Posts Tagged decluttering

Why Your Decluttering Failed

When I found minimalism, I went through three rounds of decluttering before finally figuring out how to declutter correctly. These are the mistakes that I made on my journey to a clutter free home.

Why Your Decluttering Failed

When I started my decluttering journey, I made a list of every single place in my house that I wanted to declutter. I broke this list down into tiny little places that would take me 15 minutes or less to declutter, so I could easily tackle one space a day without getting overwhelmed. It seemed like a good enough plan of action, but after about a month of consistent decluttering, I was over it. I didn’t want to spend even 15 minutes a day decluttering anymore.

I am the kind of person that goes all out when I do something. If I wanted to clean out my closet, I’d spend a good 9 hours taking everything out, organizing and cleaning and replacing. I am not the type to do things slowly and methodically over a long period of time.

When I tried to convince myself that my 40 day, 15-minute-per-day plan was the best, I didn’t take into account my personality and behavioral habits. I probably would have done better with a solid three days of decluttering my whole house.

Reason Why Your Decluttering Failed #1: You didn’t find a plan that works for you.

A few months after my first semi-failed attempt at decluttering, I decided to try decluttering again. I knew the end result would be worth it, so I gave it another go, in a much less methodical way this time. My weekends and some weeknights soon became filled with decluttering time. I took it one room at a time this turn around, which worked out much better for me. I put everything I wanted to get rid of in boxes, and put the boxes in my car to donate.

Six months later, the boxes were still in my car. I’d decluttered a lot of my house, most of it was in the post-declutter stage. Boxes full of stuff to donate were now in my garage and car, and sometimes when I was too lazy to do a load of laundry, I’d go out to those boxes and find some clothes or dish towels to bring back in.

Reason Why Your Decluttering Failed #2: You didn’t donate the excess right away.

Eventually, I got rid of those boxes. I finally took them to the thrift store, where they could find new homes with people who actually needed these things. I felt happy, content, and finally had my weekends back. But now that my decluttering was finished, and my house was clean and clear, what would I do in my spare time?

I resorted to my old favorite hobby: Target. I made a decision; now that my house was clean and empty, it was time to define my style with some updated and “grown up” homewares. I started spending my weekends at Target, stocking up on throw pillows, bed ruffles, new sheets and duvet covers, and even researched the internet for over 40 hours to find the perfect headboard.

Why Your Decluttering Failed

The problem was that my “style” would always be changing. Sometimes I wanted a boho bedroom filled with plants, dreamcatchers, and crazy amounts of pillows, and sometimes I wanted a clean and minimalist look where everything was white and had some purpose to it. Because my style would change so often, I was constantly updating my throw pillows and home decor.

Reason Why Your Decluttering Failed #3: You kept bringing stuff in.

Eventually I realized what I was doing. I made another decision, this time a much healthier one. I was going to become a “minimalist,” give up trying to define my style, and stop spending all of my time and money at Target.

You don’t have to become a minimalist to be successful at decluttering. I just had to stop bringing stuff in, which just meant a simple change in my lifestyle. I started going for hikes when I was bored instead of going on Pinterest or heading to Target. I’m pretty sure I’ve made all of the mistakes possible in the decluttering process, but I’m happy to say I’ve learned a thing or two along the way.

Your Turn!

  • What decluttering mistakes have you made?

 

Clutter And Stress: Your Clutter is Stressing You Out

Whenever I’m in a room full of clutter, I start to feel my anxiety rise. Clutter has been tightly correlated to stress, and your clutter may be stressing you out even more than you think. This is five ways that clutter stresses you out.

Clutter and Stress

1. Clutter is Distracting

No wonder I can never get work done with a cluttered desk or office – when you can constantly see other things (aka clutter) that needs to get put away, faxed off, filed, etc, it’s hard to stay focused on the task at hand. Most people take breaks from staring at the computer, and if those breaks are filled with looking around at the clutter in your office, it could be greatly distracting you from what you’re meant to be doing.

2. Clutter Inhibits Creativity and Productivity

Being constantly surrounded by clutter can stop your creativity (& productivity) in it’s tracks. Personally, I feel super inspired and creative when I’m in a clean and tidy environment, and I have never been able to feel productive when I’m in a messy, cluttered room or space. I’ve always been one of those people that clean their room before doing any work.

3. Clutter Creates Feelings of Guilt

When you’re surrounded by clutter, it’s easy to think of what you should have done with it by now. It should have been donated, it should have been thrown away, it should be organized.

I experienced this firsthand when I went to visit my parents recently, and in my old room was clutter that I’d totally forgot about. It was just a few old clothes, a Vitamix, and some shoes, but I made sure that I got rid of it before I left. Arriving there and seeing the clutter made me feel so guilty, but getting rid of it made me feel so much better.

