Decluttering Tip – Let go of ‘sunk costs’

If something has no longer value for us, it’s clutter.

And it doesn’t matter how much we paid for it. 

Sometimes we hold on to something we don’t need, use, or love any longer, just because we have spent money on it.

We believe that we are obliged to continue valuing (= keeping) it because of the money we once invested into getting it.

However, money that has been spent is gone – it’s ‘sunk cost’, it’s gone as soon as we spend it.

Keeping something that no longer serves us but once cost us money means – in our mind – we still ‘own’ it and that makes us feel like we are somehow still having the money’s worth in our pocket.

But that’s not the case, of course, the money is gone.

Any unused item holds no value at all any longer: it holds no monetary value and no practical value – if we don’t use it, it’s useless, at least to us.

And then feelings of guilt tend to creep up. We look at that item, we know that the money is gone, and we know that it is useless to us, but it still sits there and stares at us – it makes us feel miserable.

However, it might be able to make someone else happy, it might have huge value for someone else, someone who needs it, who would use or love it.

As we release the item, we should also release any feelings of guilt, shame, or anger that go along with it. There is no upside in holding on to those negative emotions.


    • Walk around your home and pick up some of the things that you haven’t used for ages. Or that you haven’t used at all.
    • Take each of the things in your hands and ask yourself: ‘Does this have still any value to me?’ Be absolutely honest!
    • Make a decision: To keep or not to keep?
    • If you decide to keep it, assign it a home, honour it by giving it the space and the use that the things you really want to have deserve.
    • If you decide not to keep it but want to sell it because you believe it has monetary value for someone else: Go out and find that person. Enjoy the money you get.
    • If you decide not to keep it and you can’t / don’t want to sell it: Donate it.
    • If you decide not to keep it, not to sell it and not do donate it (because there is definitely nobody who wants it): Say goodbye and put it in the rubbish or recycle bin.
    • And then enjoy the things you kept – because you truly need, use, or love them.

While going through the process of letting go and analysing why you bought the item, you can gain valuable insights from your sunk cost purchases.


Asking ourselves some uncomfortable questions helps us understand the reasons behind the purchase and this new awareness will make it easier to avoid similar mistakes in the future.

You can you learn a lot about yourself from your answers to questions like these:

    • Was it an impulse buy? Did I acquire it without consideration or need? Why?
    • Did I succumb to pressure from a salesperson, my family, or friends?
    • What else could have caused me to buy it?

Any insights?

What did you learn from these exercises?

Are you more aware of the belongings that you value – because you need, use, love them?

And more aware of the things that no longer have value for you?

Any decluttering plans?



Are you tired?

Tired of trying to (re)organise the various areas of your life entirely on your own?

Tired of investing vast amounts of time and energy in finding a way to create a better organised = better life?

Tired of feeling overwhelmed, confused, frustrated, stressed, disappointed, exhausted, …?

Fortunately, you don’t have to figure it out all by yourself.

We can do it together.

You can decide to get my support, advice, and guidance – and achieve the desired changes in your life so much faster and easier. 

Check out how I can help you.

How to choose your next decuttering project – Some ideas.

What’s your next decluttering project?

Every home is different, and every place has its own challenges, of course.

And we ‘declutterers’ are all unique, we all have our special requirements and preferences and our personal ideas about how our home should look like.

Only you can decide which areas in your home or which categories of belongings need some decluttering, and in which order you wish to organise the work.

If you are not sure where to begin, you could first do a little awareness-exercise:

Walk through your home and create a list of all those areas you don’t feel happy about because they look cluttered or disorganised. 

And then – don’t overthink it – you choose the problem area you wish to tackle first.

Areas to declutter – Some suggestions

Focus on the very personal stuff

You may decide to concentrate on the very personal areas in your home first. This will let you experience the benefits of your decluttering work immediately and personally.


    • the content of your briefcase/handbag (click here for some inspiration);
    • the top of your dresser;
    • the drawer with your underwear;
    • your email inbox;
    • the make-up drawer;
    • etc.

Focus on open areas

It’s a good idea to focus on open areas in the beginning because you’ll very quickly see positive results of your work. This will keep your motivation up.

Examples of open areas:

    • the top of the dresser;
    • the top of the kitchen counter;
    • the dinner table;
    • the window sills;
    • the stuff in and around the shower and the bath tub;
    • etc.

Focus on one room

As soon as the open areas are clear and clean you could choose one room to declutter, step-by-step, over the course of a couple of days.

Divide the room into several smaller areas. During each decluttering session you work on just one area until it’s completely decluttered and re-organised.

Example – the kitchen: the fridge, the freezer, one or several drawers or boxes in the pantry, the cabinet under the sink; the pet supplies/toys, one or several drawers or cupboards with the pots and pans, the cutlery, the dishes, glasses, flatware, the drawer with the herbs and spices; etc.

Focus on one category

It is also possible to work on one category or sub-category of belongings at a time.


