Ready to conquer clutter - but for realsies this time?​

GET THE SYSTEM I USED TO DECLUTTER
75% OF MY STUFF (FOR FREE!)

Grab your copy of my 20+ page Ultimate Decluttering Guide
for a simple, step-by-step process to help you get
from stressy & messy to clean & serene.

Ready to conquer clutter - but for realsies
this time?

GET THE SYSTEM I USED TO DECLUTTER 75% OF MY STUFF (FOR FREE!)

Grab your copy of my 20+ page Ultimate Decluttering Guide
for a simple, step-by-step
process to help you get from
stressy & messy to clean & serene.

Ready to conquer clutter - but for realsies this time?​

GET THE SYSTEM I USED TO DECLUTTER
75% OF MY STUFF (FOR FREE!)

Grab your copy of my 20+ page Ultimate Decluttering Guide
for a simple, step-by-step process to help you get
from stressy & messy to clean & serene.

by Sara Brigz
TW: This post discusses toxic diet culture and restrictive eating as part of an analogy related to decluttering.
 

 

For years I didn’t really notice the yo-yo decluttering pattern, but whoo boy – it was there.

Every time I got frustrated with my piles of crap (which happened a lot), I’d spend a whole day tossing some clothes and décor items into a donation bag and hauling them out the door. I’d then meticulously organize the remaining 90% of my stuff and vow to never let my home get that messy again.

But within a few months (okay, okay… sometimes weeks), it would be just as bad as before. If not worse. And I had no idea how it had gotten that cluttered again.

Does that sound like you too? Because if so, you might be a yo-yo declutterer.

 

WHAT’S YO-YO DECLUTTERING?

 

Like with the toxic yo-yo dieting culture, where you lose weight too quickly and then gain it right back, it’s a cycle of decluttering a space and then cluttering it back up again.

When we’re in that situation, the clutter-free results never last. And as the yo-yo decluttering cycle keeps repeating, the problem can often get worse and worse.

For you, maybe it looks like:

  • Clearing out a space, and then going on a few shopping sprees and filling it up again
  • Decluttering on a whim, without really planning it out or doing introspection about why you acquired the stuff in the first place
  • Getting the urge to declutter around the same time every year, and then getting the urge to accumulate lots of things at a different time of year
  • Impulse shopping, hunting for deals, or collecting things from the curb – without stopping to question if you actually need it
  • Not knowing why the clutter always comes back, and feeling a little helpless and frustrated AF

THE DECLUTTERING TACTIC THAT’S WORKING AGAINST YOU


You might have noticed that you tend to declutter in a frenzy (especially when you’re fed up with the clutter). Here’s the thing, though – often, that spur-of-the-moment decluttering is working against you in the long run.

And here’s why.

It doesn’t allow you to slow down and explore the root cause of our clutter. And as we often talk about here, the only way to get lasting results with decluttering is to dive deep into our feels. Decluttering on a whim is basically a desperate attempt to get some control over our surroundings – but without doing the emotional work, the clutter will continue to control us.

Freeing yourself from yo-yo decluttering cycle involves three main components: mindful decluttering, mindful consumption, and maintenance. So if you’re ready to declutter for good, then read on, my friend.

Oh, and don’t forget to grab my Ultimate Decluttering Guide while you’re at it!

1. SLOW DOWN YOUR DECLUTTERING WITH SOME MINDFULNESS

 

I know some decluttering methods (*cough* Marie Kondo *cough*) that encourage you to declutter in one big sweep. As I understand it, their strategy is to shock the system into noticing a clear before and after. And for some folks, that may work – but I advocate a more mindful approach.

When you’re going through your things, you need time to figure out any patterns that you have when it comes to clutter. Grab a notebook (or even the notepad function on your phone) and start taking notes to see if you notice any patterns.

Ask yourself questions like:

  • What time of day, day of the week, or season did I buy this item?
  • Did I buy the item full price, or on sale?
  • What was I feeling at the time? (Maybe you were shopping alone to blow off steam, or shopping with friends to celebrate something?)
  • Was the item an impulse buy? What problem was I trying to solve by buying it?

For example, you might start to notice that you tend to accumulate clutter in the fall and winter. When you dive into your feels, you see that as the days get shorter and you hunker down at home, you turn to online shopping as a means of comfort – oh, and all those holiday sales don’t help either. But come spring, you’re sick of the clutter and you start purging it as a kind of “spring cleaning”. Then the next year, the cycle continues again.
 

Recognizing the specific details of your clutter pattern is crucial to putting an end to it. And decluttering mindfully is the first step.

2. PAUSE BEFORE YOU SHOP

 

The next step is to ending the yo-yo decluttering cycle is to pause before you buy (or before you accept free things from people).

