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

The benefits of decluttering quotes


Motivation can come and go, especially when you declutter. It’s a long-ass process, even if you follow all my tips and tricks to simplify the process! So here are some decluttering quotes to help you out when you lack motivation. They’re full of compassion, inspiration, and a little bit of tough love. Because that’s just how I roll. 😉

So without further delay, here are 16 decluttering quotes to motivate you to totally transform your home!

1. “If you’re not happy with what you have, what makes you think you’ll be happy with more?”

Is it just me, or have we been taught to believe that happiness is always just around the corner – and just one purchase away? Like, I’ll be happy when I have that new shirt. Or that book. Or a new phone. Or, ooh look! That leopard-print Snuggie is everything that’s missing from my life!! (Yep, 2010 Sara definitely had a leopard-print Snuggie. And yep, feel free to judge all you want.)⁣⁣
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One of the more surprising outcomes of my decluttering was that I developed more mindfulness and gratitude for the stuff I chose to keep. That gratitude makes me happier with what I already have. And being happier, in turn, makes me want to buy less crap.

2. Don’t go broke trying to look rich.

I used to buy crap to impress people.⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣ (Like, all my workout gear was lulu lemon, even though I never did yoga and basically never worked out.)⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣ I felt insecure about my lack of money, so I bought lots of stuff to make it seem like I was more financially secure than I was. Which obviously left me even less financially secure. Funny how that works, eh?
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Ultimately, it took drastically simplifying my life to stop the cycle.⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣

3. Enough is a decision, not an amount.

This is one of my absolute favourite decluttering quotes, because it’s all about honing in on how much stuff we really need to be content. If constantly buying more stuff hasn’t made you happy yet, maybe the next step is to be happy with what you already have. Have you ever taken the time to consider at what point you’d have “enough”? For example, once I realized that I had enough shoes, my desire to buy more shoes basically vanished. Once I realized that I had enough mugs, I no longer felt the need to buy every cute mug I saw. What’s your version of “enough”?

4. Don’t save your crap for a special occasion. Being alive is the special occasion.

Growing up, we had two sets of dishes.⁣ There were the “everyday” dishes, and the “only use on Christmas and/or if the Queen pops by for a surprise inspection” dishes. I really enjoyed those fancypants dishes, but for most of the year they sat in a cupboard untouched.⁣

So here’s what I think:⁣ Wear your fancy shoes.⁣ Light your fancy candles.⁣ Use your fancypants dishes.⁣ Life is too fucking short to keep things we love locked up in cupboards.⁣

5. The less we own, the less we have to dust.

I have a secret I have to tell you: I hate cleaning. So they only way my lazy-ass is going to dust is if my space is simple enough to not have to move around a bajillion things while I’m cleaning. Tons of knick-knacks all over the place? No chance in hell I’ll dust. But if it’s a bare-ass counter or a shelf with a couple of things on it? Well, then I don’t mind quite so much. Decluttering quotes like this one remind us that there are so many little benefits to getting organized that we often don’t even think about, ya know?

6. Hangxiety: the stress that comes from hanging onto shit we don’t need.

Whether you notice it or not, your belongings can have a significant impact on your mental and emotional well-being. From the ages of about 12 to 24, I was often anxious and went through bouts of depression. Now, I certainly won’t say that decluttering has solved all my problems, because that’s hella unrealistic and would be a big-ass lie. But having a simpler way of living (with less shit everywhere, and less time spent looking for things) has DEFINITELY helped my own mental health. And if you want some extra help calming down, I gotchu.

 

7. A Rolex will never buy you more time.

I don’t care how much a Rolex is worth, or whether it “holds its value well”… you’re still going to have the same number of hours in your day, and the same number of years in your life – and we all know that you can’t take your stuff with you when you go. So it’s time to focus on what’s really important (and here’s a hint: it probably ain’t the crap in your home).

8. You are more than the sum of your stuff.

Things I don’t want said at my funeral:⁣ “Sara had such a stylish couch… and did you SEE those matching throw pillows?!” “She bought that fancy new car AND GUYS IT HAD PARK ASSIST AND AN EXTRA CUPHOLDER OMG.” “Sara upheld all the qualities we look for as a society: she spent all her money on crap, prized her stuff more than her pals, and (perhaps most importantly) let’s not forget that she had the COOLEST shoes.”

I want to be remembered for the way I care about people, and the positive impact I try to have on the world – not the shit in my home. So, in a nutshell: I am more than my stuff. And so are you.

9. Baby steps still move you forward.

You don’t need to be perfect. (I sure as hell ain’t!?) You just need to try.⁣ Wherever you are with your simple-living goals, remember that it’s all about that baby stepping – or, as I like to call it, the grandma shuffle.

⁣It know that it can feel super discouraging when progress is slow. So it’s important to carve out some extra time for self-compassion while you scoot forward. Like, make a list of the little wins you’ve had so far. Think about the person you were five years ago and how far you’ve come. And don’t forget to high-five yourself Liz Lemon-style for actually trying to be better!⁣
 
Side note: This decluttering quote is especially relevant to sustainable and low-waste living! If you want to learn more about decluttering sustainably, check out this blog post.

