Not sure if y’all have clocked it, but I have kind of co-opted the cleaning/organization beat here at EHD. Growing up, I was pretty unbothered by mess and grime – much to the chagrin of my mom and, later, my college roommates (sorry again, everyone!!!) – but as an adult, I’ve figured out some systems and discovered a few tried-and-true products that have made cleaning, organizing, and maintaining my home both easy AND fun. But today’s post isn’t about more things to buy – it’s actually about a few of the mental frameworks I’ve recently been employing to make it easier for me to part with the things I already have. See, I’ve always struggled a little bit with clutter (I mean…I’m a girl who loves the flea market, you know?) and it’s finally sunk in that the solution isn’t just adding more bins and baskets – it’s that I need LESS STUFF. Deciding what makes the cut is hard, though (especially when you’re as sentimental as I am!), so let’s dive into a few of the strategies that have actually been helpful for me in the hopes that maybe this can help you declutter, too 🙂
The 20/20 Rule
The idea is simple: If I can replace something for under $20 and in under 20 minutes, I give myself the freedom to let it go. This has been game-changing for me – old nail polish? I can grab another at Walgreens in less than five minutes if I end up needing to. The almost-empty bottle of vitamins that I have been ignoring for months but still keep in the fridge in the event that I will one day wake up with willpower and will be able to commit to my vitamin regimen again? Spoiler: it’s not happening, so just let them go, girl! All those weird promotional drawstring backpacks that have sat dormant at the bottom of my closet for years but have still been schlepped from coast to coast and from apartment to apartment? JUST DONATE THEM, ALREADY.
I’ve really struggled with a sunk cost fallacy here for a while – “I already have this, and I’ve kept it for so long, and I might need it someday, so I should hold on to it just in case!” (Maybe that refrain sounds kind of familiar to you, too.) In reality, though, many of the things I’ve been struggling to organize are still things that I could grab quickly and affordably in a pinch. Like, why purchase another bin to store the aforementioned nail polish when I haven’t painted my own nails in over a year? I’ve been able to give away unused crafting supplies (why did I, a person who has literally never touched a knitting needle in their life, have so much yarn???), school supplies (where are my fellow pen hoarders at? Turns out I don’t need, like, 300 different gel pens!), and I’ve also finally been able to toss the stuff that’s just taking up space and waiting to expire. It’s liberating, y’all!
The Inventory Idea
This is a new thought pattern for me and it’s been TRANSFORMATIONAL. I’d always blamed my cluttered tendencies on my ADHD brain manifesting itself – you know, unintentionally making my surroundings look and feel like the inside of my head – but the reality is much simpler: my human brain is just not equipped to keep tabs on this much inventory. Swapping my previous self-punishing internal monologue of “I have too much stuff” with “I just have more inventory than I can track right now” has COMPLETELY changed the way I look at clutter.
Here’s the thing: I don’t think I’d ever really grokked that every single thing that I bring into my home contributes to my mental load and to my to-do list. Once something comes in that front door, it needs to be tracked and monitored and maintained…and it turns out that a lot of things in my home aren’t worth that kind of effort, you know? Humans simply were not built to keep track of hundreds of thousands of objects in addition to, like, staying alive. That’s not an exaggeration, either – the average American household has over 300,000 items in it. SERIOUSLY. I’ve accepted that I do not have the brain space or bandwidth to care for 300,000 things in addition to, you know, talking to my family and having a job and doing things with friends – something’s gotta give, and it’s gonna have to be the things.
Clutter doesn’t happen because you’re lazy or because of some moral failure – you simply just do not have the brain space to remember and sort all of the objects in your inventory. Think of yourself like a video game character with limited slots to carry items – what really matters to you? What actually deserves to take up your mental bandwidth? (Spoiler: it’s probably not the box of assorted cords for devices and appliances you’ve been collecting for a decade or more. You’re never going to go through that box, pal – just donate or recycle them and let yourself permanently remove “sort through miscellaneous cords” from your to-do list. IT’S GOING TO FEEL AMAZING, I SWEAR.)