Just like you did with your decluttering, I want you to slow down with your accumulating. Otherwise, old habits are likely to kick in, and before you know it you’ll be up to your eyeballs in “but it was on sale!”

When you get the urge to take something home, ask yourself questions like:

  • What am I feeling right now? And am I using shopping as a way to try and avoid those emotions?
  • What needs – physical or emotional – am I trying to meet by buying this? Can I meet those needs in another way?
  • Where would it live? If it doesn’t have a specific home or function – like, an exact shelf or cupboard or drawer – it will almost certainly end up cluttering up your space.

Once you discover a pattern in your shopping triggers, make a plan for how you’ll manage when the triggers arise in the future.

For example, if you tend to shop as a social activity or a way to pass the time, brainstorm other non-shopping activities that you can propose to your friends. If your friends can be a little pushy about buying things, you might also consider practicing phrases like “you’re right, it’s super cute, but I actually don’t need any more decorations right now.” Or “I agree that the shirt would look awesome on me, but it’s not in the budget for this month.”

With practice, you’ll gain confidence in saying no to any purchases that you don’t really need.

3. PREVENT YO-YO DECLUTTERING WITH A NEW “MAINTENANCE MODE”

 

The last step to staying clutter-free is maintaining your newly clean and organized home. Honestly, the biggest game changer I recommend introducing a daily gratitude practice into your routine. Because until you appreciate the shit you already have, you’ll always want to accumulate more!

Oh and if you’re decluttering or transitioning into “maintenance mode,” definitely check out my Grateful as Fuck Challenge. I designed it specifically to help you appreciate your things during or after the decluttering process. You can find it here.

There are plenty of different strategies to staying clutter-free, and I explored them in another recent blog post. Hop over to give it a read, and pick out a couple tips that you feel will be easiest for you to follow!

FINAL THOUGHTS

 

Breaking the yo-yo decluttering cycle can take a different set of skills and habits than we often use for decluttering. But by decluttering deliberately, shopping more mindfully, and practicing the maintenance strategies above, I really believe that you’ll be able to kick the cycle for good!

by Sara Brigz

Decluttering can seem daunting sometimes, can’t it? Especially when we have mountains of crap and big goals for a simpler life, but we’re not sure where to start. When I first started paring down my stuff, I drew a ton of inspiration from people living in tiny homes, and people exploring life in an Airstream. (And this was long before my partner and I ended up sharing our own tiny apartment!) These folks took the concept of downsizing to an extreme, questioning everything that they owned and only keeping the things that really mattered.

Even if you have no desire to live tiny – or even to downsize at all – I know you’ll find value in hear from today’s guest, Melanie from A Small Life.

In 2013, Melanie decluttered and downsized into an Airstream travel trailer with her husband. They lived there for four years and blogged about their experience, from the first renovations (seriously – the before photos are BANANAS) to the decision to sell it and move into a small house.

Today we chat about transitioning to life in an Airstream, the perks of living tiny, and what it means to live a small life. (Oh, and how to handle decluttering with a partner!) Enjoy, friends.

 

 

1. Hey Melanie! So happy to have you here. For those who don’t already know you, tell us a bit about yourself!

 
Hi Sara! Thanks for having me. My name is Melanie and I live in beautiful Asheville, North Carolina. I am a writer, blogger and stylist. I help people simplify and beautify their homes, and I have a focus in sustainability and small spaces. In my free time, I love puttering around my garden and hanging out with my chickens and dog.
 

2. What led you to start your blog, A Small Life? And what does it mean to live a small life?

 

In the original iteration of my blog, I talked about all kinds of things– mostly what was going on in my life at the moment. Back then, I was about to get married and I was really focused on that. But the change in my blog came after our wedding.

We wanted to relocate, but most of the rentals in that area were out of our price range. One night I was browsing Etsy and came across an interview with a couple that lived in a Winnebago. I told my husband about it and he said, “You know we could do that.” That moment completely changed my life.

To me, living “a small life” isn’t necessarily about the size of your home. To me it means: living below your means, owning less stuff, having a “make do and mend” attitude and prioritizing your happiness.

3. You lived in an Airstream for about four years, right? What drove you to make that change?

I did! After we got married we really felt like we were stuck on a hamster wheel financially and just could not ahead. Living in the Airstream allowed us to save money and helped us to focus on what we truly wanted in life.

 

4. How smoothly did the transition go for you?

It wasn’t an incredibly difficult transition for me. I’ve never been one to have mountains of stuff, but I will say that life is never all sunshine and rainbows either. Just like living in a traditional home, stuff in the Airstream broke and it still got messy. Even though I love living in a smaller environment, I also acknowledge that it won’t solve all your problems either.