10. You can’t heal what you won’t feel.

If you check out my blog post about decluttering mistakes, you’ll learn that it’s common to try to declutter our shit by trying to focus on the individual objects at hand. But without addressing (and overcoming) the fear and sentimentality attached to our stuff, the clutter will almost certainly be back before you can say “lickity split”. That’s because the underlying cause of our clutter – a.k.a. our mindset and emotions – weren’t properly healed.

So I propose an alternative.⁣ Feel your feels instead. Recognize that you have limited control in life, or that you feel guilt or sadness or whatever, and then work toward accepting that shit. Trust in your resilience to handle scary things. And reach out for support when you need it.

11. This too shall pass. It might pass like a kidney stone, but it will pass.

This is a great one to remember whenever our emotions bubble to surface while decluttering. Remind yourself that all unpleasant emotions pass – no feeling is final. You just need to sit with it, feel it, name it, and then can you begin to let it go. (Oh, and if your negative emotions are a result of feeling mentally drained, I gotchu. Here’s a blog post about how to overcome decision fatigue!)

12. All that clutter used to be money.

I first found this quote as I stared at a mountain of crap I had decluttered, and a stagnant bank account. And it hit me like a ton of bricks. I vowed then and there to drastically change the way I consumed things.⁣⁣
⁣⁣
These days, I think long and hard about whether I really need something, or if I already have something that can serve the same purpose. I borrow and lend things. I buy second-hand whenever I can. But mostly, I’ve said a big SEE YA NEVER to the idea that buying more crap is going to make me happy. I hasn’t, it doesn’t, and it won’t.⁣⁣

13. While you were debating whether the glass was half empty or half full, I decluttered it.

I wasn’t always jazzed about decluttering. In fact, my first year of decluttering was emotional and tough, and I wanted to quit countless times. But I learned some things that works (and A LOT of things that didn’t) and gradually was able to part with 75% of the shit I’d been keeping “just in case,” or because it was sentimental. And now I want to help you do the same!

14. Owning less is better than organizing more.

Coming from a lazy-ass like me, trust me when I say that the easiest way to keep your space tidy is to get rid of most of your crap! This quote from Joshua Becker always rolls around in my brain every time I get the urge to organize without decluttering first.

15. Stop should-ing all over yourself.

Here’s why we should all stop saying “should”. (See what I did there?)⁣⁣⁣ “Should” is basically a criticism, isn’t it? And I don’t know about you, but it’s always tinged with guilt and self-blame about not meeting some unspecified societal standard:⁣⁣⁣
⁣⁣⁣
I SHOULD be cleaning the kitchen. (But I’m not, and therefore I’m a slob.)⁣⁣⁣
I SHOULD eat more veggies. (But I don’t, because I’m lazy.)⁣⁣⁣
I SHOULD probably watch something other than Friends for the 127th time. (But I never seem to have the mental energy.)⁣⁣⁣
⁣⁣⁣
But what if we reframed “should” in a more empowering way?⁣⁣⁣ For one day, try replacing your “shoulds” with “coulds”. You COULD clean the kitchen, and you’re choosing to prioritize something else right now. You COULD eat more veggies, and if you want to later you will. You COULD watch something other than Friends, but Chandler is hilarious so fuck it.⁣⁣⁣
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Same message, different mindset. And it could totally change the way you approach decluttering.

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

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

From my own experience, real and lasting change rarely happens just because an arbitrary date rolls around. (Sorry, January 1st!) We need to be SO OVER whatever shit got us here before we can fully commit to doing better.⁣⁣⁣
⁣⁣⁣
The biggest changes you go through are probably going to be when you feel friggen tired. Maybe you’re tired of feeling tired all the time, tired of feeling frazzled, tired of organizing your shit only for the clutter to be back a few days later.⁣⁣⁣ But make no mistake: it’s those feelings that’ll propel you forward to make badass changes in your life. And with a little support along the way? Whoo boy, your home’s got another thing comin’!

 

Why I love decluttering quotes:

I often turn to decluttering quotes to inspire and motivate me. And, if you couldn’t tell, I’m a big fan of “truth bombs” that completely change my perspective on stuff (or money, or time, or personal growth…).

I honestly think that a single quote has the power to transform your life and your relationship with clutter. And yes, you can quote me on that. 😉

 

by Sara Brigz

Do you ever feel drained, or discouraged, or even easily frustrated with decluttering? When you’re sorting through your stuff, do you sometimes only make it through half a pile and then suddenly lose steam? Well then, my friend, you’ve probably experienced decision fatigue.

Keep on readin’ to learn my ten favourite strategies to declutter with less overwhelm and more mental clarity!

WHAT’S DECISION FATIGUE, ANYWAY?

Now, you might be thinking… “Huh? Decisi-what?

If you’ll allow me to be a little nerdy here (what else is new!), there are a few things you need to know about the brain in order to understand decision fatigue.

At the risk of oversimplifying some very complicated neuroscience, a key player in decision-making is your prefrontal cortex (the area of your brain just behind your forehead). It’s also responsible for a lot of planning, social functioning, other complex mental tasks. And it can get tired when it’s overloaded. Reaaaally tired.