    • gardening tools/equipment/supplies;
    • medicine, vitamins, and supplements;
    • linen and towels;
    • shoes;
    • the boxes/bags with the holiday decorations;
    • photo albums and lose photos;
    • hobby/craft supplies;
    • sports equipment;
    • the files and folders on the computer;
    • etc.

Have you got some ideas for your next project? 

Pick up your calendar and schedule the first decluttering session. And then stick to that appointment with yourself.

Feeling a bit overwhelmed now?

What if you feel like freaking out now because your list of projects seems to be overwhelming? Not doable? Exhausting?

Take a deep breath and calm down.

Remind yourself that you don’t have to do your decluttering projects in one go.

You can decide to take the small-steps decluttering approach.

Click here to learn how you can get all the work done, step-by-step.

Preventing the influx of new clutter – A shopping ban can bring surprising insights. About you. And your stuff.

The purpose of daily-life experimentation

Creating and conducting experiments in our daily life is a playful way to develop greater self-awareness and to try out new ways of behaviour or testing the effects of new ways to solve problems.

Shopping bans – Experimenting with buying less

Shopping bans, for example, are a way of temporarily experimenting with drastically changed shopping behaviours.

Do you have any experience with shopping bans?

Some time ago I imposed a 3-months-shopping-ban on myself – no spending on books and clothes for 3 months.

This is what my shopping-ban exercise taught me:

    • I appreciate more what I have and I use it with more care and attention if – for a while – nothing new is coming in.
    • A lot of my buying behaviour is directed by spontaneous shopping decisions.
    • I can break this circle of ‘automatic’ money spending if I postpone the decision for some days.
    • Often, I no longer want to have the desired item and don’t buy it, without any regret.
    • And if I decide to buy it after some days of consideration, I appreciate it more consciously and gratefully.

How do you feel about experimenting with a shopping ban?


Impose a shopping ban on yourself to understand your shopping decisions better or to change them.

    • Determine the duration of the shopping ban. (Two weeks? One months? Three?)
    • Transfer the start and finish dates of the ban into your calendar.
    • Decide what type of shopping is not covered by the ban (Groceries. One coffee-to-go per day? Eating out once a week?)
    • Start a little journal and keep notes of your experiences – Your thoughts and feelings and actions.
    • In situations where you didn’t stick to the ban. What did you think and feel while you were making the purchase? And after it?
    • In situations where you obeyed to your rules and didn’t buy something that you’d have bought without the ban. Was it difficult? Or easy? Why?
    • Start a list and take notes of the things you would like to buy. You can promise yourself to revisit this list and to purchase whatever you still desire to have after the end of the ban.

At the end of the ban, sit down and evaluate your experiences.

Summarize what the shopping-ban exercise taught you about yourself.

And your shopping behaviour.

And how you plan to make use of those learning-gains in the future.

Decluttering & organising your life – Do you know what’s in your handbag? Really?

Decluttering and organising – whether it’s our home or any other area in our life – can feel overwhelming.

We often postpone certain tasks because we believe that it’s too hard, that it takes too much time, that we don’t know how to do it, that it wouldn’t make a big difference anyway, etc.

However, we can decide to start small.

We can create some small wins first. And some confidence. And move on from there more easily.

Starting and finishing an decluttering & organising project – no matter how small it is – is a first win – and an important step of our journey into a simply organised life.

It’s proof that making changes is possible and that we can achieve visible and valuable results even if we invest only a few minutes at a time.

Our first little successes increase our confidence (‘Yes, I can do this!’) and can help us get inspired and motivated to plan bigger projects. Or to create a new habit, applying the ‘little-step-by-little-step’ approach consistently – which will create huge progress over time.

A powerful little exercise: Declutter and re-organise your handbag

This little project will help you get a better understanding of the simply organising process in general.

You will directly experience how the 3 steps of any decluttering/organising project work together to create positive results: More space and clarity and lightness. And positive feelings about yourself.

Choose a ‘space’ that you use regularly, a personal ‘container’ like your purse/handbag, your backpack or briefcase (We’ll call it ‘your bag’ here.)

The condition of your chosen bag can be seen as a reflection of who you are and how you treat yourself.

    • If this space is cluttered and unorganised it sends the message to its owner (you!), ‘I am a bit messy/disorganised’.

Each time you grapple with trying to find what you need, or you suffer from the heavy useless stuff you carry around in your bag, you experience frustration which reinforces the message ‘I am so disorganised’ and the feeling of frustration.

    • However, if the bag is clutterfree and well sorted, you send yourself the opposite message, ‘I am organised’.

You have positive feelings when you open your bag, and you feel in control because you know what’s in there and where you can find it.

As soon as you have successfully cleared up and organised a formerly cluttered and messy space that you access multiple times during the day – like in this case your bag -, you will repeatedly get reminded that you are able to do successfully whatever you want to do.

You will also have clear proof that you can overcome the overwhelm that in the past kept you from getting certain tasks done.

You will enjoy the benefits of organised spaces – every time you use the decluttered item.