The Grey Zone Donation
THE MAYBES. That’s where I get hung up, at least. There are the things that are easy to toss in a donation pile; there are things that are obvious keepers…but what about the items in the middle? Maybe it’s a splurgey wool sweater that you may need one day…but you also live in Los Angeles, where the average daily temperature literally never warrants the hoarding of said overpriced wool sweater. How do you commit to purging and donating when you’re making a decision that isn’t clearly black or white? Enter: THE GREY ZONE.
The solution here is pretty simple, but it does require some willpower. Take all your “well, I do really like this, it’s in good condition, and maybe I’ll use it when [insert infrequent scenario here]” things and throw them in a box/bag/storage container of your choice. Choose a timeframe that makes sense for you – maybe it’s a week, maybe it’s a month – and TAPE IT CLOSED for that amount of time. If you don’t need to force entry into this box, donate it blindly once the clock’s run out.
Do not let yourself get caught in a last-minute check – “let me just make sure there’s nothing really important in here” is the kiss of death that’ll spoil your efforts (take it from experience!) – just let it go and enjoy the newly-created space, free of items that you’re ambivalent about. It’s kinda nice to be surrounded only by the pieces that you really love and use, right?
The 5-Year Question
Try this scenario on for size: think about that shirt in your dresser. It’s seen better days – maybe it’s a little faded, or it has low-key pit-stained (but in a way that only you really notice), or there’s a tiny hole in it, or you accidentally spilled soy sauce on the front leaving it unwearable in public (too specific, maybe?) and now it’s become your last-choice “home clothes” shirt. It’s the one you pull on when you’re out of everything else – if it could talk, it’d be the shirt that said “GIRL, you gotta do laundry RIGHT NOW.”
I’m here with an instant mood-boosting tip: RETIRE THAT SHIRT. Recycle it. Turn it into cleaning rags. Make a t-shirt quilt, if you’re sentimental! Either way, LET IT GO. I’ve found that I have a tendency to wear things into the ground, which is great (or better than the fast fashion alternative, at least, I guess). But at some point, I need to learn how to say goodbye – enter the “5-year question.” When I’m considering parting with pieces on their last legs – or decor that I’ve pulled from the flea market that no longer sparks joy – I just need to ask the following: “In 5 years, am I going to be glad that this is still in my inventory?”
Will I be glad that I’ve kept reluctantly pulling on my hole-y pink home-only shirt for trips to the laundromat, or that I continue to shove a broken flea market toucan statue in the closet in the hope that one day I’ll create a vignette that requires a broken toucan statue? Most of the time, the answer is a resounding NO. 30-year-old Caitlin is doing 35-year-old Caitlin a favor – she’s pitching stuff now so that future Caitlin can fully enjoy the stuff she really loves.
Just 1% Better
If you also went through a competitive sports phase (or, uh, “decades” of competitive sports, if we’re the same type of neurotic), you may be familiar with the “1% better” theory of marginal gains. To sum it up, a former director of British Cycling implemented a program trying to improve a host of tiny areas by 1% (like, sleeping 1% better, eating 1% better, training 1% better, reducing bike dust by 1% – it was a lot and very nuanced, but you get the gist)…and he was right. After implementing the 1% theory, British Cycling went on to win 16 Olympic golds AND seven Tour de Frances in just eight years.
Let that sink in – a meager 1% improvement across the board compounded over time and RADICALLY changed the expected results. Even on my worst day, I can find the energy to try and make my home at least 1% better – it’s a small, achievable goal that will exponentially improve my quality of life in the future. I don’t know if you’ve also suffered from “if I can’t do it perfectly the first time, I don’t want to do it at all” disease, but finally accepting that marginal gains are just as valuable as a weekend-long cleaning spree has been incredibly motivating and empowering. You don’t need to organize everything this weekend – just let yourself be 1% better.
Here’s where I leave you – my most recent clutter clean-out (after all this yapping, I gotta show that I drink my own Kool-Aid, right?). I wish I had taken an actual before photo, but I truly cannot tell you how much peace this now-totally-organized vanity now brings me. What I can tell you, however, is where to find bandaids or soap or zit patches – my bath and self-care-related inventory is now totally under control and IT FEELS AMAZING. If this reformed clutterbug can do it…well, I think you can, too. (Next up on my 1% better list: cleaning the lipstick smudges off my makeup drawer. WHOOPS.)