4. Clutter Makes Us Anxious

Imagine that you are standing in a field on a sunny day. The grass is cut short and you can’t see anything for miles. How relaxing is that?!

Now imagine you’re in a room, surrounded by stuff. The bookshelves are full, there are boxes on the floor, even the table and chairs are piled high with stuff. Did that feeling of being relaxed go away?

Clutter can unconsciously cause massive amounts of stress.

Clutter and Stress

5. Clutter Makes it Difficult To Relax, Physically and Mentally

I love having time to myself, to read, relax, light a candle, whatever. But it’s super difficult to relax when I’m surrounded by clutter. In fact, sometimes it feels downright impossible. Clutter inhibits our ability to relax because it’s hard to see all of the stuff that needs to get done and ignore it.

Clutter can have a huge impact on stress levels, consciously or unconsciously. The good news is that decluttering can lead you to a more stress free, creative, and productive life.

Your Turn!

  • How has clutter affected your stress levels?

Organizing Versus Decluttering

There seems to be a constant debate on organizing versus decluttering. Which one is more important? Should I organize, declutter, or both? This is my experience with organizing and decluttering.

I used to spend hours every week watching organizing videos. I would be amazed and so satisfied watching people organize the contents of their closet or storage cabinets into neat, clear plastic tubs, complete with lids and cute labels. Watching these videos would make me so motivated to go get my own organizing tubs and move all of my belongings into clearly labeled containers, where everything has it’s place.

Organized Versus Decluttered

The idea of organizing all of my stuff seemed like so much fun, and I started to use my coupons (I was also into couponing) to buy organizing bins and drawer sets for my cabinets. I organized all of my bulk toothpaste, extra deodorants, and even put all of the clothes I hardly wear in a cute box to put up in the attic. I organized a box of scarves, a box of spare shoes, and I even organized all of my books from college into a box with a label to put in the garage.

I soon realized the problem with my organizing spree. I was simply organizing all of the stuff I wasn’t using. I didn’t need fifty tubs of toothpaste or thirty Bath and Body Works shower gels. I didn’t need that box of clothes that I never wore, or my books from college.

Soon after my organizing spree, I found minimalism. At this point, I turned my focus from organizing to decluttering. I stopped with the couponing madness, and I stopped buying more stuff. I started working my way through the stuff that I had, and gave some of it away. Eventually, the storage and organizing containers became useless. I didn’t have stuff to fill them anymore, so they got donated along with a lot of the stuff in them.

This experience taught me that decluttering should always come before organizing. For the majority of my organizing phase, organizing was just tidying up the stuff I wasn’t using or didn’t need to begin with. Though organizing can feel productive and look pretty, now I much prefer the minimalist look of clean, clear homes with only the essentials and nothing more.

Organized Versus Decluttered

Living this way has opened my mind and schedule, so that I have the time to be doing things that really light me up and make me feel alive. I have time for all of my many hobbies and goals. And I can tell you, organizing isn’t one of those hobbies anymore.

Your Turn!

  • Do you prefer organizing or decluttering?

Mistakes I Made While Decluttering

A few years ago, I went on a massive decluttering spree. I had decided to become a minimalist, so naturally, the first step was decluttering my one bedroom apartment. Though I eventually got it right, I made my fair share of mistakes along the way. These are three mistakes I made while decluttering.

Overthinking The Process

Decluttering can be overwhelming at first. Looking at the piles of stuff forced into my closet, my overflowing drawers, and the insane amount of excess I had, it was hard to imagine having a decluttered and clean home. I was hesitant to start decluttering because it just seemed like so much work. I stayed stuck in this state of analysis paralysis for a good amount of time before I finally made a plan and took some action.

Mistakes I Made While Decluttering

Trying To Do It All At Once

When I finally made the decision to just go for it, I made a plan, rolled up my sleeves, and got to work. But I soon realized that even after getting rid of half my shoes or my over filled dresser, I still had more shoes and clothes that I could get rid of. After the initial decluttering, I knew that one round wasn’t enough. I ended up doing a total of three waves of decluttering, getting rid of more things each time.

Organizing the Clutter

After a couple of waves of decluttering, I decided that what I really needed was an organizational system. I picked up some boxes from work and organized a lot of my belongings into different boxes, and then moved them into my garage. I had boxes for college books (in case I wanted to read them again, even though I hadn’t touched them in over 5 years), excess dishes, extra blankets, and off season clothes. I even had a box of snow clothing – I hadn’t gone snowboarding in over four years, and I lived in California. I was proud to have all of these things organized.

Six months later, it came time to move out. When I went in to my garage, I wondered why the heck I kept all of this stuff. I took all of it to Goodwill, and haven’t needed any of it since.