The 3 steps of the decluttering process

Step 1 – Get a clear picture of what’s in there

    • Dump all the contents of your chosen bag on a flat clean surface.
    • Sort everything into categories, such as personal care items, personal documents, paperwork/books, snacks, etc.
    • Notice what thoughts and feelings are coming up while you look at the categories of things. Any surprises? Any items you had forgotten about? Anything you haven’t used for ages? Or not at all?

Step 2 – Decide what you want to discard

    • Start making let-go decisions by assigning things that are damaged or have become useless to a rubbish pile (e.g., crumpled tissues, old receipts, empty water bottle, dried up lipsticks).
    • Sort out what you never use, and let go of all the duplicates, e.g., the additional comb, the second and third pen, another roll of peppermint drops.
    • Now ask yourself: What do I really need and use regularly?
    • Decide and put aside what you are no longer willing to carry around every day. (Reserve the umbrella for rainy days, the sun cream for summer, the novel for times when you use public transport, etc.)
    • Have a look at the remaining items.
    • Appreciate all the things that are helpful and important to you and decide that you are going to take good care of them in future.

Step 3 – Take action and re-organise

    • Throw the rubbish pile into the bin.
    • Find easy-to-access storage options in your house for the things that you only need/use from time to time (e.g., umbrella, sun cream).
    • Re-pack your bag deliberately.
    • Use any compartments that your bag provides to separate categories of things, or find little extra bags to containerise like items (like makeup products, or pens and post-its, or receipts).

Congratulations – You have proven to yourself that you are a capable organiser! Well done!

Now you can feel certain that you’ll enjoy your clutterfree and organised bag – every day.

Notice what else you are feeling at the end of this little project.

Do you feel relief? Satisfaction? Clarity? Pride? Something else?

How could you ‘store’ any positive feelings you have right now and ‘re-use’ them in the next project that you don’t feel too excited about?

The ‘Shoe Parade’ – Decluttering your shoes CAN be fun

Taking action is not always easy, especially if we feel worried about the size and complexity of a home decluttering project. It often helps to start small.

If we begin with one clearly defined decluttering project – and finish it successfully, in a short period of time, with tangible results – our self-confidence and motivation get a boost.

Give it a try, forget about your bigger decluttering projects for a short while. Instead, have some fun with the ‘Shoe Parade’.  

A word of caution:

If your love for shoes is your Achilles’ heel (you own lots and lots of pairs of shoes), the Shoe Parade can be an overwhelming experience.

In this case, it’s better to begin your decluttering journey with a different category of belongings (e.g., socks, books, shirts).


Step 1

Before you do anything, please answer the following two questions:

    • How many pairs of shoes do you have? Take a guess: ………
    • How many pairs of shoes do you regularly wear? Take a guess: ……….

Step 2

Now walk around your home and collect all your shoes.

Arrange a ‘shoe parade’ in your backyard or on the kitchen floor – wherever you have enough space to get them all together.

Any surprises?

    • How many pairs do you have?
    • How many do you actually wear?
    • Any shoes you had completely forgotten about?
    • Any really ugly ones?
    • Completely new and unworn shoes?
    • Other insights?

You might wish to take a photograph. And take some notes.

Step 3

Sort out any shoes that are beyond repair or missing their mate.

These shoes need a new home: the rubbish bin.

Step 4

Then divide you your pairs of shoes into three main groups:

    • In one area of the room arrange all your favourite pairs, the shoes you absolutely love and wear often. Celebrate them – they belong to your ‘keepers’.
    • In another area of the room, you arrange all those pairs of shoes that you don’t love but regularly need/wear. They also have the right to stay.
    • In a third area, you place all those pairs of shoes you have not worn in the past 6 months.

Do they still deserve space in your home? Would they be happier with a new owner?

Show them your respect by saying ‘Thank you’ and ‘Goodbye’ and drop them off at your local charity. Someone else will appreciate and use them.

Step 5

Finally, honour the shoes that you love or need to keep.

Clean them, and then organise them nicely and orderly in one place.

Step 6

WELL DONE! – Celebrate your first decluttering success!

You are now ready and well prepared to start working on your bigger decluttering projects.

Struggling with the clutter in your wardrobe? – ‘Talk’ to your clothes and ask them for help

‘Talking’ to our belongings can open a door to our unconscious mind

Asking our belongings for their feedback is a playful way to gain more awareness about the things we have accumulated over time. Questions like ’‘Why am I not using you?’ help us uncover what’s going on in our mind.

If we are willing to listen to the honest answers we get from our stuff, we begin to understand our subconscious attachment to things that no longer serve us, and we find it easier to make let-go decisions that are over-due.

Wardrobe clutter conversations – Your clothes know what’s going on in your closet

There are many ways to declutter and organise our wardrobe so that getting dressed in the morning becomes simple and enjoyable.

One way to understand the situation in our wardrobe better and to simplify the decluttering-decision process is to ‘talk’ to our clothes and ‘ask’ them for help.


You start the ‘conversation’ by taking everything out of the wardrobe that you haven’t worn for a while.