It took a really long time for this all to click in my own brain – there’s a real difference between recognizing that you have too much stuff and actually building out the framework to handle that problem – so I really hope that these five ideas could help others in the way that they’ve helped me. Feel free to drop any of your organization tips or wisdom in the comments – I’m always ready to learn more. LET’S CHAT, PLEASE??? xx
Opening Image Credits: Art Direction by Emily Henderson | Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp | Styled by Emily Bowser | From: Clever Organization Hacks – A Linen/Guest Closet And The Smartest Vanity Org Products
Sounds like this wisdom came directly from The Minimal Mom on YouTube (Dawn Madsen, the friendly Minnesota-nice friend and neighbor we all want!)
Check her out for the same encouraging messages every week. She is sincere, relatable, inspiring, and on point.
I was just about to mention this too – the concept of inventory is one that she talks about a lot but it makes total sense! It is also helpful when you are shopping and start to think about the true cost of having to manage that item.
OH MY GOSH. have been trying to figure out where i first stumbled on the inventory idea for WEEKS and i think you’re right – i believe it was the minimal mom!! can’t wait to dive into more of her videos as the concept of inventory literally feels like it rewired my brain. i have to include her channel in the link up next week!! thank you!!!
It’d be even better to credit her in the body of this post so that everyone can see where the idea originates!
I couldn’t agree more about how transformative The Minimal Mom has been for me as well. I actually already loved decluttering and hated buying things, but her videos are so specific and rooted in not shaming that I have learned and applied a ton of her advice/perspective.
YES, exactly – this is a lot of Minimal Mom! with no credit…yet the British Cycling coach gets a nod of acknowledgement. I really hope this post is edited to give Dawn the boost and recognition that she very much deserves. Dawn is also someone who gives credit to those that have inspired and shaped her thinking along the way, so it just makes sense to give her the same respect that she gives others.
A simple search for “minimalist inventory” reveals that these ideas have been going around on the internet for literal decades. Chill out. They don’t just belong to one person. I’ve been working off an inventory system for nearly 20 years and I’ve never even heard of this woman. Should I be crediting her, too?
We know when we hear word for word statements. Dawn repeats phrases verbatim a lot to help them sink in – so you’ll hear them in your head when you need them. I think everybody has been pretty nice about it – more of a “call-in” than a “call-out”.
these are things i use in my home own organization and when i help others organize, too, and i have never even heard of minimal mom! i think they are just basic ideas that people who are naturally organized have used for years.
Love these rules! Another one I use that’s helpful is having a storage space limit. For example, I have a set number of hangers in my closet. If I buy something new and I don’t have a hanger for it, I have to either get rid of something else or return it. Not shove it in a different closet or buy more hangers 🙂 I have a box for home decor stuff that’s not currently on display. If it can’t fit in the box, then something’s gotta go. Etc, etc… Not only does it force me to keep clutter/excess under control, but it also helps me stay organized. I also always have a donation box in the basement. That way I can separate the stuff I’m parting ways with now and not just hope I remember I want to donate it in a few months.
This is another topic discussed by The Minimal Mom on YouTube. The idea is her friend/teammate Dana K. White’s concept originally. They refer too it as “the container method.”
My Granny taught me this concept in the 1970’s and she had been doing it for decades. She may have read it in a magazine in the late thirties early forties. Funny how a lot of what is new to us was discovered decades (or centuries) before us.
i love this idea!! have employed a smaller scale version of this with little things (socks, underwear, etc. fitting into the little honeycomb organizers i got for my drawers) but never thought about doing it on a larger scale – this is so smart 🙂
Yes! I do this too and it is super helpful. Same goes for jeans, shoes, etc – I own a certain number and if I buy another, it needs to replace something. All t-shirts and sweats have to fit in the drawer or else something goes.
Another thing I have found helpful is to change the orientation of the rod in my closet to be front-to-back instead of spanning the width. Having a shorter rod that is full reminds me when I get dressed that I have all I need, and I literally dont have more space this way to add new things. I use the rest of the space for shallow shelves to hold sweaters and purses.
