of tidying is not to cut down on your possessions or declutter your space. But rather, to learn to make meaningful choices and find gratitude in everyday life.”
2. Project 333
Project 333 is a simple and fun minimalist fashion challenge. The idea is simple: you dress with 33 items or less for 3 months. I’ve done this challenge numerous times. The project helped me let go of clothes that no longer fit, reduce decision fatigue, and keep my closet tidy.
As Courtney said, “Cleaning out your closet can feel like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be! With the right tools and a willingness to be honest about what you have and what you need, you can make your closet a happier space.”
If your closet is overflowing with clothing – or you want to shop less – this is the perfect challenge for you.
3. Move Out Method
Way back in 2005, I unknowingly tried the “Move Out Method.” At the time, my husband and I were living in a two-bedroom apartment. We had way too much stuff, and we weren’t sure if all of our stuff would fit into a small one-bedroom apartment. So, we pretended like we were moving.
We started sorting through the stuff in our extra bedroom. We sorted things into keep, toss, and donate piles. As our “keep pile” grew smaller and smaller, we realized that we didn’t “need” an extra bedroom filled with stuff. Instead of pretending to move, we decided to move into a one-bedroom apartment.
You don’t have to actually move to try this experiment. Choose an area of your home like a closet, extra bedroom, or your bathroom. Then start sorting through your stuff. Once everything is organized, you can “move” back in.
4. Make It A Game
If you need to bring more fun and joy into your decluttering efforts, turn the process into a game. Here are a few options to consider:
Play the 30-Day Minimalism Game. Here’s how The Minimalists explain the game: “Find a friend, family member, or coworker who’s willing to minimize their stuff with you next month. Each person gets rid of one thing on the first day of the month. Two things on the second. Three things on the third. So forth and so on.”
The longer the game goes, the more challenging it becomes. It’s fun to do the game with a friend, and a great way to hold yourself accountable.
Try a Decluttering Burst. Here’s how it works: “Set your timer for 60 minutes and get rid of 100 things from various areas of your home. Grab trash bags, and a box for donations. Next, choose from the recommended areas and items below that resonate with you (or create your own) to equal 100 items. Write down what areas you are going to attack and how many items you will declutter from each. When you start the timer, use your list so you don’t have to waste time thinking about where to start.”
If you’re not sure where to begin, think about tackling your bathroom, junk drawer, pantry, car, and more.
5. Swedish Death Cleaning
Author Margareta Magnussen wrote about Swedish Death Cleaning in her book – The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter. Magnussen encourages readers to consider who will sort through your stuff after you die.
“You can always hope and wait for someone to want something in your home, but you cannot wait forever, and sometimes you must just give cherished things away with the wish that they end up with someone who will create new memories of their own … I often ask myself, will anyone I know be happier if I save this?” says Magnussen.
The idea of Swedish Death Cleaning resonates with me because it’s helped me make decisions about my stuff. I also see this method as a gift to loved ones. After I die, I don’t want my loved ones to spend months – or years – sorting through my stuff.
Need extra help? Refer to Ashley Knierim’s “Swedish Death Cleaning Checklist.”
Resources to help you declutter your life
As I decluttered my life, I found support through books, blogs, and newsletters. Reading continues to inspire me to keep a tidy and clutter free home.
If you’re looking for extra motivation, explore the resources list below:
- The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter by Margareta Magnusson
- Project 333: The Minimalist Fashion Challenge that Proves Less Really is So Much More by Courtney Carver
- Love People, Use Things: Because the Opposite Never Works by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus
- The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo
- Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale by Adam Minter
- You’ll find a plethora of articles that will gently encourage you to let go of clutter at Be More with Less.
- The National Association of Senior Move Managers is a professional organization that “assists older adults, individuals, and families with downsizing, relocation or simplifying their homes.”