Spread it out on your bed or another suitable flat surface.

Then take each piece of clothing in your hands and ask it,

‘Why am I not wearing you?’

All sorts of answers will come up and they will help you clarify your relationships with your clothes.

Making confident decluttering decisions gets easier if you hear (and accept) the truth.

Your clothes might give you answers such as

You’re not wearing me because

    • I have stains that you can’t get out’
    • you’ve never tried. Look here, I’ve still the price tag on’
    • you never liked me’
    • I am out of fashion’
    • you forgot about my existence’
    • you have so many clothes similar to me’
    • I don’t fit you’
    • we don’t fit to each other’
    • your lifestyle changed and you no longer need me’
    • you don’t look good when you put me on’
    • I give you negative emotional associations’
    • you don’t like my colour/style any longer’

If you are willing to listen to your clothes and trust their answers, you will find it easier to decide what you want to keep – and to say thank you and goodbye to those clothes that gave you honest and tough answers – because they no longer want to stay with you.

Decluttering your wardrobe can make decluttering your life easier

If you plan to not only declutter your home but other areas in your life as well, getting your wardrobe sorted out is a great starting point.

Many of us feel emotionally attached to at least some of our clothes. This can be the reason why we postpone decluttering our wardrobe again and again.

As soon as we get curious and ask ourselves (and our clothes) questions about all the stuff in the closet, we start to come up with answers that help us clear up the emotional ballast – ballast that causes not only the clutter in our closet but also in other areas of our life.

A small step can change everything: Your home – your mind – your life.

Small steps matter.

They create change, step-by-step.

The first small step is the most powerful. Nothing happens without it.

Having a clear and organised home (or not) has to do with how successful we manage two different but closely related activities:

    • we have to be good at decluttering / organising physical stuff
    • and we have to be good at decluttering/organising our mind.

Our home and our possessions should reflect and support our lifestyle and our values, instead of making life more difficult and stressful.

However, when we are surrounded by belongings that we don’t use, like, need, we can’t relax and refuel our energy resources.

Instead, the mess sucks up our attention and energy. It clutters our mind, the physical clutter bombards our brain with excessive stimuli. We find it hard to focus on our daily lives – it’s all too much!

If we struggle to take action to declutter and organise our home and life, it’s often because the task seems to be so huge that we feel overwhelmed and end up with doing nothing.

We look at the mess and feel stuck, we feel incapable of getting active and making changes.

In this situation, it often helps to just get started – to take the first tiny step:

We choose one small area to focus our decluttering project on and forget about the big rest of the mess for now.

Instead of planning the clear up of the whole house, we decide, for example, to get one drawer in the kitchen sorted, or a little cupboard in the bed room, or our handbag. We set the timer for 20 or 30 minutes, and get the job done, from start to finish.

A small exercise like this, these 20 or 30 minutes, can change everything.

Choosing one small concrete project and tackling it successfully, creates not only new order and space in a little area of our home.

It also changes how we experience ourselves.

Decluttering and organising a small area delivers a visible real result. And this little success triggers a sense of ‘I can take action’, ‘I can organise’, ‘I can achieve results’.

It allows us to start believing in ourselves and our capacity to be(come) an organised person. 

Thus, even just a small successful experience like taking action and changing a cluttered drawer into a clear and organised drawer can have significant effects on our mind and our thinking. (Click Here to read about an example project: Decluttering and organising my office supplies’ drawer.)

It can have the power to set off a cascade of other changes in our life because our thoughts and beliefs are the cause of anything we experience in our life:

As soon as we start to believe that we can organise our stuff, that we can achieve results by taking action, we start to feel more powerful and confident, which frees us up to take further action, which delivers further results.

Which then reinforce and intensify our thoughts of being capable of changing our life and taking control. Which strengthens our feelings of strengths, which … .

A tiny small action creating small but real results can get the ball rolling, can trigger a circle of success. 

A small step can change everything. Give it a try.

The ‘Small-steps-approach’ helps us to get started with decluttering

Would it be possible to clear up your entire home by doing one little decluttering step after the other?

I actually prefer to do things in one go – to start a job and only stop when it’s finished.

However, often it’s not possible to complete a decluttering project in one go. 

    • If we are in an extremely busy phase of our life we might just not have the time for a decluttering project that will take several days or even weeks to get completed.
    • There might be other reasons why we don’t feel physically or mentally able to go through a complex energy- and effort-demanding project.

Thus, the decision to do it all in one go can become the reason why we don’t start at all!

The solution is to let go of the idea that we have to do it all at once:

We move towards our decluttering goal by taking one little step after the other.

CLICK HERE to read more about the ‘Small-Steps-Decluttering Approach’.

Example of a small-steps decluttering project

I haven’t been feeling comfortable in my home office for a while. 

There is too much stuff lying around on my desk, the drawers are too full, the filing cabinets need to be cleared up, the files on my computer as well, and I also want to sort out and give away some of my books.