The prefrontal cortex also tends to become less active (or as I like to say, it totally fucking shuts down) when another part of your brain – the amygdala – takes over. It’s a process called the amygdala hijack, which totally sounds like the name of some Vin Diesel movie. But basically it just means that during a stressful AF situation, your amygdala jumps in with your fight/flight/freeze response and overrides your prefrontal cortex’s logical thinking… including your decision-making.

 

SO… WHAT DOES ALL THIS HAVE TO DO WITH DECLUTTERING?

Well, decluttering is basically just a series of decisions that you have to make about your stuff. And if you’re anything like I was when I first started decluttering, you might have a LOT of stuff (a.k.a. a buttload of decisions to make). If you reach decision fatigue while decluttering, you’ll probably find it extra tough. In fact, you might…

  • end up mentally drained before you make it through a certain room, closet, or category of stuff
  • find yourself exhausted and foggy-brained
  • get frustrated more easily and become a bit of a crankypants with loved ones
  • become discouraged, and then feel bad about yourself for “failing” to declutter, which would then make you less motivated to declutter in the future, which would make you feel worse… vicious circle, right?

The good news is that decision-making is kind of like a muscle, and it can be strengthened. Your brain is constantly “re-wiring” itself (in a process called neuroplasticity) and over time you can become more resilient to decision fatigue. To help you along, here are ten ways to reduce decision fatigue while decluttering.

 

1. PLAN THE NIGHT BEFORE

Each evening, decide what category of stuff you’ll declutter the next day (see tip #5 for more on decluttering by category). Gather the items from around the house, and plop them in your designated decluttering area (see #3). I know some people who use this strategy with exercise – they set out their sneakers and workout gear the night before, which reduces the decisions they have to make in the morning (like “where the heck is my water bottle?” and “do these shorts match this shirt?”). Basically, it’s one less barrier between them and their workout, and makes it that much easier to git ‘er done without excuses. The same goes for decluttering, my friend.

 

2. DECLUTTER IN THE MORNING

As we learned, the more decisions you make, the more pooped your brain gets. So if you wait until the evenings to declutter, after a day full of decisions about work, kids, what to wear, how to not lose your cool during your commute even though you’re frustrated as all hell… you’ll probably be too drained.

BUT I’M NOT A MORNING PERSON,” I hear you cry. “I HAVE TO GET UP AND GO TO WORK IN THE MORNING!” “BUT I HAVE KIDS!” And I hear ya, my friend. I really do.

But I have to tell you that goals don’t lead to success – habits do. You can have the best plans and goals in the world, but unless you find a way to troubleshoot and schedule your decluttering when you have more mental energy available, it’s going to keep causing you frustration. I don’t mean you have to wake up at 5AM to declutter, necessarily – but whenever you normally get up, try getting up just a little bit earlier so you can factor in your decluttering while you still have the mental energy to be mindful.

3. PICK A DESIGNATED DECLUTTERING SPOT

If your space allows, designate a room – or a corner of a room, or even a particular chair or nook – your official decluttering area. After time, your mental association will kick in and help you get into the decluttering frame of mind. Plus, you’ll have somewhere to put all the stuff you gathered each evening (as we talked about in #1).

Pick a spot that’s comfy (you might be there for hours at a time), with good lighting and few distractions. Since my partner and I live in a studio apartment with no couch, we usually turn the Murphy bed into our decluttering zone – but in a pinch, our dining table or the floor will also work. Feel free to get creative!

 

4. REDUCE DECISIONS IN OTHER AREAS OF YOUR LIFE

Some CEOs wear a “uniform” – meaning, the same types of clothing items every day. Mark Zuckerberg has his grey t-shirts and hoodies. Fashion designer Carolina Herrera has her white button-ups and black a-line skirts. It’s not just a fashion choice – it’s actually a way to reduce the number of decisions they make each day. Basically, it means more mental energy to put toward all the important business decisions each day. (I mean, you could also just wear leggings and a t-shirt each day and sound super fancypants by calling it a uniform!)😉

Of course, you may not want to fully commit to a uniform, but here are a few options you could try:

  • create a capsule wardrobe (pick out 15-30 items that you already own, and that all go together – and wear only those things for a month)
  • eat the same breakfast every morning (one less thing to decide every day!)
  • batch cook and eat leftovers more often, to reduce decisions like “what the heck should I eat for dinner?”
  • implement a weekly routine for things like chores, opening mail, groceries…

5. DECLUTTER BY CATEGORY, NOT BY ROOM (OR DRAWER, OR CLOSET…)

At one point, I had outerwear in four different places in the house… you know, because Canada. There were the coats in the front hall. The jackets in my closet. The ski suits in the basement. And some stuff in the spare room closet because I had run out of room in the other places. That meant I was decluttering outerwear on four separate occasions. And each time, I would have to think about what other items I already had, whether I needed it, and whether the item I was holding was better than the one in another room. It was exhausting. (And don’t even get me started on the number of places in my home that I kept hair elastics!)

