The Dark Side of Decluttering No One Wants to Discuss


I have been a fan of simple living/minimalism for many years.  I have worked hard to declutter our home and keep it as clutter free as possible even after adding to our family.  Over the past few years, I’ve tried many different methods in decluttering and simplifying our house.  One of my favorite methods is the Kon Mari method from the book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.  The gist of it is: if the item doesn’t spark joy, don’t keep it in your home.  It makes sense in theory: for example, if there’s a shirt that when you look at it, you don’t love it, chances are that you’re going to skip over that shirt every time you get dressed.  If you get rid of it, you won’t miss it.  Obviously there are some things in your home that don’t necessarily spark joy when you look at them- the toilet brush, your toothbrush, etc. but are imperative to have.  The idea behind keeping those items is that a clean toilet and mouth spark joy.  I agree with that.

One of the downsides of decluttering is that it can be addicting and you may never get to a point where you feel like you’ve gotten rid of enough.  Many people call this a “click point” and have achieved it after donating/selling/getting rid of many of their possessions.  For many people, however, the click point never comes.  These people can spend many hours/days obsessing over “have I gotten rid of enough?”, “what else can I get rid of?”, and “when will I get to the click point?”  I’ve seen moms in groups struggling to get rid of more when they don’t know what else they can get rid of.

I’ve heard that hoarding is a form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  Part of me wonders if minimalism is a form as well.  Worrying and thinking and spending time trying to get rid of more, more, more, can be all consuming.  I’ve talked to many moms that feel that their walls are closing in on them from the clutter.  They work and get rid of more but believe they are getting nowhere.  Their houses are looking better to the outsider but to them, it’s still cluttered.

I think decluttering is not a one time event.  Stuff is essential to life- groceries, clothes, toys, toiletries, and you’re always bringing things in your house.  Not to mention if you have kids, chances are you know generous people that bring your kids toys and clothes.  If you don’t stay on top of the clutter, you’ll end up in the vicious cycle of feeling trapped and needing to get rid of more.  Here are some things we do to make sure we don’t end up feeling overwhelmed and cluttered.

Don’t go shopping unless we need something and have a list.  As much as I love Target, every time I make an unplanned trip there, even for just one item, I end up spending a lot more money and come out with more items than I had originally planned.  Target is one of my favorite stores and I have to limit myself to the amount of times I go and have a dedicated list of what I need from there each time I set foot in the store.  This helps tremendously.

Go through hand me downs immediately.  Our friends are very generous, and we’ve received many bags of girls’ clothes that their kids have outgrown.  While it may be tempting to keep everything “just in case”, I’ve found that the best thing to do is immediately go through the clothes and sort them into different piles.  Now that Penny is five years old, I involve her in the process.  She’s usually really good about helping me decide what stays and goes.

-Don’t buy seasons ahead. Buying kids’ clothes on clearance at stores, yard sales, and thrift stores can be a huge money saver.  However, I don’t buy tons of clothes before I need them.  For one, I hate storing tons of bins full of clothes in our basement.  Secondly, once kids get to a certain age, they can be picky about what they wear.  My mom is very generous and has purchased Penny many clothes from yard sales and thrift stores.  This summer all Penny wants to wear is dresses, so all the tank tops, shirts, and shorts my mom bought are now sitting in her closet not being worn.  I have actually had to purchase a few more dresses so that Penny has a variety of clothes to wear.  She still wears the same 5-6 dresses over and over again, with the new ones put in her rotation.

-When we notice we don’t need something, we put it in the donate pile immediately. I have a certain spot in our basement for donations.  When the area gets full or I get an email asking for donations (we really like to donate to Veterans of America-they pick the stuff up off the porch!) I deal with it.  I find it very helpful to have the spot in a location that is not in everyday sight, otherwise it can cause doubt once you see the item again.

-Visual clutter is a trigger for me.  I can’t stand seeing crap everywhere.  Open shelving, cabinets, book cases, etc. are all things that I don’t love.  When stuff is put away behind doors or in closets, I feel much happier and more relaxed.  I think at least the visual appearance is that things are pretty neat and clutter free even when they may not be.  However, I don’t appreciate “cleaning” by things being shoved under beds or couches even though I understand the appeal to five year olds. 😉

-Don’t compare ourselves to anyone else.  This is probably the hardest thing for minimalism/simple living.  I know I enjoy seeing pictures and videos of peoples’ homes.  I like seeing clean and uncluttered spaces. BUT I know when I see other people that have their houses completely clean, it makes me feel that my house is a cluttered mess and I need to have the same result as they do.  It’s just not possible- some people may not have kids, may enjoy different hobbies, and lead different lives than we do.  It’s not fair to compare apples to oranges.

If you’re on the minimalism/simple living life, have you found these thoughts to be true?  Have you gotten to the “click point”? 

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