However, I don’t have the time to do all the work in one go and – sitting in my messy office every day – I started to feel frustrated.

My mood switched immediately as soon as I had decided to take a step-by-step approach.

This is one example of my small-step projects:

Decluttering the office-supplies drawer

Recently, I had 30 minutes before I had to leave the house to meet a client, and I was determined to finally get the drawer with my office supplies sorted out.

I followed my own advice (read more):

I set the timer, and took a photograph of my cluttered drawer.

Image of Office drawer content - BEFORE decluttering

I emptied the content of the drawer on the floor,

Image Decluttering Step 1 - Drawer s content emptied on floor

Then I got rid of  what was broken or no longer usable, and sorted the rest into categories of like items.

Image Decluttering Step 2 - Drawer s content sorted in categories

Now I created 3 piles:

    • to give away (e.g. note pads I never use),
    • to keep in the drawer (one exemplar of all the different things I regularly need),
    • and to store away (all duplicates and extra stock)

Image Decluttering Step 3 - What has to go

I cleaned the drawer, arranged the ‘keep in the drawer’ stuff nicely, and put the ‘to store away’ things in a storage box. 

My drawer looks very organised now, and I know where to find more supplies as soon as something has been used up.

And it took me just 25 minutes to get the job done!

Image Decluttering Step 4 - To be kept

Yes, I like this result of the ‘strategy of small steps’:

Image of Office drawer content - AFTER decluttering

How do you manage large decluttering projects?

Do you divide bigger projects into smaller steps?

How does it work for you?

How would a clutterfree home look and feel like?

Today, I would like to invite you to do a little thought experiment.

Imagine you are moving to a new place.

The new home has the ideal size for your personal requirements and it has all the furniture and storage space you need to organise your belongings in a useful and practical way.

However, so far you don’t have any belongings. Your new home is completely empty.

It’s your task now to bring in all – and only! – the things that you truly love, need and use. 

On DAY ZERO you are going to buy all the things you need

    • to prepare the first dinner in your new home (groceries, drinks, glasses, dishes, cutlery, pots and pans, appliances, gadgets, table cloth, napkins, potholder, kitchen towels, etc.),
    • to enjoy the free evening time with your favourite leisure activity (a book, for example, or a TV, or your arts and crafts supplies, etc.), 
    • to get a shower and clean teeth before your go to sleep (towels, shampoo, soap, tooth brush, toothpaste, body lotion, etc.), 
    • to spend a good first night in your new bed (duvet, pillow, linen, bedside lamp, pyjamas, slippers, etc.), 
    • to get dressed the next morning (for example, a business outfit or whatever you usually wear during a normal day, a pair of shoes, a handbag or briefcase, etc.), 
    • to enjoy the first breakfast in your new home (coffee machine, mugs, breakfast groceries, etc.)

On DAY ONE you are going to add other things you need, for example

    • to prepare another type of dish (for example, kitchen appliances and gadgets you didn’t need the day before, additional spices, etc.),
    • to have some friends over for dinner (additional plates, glasses, cutlery, perhaps a vase, some wine or other drinks, etc.), 
    • to get your washing done (washing machine, washing powder, basket, etc.), 
    • to do some sports the next morning (for example, running shoes and clothes), 
    • to put on fresh clean clothes the following morning (a second set of clothes, perhaps another pair of shoes, etc.).

On DAY TWO you are going to add whatever else you need to add to live your life in the way you want to live it. 

And so on – day by day.

However – and that’s important! -, these are the rules:

    • You always check what you have before you buy something new. 
    • You never buy duplicates (no second pair of running shoes! No extra tubes of toothpaste even if it is on sales today!). 
    • You only buy what you directly want or need to use (no hot water bottle in summer! No wine glasses if you don’t drink alcohol! Only the one book you wish to start reading today!). 
    • You also don’t buy more sets of clothes than you need for an exactly defined time period (for example, two weeks). Whenever you buy an additional piece of clothing, you sort out another piece of the same category. 
    • You also follow your own strict rules with regard to things you get as a gift or inherit but don’t need/like (they have to leave your house again – immediately!). 
    • And you allow only those papers to enter your home that you need to take care of.

Can you imagine 

    • to be surrounded by only things that really and directly serve you, that you truly value by loving/using/needing them? 
    • To know exactly what you own and where you can find it?

Now come back into reality.  ☹  

Walk around your home. Then sit down in one of your rooms. Imagine how it would look like if it was a room in your new ideal clutterfree home. 

What could you do now, how could you use the next 30 minutes or so to start bringing your current home closer to the ideal version of your home?

What’s your ‘Clutter-Percentage’?

What percentage of your home is occupied by clutter? What does it cost you?

Side-effects of the clutter in our homes

In a recent post, I discussedThe negative side-effects of clutter (read more)”.

At that time, I focused mainly on all the different reasons why clutter in our home can create clutter in our mind and life:

Living in a cluttered environment can be very harmful to our general well-being, mental health and social relationships.

Today, I wish to look at the negative effects clutter can have on our finances.