Do yourself a favour and make a trip around your home to collect any “like” objects. Then declutter them all in one go, to save your mental energy.

 

6. TAKE BREAKS

Okay, I will say that there’s a fine line between breaks and procrastination. But if you’ve reached the point where you’re mentally drained, trying to push through and declutter anyway is only going to frustrate or discourage you. Take some time to grab a cup of tea, meditate to an awesome potty-mouthed meditation, dance it out, take a cat nap, or check out these awesome decluttering quotes.

I also recommend that you make a note of what caused the decision fatigue, so you can pace yourself better in the future. Grab a pen and paper, and answer the following questions:

  • How much you were able to declutter before you reached mental exhaustion?
  • What emotions are arising for you?
  • How did you sleep the night before?
  • What else happened that day to drain your mental energy?
  • Were there disruptions, and what were they?

After a few experiences of decision fatigue, you may start to notice patterns. You can then use those to formulate a decluttering plan that’s less fatiguing. Maybe it means tackling a smaller category of stuff next time, changing your environment, or incorporating more mindfulness and rest into your day.

 

7. STOP MULTI-TASKING

Okay, get this: the brain can’t actually multi-task. It’s not a thing! It can flip super quickly between tasks, but it’s still only processing one task at a time. This is why I don’t actually recommend listening to music or podcasts while decluttering.

Now, don’t get me wrong – music makes for a great dance break. So feel free to get up, shake it like a polaroid picture, and refresh. But I suggest using it sparingly. Same goes with multi-tasking like cooking, cleaning, writing emails while decluttering…

Repeat after me: ONE. THING. AT. A. FRIGGEN. TIME.

 

8. AVOID INTERRUPTIONS

Interruptions are similar to so-called “multi-tasking”, because it involves your brain flipping its attention back and forth between tasks, which can be hella draining for it. So silence your phone. Ask your roomies or family for some time sans interruptions. Get a babysitter if you can. Or find a time when you’re otherwise undisturbed, in an area of your home with the fewest distractions possible.

 

9. GET MORE SLEEP

If you’ve got a big decluttering project, then your brain could be perpetually tuckered out for quite a while. And the best way to recharge? You guessed it – sleep.

Remember all that stuff about the brain earlier? Yeah, a lack of sleep can cause the amygdala to have a heightened fight/flight/freeze response to negative stimuli, like… you know… the stress of sorting through clutter. And the prefrontal cortex (a.k.a. decision central) doesn’t perform nearly as well when it’s tired, either.

I try to set an alarm for an hour before I go to sleep to start wrapping up the day, powering off my electronics, and do a little meditating to wind down. (But obviously I still fail sometimes and end up watching TikToks until midnight!)

 

10. REMEMBER YOUR “WHY”

Willpower can come and go from day to day, or week to week… so it’s crucial to have a vivid reason WHY you’re decluttering in the first place to carry you through. It’s so important to the process that I designated a whole section of my step-by-step Ultimate Decluttering Guide to walking you through it! That way, you can develop a “whypower” strong enough to keep you motivated, even when your willpower is drained.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS:

 

Decision fatigue can make it really difficult to declutter. But by implementing the strategies above, you can help to prevent mental exhaustion, and make the most of your decision-making ability while decluttering!

by Sara Brigz

Has decluttering been on your to-do list for weeks… months… maybe years? But it’s like every time you try to sort through your things, your eco-friendly values kick in and conflict with your urge to purge? Or maybe you’re no stranger to the phrase “But I don’t want it to go to waste!” and you know you want to declutter sustainably.

Then stick with me, my friend. I’ll show you the four steps to decluttering without waste… and with less guilt.

I hear ya – I also want to live in a calm, tidy home that doesn’t look like Mick Jagger just threw a raging party. But I also want to divert as much stuff from the landfill (and the oceans!) as possible.

The desire to declutter without making waste can be oh-so-strong, but it can be tough to know where to start. So if you’re wondering how the heck to declutter without feeling overwhelmed by guilt, I gotchu. In this post I’ll show you how to forgive your past decisions, change your future habits, and take charge of your clutter by re-homing them in a sustainable way. Each step is super important to help you declutter responsibly and – this is a biggie – get lasting results.

Pssst – want a free workbook to help you get started with your decluttering? Grab it here:

STEP ONE: MAKE PEACE WITH THE PAST

 

I see you, friend – you’re compassionate AF, and you want to do what’s right for the earth. So it totally makes sense why you might feel some “eco guilt” in getting rid of your stuff. But here’s the thing: that guilt isn’t going to serve you, even when you declutter sustainably.

It’s time to forgive yourself for decisions made before you knew better. Heck, forgive yourself for the crap you bought even after you knew better.

This is no place for perfectionism or shame – because if you’re anything like me, both of those mentalities will just make you want to procrastinate decluttering and binge-watch Netflix instead. (#BeenThere) Or those feelings of shame might drive you to seek comfort using old coping mechanisms (*cough* retail therapy, anyone?).

If you have an item you’d like to get rid of, but fear that it’s wasteful, here’s what I want ya to do:

  • Reflect on why you got the item in the first place, and why it isn’t being used now. Focus on the facts, here, and remember that you’re not a bad person (or a bad environmentalist, or a bad declutterer) for having this item.

