Oct 25, 2012

The hurdles and benefits of decluttering: my personal experience

As I’ve shared in a previous post, I’ve been decluttering my personal space. I started about a month ago, and I’ve been doing it little by little.

How I’m doing it

I started with no established plan. Since my life is already full of activities (writing the thesis, tutoring math, sewing for my shop, writing in the blog...) I figured I had to keep it really simple. So I was just aiming to put away at least one thing per day (but generally I would get rid of much more than one thing per day!). Each object would go to recycle, trash, or would be donated. Then I joined The Reverse 100 Thing Challenge, and started to collect at least 5 items per day to donate.

The hurdles

In general it’s difficult for me to trash anything that can’t be donated or recycled. The idea of polluting the environment with my stuff is not a pleasant one. And this encourages me to be much more mindful about the stuff I buy and bring into my space. But if something is broken and can’t be recycled (or adapted to serve another function), I guess I have no other option than trash it.

It has been difficult to deal with ‘emotional stuff’. It’s interesting how seemingly trivial stuff can trigger strong emotions. I find something I hadn’t seen in years, and it suddenly brings back old memories that were almost forgotten. I’ve decided that (at least for now) I can’t just throw it all away. I’m keeping one (or two) shoe boxes of emotional stuff. This implies I’ll have to be very selective, since I have a huge amount of such stuff! And I’m also photographing what I decide to throw away but don't wish to forget about.

Sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish between what’s important, and what’s not important. This is particularly true for paperwork. But I believe I’m getting better at this. Generally in case of doubt, I just get rid of it. And so I'm recycling a considerable percentage of my paperwork – and, I admit, it feels great!

The benefits

Even though I am currently all for simplicity, I was living in a very cluttered environment. As I’ve said before, I’m a keeper. When I was a child, my family lived on a very tight budget. We used donated clothes and I would ‘inherit’ almost all of my older brother clothes (and yes, I’m a girl). Christmas gifts were few, and buying a book was something that we just didn’t do, even though I am an avid reader since an early age – instead I was a regular at the local library. So I guess I learned to cherish and keep EVERYTHING. And really, I’m 29 and I think I had never decluttered a thing. I have all my school books since my first year of school, I have (well, had) all magazines I ever bought, almost all my clothing since baby, all my agendas, journals and notebooks, etc. Phew…

So, this decluttering thing is new to me. And one of the first things I noticed is that I was living in the middle of a lot of garbage! Ok, many things aren't garbage, but others (clearly) are. And before starting the decluttering process, I was convinced that everything was necessary, and that I just needed more storage space and better organizing skills. So it’s been a breeze to see all that stuff disappear and to see my space miraculously getting wider!

Another thing I’ve been learning is that I have much more than I need. If you would ask me months ago if I had enough clothing, I would say: “Absolutely not! If only I had more money to buy all the clothes I need in order to feel good/beautiful/stylish… But one day I will!” Yes, this is frivolous, but this is how I thought, perhaps on a semi-conscious level. Somehow, I never seemed to have enough. And now… Well, I realized I have many good clothing I’m not even wearing, and that, indeed, what I have is enough. And this takes away the anxiety of picking clothes each morning, and also takes away that nagging sense of never being well enough dressed.

While picking stuff to donate I’m filled with a sense of joy. Sharing is a great antidepressant! I think of all the stuff that was just sitting around, and it’s really great to give it to someone who’ll actually give it some use.

A final word

It’s wonderful to be starting this new path towards simplicity. I believe this is a profound journey. A journey that may begin with simplifying material possessions, but which certainly evolves at the soul level…


  1. Great work. The reasoning behind my simplifying is the same as yours. to simplify at an emotional level in the end. too much baggage being carried around everywhere!

    It's amazing when others see the benefits of decluttering, and simplifying. What you said about buying more storage space and organising better is so true! but if we get rid of the stuff, then we have more space without buying any storage!

    I'm doing Project 333, theproject333.com - and it's great fun! I did the quick start course in September and have now got 33 items of clothing for the next 3 months, all the rest is boxed up!
    well done again on your decluttering effort!


    1. Hi Linda! Thank you for your comment :)
      I also want to join Project 333, but I guess I'll be doing that later. 33 seems like a good number for a simpler wardrobe :)

  2. Hi Mopsa,
    So interesting to read how you're getting on. Your words resonate with me as although I've been decluttering for two years now, I'm still not there yet. I haven't been buying anything new that wasn't essential but still have way too much. Therefore I'm beginning another purge. I already feel so much happier with less stuff and, like you, I am amazed at the effect it has had in other areas of my life. But I need to continue this process. Btw I've added you to my sidebar xo

    1. Hi dolly!
      Thank you for reading, and for sharing your experience :) Yes, it’s amazing how decluttering can be so refreshing! It definitely helps change my mindset to one of simplicity and meaningfulness.
      Ah! And thank you so much for adding me to your sidebar! I’m adding you too :)

  3. I love decluttering. It's definitely good for the soul! Like you I have started considering what I bring into my house in the first place. It saves money too because I don't want get tempted to buy random clutter!
    Great post :)

    1. Hi Rachel!
      Thank you for reading, and for your words. Yep, I’m loving the process too. It’s like I get a little bit lighter each day.
      I’m happy you enjoyed this post :)