This is not about the money we spent for buying things which (immediately or) later became clutter. The money is gone and we can’t do anything about it. (Even if we find a buyer for clutter-items, we usually get back only a fraction of the amount we originally paid for the items.)

However, there are other clutter-related costs that are actually avoidable.

Our clutter causes financial costs on an ongoing basis.  

Have you ever thought about how much of the monthly mortgage or rent is devoted to storing your clutter?

Usually, we are completely unaware of these ‘silent’ expenses.

I have to admit that I never ever thought about our monthly clutter-storing costs.

The following little exercise was an eye-opener for me.

You might wish to do this exercise, too. Be prepared to get surprised.

EXERCISE: What percentage of your home is occupied by clutter?

Step 1

Walk through your home and make a list of all rooms. Include closets that are separate from rooms or have special functions (such as the linen closet, the pantry, or the broom closet). Don’t forget outside areas, such as the garden shed. The garage, the attic and the basement, of course, need to be added to the list as well.

Step 2

Go into each room and estimate the percentage of space that is taken up by clutter. Include space on book shelves, space under the beds, the built-in shelves and cupboards/wardrobes. Don’t make rash estimations, take some time. Try to take a ‘stranger’s point-of-view’ – this can help to make your estimations more neutral and objective.

Write the estimated percentage behind each room and storage area on your list.

Step 3

Add up the percentages per room/area, then divide the sum by the number of rooms/areas (see example below). The result is the average amount of clutter per area in your home. It’s also the percentage of the monthly mortgage or the rent that is eaten up by the clutter in your home!

My personal example:

I did the exercise and expected a very low clutter-percentage, something like 1 or 2 %. After all, I am a professional professional, thus my home should be a rather clutterfree!

This is my list of our rooms and the results of my clutter-percentage estimation:

    • Home office – 10 %

I have some business-related books that I no longer need, they should go. We need to declutter our folders and organise our paperwork better. My husband has lots of magazines and piles of papers that have been on his to-do list for a while.

    • Bedroom – 3 %

Our bedroom is very clear and clean. We could/should sort through the stuff on/in our bed side tables.

    • Entrance area and hallway – 15 %

We have some boxes we should clear up (winter accessories like scarfs), also the shoe cupboard. We decluttered the book shelves recently but we still have too many travel guides we haven’t used for ages.

    • Guestroom – 3 %

It looks clear and empty but I am not sure what’s in the box under the bed.

    • Living room – 1 %

First, I wanted to assign 20 % to this room. The living room is the only room in the house where my husband and I have clutter-disagreements. For him his stereo system, the speakers and all the CDs are very valuable things – although he hasn’t used them for a very long time. (Today a portable system and Spotify do the job.) The piano is another issue. He hasn’t played it for some years but he loves and ‘needs’ it. I see it differently but our current agreement is that it’s not clutter. Thus, the 1% is correct, at the moment.

    • Bathroom – 8 %

This is my weak point – I buy toiletries too often and store too much stuff. We also have too many travel toiletry bags, filled with too much never used stuff.

    • Kitchen, pantry and laundry – 10 %

We completely decluttered the kitchen and the areas next to it two years ago. I assume it’s time to do another round. However, I hope there’s not more than 10 % clutter.

    • Terrace and backyard – 3 %

There are some smaller garden tools we no longer use but otherwise it’s clear.

    • The garage – 2 %

There is some stuff that we don’t use often but we need it from time to time, it’s not clutter (golf bag, party chairs). We have some items in the garage that will go with the next council rubbish pick-up. 

My calculation: 10+3+15+3+1+8+10+3+2=55/9=6.1

The result: Our clutter-percentage is 6.1. This means that 6.1 % of our monthly rent is devoted to storing our clutter. I am not happy about this result!

My resolution: I am determined to start a decluttering project. I’ll clear up the kitchen, the home office and the hallway/entrance area. I’m going to start the project on next weekend and will finish it before the end of next month. 

What about you?

Do you feel motivated to do the exercise now? Give it a try! 

And if you are not happy with the result – Don’t beat yourself up!

Awareness is a good thing. And it can be the first step of your next decluttering project.

Choose the room with the highest clutter-percentage. Then start to declutter that room, step-by-step. Finish with a new estimation of the percentage.

And celebrate your success!



Are you tired?

Tired of trying to (re)organise the various areas of your life entirely on your own?

Tired of investing vast amounts of time and energy in finding a way to create a better organised = better life?

Tired of feeling overwhelmed, confused, frustrated, stressed, disappointed, exhausted, …?

Fortunately, you don’t have to figure it out all by yourself.

We can do it together.

You can decide to get my support, advice, and guidance – and achieve the desired changes in your life so much faster and easier. 

Check out how I can help you.

How I decluttered my fabric painting supplies

Today I wish to use one of my own decluttering projects to demonstrate how you can successfully move through a little series of systematic steps to get a category of belongings cleared up.