I have always found it easier to set a number of things to save vs keeping what I like or getting rid of a specific number. It works really well with kids. IE “pick your 7 favorite t-shirts” that’s what stays & the rest get donated. It seems to short circuit the gray area of should I keep it or not.
I normally ignore these kind of posts out of resignation (acceptance?) of being someone who gets attached to things for sentimental reasons and who is also both too lazy and too mentally flexible to muster up the willpower to curb those collecting tendencies, but! These are a lot of great points and perspectives I think are really helpful to hear, especially the part about inventory – I have ADHD too and regularly despair of too much visual clutter, the energy spent on that alone would already justify getting rid of half the stuff.
I agree; normally find de-cluttering posts annoying but this was different – thanks Caitlin. Another idea that was new to me until recently: as someone who fluctuates in size a bit from year to year, pandemic to pandemic, I used to stress about whether to get rid of clothes I loved that no longer fit (or even clothes I didn’t love but thought “better hang on to this; I might be this size again someday” [and need to wear some clothes I don’t like?!?]). I now no longer stress about it and have just accepted that I fluctuate and it’s nice to have a storage bin of ONLY clothes I love that I can “shop” when I do change sizes. I don’t keep anything in a guilt/depressing way; this is not a “skinny clothes” bin or a “when my diet fails” bin; just a single bin of favorites that I can turn to if I’m finding my size has changed. I save some $$ by not having to run out and buy new clothes immediately, and feel a lot less wasteful by not getting rid of something without getting a decent amount of wear out of it. This approach has… Read more »
A similar tip I found years ago (I think from Courtney Carver at Be More With Less) is to only have in your closet the clothes that fit you right now. For me, that concept was helpful in accepting my size and getting rid of items from my slimmer days that would shame me every time I opened my closet. For my mother, that concept allowed her to accept her fluctuating size and keep her larger/smaller/travel-specific clothing in an old dresser while her closet is full of only the clothes she wears and loves right now. It was a helpful mental shift for both of us!
OH MY GOSH. LIGHTBULB MOMENT. despite several recent closet purges, i still find myself holding space in the back for the few pieces that don’t currently fit – like, WHY am i doing that to myself? putting them out of my line of sight is GENIUS. thank you both for the tip 🙂
I love this framing! The shopping box of stuff you love – when you fluctuate, you get to at least be excited for the return of a favorite. I think this is going to help lots of us! Thank you.
This idea just occurred to me recently too, and it was a game changer. There were so many clothes taking up space in my closet that were either too small or too big, and it was so much simpler to make a “too small” bin and a “too big” bin and store them for later. I didn’t want to get rid of them, but it didn’t make sense that they were taking up valuable closet space
I’m a long-distance hiker, and so my body shrinks really dramatically between spring and fall. It’s also very tempting when I get home to go buy ALL NEW CLOTHES because of course I’ve been wearing the same outfit for months, but by December all the beautiful new favourites I bought will be too tiny. I’ve found it similarly helpful to have a bin thats just “post hike clothing” full of wild creative clothes in XS sizes, and channel my shopping desires into jewelry and accessories that I can enjoy even after my body normalizes to its typical weight.
Ah Caitlin!!! Love this! I had never heard the 5-year thing – “in 5 years will I be glad this is still in my inventory?” This will help me a ton. Thank you!! My general organizing approach is to NOT start with stuff. Don’t even look at it. Instead, think about how I want/need to live in my home – including hobbies, self-care, and responsibilities (ex: life admin, cleaning, homeschooling, etc.) For each one, I set up station(s) with exactly the items I need for that activity. It’s only at that point that I am actually interacting with stuff because I go gather the exact items I’ll need. And yes there is a “sentimental” station – a small cupboard in the living room beside the couch – this makes it most likely we’ll actually sit and enjoy looking at these things once in a while! I also have places where I keep backstock/refills. And then I also store things for the future, mostly for when the kids are older. But the key is they’re not mixed in with current use things. (This is of course the trickiest area – it’s easy to keep A LOT in this category. I think… Read more »
This was great.
I really enjoyed this new twist on tips, Caitlin. The having items in brain inventory is one I need to keep reminding myself of.
