Tips for Effective Decluttering

If we’re decluttering, we want all of our work to be effective, right?
We want it to accomplish something.
We want to see a change.
We want to make our lives easier because of decluttering.
For so many years, I decluttered all the time and I never saw a difference in my home. So today I’m going to tell you how to declutter in a way that you will see a difference in your home.
The typical way to declutter is to open up a cupboard and look at it and say to ourselves,
“Hmm, what can I live without?”

But when we approach it in that way, it’s as if we have to give up comfort for ourselves.

It’s approaching decluttering as a negative, very much like dieting when we say,
“Oh, I’m on a diet so I can’t eat any of the good stuff.”
Or when we’re trying to save money. Maybe we’re saving money for something wonderful like a vacation and we say to ourselves, “Nope, I can’t hit up Starbucks today because I just can’t afford that.”
We don’t want to save money when we think about it like that!
We don’t want to be on a diet if we think we can’t eat anything delicious and we don’t want to declutter if we think we have to get rid of all the things that make us comfortable.
But if you long to declutter enough so that you see a difference in your home and your home is easy for you to care for then you have to just switch that thought in your mind.
We’re decluttering because we have too much, we have an abundance.

Decluttering is a good thing. Eating healthy is a good thing. Saving money is a good thing.

It benefits us.
It benefits our future selves.
And our future selves are going to look back and they’re going to say, “Oh my gosh, thank you for doing all that work. You’ve made my life so much better.”
That’s what we want.
We don’t want to approach it as if we’re torturing ourselves.
We’re not getting rid of things so that we suffer in this life.
We’re getting rid of things so we can enjoy our life more, so we can live better.

Decluttering means getting rid of the excess so we can enjoy the best.

If you had two part-time jobs that were running you ragged and you found a full-time job that paid you exactly what you needed, would you be afraid to get rid of those part-time jobs?
No, we would do it with joy, because we’d be thankful that we have the ability to have this full-time job.
We’re able to give up those things for something better.
When we’re saving money, we’re able to give up driving through and getting coffee all the time so that we can enjoy that lovely vacation we’re planning.
As with decluttering our house, we’re letting go of the excess because we’re looking forward to that house that’s easy to maintain.
A house that serves us.
A house that we can open the doors and let people in at a moment’s notice because it’s clean and tidy, and it’s clean and tidy because there’s not a lot of clutter that we have to shuffle around anymore.
It’s all put away and taken care of.

So shift that question from, “what do I want to get rid of” to “what do I actually want to keep?”

The focus shifts from a place of lack or scarcity to what brings value or adds value to our lives?
One of the most important questions we can ask ourselves as we’re decluttering is:
Does this help me live the life that I want to live?

What is the life that you want to live?

If you’re planning a trip to the Arctic, would it make sense to pack a whole bunch of bathing suits and sunscreen, and beach toys?
No, that’d be silly.
It would take up extra room and you’re not going to use it. It would cause so much more work for you to have to pack it and haul it around!
That’s what the extra stuff is doing in our lives.
We might think it’ll be useful, but just like the beach toys in the Arctic, it’s not really useful to us.
It’s causing us more work, more effort, more energy just in moving it, shuffling it, cleaning it, taking care of it, organizing it, all of that.
It’s causing us so much more work and it’s not bringing any value to this life that you want to live.
Growing up I had a lot of stationery. I grew up before the internet, before we had email, before we had cell phones. And we moved around when I was younger so I had friends all over the country and we would write letters to each other.
Because of that, I had a large collection of absolutely beautiful stationery; the envelopes, the papers, the stickers, all the things.
And I loved them and I wanted to be that genteel lady who would sit down in her silky gown and sipping a cup of tea as she elegantly wrote out letters.
But the truth is I would use my gel pens and write on a plain piece of notebook paper and send it to my friends.
Then the internet came along and we had email and we could email each other all the time. And now there are cell phones and messenger apps, so no one needed to use any of that stationary.
All that stationary that I had saved up, just sat.
It caused more work for me. I’d move it around in my house in whatever closet I had or in the basement, wherever it was kept.
I made so many moves through my life that I took the stationery with me and it hasn’t helped me.
Now, if I sat down and I decided that one of the goals in my life would be to write traditional letters on beautiful stationery and correspond with people in that way, then it could help me. But I know that I’m not. I know that I’m going to text, call, email, FaceTime. I’m not going to sit down and write a traditional letter.
So then being honest with myself, knowing I’m never going to use it, I can look at it and realize that it’s just like taking a bathing suit and beach toys to the Arctic. It’s not going to help me. It’s going to cause more work for me.