This is an excerpt from my personal decluttering journal – the notes and photos I took when I decluttered my fabric painting stuff some months ago:

Margot’s Decluttering Journal

My fabric painting supplies have become a clutter-problem for meI know that I have too much stuff, and it’s not properly sorted.

This has been annoying for a while, and I’ve decided that now is time to become active and to clear the mess.

Decluttering and Organising one category of belongings – Step by Step

Step 1 – Gaining awareness 

Part 1 – Background of the problem, my thoughts and plans

A good preparation is the foundation of the success of any decluttering / organising project.

A big part of the preparation is gaining deeper awareness. 

We need to understand the problem and its causes before we can decide on our final goal and develop plans how to get there.  

Asking ourselves questions and giving honest answers ensures that we exactly know where we are, why we want to make changes, where we want to go and how to get there.

These are my questions and answers:

Where am I now?

My fabric painting supplies are taking a lot of storage space in our guest room and in the utility room. The stuff occupies many shelves and fills boxes, bags and drawers.

Whenever I feel like starting a new project, I procrastinate and postpone, just because I know that I no longer can say where everything is and because I hate having to dig through piles of materials and tools.

How did I get there? Why?

Some time ago, I was a very active fabric painter. As a non-fiction writer I published how-to-do books for fabric-painting beginners.

I took lots of photographs to help my readers understand the techniques and processes I talked about in my books. To do so, I always stored a broad set of different painting materials and tools which I could use for different projects.

Where do I wish to go? Why?

I no longer publish fabric painting books. I now use fabric painting as an enjoyable method to relax over the weekend.

I want my fabric-painting supplies to be well organised and I want to keep and store only those materials and tools I still like and intend to use regularly. And I wish to free up space which is currently occupied by painting stuff.

How will I get where I want to be?

I’ll now decide which fabric painting techniques I wish to apply in future, and which types of paints and tools I want to use, and also which colours I like most. Based on these decisions it will be easier to choose what I want to keep.

It is hard to sort out materials I spent so much money on, and to make it easier I want to make sure to give the out-sorted items to someone who is happy to use them.

I plan to invest about 2 hours into the decluttering process. And I want to assign all my painting stuff to one of three categories  – ‘Rubbish’, ‘Friend’, and ‘Keep”- to make the sorting process easy.

Step 1 – Gaining Awareness 

Part 2 – Taking inventory and sorting into categories

We take out what we have to get a comprehensive overview of our possessions and then we sort everything into categories.

This is an important step because often we actually don’t know exactly what we own.

Getting everything out and seeing it in bright daylight may not feel comfortable but is necessary.

And sorting things into categories helps us not only uncover the duplicates but also makes us understand where our personal weak points are. (‘Why do I own 10 pieces in this category if I use only one?’)  

I walk around the house and carry everything that has to do with fabric painting to a big enough working area – the floor in the living room.

Decluttering fabric painting supplies - photo 1
This looks a bit frightening! So much stuff!

Now I start to sort everything into categories.

The first category contains all types of paints. I take all paints and carry them to another area on the floor, where I assign them to sub-categories such as fabric painting markers, spray paints, etc.

Decluttering fabric painting supplies - photo 2
It’s really good to see all paints in one place! Now I know what I have.

Step 2 – Making (decluttering) decisions 

Based on our increased awareness (Step 1) we can now start to make decisions about what we want to keep (‘What do I need, use, love?’) and what we no longer need and want to let go of (‘What doesn’t serve me any longer?’).

Making lots and lots of decisions can be exhausting but it helps that we now know what’s important to us and what’s not. 

Taking everything in our hands, we make a clear decision and assign it to one of several piles. Suitable piles could be: Donate, Trash, Sell, Keep, etc.

Before I make decisions about what I want to keep, I check all my paints and sort those out that have dried up or got otherwise damaged and are no longer usable. These get transferred to my ‘rubbish’-labelled pile.

As I will only conduct fabric painting projects to create something for myself in future, I decide to keep only those colours that I personally like.

This helps a lot, as I can immediately assign, for example, all yellow and orange paints to the pile of supplies I’ll pass on to my friend. She is a primary school teacher and has happily agreed to take anything I want to give away.

Decluttering fabric painting supplies - photo 3
I assign every fabric-paint item to a pile: Rubbish, Friend, Keep

I realise that decluttering what I no longer want to use is much easier than I thought. In fact, I enjoy it to realise that I do have preferences and that I’m now able to restrict my paints selection to what I like.

Step 3 – Taking action 

Part 1 – Organising the ‘keepers’, discarding the rest

Now it’s time to get out of the house what has to go, transferring things to the bin or the local charity. Or organsing the sale. This creates a lot of new space already. And usually feelings of relief. 

Then we assign a place to everything we decided to keep (or to every category of like items) so that we can easily find and access what we have whenever we want to use it. 

My first idea is to place the paints directly on the shelves which will hold all my fabric painting supplies in future.

But I know that whenever I’m working on a project, I like to have a broad selection of paint colours close to me, on the working table, so that I can easily switch from one colour to another.