Yes I know know these tips are in other places on the web but this was a refreshing essay with actionable tips in one post. Well done. Off to part with some things the me in 5 years won’t want any more…
A decluttering post with new tips instead of the same old ones… nice! I really appreciated this post.
thank you, mariele :’)
Nice reminder about tracking the inventory. I never heard of the 1% improvement. It makes sense and I will incorporate that into my cleaning and decluttering routine.
Read the book Atomic Habits. The author goes into great detail the psychology behind the idea. Quite interesting.
“Hacks” is such a click-bait word, so when I see it in a headline I assume the worst. This was not that! A nice read with ideas that are really making me think about my stuff/organizing/clutter differently. Thank you!
ahhh what a nice thing to say – thank you lynno!
OMG wow, I love these ideas so much- especially that 1%. I am desperately needing to re-organize our playroom and pare things WAY down and have just been putting it off for so long- hopefully soon!
Caitlin, this is so very, very helpful! As someone who is ADHD adjacent (at the very least), clutter is something that I had resigned myself to having around the house. Over the past six months, though, I’ve been decluttering… I didn’t know it, but I was using the 20/20 rule and the grey zone donation – really lovely to see those ideas actually explained and extended. Something that has helped me outside of decluttering is actually home organization time on my calendar (with alarms) so I have time set aside instead of just goals. I’ve also really benefitted from automating the house using homekit and iOS shortcuts… I’m looking forward to better peace of mind and a cleaner house as I try out the rest of the ideas on this page – I’m especially excited about the 1% improvement!
I now use the “I am NOT……” statement to separate who I dream I am from who I actually am. It helps me get rid of or stop buying things I don’t need. After years of buying crafting supplies, I now realize “I am NOT a crafter” so I donated tons of unused supplies and learned to enjoy only looking at craft supplies without feeling the need to buy them. Same with nail polish: “I am NOT someone who enjoys doing home manicures” so I don’t need 50 bottles of nail polish. “I am NOT going to reread these books so time to donate them to the library book sale.” “I am NOT a gardener so I don’t need 20 pots.” Etc…
I love this. Mantras that I say out loud really help me to break mental habits as well. I’ll add a variation. “I’m doing other things with my time right now,” This has helped me part ways with the impulsive hobby starting piles I’ve created over the years… mostly. I still have a full set of coloring markers and some color books with like four pages colored… so another tip that has been helping. Facebook Buy Nothing Project groups. I recently purged our family games closet – our one kid if 17 and we just don’t play Stratego or Risk, etc. I posted to the FB group and found out TEACHERS love game! They use them when weather cancels outdoor recess or for other learning activities. If I could post every day for a month I think I’d get my house in pretty good order. But its overwhelming. That 1% mantra could be a new one.
Moving across the country and having three suitcases and three bins to fit my belongings really forced me to cut and cut and cut. Getting rid of what I didn’t love and duplicates helped. Like did I need 12 jeans? Did I need this dress that might be good for a work event. No. I also have a set number of hangers so if I want to add something, I need to give away something.
i wish i had this level of self control when i moved cross country!! over here packing my car with a lifetime of stuff. aspire to be this decisive next time i move!!
I love the $20/20 minute idea … so freeing! My stepmom has a rule where if she already has X, she doesn’t want to have to buy another one, so she won’t throw X away. Even if X is like, half-empty, dried out nail polish or whatever. It drives me nuts! I wonder if this would work with her.
The grey zone idea is so good, too. We actually did this recently–we had a tray on our dining room table and a box that were both supposed to help us organize stuff but we realized we were just tossing crap into them, they were totally cluttered, and we never actually used what was in them. Ever! So we set them aside and haven’t missed any of the contents, so out they go.
(I could have lived without reading that 300,000 items stats, though … that makes me want to toss everything in my house and start over. )
One of the most practically useful posts I’ve read in a while, thank you Caitlin!!
