Embracing Minimalism Instead of Habitual Decluttering

Embracing minimalism instead of habitual decluttering

In this blog, I tend to focus a lot on decluttering. I know when I started seeking minimalism, I needed guidance with even the most basic beginnings of decluttering, I longed for encouragement and someone who had been through it, sharing what they know. So, for many articles, that is the bent I take.
But I have come to realize that decluttering can be addictive in and of itself, and though decluttering is spoken of frequently here on the blog, it’s not the end goal to have everyone just decluttering.
The addictive decluttering I’m talking about here is very different than Compulsive Decluttering, which is a form of OCD, (where clutter causes extreme anxiety, to the point that life is challenging, because we do require a certain amount of possessions to live, but often the person with the disorder seeks an empty, clear and sterile environment).
I want to talk a bit about the habitual type of decluttering. Where the act of decluttering is what is enjoyed- it gives a sense of accomplishment, exhilaration from seeing the room transformed and dropping boxes off at a donation site gives a rush.

When decluttering becomes the focus, rather than just a venue for a lifestyle change, it needs to be addressed.

The only way to know if this is an issue for you is to spend some time in introspection and ask yourself some questions:

  • Do you find yourself longing to declutter, (just for the thrill of it) without necessarily having an empty space as an end goal?
  • When you think about decluttering, what is the end goal that you envision?
  • Have you implemented daily routines to keep your home tidy, or don’t see the point of routines?
  • Have you noticed a shift in buying/shopping habits or do you not consider your consumer mindset as a contributing factor to the clutter?

It is not exactly easy to live [minimally]. People and companies are really good at persuading you to buy things. As a society, we enjoy shopping because we get something new and exciting out of it. Once that excitement dies down, we get bored, so we repeat the process because we want that excitement again. Most people have a hard time understanding why anyone would want to be a minimalist because shopping is part of our culture, but funnily enough, minimalism allows you to explore new ways of finding that same excitement without having to whip out your wallet. ~The Blissful Mind

Most of us know that the clutter on the surfaces of our home contributes to the overwhelming and out-of-control feelings that we have. But to make the shift from just decluttering to embracing minimalism is an important step if you want lasting results.
You don’t have to have a sparse home in order to consider yourself a minimalist. Rather, minimalism is a belief, a lifestyle, with appropriate priorities and intentional actions.

Asceticism is a lifestyle characterized by extreme self-denial or abstinence from worldly pleasures. It is important not to confuse that with minimalism. ~Minimalism & Co.

Being a minimalist isn’t a ticket into an elite group or defined by a number of possessions.  Being a minimalist is something that starts in the mind and is driven by intangibles. The visible and tangible is only a byproduct of intentional living decisions. ~Loving Simple Living

If you find yourself desiring something more, to find meaning in life outside of material possessions, a minimalist path is definitely the way to go. Let go of the things that don’t add value to your life and do what you need to do to avoid them coming back.

Decluttering, in and of itself isn’t the goal. It’s a means to an end.

A small disclaimer: I continue to declutter. Certainly not to the same extent I used to, and as more and more of my children leave the nest, I imagine my weekly decluttering will decrease as well. Having a family of 7 means that more things come into the home, so if I want to maintain the atmosphere I have worked so hard to achieve, I have to build decluttering into my weekly routines and the way I live day-to-day.
For several years I had to focus on getting rid of large amounts of items I had collected over the years. Toys, clothes, sentimental items, papers… I had to set aside time to sort, decide and discard.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s good if you get a feel accomplished and excited because of the progress you made when decluttering. But there is more to life than just feeling accomplished every day.
There is more to life than just making it through and marking off a to-do list. Oh, that is definitely rewarding, I love my lists, my charts and feeling accomplished at the end of the day.
But embracing minimalism means to evaluate what you want in life, the most important things to you, and instead of allowing your life to be consumed with being a care-taker of stuff, embracing minimalism means you discard the things that are distracting you from your life purpose.
Don’t know what your life purpose is? That’s ok – the more superfluous things you let go, the more introspection has to be done, the more you evaluate your beliefs and look for meaning.
Just like decluttering shouldn’t be the goal, minimalism isn’t either. Rather, minimalism frees me up to devote my life to what is most important to me.

