Like many things in life, I came to a realization about decluttering while doing something else. And this simple mindset shift transformed my decluttering methods and accelerated my journey toward minimalism.
The Decluttering Project that Led to my Mindset Shift
When we discovered we were pregnant with babe #2, we decided to move EJ into a new bedroom and keep our gender neutral nursery for the next baby. Since EJ’s gender was a surprise, I didn’t really feel like I had the chance to decorate and plan a room for him. So, I decided to design a Montessori inspired toddler room for him so that he had a special place all his own in the house.
The room we selected for him had been our office, so the transformation started with emptying out the room and painting. Next, I scoured local antique shops with my mother in law to find some unique accessories.
My husband designed and built this amazing toy box bookcase. We hung a vintage chalkboard on the wall for EJ to draw on and practice his writing. My aunt gave us a toddler bed that she had in storage. My mom had given EJ an adorable airplane chair that Christmas which worked wonderfully in his new room. Lastly, we bought a new closet organization system so that we could hang his clothes instead of using a dresser.
Once we had the main elements figured out, I began considering what items needed to be included in his new room. This is where my thought process began to change. I knew he needed toys and elements of play in his room, but I was picky about which items we included. We placed his clothes on hangars on low bars so that he could access them. I edited his clothing choices by creating a capsule wardrobe. I knew this would make it easier for him to select his outfit for the day.
(Side Note: Be sure to check out the capsule wardrobe guide for mama’s, too!)
Each item I placed in his room was done with intentionality. I only wanted items that would be useful to him. We selected a few kid-friendly games to include on his closet shelves. Those shelves also store baskets for his socks, pants, and pajamas.
While we were gifted with lots of hand-me-downs, I only kept what would fit in the basket. If I had a lot of duplicates, I passed them on to someone else who could use them.
My Decluttering Aha Moment!
After completing the makeover, EJ’s room became one of my favorite spaces in the house! It was a cheerful, bright space with just the right amount of stuff. He had all his special things, but everything had a home. There was nothing in the room that wasn’t directly connected to him.
My favorite part about the entire process was that, because items were kept to a minimum, it was now super easy to clean his room. It can go from wrecked to perfection in about 5 minutes. Moms of toddlers, you know how huge this is!
The room was so enjoyable, we began spending a lot of play time up there. The more time I spent in the room, the more time I spent analyzing the process I went through. I realized that by emptying a room before decluttering and only returning items that were the best options for the space, the room became a peaceful place for my son to explore. I also realized that I had been decluttering my spaces all wrong!
My Old Mindset
I’d been following minimalism and its practices for well over a decade, so I definitely had my fair share of methods and processes. Generally, I worked best by tackling one room or space at a time. Once I decided what room I wanted to work through, I would go into that room, look around, and ask myself, “What in this room can I get rid of?” My eyes would scan the room for things I no longer needed, wanted, or enjoyed. And while this is a perfectly fine technique, I seemed to continue to need to declutter the same rooms over and over.
They say decluttering is like peeling an onion in that it seems to happen in layers. You might go through a room several times before you feel satisfied with the level of stuff in it. However, after decluttering the same spaces for years, I felt like I was never getting them to the level of simplicity I desired.
Sitting in EJ’s room, I realized if I wanted to finally conquer my cluttered spaces, I needed to shift my mindset. Instead of asking myself what I could remove from a space, I began wondering what I really needed or wanted to KEEP in the space, While this doesn’t seem groundbreaking, the mindset shift it produced was pivotal! No longer would I scan a room to remove a few unessential items. Through this new lens, I analyzed every item!
Does this item need to be in this space?
Is it serving its best purpose here in this space, or would it make more sense housed elsewhere in our home?
Does it spark joy or bring me happiness?
Is it regularly useful?
Does it add significance to the room, or it is adding stress through clutter?
With my old decluttering method, I looked at a cluttered room and removed items until it felt less cluttered. With this new mindset shift, I considered the purpose of the space and only added back in things that supported that purpose.
Why This Mindset Shift Matters
Now, instead of identifying a few things I can remove in a space, I use this mindset shift to think critically about all things! Nothing is assumed to be needed or returned to a room without specific consideration.
As I touch each item, I determine whether it adds to the overall function, style, or enjoyment of the room. If the item lacks a specific purpose in the room, I remove it. After I work through this process in a space, I figure out what to do with the items that are no longer returning to the room.
In the case of EJ’s room, some toys were cycled back into our toy rotation system. Some items were moved to the nursery for Jack. Other items were donated, trashed, or relocated to other areas of the house where they would serve a better purpose.
Shift Your Mindset with this One Simple Question
As you work on decluttering your home, try this mindset shift. Instead of asking “What can I get rid of?” focus on “What do I really want to keep in this space?” Spend some time analyzing each item. Determine if it’s necessary to keep or if it’s adding to the overwhelm that you feel every time you enter the room.
Shift your mindset and give this decluttering strategy a try today.
If you need more step by step guidance, check out our 5 no-nonsense steps to decluttering.