Mistakes I Made While Decluttering

These are just three of the many mistakes I made while decluttering. Sign up to get the Decluttering Checklist so you don’t make the same mistakes I made. Getting rid of excess can be a long journey, but the end result can be life changing.

Your Turn!

  • What mistakes did you make while decluttering?

 

Five Things To Do Before You Build Your Tiny House

While that deciding to build a tiny house is exciting, I realized that I needed to get my butt in gear and accomplish a whole slew of tasks before I’m ready to buy a trailer for my tiny house on wheels build. Today I’m sharing my to do list with you, and I hope it can help you prepare for your build too – whether you’re starting next week or next year.

tips to build a tiny house

1. Be Sure It’s What You Want

This seems like a given, but there’s more at work here. If you want a tiny house because you think they’re cute, you might need to do a little more soul searching. If you want a tiny house because it’s the logical next step in creating a more intentional way of living, well…now we’re getting somewhere.

Me, on the porch of Jay Shafer's original tiny house

Me, on the porch of Jay Shafer’s original tiny house, wearing unflattering pants.

How do I know a tiny house is right for me? Well…

  • I’ve wanted to build my own house since I was eight years old.
  • I love small, cozy, confined spaces.
  • I’ve always been passionate about good design and creating homes full of personality.
  • I want to learn new things, because it improves my life and makes me a better person.
  • I want to feel the pride that comes with tackling a big project.
  • I care about my impact on the environment.
  • It does not make sense for me to buy a traditional home because I don’t know where I’ll end up settling down someday.
  • I’m a tiny person (5’2″) with very little stuff and few worldly needs.

Your reasons might be different. Be honest with yourself and trust your gut! You know yourself and your own motivations.

Tips:

  • If you are going into a tiny house build with your partner or family, agree going in that if anyone decides they’re done with the tiny house life, that you’ll both/all find another living solution. Not feeling trapped will work wonders when it comes to living peacefully together in a tiny house.
  • If you’re on the fence, there are other ways to live smaller without building a tiny house. Even just downsizing to a small house or apartment can dramatically change your outlook.
  • At the end of the day, a tiny house is just an object, and objects don’t change your life for the better. Only you have the power to do that.

2. Connect with Tiny House People

Connect with Tiny House People

Tiny house people love nothing more than sharing pizza and beer.

Even with the wealth of information available online, you’ll still have questions that can only be answered by people who have gone through the building process. Also, tiny house people are just plain cool and interesting and definitely worth knowing!

I’ve been lucky to meet so many wonderful members of the tiny house movement through my work, but to get here, I had to seek them out myself. As an introvert, this is much easier said than done. In the beginning, I had to do a lot of hunting to find other people who were just as excited about tiny houses as I was.

Tips:

  • Meetup.com is a goldmine. If you’re in a major metropolitan area, chances are high that there is a tiny house enthusiasts meetup nearby. If there isn’t one already, why not start a group yourself?
  • If there isn’t a tiny house meetup group, search for related groups about minimalism, gardening and permaculture, or prepping, and you’re bound to meet other people who are interested in tiny houses!
  • Tiny house events are popping up all over the country, and they’re a great way to meet cool folks. If you’re pretty convinced you’d like to live tiny, the Tiny House Conference is a great place to make friends and ask people your questions.
  • Don’t just hound people on the Internet, begging them for a tour of their tiny house. Form strong give-and-take friendships with tiny house folks just like you would with anyone else.

3. Pare Down Belongings

Downsize and declutter

I once owned over 300 books. I now own 30.

Paring down your stuff is a huge part of living the tiny life. Last summer, I moved to Charlotte from Boston, and I took the move as an opportunity to bring only the things that could fit in the back of my Honda CRV. I got rid of two thirds of my clothing and 90% of my books – something I thought I could never do – along with decades’ worth of accumulated crap from my school years. It was surprisingly easy to distinguish trash from treasure once I got in to a rhythm. Driving down the highway to my new home, with a trunk full of my most precious possessions, was a liberating feeling.

Tips:

  • “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” – William Morris
  • For analytical minds: try the box method. Empty the contents of a drawer, closet, etc. into a big cardboard box. Each time you use an item from the box, it can return to the drawer. Whatever remains in the box after three months is something you don’t need in your daily life and you can safely donate it.
  • For intuitive minds: If you have more of an emotional attachment to objects like I do, I highly recommend the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. It has gone viral for a reason, and I couldn’t have decluttered without it. That book is worth its own blog post, which I will write soon.
  • Budget enough time for this crucial step. One tiny house family I know took a whole year to declutter.

4. Assess Needs

Assess Your Tiny Home Needs

Dee Williams’s petite vardo at the 2015 Tiny House Conference.

This is what Dee Williams from Portland Alternative Dwellings calls “playing anthropologist.” A lot of what we think we need in a home is marketed to us through building trends and realtors. A tiny house is a chance to shed the excess and create a home that fits you like a glove. For this step, I wrote a big list to brainstorm all my weird quirks and how they affect my interaction with my living space.