At its core, minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts us from it. ~Becoming Minimalist

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. Jaclyn Levy on 09/14/2016 at 8:46 am

    “You don’t have to have a sparse home in order to consider yourself a minimalist. Rather, minimalism is a belief, a lifestyle, with appropriate priorities and intentional actions.”
    This whole article resonated with me but especially the quote above. This article also opened my eyes and challenged my thoughts on the whole decluttering process.
    It’s funny, I visited the vanderbilt Biltmore estate last week and was incredibly inspired Although he was the opposite of a minimalist! However his home was filled with what he loved. So now I hope to balance the two. Bringing in what I enjoy and love, while also being mindful of purchases and ensuring DAILY routines are focused on what matters most to our family.
    *For some reason this is in all caps, sorry!

  2. Heather on 09/16/2016 at 12:19 pm

    This was lovely. Thank you so much for writing it.
    I have been struggling with the idea that my efforts to declutter and move toward minimalism are misplaced. I live for the accomplishment, and am incredibly discouraged, frustrated, or angry when more clutter comes in. Living with other people makes it difficult to maintain my “standard” of maximum items in a space.
    Routines are something I’ve been working toward, both for my home’s comfort level and for my own sanity and organization. Maybe that can be the subject of an upcoming post. Thanks again!

  3. sheryl at providence acres on 09/20/2016 at 11:59 am

    sometimes I think i minimize just to get that stress-lifting, liberating feeling. It’s hard to tell if that is the case or if i just don’t like being tied down. your belongings really do own you. i prefer to be free to go when and where i want and to make a change as needed, without spending months unloading all we own beforehand. I do feel the stress if we start to accumulate too much ‘stuff’. one move in the old life with all of our old ‘stuff’ was enough to convince me to unload much of it. I now try to discard something when bringing something else in.
    I find that living with other people does make it difficult to declutter and minimize when the other members of the household don’t see it the same way. my own personal footprint is extremely small but it’s a constant battle to keep it that way, however, I think it would be a continuous struggle even without the influence of others.
    I do love our new minimalist lifestyle! It’s not perfect but it’s considerably better than is used to be.

  4. Zoë on 10/26/2016 at 8:18 pm

    Thanks for this post, Rachel. There is a difference between the means and the end goal. That is why it can really help to define the “Why”.
    For me the “Why” is about clean clear spaces and the sense of serenity they bring. Also just knowing where everything is. I think that is why Mari Kondo claims that once you are surrounded by only those possessions that “spark joy” you will keep them that way.
    Thanks for your blog, Rachel. It is feally helping me create the home I want!

    • Rachel on 10/28/2016 at 4:09 pm

      Thank you Zoë!

  5. Megan Radford de Barrientos on 12/06/2016 at 12:16 pm

    Thank you so much for this blog. I’m another woman of faith embarking on the journey of minimalism as part of a desire for more peace and joy, but also out of a desire to follow Jesus’ example of loving others and living with less. Thank you for the inspiration! Your reflections are thought-provoking and encouraging.

  6. Gail tf on 01/09/2017 at 4:32 pm

    Excellent, thoughtful post. So many minimalist blogs are all,about the stuff. It ain’t about the stuff, but the life created after the purge.

  7. Anne weatherly on 03/09/2017 at 11:56 pm

    Thankyou for the blog . I too am reaching to a life without extra stuff to care for snd maintain. Jesus lived intentionally and with love and leaves that example fir us . Less is more when you love it!

  8. Rachael on 12/20/2017 at 11:33 pm

    I’m struggling to find out why you can’t declutter and stay decluttered. If you intentionally do NOT buy things you don’t need, wouldn’t you be to the point where it was “gone” with IT being the clutter, and you now have a clutter free home? I do not have time to declutter at this point, what with moving two locations of two businesses, which resulted in a huge amount of delcluttering and all, but definitely have stopped buying and bringing into the house. Since i still fill a dumpster each week, just with normal “business and personal” trash, I’ve soon got to start feeling some relief, I think. I hope.