  • Acknowledge the guilt or sadness or shame or whatever you’re feeling about getting rid of the object. Really feel them. Write them down, scream them into a pillow, cry about them while listening to a long-lost Backstreet Boys ballad. (I won’t judge… much.)😉
  • Look for the learning experience. In all mistakes there are lessons to be learned… or something corny like that. If nothing else, this item taught you a little bit more about who you are (and who you’re not), and that’s actually pretty cool.

STEP TWO: FOCUS ON THE FUTURE

Sweet, you’ve started to make peace with past clutter! Now what? Many folks jump straight to sorting through their shit, but they’re skipping a seriously crucial step. And it’s going to be basically impossible to declutter sustainably without learning how to stay clutter-free.

For your results to stick, you have to change your accumulation habits. There’s no point spending all that time and energy decluttering, only to re-clutter your home again. I mean, if a sink were overflowing, you’d want to turn off the tap before mopping up the water, amirite?

If your clutter is mostly non-donateable, non-recyclable stuff, you may want to brainstorm some less wasteful versions of those things in your community. Otherwise, while shopping in the future, you can ask yourself:

  • Do I really even need it?
  • Do I already own something similar, or something that could do the trick?
  • Can I borrow/rent/steal one (JOKES, guys, obviously stealing is terrible) instead of buying it?

One of the most sustainable things you can do is to buy less crap in general – especially new stuff, and especially stuff you don’t need. This shit is the real key to living a clutter-free and eco-friendly life.

Items in a sustainable kitchen that are being decluttered

STEP THREE: PRETTY IT UP

Want to know a secret for re-homing your things while you declutter sustainably? You’ve got to pretty them up a bit. Here are a few actions you can take to make your item more desirable to its potential new owners:

  • Repair or mend it


    Ugh, no one wants to buy something exciting and new and…broken. Take the time to fix it up – sew on that spare button, get the lamp re-wired, or tighten up the screws. Broken shit is way less likely to get picked up, so it’s worth it to show it a little TLC before saying “see ya never”!

  • Clean it

    Just like broken things, dusty or gross things are kind of… ick. So make it look its best by giving it a wipe down, a polish, or a scrub before sending it off.

  • Part with the whole set
     
    Now, I’m all for keeping one thing out of a collection if it’s sentimental, and if doing so helps you let go of the rest. But you’d have a heck of a time finding someone who wants an encyclopedia set that’s missing half the books because you wanted to keep the other half. (For any Gen Z out there, in pre-Wikipedia days, people used to have to look facts up by hand. In a book. Which was part of a whole set of books. Just to find out some random detail about sloths. And yes, it sucked.) Try to keep sets together when you part with them, if you can.

  • Take good photos
     
    This applies to posting things to sell, give away, or trade online. (I actually don’t recommend donating to big thrift stores, but stay tuned for more on that in Step 4.) The photos you post might be the difference between someone saying “heck yes!” to your secondhand item, or buying it new somewhere else – and we all know that secondhand shopping is way more sustainable. Never underestimate the power of good lighting, clear focus, and shots from multiple angles.

  • Craft a detailed write-up
     
    No need to write flowery poetry, here, but people want to know exactly what they’re going to get if they take your item. Give them as much detail as you can: things like the brand (if applicable), dimensions, how old it is, and any quirks or flaws. You can even throw in a sentence about why it’s useful, or explain what condition it’s in.

STEP FOUR: RE-HOME RESPONSIBLY

I know how appealing it can be to dump bags and boxes of stuff at big box thrift stores. The problem is that lots of the stuff we donate doesn’t actually make it onto the shelves. *Insert Homer Simpson’s “D’OH!” here.* According to CBC, only 25% of clothing donations actually gets sold in stores. So it seems like despite the warm fuzzy feeling we get with donating our stuff, there’s a very good chance it’ll end up in the landfill anyway.

We want to be sure that our items are going to find their way into the hands of someone who will value them. So here are some tips for how to declutter your stuff without throwing it away or donating it to a thrift store!

  • Sell it


    This might involve selling it to a person or a consignment shop, but selling items is one of my favourite ways to declutter – for a few reasons. First, it means more money in your pocket to put toward your financial goals. Second, if the future owner pays for it, it actually helps them value the item more (and likely take better care of it). And third, if you set an expectation that anything you bring into your life, you’ll have to sell one you’re done with it… well, you might think long and hard next time before bringing any new clutter into your home.

  • Trade or barter it
     

    There are a number of apps and Facebook groups these days for trading or bartering unwanted stuff. I’ve used Bunz and a couple of others to trade my clutter for things I can use: transit tickets, pantry items, bags of coffee… I once even traded a bunch of old wine corks (someone wanted them for wedding decor) for a new bottle of wine. Basically, you can exchange your clutter for consumables you would buy anyway, and IT ROCKS.