For instance, I noticed that I never use more than two stove burners at a time, but I do use my oven very frequently (roasting vegetables is the most reliable way to trick myself into eating them). For me, an oven would be a necessity.

I find that I spend most of my leisure time lounging around in bed rather than on the couch. Aside from sleeping, I do all my reading, drawing, writing, and music-listening in bed. I’ll probably forgo a lounge space in favor of a dining area, and design a luxurious sleeping loft that will double as my creative haven.

I also dye my hair monthly, so an open shower stall won’t work for me unless I want to flood my whole house as I rinse out the dye. I think a stock tank bathtub would work well for me.

Tips:

  • Try the Post-It Note Method: Stick a Post-It Note next to each doorway in your home. Every time you leave a room, write down what it is that you’re doing in each room. After a month or so, get a glimpse into how you actually use your space.
  • Design for the life you have, not the one you want. This is the equivalent of keeping “skinny pants” in your wardrobe. You want to feel comfortable in your home, not guilty.
  • If you have hobbies or accoutrements that require a lot of space, consider outbuildings or off-site storage, or outsourcing that hobby to a different location (e.g. an artist’s studio).
  • Remember: our needs are surprisingly few and easily met.

Step Four: Figure Out a Floor Plan

Tiny House Layout

My latest tiny house layout, which I have already overhauled completely.

Right now, I have a folder on my desktop with 39 scanned, hand-drawn floor plans. To be fair, I’m a big nerd and I’ve been drawing these for four straight years. But whether it’s digital or on paper, it’s important to translate your design ideas into a visual medium.

There are lots of great ready-made tiny house floor plans on the market. We’ve reviewed our favorite plans to help you pick the one that’s right for you – click here to check it out. But because everyone’s needs are different, don’t be afraid to modify an existing plan to better suit your lifestyle.

Tips:

  • Carry a measuring tape with you wherever you go. Measure chair heights, counter widths, the rises and runs of stair steps – it’s important to know common dimensions of different elements so you can accurately plan for them.
  • Measure yourself! Know how much space you need to feel comfortable. My needs as a 5’2″, 130 lb. woman will differ from the needs of a 6’3″ 275 lb. man.
  • Don’t forget to design space for your clothes hamper, kitchen trash can, recycling and compost bins, suitcases, bulk paper goods storage, brooms, and other cleaning implements.
  • Include empty storage space in your design. Because you’re alive, you’ll probably still acquire new things after you move into your tiny house. Give yourself some wiggle room.
  • Strive for an excellent design, not a perfect one. If you stress too much about getting things absolutely perfect, you’ll never get off the ground.

5. Work with an Expert

Great Ideas always begin on a napkin

Great ideas always begin on a napkin.

Optional, but highly worth it. Even if you have a pretty strong grasp on what you’re doing in terms of your design, it never hurts to have an expert offer their advice. At the Tiny House Conference after party, I hungrily listened to Lina Menard and Ethan Waldman as they gave me feedback on my tiny house design, which I drew on a napkin in pink pen. I’m currently collaborating with a professional plan designer and draftsman to hash out a solid layout and set of building plans, which is terribly exciting!

Tips:

  • Try to find experts who have experience building tiny houses. It’s important for folks to have the skill of translating theoretical designs into tangible structures.
  • If you can’t afford a consultation, buy or borrow a copy of A Pattern Language. It’s a great manual for learning the psychology of vernacular architecture (a.k.a. how to build a house you feel good in).

6. Create a Budget

Christian and Alexis of Tiny House Expedition made their dollars stretch during their tiny house build.

Christian and Alexis of Tiny House Expedition made their dollars stretch during their tiny house build.

Ideally, if you’re ready to build within a year, you should have enough funds saved up to at least get started. If you’re not careful, a tiny house can become a money pit if you don’t budget and track your expenditures.

My plan is to build in stages. I’ll first finish the exterior, so that the unfinished inside is safe from the elements. I can then take my time finishing the interior and saving up for some nicer appliances. Since I live in Charlotte and it’s pretty warm here, I might even move in early and live in the house while I’m still working on it to pour even more money into the build. I’m planning for the build to take a long time, but I know I’ll have a more rewarding learning experience that way.

In terms of saving money, it’s important to have a savings account just for your tiny house so that your funds don’t get mixed up and accidentally spent. I know that I’m the kind of person that will spend all my savings if they’re accessible and unallocated. I use SmartyPig.com to keep my tiny house savings separate, which is free and easy to use and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Tips:

 

So what are the next steps as I move toward building my tiny house? Tune in next time for part two of this topic!

Your Turn!

  • Which step will be the easiest for you?
  • Which step will be more challenging?