New Year, Less Stuff

Reviewing the items we’ve filled our home with is something I enjoy doing, so I find several reasons to do it throughout the year, but my absolute favorite time is the very first week of January. There’s just something about starting a year by removing the excess of the previous one that brings me a sense of closure.

Start The Year Fresh

A cluttered living room. Pillows, shoes, curtains, and candy strewn about.
Living Room Before

There’s something delightfully therapeutic about culling belongings at the beginning of a year. You know that saying, “out with the old, in with the new?” The “in with the new” part will happen slowly over the course of the year; so don’t worry about that little nugget at all. However, the act of reviewing your belongings is pretty well the physical manifestation of the “out with the old” philosophy. Move out the old things you didn’t use in the previous year to make way for new things in your home.

We’ll go into more detail later on in this post, but I tend to focus on objects that make me feel emotions I don’t want to feel, like: dread, worry, anxiety, sadness. Positivity is a priority for me, and surrounding myself with things that make me feel emotions that are hindering is, counterintuitive. I’ve found if I want to be happier, and remove negativity from my psyche, a great place to begin is the environment I live in.

A clean living room. A grey sofa, block-patterned chair, and bookcase are the main pieces of furniture. A coffee table sits in the middle with a small vase and worn singing bowl resting on top. Two cats nap on the sofa.
Living Room After

For an extra fresh start, I like to spruce up my home with a thorough clean and some winter air. Of course, this is once I’m done decluttering, but I do a deep clean of my home and then crack a few windows to let in some air. Maybe it’s a little odd, but I find winter air brings a little life back into me. It’s almost soothing and comforting, so I love to fill my home with it.

A Quick Declutter Is All You Need

A dining table that has no room for dining. A laptop, a pile of books, a journal, and various objects are hogging the horizontal real estate.
Dining Room Before

Instead of doing a deep and thorough cull, which you’re more than welcome to roll up your sleeves and dive into for yourself this January, I use my eyes and my heart as my navigators for a quick cleanse. This can take as quick as an evening, or as long as a weekend. Either way, the time investment gives me a sense of relief to start the new year right.

One of the simplest ways to review what’s in your home is to begin with the clutter that’s hanging around. It’s easy to see: the items strewn about that don’t really have a place they belong.

When we leave clutter about, we typically enter “might as well” mode. “I’ve got this thing that I don’t want to put away right now… here’s some clutter, might as well leave it here!” Soon the pile gets bigger, bigger and bigger, until there’s an entire room full of deferred decisions. Sometimes it escalates that an entire home can become filled with clutter, where walking is only possible by a small path.

Address the clutter left about and be free of its effects on the subconscious. Feel the things it makes you feel and move on.

A bare dining table, save for a small avocado tree sapling, waits for mealtime.
Dining Room After

Tackling the clutter truly can take an evening, so long as honesty is at the forefront of the conversation. Each item needs to be adressed individually, and shown the respect it deserves as an item that had been selected and brought into the home. However, the process is a simple one. Does the item already have a place it belongs? If yes, put it away right then and there. If no, make one in under two minutes. If making a space for an item to belong seems like too much work, or dreadful, donate/sell the item.

Creating a hard deadline works well for dealing with clutter as well. I typically do a weekend, now. This means: if the gathered clutter isn’t put away in a weekend, then I don’t care about it enough to use the item and fulfill it’s purpose. It needs to leave my home and find someone else to love it.

Use Instinct Instead Of Logic

With anxiety and depression continually on the rise, overthinking is an epidemic these days all around the globe. It’s also one of the reasons many people find going through their belongings to be overwhelming. Each item requires thought, a decision has to be made, right?

A disheveled bedroom waits to be cleaned. A pack of toilet paper sits on the floor, while a stack of clean and folded sweaters rests atop the dresser they belong inside.
Bedroom Before

It might sound a little silly, but basing the decision on instinct produces better tidying results faster. Marie Kondo’s popular book, “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” touches on this principle by asking readers to test items they own by wether or not they “spark joy” within them. Basically, if an item makes you feel a positive emotion you should keep it. If the item makes you feel nothing, send it off to a donation center (or sell it) where someone else can cherish and use the thing that you do not.

Overthinking about whether or not an item should stay in your home can muddy the waters, causing you to be less realistic. The brain will do whatever it can to justify and reason, even when you already know the truth about your relationship with an item.

A perfectly tidy bedroom that exudes calm and peace. It's the perfect place for a snooze.
Bedroom After (also see featured image!)

