07 May Lessons in Decluttering

I grew up in the late 80’s early 90’s in Canada. It was a time where shopping and getting new things was a sign of success. So growing up I remember shopping with my mom, in my teen years hanging out at the mall with friends, even in University jumping on the consumer bandwagon was something I did.

I have been trying to live a more simple and lighter life for about the last 10 years, but breaking the habit of buying stuff has been a lesson I have had to learn over time.

I also have developed a severe hate for waste in the last couple years. I can’t stand seeing the Earth’s resources be used and go to waste. Anytime I see something destined for landfill, I try to rescue it and give it another life – upcycling!

Over the last three years we have been in a lovely rental home (that had three bedrooms which we rented out). We always knew that we would be leaving at some point to go sailing, so we consciously tried not to purchase anything new for our home. We used verge side collections, the op-shop, garage sales and friends going overseas to help furnish our home. Even my clothes over the last three years were from second hand stores and clothes swaps with friends.

When the time came to start minimising our belongings so we could move from the house to our 36 foot sailboat, I thought it would be a relatively painless process.

Boy was I wrong.

For three months now, I have been giving away, selling and taking things to the op-shop. We have only kept things we thought had irreplaceable value: photos, journals, my husband’s collection of National Geographics, and other items that we kept were absolute necessities for life at sea.

Mid Declutter Process:

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We did whatever we could to prevent items from going to landfill. We joined a freecycle group on facebook where we can post item and anyone else who see’s value in it can come and collect it. It’s amazing when the pricetag is Free what others are willing to take off your hands. The op-shops (second hand stores) were the second port of call. Anything we had that we thought had some resell value we put on Gumtree (an online selling site).

We had to dispose of some things. Wherever possible we recycled and made sure that things were sent to the right disposable place ( batteries, light globes, paint cans, electronics – things we had resisted throwing away and put in a box to deal with later).

We had to take one trip to the tip to get rid of a second hand couch that was at the end of its life. This was an eye opening and heartbreaking trip to the tip for me. Here are a few of the photos that give a snap shot of what we saw. It felt like rubbish was growing out of the ground where the landfill had been covered over, but the stuff underneath remains.

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Why Declutter and Minimise?

I have moved from 3 bedrooms to a 36 foot boat – my reasons are clear. But I know through the process there are so many other benefits. Clearing out space is a process that helps you feel lighter, fresher and more free. Having less stuff means less cleaning, and really less to do. When you enter a decluttered place is leaves more room for you to think and create. Simplifying your home is really simplifying your life.

Tips for Decluttering:

Here is what I picked up when my forced de-cluttering happened ( it doesn’t come naturally to me so I learnt a lot).

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1. Take it bit by bit.

If decluttering the whole house is a daunting task, you will avoid it.  Start with one drawer, or cupboard or corner of a desk.

 2. Find a spot for the things you want to keep straight away.

Our test for whether we could keep things is the question: If there was an emergency and we had to leave the house and never come back, would you grab this and take it with you?

If It was a yes, we had to find a spot for it to live straight away.

 3Have 3 boxes set up.   1. Give away             2. Recycle/ Upcycle               3. Last resort (aka: waste)

Every item you come across either has to have a new home, or goes into one of the three boxes.

4.Do you use it Often?

If you haven’t looked at an item for years and then when cleaning or decluttering you come across it and you feel attached to the item, really decide why you’re keeping it.

Is it memorabilia, or sentimental reasons? Then why haven’t you looked at it in years?

Sometimes you have to have a good look at what your emotional connection is to something, and make some hard decisions about what to keep and what to let go of. For example I had a big box of photos – some good, some not so good. I haven’t looked at it in quite a while, so I decided to go through and take out the photos I really love, put them in a scrapbook and then look at them more often. I let the other “meh” photos go.


  1. Lead by example

Sometimes living with others when you are striving to declutter your home can be difficult. You are mimising your belongings, but they are adding to them. The best thing to do if your significant other or roommate isn’t on the same page with minimising and decluttering is just clear out your areas, minimise what you can in common areas. Once they start to see the benefits from a decluttered space, you’ll notice a shift and see them start to get on board.

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After de-cluttering:

The main tip is to stop before you buy!

Anytime you go to purchase something stop and think:

Do I need it or just want it?

Where will it go?

Do I have something similar already?

What else can I spend the money on?

After this list of questions if it’s still a burning item to get… get it, but then make room for it at home by letting something else go.


Happy decluttering!

Here is our boat bedroom: still a bit of declutter to happen, but it’s got two years of clothes in there now!

Our bunk



Jamie Van Jones.

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