Where you on the house hunting saga?? Still looking in Italy?? Or changed your mind now that we’re not (as much) in the midst of a global pandemic? Dying for an update!
on the dl – have been in a long distance relationship with a real peach for most of the year and am hitting pause on my search til we figure out future relocation plans!! (maybe he moves to la? maybe i move back to the vicinity of my hometown? maybe we both move somewhere new and buy something there? lots to consider!!! but it’s exciting – more to come for sure :))
I’m just delighted for you!!
Love that it’s on the dl here in these comments <3
Just Caitlyn and her 71-member squad, lol. (That was the like count when I posted this).
Some genuinely new ideas that really appeal to me. Thanks Caitlin!
Very helpful and well written! Thanks!
i definitely felt 1% better for this whole week after I helped my teenage daughter sort through her sock drawer!
apart from the regular everyday socks she has “sport specific”socks, hiking socks, cozy socks, and quite a collection of “fun socks” ! There was easily 100s of socks! we narrowed it down to 3 drawers (?!) and now every sock is hole-less, has a partner, and a has a specific home.
Just wanted to underscore the brain-friendly nature of the 1% change idea. Our big, ol’ energy-hogging brains are threatened by change because it requires energy. The brain’s number-one priority is keeping us alive, so it’s not keen on expending precious energy to change the nonessentials. Thus, making goals very small helps the more primal part of our brains get on board more quickly.
Excellent article. Relate 100%.
One of my problems is feeling terrible throwing things out to go to landfill. Can’t do it. Giving things away through Buy nothing has been the best for that!!
Yes, joining my neighborhood buy nothing group has been so wonderful. It’s amazing how much gratitude I got from one neighbor for some rug samples I offered up. Or saved party supplies from my daughter’s 5th birthday and she’s now 18! It’s been the best. Only a few things don’t end up taken, and then I need to make the decision to donate or trash.
wow I totally was inspired by this post! almost everything you said I laughed out loud because I totally do all those things!! love these suggestions! 🙂
I loved this post! I confess when I first saw the opening picture, I thought it was going to be more of a shopping guide to bins, baskets and such. Luckily, I read the title, and realized it was quite the opposite! Hooray! In our house, my husband is neat as a pin, and I am a massive slob. Getting rid of things is the only way to maintain order. Less stuff to organize. We’ve done great in our shared spaces, but my closet and vanity still look like a bomb went off in the drawers/behind the doors. This was just the inspo I need to try and do something about it. I have been changing my clothes out seasonally, and holding each item up when I take it down and put it in the box, or take it out again–and that is effective! But your tips create a lot more ideas for me. Will watch the minimalist mom as well!
I can’t thank @thelaminimalist enough for helping me learn that in order to stop having clutter, I needed to (yes, organize) but actually do the following:
1. Figure out what purpose buying and acquiring was serving in my life, and then
2. Reduce buying and acquiring by
3. Replacing the urge to buy with something else…so, noticing when I have the urge to acquire, gently investigate what purpose it serves in my life (a dopamine hit really, but also a stress reducer and fun-having mechanism), and often I can replace with something else
Without these steps I would have continued to acquire, clutter, and then purge and organize every couple years, without kind of “getting” that buying was a soothing tool, and I needed to do other things (call a friend, go for a walk) in place of the urge.
Another thing that helps me with this is only “buying” (except groceries) on Mondays. So, I add “things” to my list all week, and a lot of time the urgency drops away by Monday.
I do love all these strategies though! It’s great to have a lot of tools in the tool belt.
Oh I like having just one day to purchase things that aren’t groceries. Online shopping & having it get here the next day is so tempting- having only one day to purchase would totally quell the instant gratification urge!
These are great, and well presented as always, Caitlin!
The only thing I have to offer, that I feel like should always be part of these conversations is that if the incoming flow doesn’t stop it’s really hard to stay on top of the clutter. Even with a one-in, one-out policy. The absolute best thing I’ve ever done for my home and my brain was institute a no-buy period. I only bought consumables for 6 months and by month 3 all of a sudden everything felt lighter and better. I’m due for one again, maybe this post will motivate me to do it!
100% on this!
And I also recommend Dana White (a slob comes clean) and minimalist mom. Great post today!