5. What did a typical day look like for you in the Airstream?

A lot of people think that because I lived in an Airstream, that I was travelling all the time. I wasn’t! The Airstream never left the land it was parked on. I had a full-time job as a librarian, so I went to work every day and came home to my little Airstream refuge. My husband worked from home, so when I got home, we’d eat dinner together and watch some TV. It was a very normal life.

6. Did you have to declutter much prior to moving? And if so, what was the toughest part of that process for you?

 

I did declutter a lot, but I had a tight timeline, so I think in some ways that really helped. I’m one of those people who gets in moods where she just wants to throw everything away and start over. Moving is kind of miserable!

Learning to be honest with myself is probably the toughest part of the process. I think myself, and many people, keep things because we want to be the person who wears the smaller size or makes 5 course meals. Knowing myself and being honest about what I will and won’t do has been the biggest game-changer for me.

 

7. Were there any decluttering strategies or quotes that especially helped you while you were simplifying your stuff?

I love the William Morris quote: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

8. Do you have any tips for getting a partner or family member on board with decluttering?

This is one of my most frequently asked questions and most people don’t like the answer! Haha! I think that you have to be incredibly gentle and patient with family members. Sometimes clutter comes from deep-rooted trauma. You know your family best and you probably know what the best way to approach them will be.

But in general, you have to set an example. Tell your family your intentions and what you intend to do, but don’t declutter their stuff for them. This needs to be their choice. (Unless they are very small children, then declutter away! Haha!)

For example, my husband is not a minimalist and he has a lot more stuff than I do. And that’s ok. Over the years, he has simplified his things, but he’ll never be a minimalist. I accept that and love him anyway.

9. How is your life different now than life in an Airstream? And what did you learn from the experience?

Living in the Airstream allowed us to save enough money to put a downpayment on a small, fixer-upper home. It also allowed us to be able to save enough money to where I was comfortable quitting my job and starting a small business. It completely changed my life for the better.

From the experience, I learned that most “stuff” is meaningless. How I spend my day, freedom of choice and experiences are so much more important.

10. What would you say to someone who is considering downsizing?

Do it! It’s an incredibly freeing experience. And if you want a jumpstart, I have a course. 😉 It’s called The Two Week Declutter and for two weeks you’ll receive an email with a task to help you minimize your stuff, so you can maximize your happiness.

Final Thoughts from Sara

 
Not all decluttering needs to involve downsizing. And hey, not all downsizing needs to involve living in an Airstream! But we can learn so much from people like Melanie, who show us that not only is living an uncluttered possible – but it can also be done in style. 😉
 
For more from Melanie, you can find her at asmalllife.com and on Instagram @asmalllife.

by Sara Brigz
Woohoo! You’ve decluttered your crap, and now you’re looking for ways to stay clutter-free. Or maybe you’re still up to your earlobes in clutter, but you’re in it for the long-haul and determined never to let it get this bad again.
 
Either way, you’re in the right place my friend!
 
When it comes to a clutter-free home, purging your stuff is really just the first step. The real test is whether you can maintain a tidy space without the clutter creeping in again. (Which, let’s be real, ain’t always an easy task.)

 

WHY IT’S SO HARD TO STAY CLUTTER-FREE

 
Honestly, it’s not that different from dieting. Like, losing weight takes a specific strategy and mindset, but maintaining a goal weight is a whole other can of worms, you know? That’s why it’s so easy to fall victim to the yo-yo dieting culture. You know, where we diet, lose a bunch of weight, stop the diet, and gain it right back.
 
Or in the case of decluttering, we declutter and have a clean and fresh home for a bit. Then we start up our old habits again, and the clutter comes back.
 
Does any of this sound familiar?
 
  • You’ve decluttered your closet, then felt like you had nothing to wear. So over the course of the next few weeks or months, you ended up going on multiple shopping sprees and your closet ended up just as jam packed as it was before.
  • You’ve dropped off items at the donation center, only to pop in “just to see what they have” and ended up with more crap you don’t need.
  • Or, you know, maybe you got swept up in the Marie Kondo craze a few years ago and ruthlessly purged anything that didn’t “spark joy.” But your home felt kinda empty, so you started acquiring new things that “sparked joy” – and before you knew it, the clutter was back with a vengeance.
Been there, my friend!
 

MY CLUTTER STORY

 
I was a yo-yo declutterer for years before I finally saw results that stuck. I’d spend a weekend going through my crap and donating items, only clutter up my space again. Like, real talk… sometimes within weeks. Then the cycle would continue again.
 
And again.
 
And again.
 
By 2016, I was fed up with my clutter after a big move (and a major panic attack). And in less than a year, I’d successfully sold and donated 75% of my belongings. Now, don’t get me wrong – I made a whoooole bunch of decluttering mistakes along the way. But by simplifying my life and implementing these six strategies for staying clutter-free, I was able to move into the cutest little 300 square foot apartment with my partner. Oh, and become mortgage free by 30… but that’s a story for another day.
 
