My kids prefer a clean, organized home that’s more minimalistic than over-decorated. They like decluttering, organizing, and refining our home. This post is inspired by them and how they have have been a big part of decluttering the pantry, the kitchen cabinets, the closets, the attic, the living room, and the cellar. Here’s how, over the years, we have been letting go of the clutter with help from the kids.
Look at Your Home Through Your Children’s Eyes
Seeing our home through our children’s eyes, helped me to let go of more items than I would have on my own. [You can read about that HERE.] If you’ve tried refining on your own, I suggest getting your kids involved in the process.
Kids [or in the case of mine, young adults] are brutally honest. They will tell you what they like and don’t like without a second thought. And they (if they’re like mine), will be able to make decisions really quickly about what to keep and what not keep.
Kids don’t think about the money spent on items because they’re not the ones buying them. This means they don’t feel the guilt of needing to keep something just because money was spent. It also means their decisions to keep an an item is most often based on whether they like and need the item or not.
You may remember the popular book titled The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. It’s a fairly short-read, but extremely inspirational to get you moving in the right direction of organizing and decluttering – this is what I refer to as refining your home.
In the book, I, like many other readers, was so drawn to this phrase “sparking joy” when I read the book a few years ago and it stuck with me. I’m brought back to that phrase every time I’m faced with the keep or discard decision. It is what decluttering and simplifying our lives is all about. It’s about only holding on to those items in our life that make us feel happy.
This article is intended to help you work through refining your home in stages [ideally with your kids]. So if decluttering hasn’t quite worked to the extent you had hoped, let’s go a little deeper.
I understand that letting go of things is hard. But I think if you take the work in a certain order, the letting go will be a little easier.
While it’s nice to have creative, concealed storage (aka: closets, baskets, cubbies), the real joy comes from letting go of the things that no longer have meaning to us and keeping the ones that make us happy.
Let’s take this in steps…
Start with your closet. Most people will say that if you haven’t worn something in over a year, then donate it. Well, those people must love to shop and have the extra income to do it often. I don’t happen to like to shop and I don’t spend a lot of money on clothing, so I tend to keep my clothes much longer, even if I haven’t worn them in the past year.
Here’s a different system.
I keep a few extra large bins of off-season clothes I keep on the floor of my closet. Three are shown in the photo but I have it down to two.
Twice a year I do the change-over of Winter and Summer clothes. During that change-over I try to donate as many pieces that I haven’t worn in at least two to three years.
While my kids were cleaning the attic recently, they came across a large bin of my clothes. These were actually clothes that were a size too small, but I held onto them for years (some 20+ years) in the hope that they would fit again someday.
As I showed the clothes to my kids, they begged me to let them go. Their reasoning was that they were now out of style and they would not want to see me in them ever! That was all I needed to hear. The entire bucket of clothes was put in the donation pile.
Now let’s move on to the kitchen.
Mismatched glassware drives me crazy! It makes me happy when I open my cabinet and I see a set of glasses, dishes, bowls, or mugs that all match and are neatly lined up. We don’t need twenty-two mugs. We may need eight and that’s if we host guests. We don’t need ten water bottles, we need two or three that can be rotated as they’re being washed.
Choose the glassware and dishes you use most, that aren’t chipped, and that you actually enjoy eating off. Donate the rest. Again, the kids will more easily let go of mismatched or chipped glassware if you explain your goal to them.
Donating unused toys is easier to do as your kids grow. It’s clear to see which ones they play with and which ones they don’t. Throw away or recycle any toys that are broken. Donate toys that your kids no longer use. Period.
When working through the toys, I suggest initially involving the kids and ask them for their help. However, toys may be the one thing in the house they are emotionally attached to, then you may have to go back and do this when they’re not around.
When my kids were young, my secret to working through the kids toys was this… Place the toys you think they won’t miss in plastic bins in the attic for 6 months. If they don’t miss them, then it’s time to move them out of the house.
This is where the purging gets a little more difficult for me. Blankets, sheets, and towels last so long! I’ve had the same blankets and towels for the past 20+ years and they’re still in perfectly good condition believe it or not. I’m not a wasteful person so I have a really hard time discarding these items if they are not stained or torn.
Here’s how I separate towels:
- Make a pile of the best towels and place them in the bathrooms to display and use daily.
- Make a secondary pile of towels that are still usable but may be mismatched. These may be stored under the bathroom sink or in the wood storage chest we have in our master bathroom.
- The rest of the towels either go into a rag bucket that I can use to dust or paint or I drop them off at the local dog rescue. They use them to bathe the pups.
I do the same with blanket and sheets.
Decor items are luxuries, so this is where the “sparking joy” concept truly comes into play.
While I’d love for you to implement this “sparking joy” concept with your clothes, glassware, and linens, those items are necessities and you may feel more guilt letting them go. With decor, only hold on to those items that spark joy. No exceptions!
Remember, by filling your home only with things you really love, you’ll create a home your really love.
Walk around your home. Do you still love that framed picture hanging over your fireplace? How about that lamp in your living room? Or, that vase on the buffet?
Start picking up those things that don’t spark a special feeling of joy when you look at them and put them in a pile. Live without them for a few days to see if you miss them.
You may miss having something fill that space, but not the vase itself. Would you rather see a succulent plant there or a statue of a horse because you love horseback riding? Let the items go to make space for something you love when you come across it.
If an item doesn’t make you happy when you see it, let it go. Or, change it up.
Maybe that brass lamp from the 80’s still works and has a great shape but the color no longer fits in with other decor. Then spray paint it silver, or turquoise, or white with blue stripes. Whatever fits into your current lifestyle.
Now the refining is getting really difficult. We all have special keepsakes from our past. Wether they be on a shelf, in a plastic bin in the attic, or scattered momentos throughout the house. Physically touching these items brings us back to that time in our life.
When my kids were babies, I held onto a lot of their baby clothes as keepsakes. For many years, I kept enough to fill two or three large plastic bins. As they grew and created new memories though, I was able to pair those bins down to less than one. Today, I have just two or three baby outfits from each child.
Try this… Designate just one particular cabinet, box, bin, or suitcase for these special items.
In our living room I have a large display cabinet with glass doors. Having photos and keepsakes tucked behind the glass makes them feel like a single collection rather than clutter.
For other keepsake items, each person in the family has a large plastic bin. If we think something is worth saving, but not displaying, it goes into this box.
In my box you’ll find my school yearbooks, my bridal veil, cards from my kids, and photos. Every once in a while I go through the box and pair down the items that are still special to me. The cards and pictures my daughter made in kindergarten were really special when she made them, but the framed Mother’s Day photo of the two of us is much more special to me now. I may keep one of those Kindergarten drawings and the rest I’m ready to let go.
The next time you consider making a purchase of a non-perishable item, ask yourself a few questions in this order…
Do I need it?
Is it exactly what I’ve been looking for?
Do I have a place for it?
Finally, does it make me really happy when I look at it?
We all know that if the item is not a necessity, then we can live without it until we find something that does make us feel happy.
Don’t be afraid to let go of things from your past. Embrace the person you are now. And if you’re having trouble letting go of the clutter on your own, ask your kids for help.
P.S. So honored to have Entri Ways featured in Redfin’s article titled 15 Mini Home Makeovers You Can Complete In a Weekend. Check out my tip for Painted Furniture under #10!