  • Donate to a shelter
     

    This is one of my favourite ways to re-home items, but PLEASE always call ahead to ask what items they need. For example, some animal shelters and wild animal sanctuaries will gladly accept your stained, torn, or otherwise non-donate-able bedding and towels. And there’s a women’s shelter in my area that was looking for coats and space heaters recently. But it’s not fair to saddle them with your old stuff if they don’t explicitly need it.

  • Donate to your community
     

    It often just takes a quick Google search to find creative places in your community that might have a need for your stuff. Old magazines can go to little free libraries. Tools and construction supplies might find new life at high school woodshops, or the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. Tote bags and elastic bands might be super useful at your local farmers market. Some independent cafes in my area even accept mismatched mugs to use for their “for here” coffee drinkers. A little research can go a long way in helping you find sustainable ways to declutter!

  • Freecycle or “Buy Nothing” it
     

    This is a great way to pay it forward in your community. Cut out the thrift store middle-man, and offer up your stuff to people nearby who might need it! And be sure to implement the tips from Step 3 before you post. 😉

  • Curb it


    Like freecycling, curbing (or kerbing, if you’re British) your items can be a great way to get your belongings into the hands of someone who can use them – without having to donate to a thrift store. The downside is that people may not be looking for that specific item, and might pick it up “just in case” or just because it’s there – so I prefer freecycle, where it’s more likely to end up in the hands of someone who is already looking for it.

  • Repurpose it


    This option is great for things that can’t be or otherwise used. But overall, this is actually my least favourite option – and I’ll tell you why. I’m not immune to keeping things for years, with brilliant plans of finding a use for them or “upcycling” them… one day. So if you know you’re the kind of person who will likely never actually get around to that repurposing project (and that’s okay!), then this ain’t the option for you. But if you can transform something (like make a planter out of a chipped teacup or cracked rubber boot) today – like RIGHT NOW – then this could be an awesome solution for ya.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

It took time to acquire your stuff, so it’s natural that it may take time to let it go. Remember that in order to declutter sustainably it needs to be a lifestyle change, not a fad. And going too quickly can actually be detrimental to your decluttering success, especially if it leads to yo-yo decluttering.

I definitely recommend processing one category of stuff at a time, so that you can re-home the excess all in one go and not have to keep making trips for the same purpose. For instance, if you can, try decluttering all your magazines on the same day, rather than having to make like 27 different trips to the little free library.

I hope these tips help you declutter without waste, in a way that’s in line with your rockin’ sustainable values.

by Sara Brigz

Let me start off here by saying something that you need to know: when it comes to clutter, I. AM. NOT. PERFECT. In fact, I have made each and every one of these decluttering mistakes before.

It took me many (many) months of learning the best decluttering methods the hard way, through painstaking trial and error, and BOY OH BOY do I wish I’d had someone to guide me. If someone had been around to teach me how to clear the mountains of clutter around me, and what not to do, it would have saved me so much time. And energy. And rage-quits.🤣

So here I am! I want to be that decluttering guide for you. (Also, hi – I’m Sara. It’s awesome to e-meet you.😊)

Now before we get started on the decluttering mistakes, I want you to remember this: be gentle with yourself. You are not a failure if you’ve made any of these mistakes. On the contrary, the fact that you’re on this page right now is a testament to how much you are a triggen inspiration. Why, you ask? Because you’re learning, you’re taking charge of your clutter, and you’re taking real action to transform your life. YOU ARE A TOTAL BADASS.

I want to help you in any way I can, so I’ve compiled all my favourite strategies to get you from clutterbug to clutter-free ASAP! You can find them in my free Ultimate Decluttering Guide. You can score your copy here:

Okay – without further delay, here are my top decluttering mistakes to avoid, so that you can clear your clutter more easily than I did!

 

1. DECLUTTERING ROOM BY ROOM

 

If your home is anything like mine used to be, you probably have magazines in multiple rooms of the house (back when I HAD multiple rooms – my partner and I now live in a 300ft2/28m2 studio apartment😅). There were the living room magazines, the food magazines in the kitchen, the magazines by my bed, the magazines in the bathroom (DON’T JUDGE now, we all do it!), the magazines in my desk (not even sure why they were there)… and the list goes on.

When I first started decluttering, I would go drawer by drawer, closet by closet, and room by room – but then I would end up decluttering magazines on like, eight different occasions! It was more time consuming, and used a shit ton more decision-making mental capacity. (Decision fatigue is a very real thing, and it’s best to “batch” your tasks when you declutter.)

HOW TO FIX IT: Declutter by category, not by area of the house. If you’re decluttering shoes, for example, grab all your shoes from around your home and gather them together before you start! Processing similar items all at once helps you make better (and less fatiguing) decisions about what to keep.

2. NOT GIVING YOURSELF ENOUGH TIME

One of the most common decluttering mistakes I’ve come across while helping others declutter is being too optimistic about how much can reasonably be accomplished in a certain amount of time. It’s natural to want to believe you can declutter your 4-bedroom house in a weekend, or your whole room in a couple of hours. But not giving yourself enough time means that you’ll likely have to abandon the project mid-way, leaving behind an even worse mess. AND, to top it off, it’s super friggen discouraging – and what motivates us less than feeling discouraged?!