For now, let’s get on with the good stuff. These six strategies can help you get out of the yo-yo decluttering cycle, and stay clutter-free for good!
 

1. FIGURE OUT WHICH SHIT YOU’RE ACTUALLY USING

 

If you’re anything like me, you’re probably so used to seeing all the things that you own – but you rarely stop and think about whether you actually use them on the reg.

Luckily, there are plenty of little hacks you can use to figure out what you’re actually using day-to-day! Here are some strategies I’ve tried over the years:

  • Every laundry day, look at all the clothes still in your drawer or hanging up in your closet. These are clothes that, for whatever reason, aren’t getting worn. Maybe they’re for a different season (which is fine), but if they don’t fit or they aren’t your style, then it’s time to either alter them or say “see ya never!”
  • Divide any drawer (or shelf, or cupboard, or even closet!) in two. Put everything on the left-hand side. Like, literally everything. Then, when you use something, put it back on the right-hand side. You’ll learn very quickly which things you reach for, and which ones are gonna collect dust forever on the left-hand side. This works especially well for small stuff like jewellery, hair accessories, and socks.
  • For things made of metal, glass, or hard plastic, grab a wax pencil or China marker and put a marking on the item. After a couple of weeks, you’ll have a clear visual of which items aren’t getting used. I recommend this for things like spice jars, cleaning products, and some toiletries.

Sometimes we need a little visual of what we’re using, and what we’re just accustomed to looking at every day. Implementing these little tactics – or, hey, creating your own! – can be a great way to stay on top of clutter.

2. HAVE A PLACE FOR YOUR “QUESTION MARK” ITEMS

 

As you figure out what you’re actually using, you might come across some shit that you know you don’t use (or don’t use often), but you just caaaaan’t quite part with.

This is where you can designate a cupboard specifically for those things. (We call ours the purgatory cupboard – you know… because the stuff inside is awaiting judgment.😂) Write a reasonable “expiry date” on each item, and if you don’t miss it by that date, then you know you can get safely rid of it without that nagging “what if” question rolling around in your noggin’.

Many of the things we’ve kept in our purgatory cupboard got sold or donated – especially kitchen clutter like our toaster, tin foil, and garlic press! But some of them we actually ended up missing and brought back out into circulation again, this time with way more gratitude for how they help us live comfortably.

 

3. KEEP BASKETS BY THE DOOR

 

A really useful step in decluttering 75% of my stuff was keeping all my decluttered items by the door. I separated them into different baskets (or boxes, or whatever) and organized them into piles for selling/freecycling, donating, or placing out on the curb. And it’s still a handy practice, long after that initial decluttering is done.

Having a designated spot to put your decluttered stuff means that you can immediately find the stuff you’re selling when the buyers came to the door. It also means you have a visual cue to take the stuff with you when you leave for the day, so you can drop it off at a shelter or wherever else may need it.

There are plenty of places to donate items to that don’t involve dumping them at a big box thrift store (I explain here why I’m not a fan of them). Having different baskets by the door can make it easier to get your items to places and people that really need them, all year ’round.

4. HOLD A YEARLY CLUTTER “CHECK-UP”

 

Our needs naturally change over time, so there’s no such thing as decluttering once and then never having to declutter again. That’s why it’s important to hold a yearly clutter “check-up” after your initial declutter, where you go through everything you own again and reflect on questions like:

  1. When was the last time I used this?
  2. Will I need it again in the coming year?
  3. Could I make do without it?
  4. Could it benefit someone else?

By taking stock of your stuff like this, you can figure out if an item still reflects your needs, your style, and your goals. If not, it’s time for it to find another home! (Oh, and if the thought of going through everything you own again stresses you out, it might be a sign that you really need to do it.😉)

Choose a time of year when you naturally get the urge to set goals and establish new habits – it could be the new year, or spring cleaning time, or even the back-to-school rush. Then ride that motivation wave, baby!

5. BUY LESS CRAP

 

I can totally see you rolling your eyes and being all, “yeah… no shit, Sara.” But stick with me here.

If you want less clutter, you have to stop bringing clutter into your life. There’s no way around it, my dude. So here are five questions you can ask yourself before you buy anything, that’ll help you acquire less clutter overall:

  1. Do I actually need it? Like, for realsies?
  2. Could it wait a week? (Or a month?)
  3. Do I already own something that could do the trick?
  4. Could I borrow it instead?
  5. And if it’s a sale item, would I buy it at full price?
Next time you get the urge to buy (or otherwise acquire) an item, ask yourself these questions – and being brutally honest with your answers. You might just surprise yourself on the amount of clutter you cut down on!

6. PRACTICE GRATITUDE

 

Look, here’s a cold hard fact for ya. Until you’re happy with what you have, you’re always going to want more. (And I’m sure you know as well as I do that constantly wanting more is what ultimately leads to clutter!)

