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How to Have Less and Keep it That Way

I’ve been reflecting a lot about my decluttering journey and I wanted to bring to light some lessons I learned along the way, as well as mindset shifts that made decluttering easier for me. Going through everything you own is really hard and time consuming, especially if you're not a “natural declutterer.” There’s no need to feel any pressure to declutter. What you own is yours and you don't have to declutter it unless you want to. Don’t pressure yourself into “being a minimalist”. There is no need for a self-prescribed label in order to live simply.

Step Away From a “More” Mindset

I changed my mindset from “let’s get a bigger bookshelf to house all our books” to “let’s get rid of books so it all fits in our current bookshelf.” It’s just a subtle shift. Instead of a “more” mentality, it’s a mentality where I focus on working with what I have - and keeping it that way. If that bookshelf served me well for so long, why is it all of a sudden not enough?! Now obviously there are valid reasons to upsize. Let’s say you’re growing your family and all of a sudden there’s an influx of baby books, toddler books and parenting books - that’s a valid reason to swap out for a larger bookcase. I’m talking more in this instance about an accumulation of things when that part of my life has not been subject to change. Right now, I’m a student who occasionally reads a physical book - but 9 times out of 10 I’m reading academic journals online. So am I really needing those 15 random books that I picked out at the thrift store? Nope.

Assess Your Life Situation

Obviously, Assessing your life situation is important. There is no “one size fits all” solution to having and maintaining less. If you’re in a period of transition (ie. starting a family, moving in with your significant other, etc.) I would say hold off on decluttering until you get into your new life groove and have a real sense of what your needs are in your current situation. I’d also recommend working with what you have in that transition period. Instead of immediately going out to upgrade your bookcase (again with the bookcase example)- why don’t you try and see if there is a creative storage solution or maybe a few weeks down the line you realize it’s time to downsize the books.

“What If” is Not Reality

It’s easy to fall into the trap of “what if I need this for X scenario at X time?” but honestly when has that scenario or time ever come? If the item is affordable and you can easily get it at a local store, I’d say you probably don’t need to hold onto it just in case. I used to fill my handbag with band-aids, pen and paper, an umbrella and so much more. But, by being honest with myself I realized I was literally lugging around all this extra weight for “what ifs” that just never happened. There was so many items in my space that filled the “what if” void but ultimately sat around gathering dust, expiring (makeup, toiletries, pantry items) or simply going bad (I had a few battery powered items where the batteries ended up leaking - destroying the object and also making quite the mess). I encourage you to assess your items: are they needs, wants, bringers of joy or “what if” items. And really be intentional on what “what if” items you’d like to keep. For me, I like keeping “what ifs” like extra band-aids and bug spray around, even if they aren’t daily use items.

Those are some of my big tips to start decluttering and to maintain your new space. Change your mindset, think about your lifestyle and lean into what reality looks like for you. There’s no need to own label yourself as a minimalist or a maximalist - because a label doesn’t necessarily enhance your life. Go with your own flow and play it by ear: you have autonomy and ownership over your items and space and can declutter as much (or as little) as you’d like.

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