HOW TO FIX IT: Double the amount of time you think you need for a specific clutter category. Or if the amount of time you have is pretty fixed, then cut the amount of stuff you’ll be sorting through by half. I know that sounds kind of extreme, but trust me on this, friend. In my experience, most decluttering tasks take twice as long as we figure they will. (And if it doesn’t? Sweet! You just scored yourself some more time to recharge, or to check out some of these motivational decluttering quotes.)

 

3. TRYING TO ORGANIZE BEFORE YOU DECLUTTER

Have you ever spent hours organizing, only to have the clutter return in a few weeks… or even days? That’s because organizing is a temporary solution – all you’re doing is shuffling the clutter around, and fitting it into little boxes. Besides, why spend hours organizing stuff that might not even make the cut anyway?

HOW TO FIX IT: Don’t even THINK about organizing until you know what you have left over to organize. Do not buy storage containers. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Repeat after me: “Declutter, then organize. Declutter, THEN organize.”

 

4. TACKLING THE BIG PROJECTS FIRST

When we tackle big projects first, it’s almost guaranteed that we’ll feel discouraged. It’s like running a marathon – you wouldn’t expect to be able to get out and run 26 miles without training first with shorter distances, right? And if you tried to run a marathon without practicing and building momentum first, you’d probably feel exhausted. And frustrated. And super bummed out. (And probably pretty sore, but that’s besides the point!)

The same goes for decluttering. For example, let’s say your biggest “problem area” is the garage. Well if you start with that, you’ll probably tire out quickly and get frustrated, which might even lead you to procrastinate from decluttering in the future.

HOW TO FIX IT: Start with “little wins” in categories that you use every day. Places like your cutlery drawer are awesome for this – it’s a small area, it can be completed relatively quickly, and you likely open it every day (so you can start experiencing the clutter-free benefits regularly). Gradually, as you become more comfortable with the small projects, you can increase the size and scope of your projects and build momentum toward the big ones.

5. NOT PROCESSING THE EMOTIONAL SHIT

 

Decluttering mistakes aren’t always about the strategies we us. Sometimes they’re about not feeling the feels!

If you declutter too quickly, you may not be giving yourself enough time to process the emotions that led to being clutttered in the first place. That’s problematic for a couple of reasons: one, it doesn’t allow you to deal with the emotional shit that’s been holding you back. And two, it’s a band-aid solution and can lead to relapse. It might help in the short term, but before too long your old cluttered patterns will likely re-surface.

HOW TO FIX IT: Take your time, and revisit the tough stuff regularly. How long did it take you to accumulate the stuff you have? Probably years – or even decades, right? Well during that time, you were developing your “clutter mindset” (your old thoughts and beliefs about your stuff). It’s going to take time for your new thought patterns to become second-nature – but decluttering the tough stuff in bite-sized increments, slowly but regularly, is the best way to “re-wire” your brain. Also, make sure you grab my Ultimate Decluttering Guide for ideas of what to do with the items after you declutter them!

 

6. THROWING EVERYTHING INTO THE TRASH

I understand the desire to be rid of stuff as soon as you’ve made up your mind about decluttering it. Trust me, I’ve been there. But it’s extremely wasteful to trash all of your perfectly good things (and unfortunately, donating to thrift stores really isn’t much better). I also believe that taking the time to re-home your items sustainably can be a great way to reduce the amount of new clutter you acquire in the future.

HOW TO FIX IT: Re-home your items responsibly. Decluttering sustainably can be complicated, but I made this detailed blog post to help break it down for you. In it you’ll find four straightforward steps and loads of tips to help you reduce the amount of waste you produce while decluttering!

 

7. PROCRASTINATING

Procrastination is a complicated subject, because there can be countless reasons for it. Usually if we’re procrastinating, it’s a sign that there’s something else going on – things like fear of failure, overwhelm, task aversion, or self-sabotage, just to name a few. So the mistake I’m talking about here is not the procrastination itself, but rather not addressing the root cause of it.

HOW TO FIX IT: Identify what’s causing your procrastination, and use strategies designed to help overcome it. This may involve breaking down big tasks into more manageable ones, setting goals (and holding yourself accountable), diving into a little introspection about your fears, or finding an accountability partner.

 

8. PAWNING OFF YOUR THINGS ON PEOPLE WHO DON’T WANT THEM

You might have the urge to “gift” your unused clutter to loved ones – possibly because it lessens the guilt of discarding it. It’s natural to want to see your objects getting a second life after they leave your home, but it means that your loved ones might feel pressure to take on clutter that they don’t actually want. Unwanted clutter = resentment, and that ain’t good!

HOW TO FIX IT: Ask people what they currently have a need for. Rather than offering your clutter to someone (where it might just become clutter in their home), ask them what they need – and then see if you have one of those items that you can part with. Now, I should mention that heirlooms (or things that may be sentimental to the person you’re offering them to) are a little different – I think it’s fair to ask first whether they would like them. But please make it clear that they’re under no obligation to take it, and once you’ve made up your mind about getting rid of the object, don’t let their response change whether or not you keep the item.