There are plenty of ways to incorporate more gratitude for the items in your life. I’m talking simple things, like slowing down with your morning cup of coffee and thinking about how awesomesauce it is that you have a mug to drink it out of.

But my personal favourite is carving ten minutes a day for a month-long gratitude challenge. I actually created one called Grateful as Fuck! It’s specifically for people who are decluttering, to help you appreciate all the awesome shit in your life. I recommend it to all my students, because when it comes to maintaining a clutter-free home, gratitude is still the best and easiest skill I’ve ever come across.

If you want to up your decluttering game (or you’re determined to stay clutter-free forever), you can grab a copy of the Grateful as Fuck challenge here.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The methods you use to declutter aren’t always the same ones that’ll help you stay clutter-free. The strategies above can help you switch your mindset from “purge” to “maintenance mode,” which means you’re much less likely to fill your space back up again in a few months.

Because yo-yo decluttering is super discouraging, amirite?!

If you want to make sure your clutter doesn’t come crawling back, then it’s time to implement strategies like:

  • Decipher which crap you actually use, and which you don’t
  • Designate a place to keep all the items you want to get rid of, but aren’t sure if you’ll miss
  • Keep a “sell/donate” basket by the door, so you can remove items as soon as you realize you don’t need them anymore
  • Schedule a yearly clutter “check-up” to go through everything you own
  • Buy less crap in the first place, by using strategic questions before taking out your wallet
  • Practice gratitude on the reg – because appreciating what you already own is the best way to prevent clutter!

In order to stay clutter-free, it’s all about prioritizing what’s important in life and creating habits to stay on top of the stuff in your home. And whether you’re just starting out or you’ve hit a decluttering wall, my free Ultimate Decluttering Guide can help you reach your goals! Grab your copy here:

by Sara Brigz
Have you been thinking about downsizing or living in a small space, but not sure how you’ll make it work? Or maybe you’re in desperate need of tiny apartment storage that’s functional AF?
 

Well my friend, you’ve landed in the right place! These storage solutions and design ideas are a total game changer. They’ll help you conserve precious floor space, keep clutter at bay, and feel more at home – even in a tiny apartment.

 
We ended up living in a tiny studio apartment for a whoooole bunch of reasons. For one thing, I’m fascinated by the tiny house movement. I also love a good interior design challenge, and have you seen the real estate prices in Toronto?! Seriously – it’s nutso.
 
Since we moved in about two years ago, we’ve been slowly doing renovations to make it more functional. And, let’s be honest, just more aesthetically pleasing. Because whoever lived here before had just the worst taste in interior design!
 
Also I know I said “we’ve” been doing renovations. But really, I just think up the designs and then my partner does like 98% of the grunt work. #bestpartnerever
 

Our little 300 square foot home (about 28 square metres, for those of you outside of North America) might not be perfect. But thanks to these storage solutions it’s become super livable! And I hope the takeaways below will be a useful jumping off point for your own space.

1. CONSERVE FLOOR SPACE WITH A SLIDING BARN DOOR

 

Our tiny little kitchen didn’t have a door when we moved in. And with two of us living here – often on different sleep schedules – we wanted to have a way to block the light from the kitchen when one of us (*cough* me) gets up way earlier than the other to make coffee. That said, we didn’t want a normal swinging door that cuts into our usable space.

Enter our barn door! We scored it secondhand from the Habitat Restore (it was $40!). Then we painted it blue, and used a kit to turn it into a sliding barn door. It can actually serve as both a kitchen door and a bathroom door… except we currently still have a bathroom door too, because we haven’t gotten around to removing it yet. #whoopsieee

The takeaway: Barn doors and pocket sliding doors are a great choice for tiny apartments. After all, they use less floor space to open than a regular door.

 

2. TRADE IN YOUR TRADITIONAL BED FOR A MURPHY BED

 

I’m someone who’s seen A LOT of tiny apartment design videos. So it’ll come as no surprise that I’ve dreamed of having a Murphy bed for a whiiiiiile.

When we first moved into this place, we had a double bed taking up a whole corner of our living room/bedroom space. Now with this Queen-sized Murphy bed, we’re able to use nearly all of that space during the day! Basically, we flip the bed up in the morning, and then the space can be used for potty-mouthed meditations or spontaneous 90s dance parties or whatever.

