Inside: Here are the things I wish I’d known before I started decluttering and some of the realizations I had along the way.

Ten years ago my family was getting ready to relocate from Southern California to the Pacific Northwest. At the time my daughters were one and three years old.

I spent those days packing up every single thing we owned and tried to pack them carefully so that they wouldn’t get damaged in transit.

Somewhere between the packing and the moving companies giving me estimates of what it would cost to get our things to our new home, I began asking myself why we owned so much stuff. And why I was taking the time to pack up things we rarely (or sometimes never) used.

There really is nothing like packing up every thing you own to make you question every thing you own.

While I’d love to say that realization immediately helped me to start decluttering, it didn’t. In the chaos of mothering toddlers and packing, I couldn’t think clearly. But the insights I gained in that process did spark the thought that we didn’t have to continue living like that.

Around two years later after reading about decluttering and simple living and getting more fed up with our stuff, I started my decluttering journey.

Looking back, here are seven things I wish I’d known before I started decluttering.

known before I started decluttering

7 Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Started Decluttering

Here are the things I wish I’d known before I started decluttering as I would have been better prepared for the journey ahead.

1. Emotional ties to stuff can be complicated.

Understanding the reasons you’ve been holding onto clutter is not always an easy process.

Decluttering forced me to face past purchase regrets. I came across items I’d convinced myself to buy thinking that I needed it at the time, but I’d find it in the original packing or with the tag still on it.

That didn’t feel great, but it did make me more intentional with shopping and much more careful about the items that I brought into our home going forward.

I also felt a bit guilty about why I’d hung onto certain things for so long when I really didn’t have a good reason for it.

Dealing with the various emotions that came up while decluttering was a bit surprising for me, but at the end of it, I was grateful for the things I had and everything I learned about myself in the process.

woman looking through a photo album

2. People are not their things.

Sentimental items were a challenge to deal with in the decluttering process.

Letting go of guilt and reminding myself that people are not their things helped me to let go of items I didn’t truly love or have the space for.

It is possible to declutter sentimental items while preserving your precious memories. Finding better ways to store memorabilia and letting go of the excess stuff was a freeing experience.

I also learned that dealing with sentimental items last is helpful.

Practicing making decisions in easier areas first helped to build my confidence and brought clarity to what I wanted to keep and what I was ready to leave behind.

man and woman looking at dream home

3. Your stuff should support your life now.

I am frugal to my core. I don’t want to waste things, but keeping things for someday when…or what if…was creating clutter in our home.

Through the decluttering process, I realized that the things in my home are meant to support and enhance the life I am living now.

Holding onto excess items for imagined scenarios in which I would want to have those items on hand wasn’t helpful. And most of those situations were also highly unlikely.

By letting go of the items that we didn’t need and weren’t using I was able to more fully embrace our life now.

This helped our home to look, feel, and function better and was something I wish I’d realized sooner.

known before I started decluttering

4. You can’t change anyone else.

While some people may declutter their home and have their partner jump on board, that won’t be the same experience for everyone.

In my case, my spouse didn’t want to declutter. While I’d hoped he would see the changes to the areas I’d worked on and want to do that with his own things, that didn’t really happen.

I learned to accept that we have different perspectives on the stuff we own. We’ve continued to have conversations about it and work to find compromises, but it was helpful to realize that I can’t change anyone else.

When it comes to your kids’ stuff, there are ways to get your kids to declutter and teach them how to manage their stuff.

But in both cases, I don’t recommend decluttering anyone else’s things without their permission. Having conversations and including other family members in the process is the best way to go.

known before I started decluttering

5. It’s not just about the stuff.

One of the biggest things that I wish I’d known before I started decluttering is that it goes beyond just the stuff in your home.

There are various types of invisible clutter that impact our lives even if they aren’t as obvious.

Decluttering went beyond just sorting and donating items I no longer wanted in my home. I also took a look at how other forms of clutter were taking up my time.

Digital clutter meant that I spent more time trying to find documents and excessive apps were a source of distraction.

Our schedule was also an area that needed some decluttering. By more carefully considering what we said yes to we were able to create more flexibility and free time in our lives.

When I started decluttering I didn’t realize how truly life-changing the process of letting go could be. It positively impacted us in more ways than I could have predicted.

habits that will keep your home neat and tidy

6. Habit change is crucial for maintenance.

Before I started decluttering I imagined it would be a one-and-done process. I figured I’d spend months going through every area in our home and then we’d be good to go.

Looking back I can see how naive that was. I eventually realized that to maintain the progress I’d made, I needed to change my habits.

Over time I learned decluttering habits that helped me to be more careful with the items I brought into my home. Reviewing the stuff in our home seasonally and decluttering items as necessary have helped keep the clutter at bay.

Adopting daily habits that keep our home neat and tidy has also helped me to put items back where they should go quickly.

Being more intentional with shopping and carefully considering what items I purchase has greatly reduced the clutter in our home and saved us a lot of money in the process.

Assessing the habits that have contributed to the clutter that accumulated in our home and making adjustments as needed helped us to maintain our space. This changed not only our living space but our finances as well.

woman walking down a road with a backpack on

7. It’s a process & a journey.

Decluttering our home and then later helping other people to declutter theirs, made me see that everyone has their own unique journey with simplifying.

For some people, it’s a quick process, but for others, the slow declutter approach is a better one to take.

I didn’t get rid of a huge percentage of our stuff and it was important for me to realize that it wasn’t a race or a competition.

The process was about figuring out what worked best in my home. I realized that not all decluttering advice works for everyone and that’s perfectly ok.

If you want to sell your unwanted items, there is nothing wrong with that. If you prefer to forego selling and responsibly donate that is fine too.

Decluttering is really about evaluating your own unique needs and doing what makes the most sense for you. It’s also an ongoing journey of refining and re-evaluating that is more of a lifestyle than a singular action.

known before I started decluttering

What I wish I’d known before I started decluttering

Did I make mistakes along the way? Yes.

Do I ever wish I started sooner? Sure.

But this has been my journey to take and I can look back and see that I did the best I could with the resources I had at the time and once I knew better I did better.

Would knowing these things ahead of time have changed anything? Maybe not, but I would have been better prepared for the journey ahead of me.

I never would have guessed how much decluttering would impact my life. Despite the challenges I faced along the way and the time and effort it took, it was completely worth it.

Is there anything you wish you’d known before decluttering? Share it in the comments section below.

Sign up on the form below to get weekly decluttering tips sent straight to your inbox. You’ll also get the free Your Home Decluttered Jumpstart which includes 100 easy items to declutter and 12 high-impact areas to declutter in 10 minutes.

window.fd(‘form’, {
formId: ‘5e39ccca5581900027294cf7’,
containerEl: document.querySelector(‘#fd-form-5e39ccca5581900027294cf7’)

The post 7 Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Started Decluttering appeared first on The Simplicity Habit.