 

9. DECLUTTERING SENTIMENTAL STUFF TOO EARLY

Decluttering is like climbing Mount Everest. You need to train a bunch at altitude before climbing beyond Base Camp (i.e. you need to hone your mental skills for decluttering before you attempt the really sentimental stuff, which is basically the summit). Otherwise, you might leave feeling discouraged and overwhelmed – and distracted, because nothing derails decluttering faster than pictures of cute babies/puppies and jaunts down memory lane.

HOW TO FIX IT: Start with the least sentimental, and work toward the most. I’m willing to bet that you’re less sentimentally attached to your charging cables than your photo albums. Pick the easier categories first, and gradually build momentum toward the really emotional stuff.

 

10. DECLUTTERING OTHER PEOPLE’S THINGS

Obviously there are some reasons why you might need to declutter for someone else, or vice versa – for example if disabilities are a factor, or if the person has passed away. That’s not what I’m talking about here. If you’re able to declutter but ask someone to do the work for you, you’re missing out on the personal growth that comes from sorting through your stuff. And, worse yet, you might not have the opportunity to confront the mindsets that led to the clutter in the first place, and you’re more likely to rebound as a result. I don’t advocate decluttering for someone else for the same reason. They need to make those decisions for themselves – and doing the decluttering for them ain’t gonna help long-term.

HOW TO FIX IT: Only declutter your things. (Even shared belongings shouldn’t be decluttered without the other person there.) And as a general rule, please don’t get rid of another person’s shit without explicit permission.

 

11. GETTING HANDSY (A.K.A HANDLING YOUR BELONGINGS TOO MUCH)

The more physical contact we have with something, the harder it is to part with. It’s almost like tactile sensations can carry memory or emotions, which can create a stronger bond with the item. And if we become more attached to it by touching it, we’re more likely to keep it – whether or not our brains actually want to!

HOW TO FIX IT: If you think you’re prone to tactile sentimentality, try to avoid handling your stuff more than you need to. Hold the book, but don’t flip through it. Look at your sweater, but don’t sit there running your hand over the fabric for minutes on end. Over time, it’ll become easier to part with objects that no longer serve a purpose in your home.

 

12. NOT KNOWING YOUR “WHY”

You might feel like you lack motivation or willpower, but here’s the thing: we don’t have an unlimited supply. Willpower has a naturally ebb and flow – no one feels motivated all the time. So what keeps people pushing through a project, even when they don’t feel particularly keen? WHYpower. Without it, you likely won’t have the drive to keep up with a project when your motivation has inevitably dwindled.

HOW TO FIX IT: Figure our your “why.” WHY are you decluttering in the first place? Get super clear on how exactly a decluttered home is going to help you live a better life. (Pssst – my Ultimate Decluttering Guide can help you with this!! It’s not to late to grab your copy.) You’ll then need to recall this driving force when you feel unmotivated to declutter.

 

13. NOT TAKING ENOUGH BREAKS

I totally get the urge to power through decluttering, even when your body and mind are screaming “nope!” Clearing your home can be a powerful feeling, and hooo boy, once we start seeing results we just want to keep going! Here’s the thing, though: not taking breaks is a surefire way to burn out. And once you’ve burnt out, it’s real tough to regain any sort of momentum again.

HOW TO FIX IT: Step away from the piles of crap. If you need to, set a time for yourself so that every hour, you’re taking a short break to grab a snack, walk around the block, dance it out, or listen to a quick potty-mouthed meditation. You could even try one of these mindfulness activities that take 5 minutes or less. By pacing yourself, you’ll end up having more mental energy for the tough decisions, and you’re more likely to stick with decluttering long enough to see finish line!

14. NOT TAKING BEFORE PHOTOS

I can almost hear you thinking “why the heck would I want to remember this disaster?!” But listen. I honestly wish I had more “before” photos to look back on. When you declutter gradually (which I actually recommend!), it can be easy to get used to our less-cluttered space and forget how it used to look. Photos make an awesome record of what you’ve accomplished! And they’re also a great tool for when you feel discouraged by your clutter and need a little motivational boost.

HOW TO FIX IT: Take photos right now. Get up, and do a pass of your home. Open drawers, closets, cupboards. Take zoomed out photos of entire rooms. I promise that further along in your decluttering journey, those pictures are going to be pretty damn encouraging for you.

15. NOT KNOWING WHAT TO DO WITH YOUR CLUTTER ONCE YOU’VE SORTED THROUGH IT

I’m all for decluttering slowly, and taking time to re-home things responsibly. But in some cases, bags and boxes of clutter just sit around, never actually leaving the house. (Guilty!🙋) Often that can be a result of not knowing where your clutter needs to end up.

HOW TO FIX IT: Do a quick Google search. It often only takes a few minutes to find somewhere in your community that could use your items. (You can find heaps of suggestions in my sustainable decluttering post. You may need to experiment a bit, but I recommend having an idea of where your items will go before you declutter them. Then you can label them and give them a designated spot by the door.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

Tidying up our homes may not be easy, but it can be made simple. By avoiding the decluttering mistakes above, you’ll be able to sort through your things more efficiently (and with fewer headaches).

Hey! I'm Sara.

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

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