I tend to get the same few questions about our bed, so here are some things you may be wondering:

  • “Is it heavy?” Nope – it has springs that are calibrated to its weight, so it feels like lifting about 5 pounds.
  • “Will it fall down during the day?” Nerp, the same springs that help us lift it up also keep it in place!
  • “Could it close up while someone is sleeping on it?” Unless you’re able to bicep curl the weight of a full-grown human, I highly doubt it would be able to close while someone is sleeping in it.
  • “Is it going to kill you like those Murphy beds do in SIMS 4?” I mean, so far so good? 😉

The takeaway: Traditional beds use up a proportionately large portion of a tiny apartment. (I’ve calculated it at around 33 square feet, which is about 1/5 of our living room/bedroom area!) So studios can end up feeling like bedrooms all the time. When floor space is tight, Murphy beds are a design element that can open up the whole room. Plus, they look super cool. 😉

 

3. DESIGNATE ONE WALL OF THE APARTMENT FOR STORAGE

 

The Murphy bed is part of a larger set of built-ins which we designed so that we’d have room for our things. Because the apartment only has two tiny closets and an awkward layout for arranging furniture, storage was definitely at a premium! (Even though, as you probably know, we decluttered 75% of our stuff, so there isn’t thaaaat much to store haha.)

Personally, I’d much rather have more storage than I need with lots of space around my stuff, than have everything jammed and crammed into a space and be tough to access. These drawers, shelves, and cabinets make the most of the vertical space (8.5 feet) we’re fortunate enough to have here, so that everything has a spot.

The takeaway: Designating an entire wall for storage can help cut down on the furniture in a tiny apartment, and means that there will be enough room for all the things you use regularly.

4. THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX WITH BEDSIDE TABLES

 

These are one of my favourite design features of the built-ins. I cooked up this idea when I realized how bummed out I would be without having a place to put a book or a cup of tea while lying in bed. Basically, it looks like a regular drawer when it’s closed, but then it opens up like a little table! I’ve also seen some great floating side tables that attach directly to the wall, which can save valuable floor space in a small home.

The takeaway: Conserving floor space in a tiny apartment is crucial, it makes sense to think outside the box with interior design elements like side tables – especially when for many of us, they’re only used as a place to charge our phones, amirite?

 

5. INCREASE CLOSET STORAGE BY ADDING A SECOND HANGING ROD

 

We’re super lucky to have have a tall closet, but the space wasn’t being used effectively when we first got the place. So we decided to divide the closet in half, with one side for taller hanging things on the right (dresses, coats, and even our bags and yoga mats!) and the other on the left with double closet hanging rods.

One major strategy we’ve learned from cohabitating in such a tiny space is that it’s beneficial to have some clearly defined storage spaces for each person – that way, I can store my stuff the way I like it, and my partner can store his stuff the way he likes it, and no one has to silently resent the other for not arranging their clothes by colour of the rainbow (*cough* it me).

The takeaway: Nothing creates more space like decluttering a closet, but adding a second rod in the closet (tension rods work great!) can both double the usable storage space and help divide the storage more evenly if there are multiple people living in a tiny apartment. And the peace of mind from having your own storage space? PRICELESS.

 

6. CHOOSE A DESK THAT SERVES DOUBLE-DUTY

 

It took us foreverrrr to figure out a desk design that folds down when we need it, but also acts as storage! But oh man, it makes me so happy to have a place to hide our laptops and chargers so they’re not always in view. (One of my least favourite things is random cables that are always just… there.) Now we’re able to flip down the desk whenever we need it, and the rest of the time, you wouldn’t even know we had a desk!

I’ve seen some nifty little foldaway desks that drop down straight from the wall, and roll-top desks are also great at hiding clutter! Or another option for tiny living is to choose a dining table that can easily double as a desk.

The takeaway: Desks can be kinda cumbersome, especially in a tiny space. Even though the perfect desk for your space might not look exactly like ours, it’s possible to find or DIY a desk that serves multiple purposes.

 

7. FIND STORAGE IN CREATIVE PLACES

 

This is the only feature on this list that we didn’t install ourselves, but I couldn’t not include it. This little milk door is a remnant of when this old building was constructed, and it’s been turned into a little cupboard! (But it’s sealed up on the hallway side now, of course.) We use it to store our tote bags, so they’re easy to grab as we head out the door.

When you’re working with a tiny apartment, sometimes storage solutions can come from the unlikeliest places. The gap between your sofa and the wall? Add a little storage console! Got space above your toilet? Add some shelves! Toekicks in the kitchen? Install shallow drawers for your baking trays!

The takeaway: Look around your home as though it’s the first time you’re seeing it. Notice any spaces that aren’t being used, and start brainstorming! Sometimes all it takes is a little creative thinking to find storage in a tiny space.

clothes are hanging on a rack as a clever storage solution for tiny living

FINAL THOUGHTS

We definitely have more design ideas in mind to make our tiny apartment more functional – in the kitchen especially – but I think we’re off to a pretty great start. Honestly, it’s come a long way since we first moved here! By tweaking a few little things (and, let’s be real, a couple of pretty major things) both of us have been able to live pretty darn comfortably in this little studio.

