How to stop the clutter coming back

660 words. 5 minutes to read

It took me three firm attempts at minimalism before I was successful.

The first time, I sold so many of my belongings, preparing for the sale of my home and a move to a new country.

Yet within months my garage in my new home was full to overflowing. My wardrobes and kitchen cupboards were stuffed. My new four bedroom, three bathroom, two storey home “didn’t have enough storage space”.

I had no idea what I’d done wrong. How could it happen so fast? After all, I was a minimalist now!

The second time, a few years later, was much the same. The zen-like aura I created in my home lasted only weeks. From clutter-free to hoarders paradise, I could’t understand how my temporarily House-and-Garden-worthy home had become a pigsty again in record time.

Minimalism the third time around

It took the third attempt for me to grok minimalism. My third attempt was slow, with a declutter that lasted well over a year.

I started reading blogs and books. Courtney Carver’s The Project 333 and The Minimalists were incredibly helpful to me, as was Jennifer L Scott (her book Lessons from Madame Chic was an “aha!” moment for me regarding fashion).

These people were mentors for me, teaching me through their own failures and successes, helping me to learn what minimalism is truly about.

All live very different lives, but they all have two things in common – 1) they maintain their belongings carefully, and 2) they are all able to let go of what they no longer need.

Active minimalism

Third time around, I realized that minimalism, like a healthy diet, requires maintenance and new habits.

Minimalism isn’t just a choice.
Minimalism is an active way of being. It is a learning process requiring skills, dedication, and work.
Minimalism is the art of letting go.
Not once, but over and over again, throughout our lives.


The difference between wanting and doing

The first times I tried to be a minimalist, sure, I tidied up. I threw stuff out and gave stuff away.

Then I thought I was done. I thought that was all I needed to do. That’s all the TV spots and pretty Instagram “before and after” posts ever said.

Imagine – just one long session of cleaning up and getting rid of stuff, and my whole life’s habits and mess would be fixed!


And that’s where I went wrong.

You can’t just want to be a minimalist, any more than you can want to be a virtuoso violinist.

Like any skill, minimalism takes practice, work, and dedication. It can be hard. It takes time to learn. You need support – mentors and teachers who have walked the path before you.

There’s nothing wrong with new stuff. Just remember to let go of the old

Even the strictest minimalists bring new items into their lives every week. We all need new food, new clothing, new toiletries, new electronics, new reading materials. This is something we all do – even minimalists! – and we all have to learn how to manage.

The key to successful minimalism is knowing when to let go. Knowing that, just as we all need new items, we also need to let go of old items. We need to release belongings that we no longer use, or that are worn and done with.

Minimalism is the art of letting go. Minimalism isn’t about how many items you possess. It’s about managing the flow-through of the belongings you choose to let into your life – from the moment they enter your life to the point at which you let them pass on. And the passing on is critical.

The difference between successful minimalism and failure is the ability to recognise what is not needed…and to let it go. To be observant about what is in our lives, and to be detached about what we don’t need.

Five ways to begin minimalism

434 words. 4 minutes to read.

There is no one path to minimalism.

My path to minimalism began with a car. For others a new relationship, a student trip overseas to Paris, or a strong desire to get out of debt might lead to a simpler life.

Here are five ways to begin minimalism that have worked for many people. Choose one, more than one, or a completely different method.

Whatever path you take, remember to enjoy the journey.

1. Create a capsule wardrobe. When I began my path to minimalism, I also began working with a Capsule Wardrobe, via Project 333. I strongly recommend it – take a look.

A capsule wardrobe is a great way to get an addiction to clothes shopping under control. With Project 333, I’ve reduced from having over 150 items of clothing – most of which I never wore – to a capsule wardrobe of less than 30 items, all of which I wear, use and love.

2. Play a game for removing clutter. If general clutter is a problem, try the minimalist game (hashtag #minsgame).

You start by removing one item from your home the first day, two items the second day, three the third day and so on. By the end of 30 days, you’ll have removed 465 items from your home. Not a bad beginning!

3. Categorize the mess. When I began decluttering, I found the Kon Mari method of working by category, rather than by room, very useful. I found that my home had over a dozen pairs of scissors!

Working by category helps us see what we actually possess, and eliminate unnecessary duplicates. After all, how many coffee mugs and shot glasses do we really need?

4. Find a home for everything important, and let go of stuff without homes. Giving everything a home really helps. Basic strategies such as providing a dirty washing bin and a wastepaper basket for each person really help keep mess under control.

A charity bin in the hallway for outgrown or unused belongings also helps clear items that are no longer needed or wanted, yet still may have use for others.

5. Take a Stop Shopping Challenge. Stop the input. Stop buying for a set period, be it a week or a month, or a year with a Stop Shopping Challenge. Learn to find contentment with what you already have.

Begin by beginning

Thing is, it doesn’t matter what path you take. It doesn’t matter what steps you take. To begin minimalism you need simply to begin.

So take the first step. However that step looks.

Take the first step.

Take the first step. Photo of Trees in Pukarau by blog author, 2017.