With a lot of people in a small house I’m always tempted towards minimalism, but with a growing family it often doesn’t feel practical. Instead I do a “10% purge.” I realistically should not get rid of ALL my nail polish or ALL his old t shirts or ALL the toys, but I find if I remove 10% of all the categories it adds up to a lot of stuff! I find I didn’t need minimalism, just some extra breathing room.
I do all of this and it truly is a game changer! I also think it’s important to know that when you are in the process of de-cluttering, it’s going to get MESSY, but their is beauty in that mess soon becoming a more well-organized and joyful space! Embrace the mess, it’s all a part of the process!
There’s a book title that caught my eye. I don’t have the energy to read the whole book. However the title alone has been a nice form of guidance for the way my brain works:
Affluence without Abundance
Finally someone said out loud what I’ve always thought about baskets! Lol. I’ve been doing what I call micro cleaning. Instead of trying to tackle a whole room/space I just focus on one corner of it and don’t spend more than an hour on it. So instead of trying to declutter all the kitchen cabinets, I only did the drawers. Instead of my whole room, I just reorganized my dresser. It’s a slow and steady process but I’ve been building up to bigger projects this way and a few weeks ago I was able to tackle my laundry/mud room and then the storage closet under the stairs. Both have been nightmares for way too long and now that they’re finally under control the peace of mind has been priceless. The best part of this approach for me has been that things are staying clean(ish) and organized for much longer.
So good! I need to print out an abbreviated version of this and stick it somewhere I’ll see it every morning – especially that 1% part!
Such a great post! Good ideas, explained well. Had not heard of the inventory idea, but it clicks!
Thank you, Caitlin! Yes! All of it! I need another 1% round! And so much better for the earth and ourselves to let things go to be reused or recycled than to buy more storage bins!
This way of thinking is so helpful! I hadn’t looked at it this way, thank you!
I wish I had something to add, however this was a topic you are miles ahead…..I was still back at the getting motivated to buy more containers 🙂 ……Thank you Caitlin!
This is gold. I love that one % improvement policy. There may be someone out there who is a giant bucket of willpower, but I generally have to use tricks to get me to change anything. Examples, “one in one out”, habit stacking (got me to stretch every single day) and a block of writing (either page count or time) to earn reading time.
My drawers aren’t pinterest perfect, but I can find anything pretty quickly. Great article.
One thing that has helped me get rid of clothes that I love but no longer serve my needs is to take pictures of them. This way I still have a record of them and can look at them, but they’re no longer taking up closet space. I had some clothes from my early 20s that I stopped wearing by my early 30s, but I didn’t get rid of them until my late 30s, and having pictures of them helps me remember where I was style-wise at that time of my life.
Love these ideas to reframe your relationship and mindset towards stuff! One thing that has helped me, and this is so dumb, is curbside pickup. Specifically at good ‘ol Target! I’m not tempted to bring new things into my house just because I walk by a cute fall pillow that’s “only $18, guys!” The things I add to my virtual cart are all the boring necessities and it’s much easier to stick to that when I’m just picking up outside. Works for other stores, too, of course 🙂
We just moved and are drowning in clutter. This is so so helpful. I am so far, ahem, the primary de-clutter-er in the house and this is SUCH good timing for the monumental task of settling into the new place and letting go of the old. Add kid toys into the mix and I have a steep hill to climb! Thank you Caitlin. Love your writing, it’s consistently fun and full of pep. XO
my best hack I ever thought of helped immensely. I hated doing laundry. I always had loads and loads of laundry that were piled up waiting for me to get done and blah! I’d rather do anything else than a load of laundry. until one day I was trying to see how many hangers I needed to bring downstairs so I counted the number of things I was going to wash in that load of laundry. and I realized that there were only like ten shirts, four pairs of pants, two sets of sock and a nightshirt and I couldn’t fit anything else into the washer. then it hit me! there were only 19 items in that load of laundry. hell, even I am not so lazy I can’t hang up 19 things and four of those things were individually counted socks. just counting the number of items was a game changer! a load is a whole heavy burden of stuff, throwing 23 or 19 or 25 or however many items into the washer is not that much of a big deal and it is not a heavy load. try it and you’ll be surprised how much less resistant you… Read more »
Fantastic post! So many useful pieces of advice here. Thank you.