If you’re looking to downsize or make your small space more functional, consider things like:

  • installing a barn door or pocket door, rather than traditional doors on hinges
  • choosing a Murphy bed to save space during the day
  • adding a wall of built-in storage, to eliminate the need for furniture like dressers and desks
  • coming up with a creative side table that doesn’t take up floor space
  • using a tension rod to add a second hanging space in the closet
  • a fold-down or roll-top desk that serves double duty
  • adding storage to otherwise unused spaces

Living comfortably in a tiny apartment can sometimes take a lot of creative storage solutions and design elements. I hope that the ideas above will help you figure out ways to make your tiny living more functional and fun!

Oh, and if you’ve got big decluttering goals for your tiny apartment, I’m ya girl! Be sure to grab your free copy of my Ultimate Decluttering Guide here:

by Sara Brigz

Okay, so you might be wondering: why am I posting about decluttering habits in the middle of the year, and not on January 1st? The short answer is that I think new year’s resolutions are kind of crap.

The long answer is that I don’t believe in choosing goals just because an arbitrary date rolls around. See, the only thing that can really propel you to make changes is deciding you’re ready to make those changes. It’s also having such a strong reason why you need to do something that you feel there’s no real choice but to make your life better.

Or, as I prefer to put it…

Real growth starts when you're tired of your own shit.

(You can find more motivational decluttering quotes here, by the way.)

CHANGING YOUR DECLUTTERING HABITS

Now, obviously being tired of your own shit can sometimes coincide with a new year. These are generally the people who successfully keep their resolutions. But for many of us the timing doesn’t line up – which could be why we convert back to our old ways again by January 23rd.

My biggest life changes sure as hell didn’t coincide with January 1st. I went vegan overnight on a random day in October 2014. I started decluttering in the fall of 2015. And I started adopting a low-waste lifestyle in the spring of 2017 – honestly, I can’t even remember which month it was.

Each one of those changes required a clear reason why I wanted to change. But they also required me to create and practice new habits. Otherwise, there’s no way I could have stuck with the goals!

So if you’re fed up with your clutter and ready to make a change, I gotchu. Here you can find 12 decluttering habits that will completely transform your home in a year.

And if you’re ready to get your home in gear, I highly suggest grabbing my free decluttering guide:

1. SHOP WITH A LIST


You’ve probably heard this advice for grocery shopping, because we tend to impulse shop when we’re hungry. (Guiltyyyyy!) But did you know it works for anything? Seriously!
 
I have a “wish list” on my phone of things I need or am looking for. That way, when I’m tempted to buy something, I can consult the list. If it’s not on the list, then chances are I don’t need it and can move on.
 
I buy most of my clothing (and other stuff) secondhand, and the list method actually works especially well for thrifting. I can pop into a store and know exactly what to look for, because I have “jean shorts” and a “black t-shirt” on my list. So basically, it keeps me from buying a bunch of shit impulsively that’ll just end up cluttering up my home.

2. DOCUMENT YOUR PROGRESS


There’s pretty much nothing more motivating than accountability, and documenting your progress is a great way to achieve that. I mean, for one thing, it’s a reason to get your ass in gear. But it’s also super inspiring to see the progress you’ve made since the initial “before” photo!

I recommend taking photos of any space you’re looking to declutter before you start. Then, take progress photos every day or week (or even month), depending on how quickly you’re able to get through the space.

And if you’re looking for an extra dollop of accountability, you can share your goals and progress photos on social media! (Feel free to use the hashtag #lettingthatshitgo on Instagram, and I might even feature your success in my stories. 😉)

3. KEEP A BOX BY THE DOOR


If you’re decluttering and you’ve identified some items you know you want to part with, keep them in a box by the door. You can even pick up a cute basket or tote bag to keep there, if that’s your aesthetic!
 
Having them in view is a great reminder to take them with you when you step out the door. And I mean, having them there might even be a minor inconvenience, so you’ll be more inclined to want them gone, amirite?

A person's decluttering habits include folding the laundry.

4. USE LAUNDRY DAY AS A GUIDE


This is such a simple little hack that I tried out a few years ago, but it works! Every time laundry day rolls around, have a look at what’s still in your closet and drawers. Generally speaking, these are the clothes that you’re not reaching for regularly – the ones that don’t fit quite right, or don’t match enough of your other clothes. (Obviously I’m not counting out-of-season clothes in this.)
 
Of the clothes that didn’t get worn since the last time you did laundry, choose one item to declutter. If you start making it a habit to part with one item every single laundry day, your closet could look completely different in a year.

5. GET SCIENTIFIC


I run experiments in my home all the time. And while I know that makes me sound like Dr. Frankenstein (or, let’s be real, more like Dr. Frankenfurter!😉), hear me out.