Thus, I want to keep all paints of one type (e.g., all spray paints) together in one container, which I can carry wherever I wish to do a project.

Decluttering fabric painting supplies - photo 4
This looks fantastic! Only those colours of fabric paint I really like. And all organised by type of fabric paint.

I don’t need to buy new storage items because I have enough suitable containers and boxes at home.

It’s a great feeling to see everything nicely arranged and then to place the containers on the shelves!

I don’t think I have to label them: I’m the only one who uses the stuff and I (now) know what I have and where it is. And the containers don’t have a lid, I can easily pull them out and look inside.

After having decluttered and organised my fabric paints, I need a break. It took longer than I thought and I feel exhausted.

A cup of coffee later, I continue to apply the three steps – sort, declutter, organise – to the other categories of my fabric painting supplies (stamps and stencils).

The following images show, for example, how I get all my stamps sorted:

Decluttering fabric painting supplies - photo 5
Again, first I collect all the stamps and stamp-making supplies and sort them into sub-categories.

Decluttering fabric painting supplies - photo 6
Then I take each item up and decide to which pile it belongs: Rubbish, Friend, Keep.

Decluttering fabric painting supplies - photo 7
Finally, I arrange all stamp material in one container. Perfectly organised!

Finally, I get the stencils sorted. (No photos.)

And then – DONE!

This is my ‘after’ photo:

Decluttering fabric painting supplies - photo 8
Everything that I want to keep has a nice new home. And all the empty shelves! Extra storage room gained for other belongings.

Step 3 – Taking Action 

Part 2 – Maintaining the order 

Maintaining the order is obviously very important because we don’t want the sorted area to become messy again.

Creating and adhering to new ‘tidy’ routines and rules helps.

We also should ‘be on guard’ and evaluate regularly what works, and what doesn’t work and has to be adjusted.

In my case, I believe/hope that maintenance is not a big issue.

The very reduced assortment of fabric painting supplies should be easily to handle and keep in control.

But there is one rule I definitely have to adhere to: ‘Don’t buy new stuff!’ I promise myself to use up what I have and to buy, for example, new paint only when a special paint colour has been depleted.

I am very happy about the results of my project. Yes, it took longer than thought (4 hours instead of 2) and was a bit exhausting.

But now I can look forward to starting a new fabric-painting project again!

Clutter Report Australia – Do you fit into the picture?

Clutter Report Australia  

As a clutterfree life coach, I am, of course, very interested in any study or report that focuses on clutter.

However, that type of information is not so easy to find. The Choosi Clutter Report 2017 is one of the rare successes of my ongoing research.

The report has been published by Choosi (an insurance-comparison company) and summarises the results of a survey done by CoreData (a global market research consultancy).

CoreData surveyed 1,000 ‘typical Australians’ across the nation in October 2017 in order to explore the financial value of clutter in Australian homes.

I am not sure how representative the survey’s findings are, however, some of the research results are quite interesting.

These are some of the key findings of the clutter report:

Clutter occupies quite a lot of physical space of our homes, and the amount of our clutter has increased over the past years.
    • 54% of the survey participants estimate that they can fill half of a room or more with clutter,
    • and more than 25% say their home is more cluttered compared to five years ago.
Clutter is impacting on our health, wellbeing and relationships.
    • 25% of participants say that clutter creates stress or anxiety in their lives
    • and about 20% feel discouraged from inviting friends or family to their home because of the clutter.
    • Nearly 12% claim that clutter-related issues have even led to separation or divorce.
Proactively clearing clutter from our homes has positive impacts on our emotions.
    • The survey participants estimate that they get rid of approximately 6.8 large bin bags each year.
    • Key reasons for decluttering include feeling refreshed (49%) and happier (44%).

What are your answers to the survey’s clutter-questions?

When I was reading the report for the first time, I soon started to think about what my answers would have been to the survey questions – an interesting and self-awareness-increasing exercise.

Take a few minutes to consider your answers to these questions before you then have a look at the survey results below:

    • How much clutter do you currently have in your house? How much of a typically sized room could you most likely fill?
    • What is the total financial value of the clutter currently in your home (i.e. considering the cost of purchasing these things in the first place)?
    • How strong is the emotional/sentimental value of the clutter in your home?
    • What’s the most cluttered space currently in your home?
    • What impact does clutter have on your life?
    • What do you feel are the greatest reasons for clutter in your household?
    • What are the greatest barriers to decluttering your home?
    • What is your most valued household item?
    • How strongly do you currently desire to  declutter your home?
    • How does clearing the clutter in your home make your feel?

Now have a look at the survey results – where do you fit into the picture? ?

How much clutter do you have in your home

What is the total financial value of the clutter in your home

How strong is the sentimental value of the clutter in your home

What is the most cluttered space in your home

What impact does clutter have on your life

What are the greatest reasons for your clutter

What are your greatest barriers to decluttering

Choose Clutter Report - what is your most valued household item

How strong is your desire to declutter

How does clearing the clutter make you feel