A stack of books I bought at a yard sale two years ago, in the hopes of reading more, sat gathering nothing but dust. I knew they needed to leave me and be used somewhere else, but I kept reasoning with myself. In the end, I always kept them. Increasingly I’ve felt guilt and anxiety whenever the stack of books, sitting gracefully on my bookshelf, would catch my eye. So I’m not giving into my mind anymore: they’re tucked in a box to be donated ASAP, finally on a journey to meet someone that will cherish and enjoy them far better than I ever would have.

Be Grateful To Your Cull Pile

When I first started downsizing, I had a difficult time coping with seeing the large amount of stuff Trevor and I were getting rid of. My perspective then was one of failure: we’d wasted money, we’d made terrible choices, we’d gotten carried away, we’d failed to be smart with our money. The pile and range of items were so large, I’m sure we could have stocked a second home with all of it.

So I started doing a bit of digging and found two perspectives that differed from the one I’d felt, seeing the pile of wasted items. The first was that keeping these items was a bigger waste of my money, because I’d likely never use them, and was also a waste of space in my home. The second, was that I was wasting the items’ potential by not using them, and preventing others from using them, which was incredibly disrespectful to the items’ existence.

I began to feel grateful to the things I was getting rid of. I’d brought them home, after all, and briefly enjoyed them before neglecting them. Feeling remorseful about wasted money, or bad choices, totally discounted the times I’d actually enjoyed a thing. So, I began thanking them as I decided to remove them from my home. “Thank you,” I told a coffee maker in my mind. “For coming home with us, making coffee for us, and spending time in our home. Please go bring someone else joy.”

This might sound a little deep for things, but the new ideals shook me and made me realize I’d been looking at things in a selfish way. All things are meant to be used and enjoyed, that’s why they’re made. Holding on to something that’s sat gathering dust for years on end, knowing full well someone else may use the item on a regular basis, denies the object fulfillment of its purpose: to be used and enjoyed.

A box full of discarded items, a vintage stand mixer, and a wooden chair sit in the trunk of a car, awaiting their trip to the charity shop.

So, I dare you to show your sell/donation box some gratitude. When you know something must go, thank the item for it’s service and wish it well on the long journey it has ahead of it. Treat these items with care and concern, much like you treat the items that are staying with you. After all, items that must go now were once important enough to bring home in the first place. I would argue that, once resting in a sell/donation bin, the items are deserving of more respect because they are no longer yours.

Revel In Fresh Space

Decluttering takes a lot of courage, especially if it’s something you’ve never done before, and is worth celebrating. Partially because the act deserves celebration in itself, but also because positive reinforcement!

A kitchen so cluttered, there is barely space to work on the countertop.
Kitchen Before

Since I’m writing about my clutter and showing it here, you can probably guess I’m fairly open about clutter and tidying. And you’d be right! I like to take before and after photos and send them to some of my friends. If someone’s expressed an interest in the past I’ll offer my progress as a little nudge to get them in the decluttering spirit, and offer to help!

An arranged kitchen. Only drying dishes, cutting boards, a cookie jar, a kettle, and an air fryer adorn the countertop. Meanwhile, lunch cooks away on the stove inside a pressure cooker.
Kitchen After

Sometimes a meal out in celebration is needed, or an extended gaming session. Sometimes I get a snack and some tea! Sometimes I’ll even reward myself with an online window-shopping session (WARNING: DO NOT ATTEMPT UNLESS YOU CAN COMMIT TO NOT PURCHASING ANYTHING).

Celebrate how you celebrate little victories in life and bask in your accomplishment. However small it seems, the act deserves reward. Even just a sweep of a bookcase takes courage. Listening to instinct over logic is a habit that takes time. Learning to respect and be grateful to items that don’t make the cut deepens the heart. All of these things are good and deserve, at the very least, a pat on the back.

3 thoughts on “New Year, Less Stuff

  1. In November I decided that I would challenge myself to get rid of 496 things in the month of January. I regularly donate items and am *always* giving things away. However, I had never been intentional about doing so much all at once. To be frank, I needed more space and, after a rather hot and uncomfortable Thanksgiving, decided I would not be a hoarder like my grandmother. So, when January came around and everyone was talking about Marie Kondo, I was fascinated. I haven’t read the book or watched the series (?) on Netflix but I read a couple of articles that were in response to people’s reactions. Anyway, to keep this on point, I am not a minimalist and don’t necessarily want to be, but I am extremely opposed to having too many things. Except for things packed in boxes, I went through every single thing that I own this January. I threw away a lot and I gave away even more. A few times I found myself trying to justify keeping things (a cool business card for a company I’d never work with, a cheap pen, etc.) but thankfully my cousin (who I’d roped in to go through her things, too) helped keep me on track. Love the suggestions you gave here and I loved to see your de-cluttering “guidelines” and methods!


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