Clear the Clutter: Stop Organizing and Just Have Less Stuff


If you’re a Pinterest person, as I am, then no doubt you have read hundreds of intricately detailed tips about how to organize your stuff. These run the gamut from color-coded bins and meticulously organized junk drawers to hidden shelving units tucked neatly into the dead space below the stairs.

Home office

Image courtesy of Groovymarlin

Well, folks, I don’t want to brag, but I have three tips for you that will blow Pinterest right out of the water in the home organization department. Best of all, they are simple, eco-friendly and don’t cost a cent.

Want to know the secret to organizing your stuff? Here it is: Have less stuff.

Yup. That’s it. Just like the secret to budgeting is spending less money than you earn, if you don’t have more belongings than you do space to store them, organizing simply isn’t an issue, and there is no need to fiddle with PVC-pipe cubbies or installing hanging shoe racks on the back of every door.

Here’s another secret: The amount of stuff we have expands to fit the space we give it. So, apologies to anyone like me who used to think that if I lived in a giant white-walled hardwood-floored mansion I would be perfectly organized, the answer isn’t more space. The answer will never be more space; the answer is less stuff.

Tired of being tied to your stuff, forced into a weird cycle where you buy more stuff to organize the first stuff?

Here are a few eco-friendly tips to help you pare down.

1. Stop shopping

It’s the easiest place to start. You know deep in your heart that you have everything you need, so the goal becomes learning to want without having. The less you consume, the less you must pay for, find a place to store, clean, maintain and replace or throw out when it comes to the end of its life. Cutting your consumption of consumer goods is arguably one of the most instrumental green changes you can make to your life. Think of the time, resources, energy, money and landfill space you will save by simply not buying that thing. Congratulations! You have suddenly become approximately 18 times more efficient!

2. Clear the clutter

Go through your belongings, and be ruthless. Imagine you are moving – would this thing be worth packing, boxing up, loading into a truck, driving 3,000 miles and then unpacking again? This is what should inform your decision to keep it or not. As you decide what to keep and what to say goodbye to, ruminate on this quote by William Morris:

“Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

Basement clutter

Image courtesy of Maureen Sill

Make sure you do this cathartic purging in an eco-friendly way by donating any clothes that are in good condition, and cutting up the rest into scraps for cloths and rags. Recycle electronics at your local e-waste recycling facility, and donate kitchen items, furniture and housewares to secondhand stores that benefit charities.

Try to keep an empty shelf somewhere in your home, just to remind yourself that space doesn’t exist simply to be filled. We are getting really zen here, but just go with it, okay?

3. Listen for clues

Those moments when you begin salivating over home organization boards on Pinterest, or shopping for another new storage unit, are not mere moments, my friend. They are clues, hints that you may once again be starting to have more stuff than you do space. When you start feeling disorganized, that is the universe (and your overloaded laundry hamper) telling you very sweetly that you may need to get back to basics again, stop shopping, and let some things go. It’s a process! Don’t beat yourself up about it. We are imperfect; stuff happens. Life goes on. Begin again.

Over time, a delicious reality will reveal itself: Possessions aren’t treats; they’re responsibilities. And conversely, having less of them doesn’t mean deprivation, it means freedom! It benefits you, the home you create, and the natural world we live in.

Enjoy it.

And don’t forget, Pin this for later!

This is the best advice I've ever received on decluttering!

Feature image courtesy of Jed Sullivan 

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