Your life is an expedition. You’re going somewhere.

So when you come to an item and you’re sitting there and you’re holding it and thinking about it, ask yourself, “Is this item going to help me live this life that I want to live?”
For my family, it’s important to me to cook real food, so it does help me to have a food processor. A food processor makes my life easier.
But because there are so many tools and kitchen gadgets, we can get sucked into all the different benefits of them, and all of a sudden we have four food processors. (But this one’s smaller and this one’s larger and this one works good for nuts, and this one works good for cheese, and they all have great purposes!)

So would they all help me?

Well, maybe if I had a kitchen that was designed to house all these things so it made it easy to retrieve and easy to clean, and easy to put away again.
But I don’t have a lot of storage in my kitchen.
So if I had four food processors, they would take up space on top of the cabinets, or they might sit out on the counters.
And because I know my tendencies and how I use things and take care of things, I know that if they were on top of the cabinets, I would not retrieve them very often because I’d have to get some kind of step stool or a chair or something to get up there and reach them.
And in my mind, that seems like too much work.
So I would make do without it and it would just sit up there and get dusty and grimy because that’s what happens on top of our cabinets.
And if they were sitting on the counter, then all day long, I’d be working around them and I’d have to clean them and wipe under them and they would just be in my way.
So does it make my life easier to have a food processor?
Yes, it does.
Would it make my life easier if I had four separate food processors?
No, it makes cooking more complicated. It makes the whole process more challenging.

Make your decluttering decisions based on the life that you want to live.

I want to cook real food.
I know I’m not going to get out a step ladder and get the gadgets that are sitting on the top of my cabinet.
I would rather chop nuts with a knife than do all that extra work to get down a food processor.
Does it make sense?
No, but it’s my tendencies, and I know that so I can make decisions based on that:
I don’t like extra steps.

Remember to make your decisions based on abundance, looking forward to something better.

Minimalism isn’t about suffering from less.
It’s about keeping the best stuff and making those decisions that are going to help your future self.
All the things in our lives, all the things in our homes should assist us in living that life that we want to live.
If you want more decluttering help, you can check out this video where I go over 10 questions to ask as you’re decluttering the kitchen.
And if you’re just struggling with where to start, I talk about that in this video right here.
For so many years, I decluttered all the time and I never saw a difference in my home. So I'm going to tell you how to declutter in a way that you will see a difference, and you can enjoy a home that is EASY to maintain. #declutter #simplifythehome

About Rachel Jones

Hi there! I’m Rachel Jones, and I founded Nourishing Minimalism in 2012 at the beginning of my minimalist journey after I'd been doing a yearly decluttering challenge for 4 years and started to see a change in my home. If you're looking for encouragement in your journey, please join our FREE Facebook Group: Nourishing Minimalism Facebook Group


  1. Newton on 04/24/2021 at 11:31 am

    Been getting into the habit of decluttering, and websites like yours help a lot. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Ingrid on 01/23/2022 at 1:39 pm

    Thank you for the article about stationary. I also have a collection of cards, etc. Which take up an entire drawer and I know will never use them all. I will donate them.

  3. Leslie Anne Perry on 08/11/2022 at 1:36 pm

    Good article!

  4. Karen T on 03/15/2023 at 1:09 pm

    Thank you for your advice on decluttering. You gave me so many suggestions and pointers so I can make my own decisions more freely on downsizing and organizing. Mostly you encouraged me. Thank you for helping me make my life easier.

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