If there’s something you’d like to get rid of but aren’t sure if you’ll miss it, tuck it away in a cupboard as an experiment. (A drawer or closet works too, depending on how many things you have!) The important thing is that it’s out of sight.

Then, try living without it for a week, or even a month. I’m willing to bet that a bunch of the things you put in your cupboard won’t be missed at all, so you can get rid of them without as much worry!

6. IDENTIFY YOUR “FANTASY SELF”


Your “fantasy self” is the person you wish you were, and often the person you tend to shop for. For example, your fantasy self might be a fashionista, so you have all sorts of fancy dresses – but your real self rarely goes out, and the dresses all still have tags on them. Or maybe your fantasy self is a knitter, so you have all sorts of yarn – but you never use it, and it just gathers dust.

One of my favourite decluttering habits is to become aware of your thought patterns. So start by noticing the things you’re keeping for your fantasy self – specifically, the shit you see and think “I should do that” or feel guilty about not using. And then give yourself permission to let go of (and stop buying) those items.

7. GET YOUR GOALS ON


Choose one Big Scary Goal (BSG, as I call it) each month as you work toward decluttering or sustainable living, and tell someone about it. Maybe your goal is to finally declutter your kitchen, or to meditate every day.
 
If we set too many goals, it’s easy to get analysis paralysis and not accomplish any of them. So I recommend focusing on one big scary goal for the month, something that’s just a little outside your comfort zone, and working toward that. You’ll see more progress than if you strive for lots of smaller goals – and seeing tangible progress can be super motivating.

8. DO THE IMPORTANT SHIT FIRST


Mark Twain once said: “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.” What he meant is that if you have a big ugly task that you’re probably going to want to put off, it’s best to get it done right away. Otherwise you’ll probably end up procrasti-watching Schitt’s Creek all day (or is that just me??) and the task won’t get done. Again.

So when you create your to-do list for the day, get the “frog” task done first and rip off that band-aid. You’ll see that the task probably wasn’t quite as unpleasant as you thought it’d be, and you’ll gain momentum for the rest of your day.

A bed and night stand look uncluttered and peaceful.

9. RECHARGE YOUR BATTERIES


Treat your “recharge time” as sacred, and commit to it the same way you commit to your goals. And yes, sleep counts!

Decluttering is mentally draining (in fact, there’s a concept called decision fatigue which can totally derail your efforts) so you need to prioritize rest. Real rest. Quiet rest. None of the mindlessly-watching-TV-or-scrolling-through-social-media nonsense while you recharge. And if I may quote Ron Swanson… “never half-ass two things, whole-ass one thing!”

Make recharging your one thing that you focus on when you do it, and take time to fill your cup back up in a way that actually helps you feel rested – so you can tackle your decluttering with more energy.

10. FEEL YOUR FEELS


Rather than avoiding unpleasant emotions that arise while decluttering, sit with them. Feel them. Name them. Write about them. Talk about them with someone you trust. I know it might feel easier to ignore feelings of anger or sadness or guilt, but unless you allow yourself to really feel them, they don’t actually go away. They’ll continue to simmer under the surface, and chances are that they’ll come up in other ways (like snapping at a loved one).
 
Decluttering habits are all about retraining our brain. And feeling the waves of emotion, processing them, and letting them go is one of the best tricks there is. Because only then can you see lasting results with your decluttering – and avoid the dreaded clutter rebound!

11. PAY ATTENTION TO PATTERNS


Are you constantly putting off one task in particular? Do you get halfway through a project and then abandon it? Do you go through the decluttering process and then never actually sell or donate the items?
 
These patterns can be a HUGE indicator of some emotional blocks in your way that need to be addressed. And noticing the patterns is the first step to coming up with a plan to tackle them.

12. STRENGTHEN YOUR RELATIONSHIPS


This might sound overly simplified, but hear me out. So much of our physical clutter is a replacement for external needs that aren’t being met. You might have a tendency to keep certain things to feel “cool” – but if you strengthen your friendships, you’ll feel cooler even without those things. Or you might keep things “just in case” – but if you strengthen your bond with your community, you could borrow those items if you ever needed them in the future. (Even though chances are, you won’t actually need them.)

Every time you get the urge to buy something new, or struggle to declutter something, consider what emotional needs you’re trying to fill. Then, ask yourself how you can meet that need in another “non-stuff” way.

FINAL THOUGHTS ON DECLUTTERING HABITS


The state of our home – how cluttered and stressful it is, for example – is often a direct result of the decluttering habits we have. So by adopting a few specific habits, you can dramatically alter your surroundings, and create the peaceful and clutter-free home you’re craving.
 
From straightforward actions like shopping with a list to more emotional work like examining your needs and confronting your fantasy self, each habit is important to transforming your relationship with your home.
 

 

Hey! I'm Sara.

I help big-hearted people master their mindset and kiss clutter goodbye.😘

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