    • Maria on 04/24/2019 at 12:32 pm

      This is an older post but I’m sure some people may come across it like I did and will wonder about continual decluttering as well. I am obviously not an official spokesperson for Rachel but I do have an idea of why there is decluttering regularly. I’m certain that in Rachel’s case any decluttering is nothing major and can probably be done relatively quickly given the foundation is already in place.
      Having a family of seven means things do come into the house. Remember that as kids grow up what is important to them can change. What they value at ten can differ to what they value in their teens and when they “leave the nest”. Even adults can experience a shift in what they value. Maybe that beanie baby collection is no longer important but adult colouring or knitting is the thing that brings joy. Maybe a new set of good quality cookware means we declutter the old. For some of us, minimalism involves replacing poor quality with good quality, This is where that saying “quality over quantity” comes in. As we slowly replace what we own with quality we can let go of the quantity. Twenty threadbare old towels or ten high quality ones.
      Perfection is a “transparent dangling carrot”. Even experts have a little maintenance work to keep things the way they want. Some minimalists have a rule that if something new comes in, something else must leave. This is also a scenario where a little maintenance decluttering is reasonable to expect.

      • Rachel Jones on 04/24/2019 at 7:27 pm

        Well said Maria. Thank you for weighing in!! ❤

  9. CB on 03/10/2018 at 9:29 pm

    Thank you, thank you, for talking about OCD is a mature, loving, and accurate way. So many minimalists misuse mental illness and OCD and treat it as a joke or an advertisement for how minimal they are.
    It is wonderful to meet someone like you, who is actually “nourishing” and caring when it comes to mental illness.
    Thank you!

  10. Crunchycon on 04/26/2019 at 6:29 pm

    Thank you for writing this. I am by no means “perfectly minimalist” (whatever that may be), but am becoming more content and mindful with what I have.
    I read many posts on other boards where people write about “looking forward to staying home and decluttering” as if it’s the focus of their being, and, more disturbingly, feeling genuine anger that grandparents and relatives bring gifts to their kids. Exasperated I understand, but these people write with serious rage.
    It’s as if having a totally minimalist interior and maintaining the facade is the end, rather than having a focused, meaningful life.

    • Rachel Jones on 04/27/2019 at 2:59 am

      Definitely! Very well stated.

  11. Adam on 12/03/2019 at 7:07 pm

    Hi Rachel!
    We are in full nesting mode as we prepare for the arrival of baby #2. It’s so hard to declutter but we are holding off on adding a bunch of new baby stuff. Our 2 will be 2 years apart so it’s a struggle to know if we’ll need a second item or if our first will outgrow said item.

  12. Suzi Whitford on 04/26/2020 at 5:07 pm

    Great article! I especially loved, “When decluttering becomes the focus, rather than just a venue for a lifestyle change, it needs to be addressed.” YES! Thank you for sharing 🙂

    • Rachel Jones on 04/28/2020 at 8:37 pm

      Thank you Suzi! Love what you do! 🙂

  13. Jantra on 12/14/2020 at 7:47 am

    I love how you approached the subject and the insight you provided. What a beautiful way to go about it.

  14. Jessalynn Jones on 05/30/2021 at 3:24 pm

    Great article Rachel! I appreciated the emphasis on keeping life simple and not just achieving. It’s great to Declutter and be productive but at some point we need to enjoy the fruits of our labors and actually enjoy our simple lives!
    I also think it is super cool that we are both “Joneses” and we are both blogging about minimalism! Let’s redefine what it means to keep up with the Joneses!

  15. TBT on 09/16/2021 at 1:33 pm

    Really great post! I think you highlighted the issue of OCD really well and minimalism seems like a great way to achieve a sense of balance in life.

  16. Merritt on 05/25/2023 at 11:19 am

    I’ve done a good bit of decluttering (still an amount to go…but less than before!). I’m also working on adding routines to housework. I love the idea of not having to emergency clean for company. That really resonated. I recently created weekly and monthly cleaning schedules and am focusing on maintaining them. A more calm and peaceful life is a goal.

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