The ‘Clutter Series’, Part 7 – The benefits of the Decluttering-Activity


The ‘Clutter Series’ discusses important aspects of the clutter in our homes and minds, including the close relationship between clutter and our general wellbeing.

Click here to read a summary of the main insights of this series.

What are the benefits of the decluttering-activity?

The most obvious purpose of a decluttering project is, of course, to get the clutter out, to clear our home of physical clutter. And, yes, achieving this goal – creating a clutter-free living place – has a range of benefits.

As a result of the decluttering process we usually gain more space and time, we save money, become more productive and efficient, we experience more peace of mind. (Click here to read about the benefits of a clutterfree home)

However, the benefits of the decluttering activity can be even bigger than the benefits of the decluttering results.

Making decluttering-decisions in our home offers the opportunity to simultaneously make positive changes in other areas of our life.

Yes, depending on the size of our home and the amount of accumulated clutter, the decluttering process can be very demanding, challenging, exhausting, time consuming.

That’s why many of us feel overwhelmed even before we start to clear up and why we often postpone the project again and again.

However, if we are willing to invest some time and energy to prepare ourselves and the working process properly, the activity of decluttering can evolve from being a very productive home-improvement experience to becoming a powerful self-development exercise.

Decluttering creates awareness, clarity and direction.

When we start to make decisions about our belongings, we have to be(come) well aware of what’s important to us and what’s not, what we want to change and what not, and why we want to make changes in our home/life.

The decluttering process offers the opportunity to learn about our very personal values. It can help us to (re)define our vision for our life. It offers a way to re-direct our attention and energy towards the areas and goals of our life that are truly important to us.

Decluttering improves our decision-making skills.

While we are sorting and clearing up our stuff we need to make decisions about whether to keep or discard items, and where to put them. This is not easy, at least not in the beginning.

However, while looking at hundreds of items and asking ourselves if they serve us, we get fitter and faster in making decisions.

We begin to feel more confident about our decision-making skills, and we are more willing to use these skills – not only to solve clutter problems but also to make changes in other areas of our life.

Decluttering increases our confidence and sense of self-efficacy.

Managing a decluttering project successfully changes how we experience ourselves and our ability to take action and control in our life.

The process of decluttering and organising our belongings delivers real and visible results: We take action and directly experience the results of our hard work.

This experience of effectiveness and success triggers a sense of ‘I can take action’, ‘I can organise’, ‘I can achieve results’.

Our sense of self-efficacy gets a boost and this can play a major role in how we approach goals, tasks and challenges in other areas of our life.

Thus, a deliberately prepared and conducted decluttering project not only results in an increase of space in our home.

It also creates more spaciousness in our mindwe gain awareness, clarity and focus, we experience an increase in self-confidence and more energy – to change whatever we want to change in any area of our life.

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?

The ‘Clutter Series’, Part 6 – What is decluttering?


The ‘Clutter Series’ discusses important aspects of the clutter in our homes and minds, including the close relationship between clutter and our general wellbeing.

Click here to read a summary of the main insights of this series.

What is decluttering?

Decluttering consists of two main activities:

    • The practical/physical activity of removing/discarding the things we decided to get rid of,
    • and the mental/emotional activity of making decisions about what belongs to the category of things we no longer need/use/love.

If we wish to make our decluttering project a success we have to ensure that both activities are conducted efficiently.

The physical part – taking our belongings out, arranging them in a working area for the sorting process, packing and storing things, carrying items around and organising the discarding of clutter – can be delegated. It can be done by someone else – a family member, a friend or a service contractor such as a professional organiser or declutter expert.

However, we are the ones who have to manage the mental/emotional part of the job – we have to make the decisions about what still serves us and should be kept, and what no longer adds value to our life and should go.

Often, it’s our inability to make decisions that causes clutter.

A lack of awareness about our values and priorities leads to procrastination.

We postpone decluttering-decisions because we don’t feel able to decide what’s important to us and what’s not – we fear we could make wrong decisions that we might regret later.

That’s why we should invest some time and effort to make ourselves aware of our core values and to determine the purpose of declutter/change process.

Getting a deep understanding of our current situation, our values and our vision enables us to make the ‘right’ decisions later in the process and to get and stay focused and motivated on our declutter/change journey.

Thus, as soon as we start to appreciate getting rid of clutter as an opportunity to honour and realise our values, the process of ‘decluttering’ loses its negative image.

Instead of being the unpleasant activity of just throwing things away, it evolves as a powerful ‘self-awareness tool’ which helps to add clarity and direction to our life

We no longer have to hate our clutter or feel ashamed of it, we can accept it as what it actually is:

A collection of belongings that were useful to us at some point in our life but no longer serve our current/future needs.

Before we declutter anything, we take the time to thoroughly evaluate and ‘understand’ our belongings.

We ‘study’ anything we own, but especially the clutter, and explore its former value and meaning.

Now we can consider and decide what’s of current and future value to us. These are the things we want to keep.

Finally, we are able to decisively loosen our attachment to the objects and issues of our past, and we sort out what no longer serves us.



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.

The ‘Clutter Series’, Part 5 – What causes clutter? Part 2 – The outflow is too low


The ‘Clutter Series’ discusses important aspects of the clutter in our homes and minds, including the close relationship between clutter and our general wellbeing.

Click here to read a summary of the main insights of this series.

What causes clutter? – Part 2: The outflow of no longer needed belongings is too low

The imbalance of inflows and outflows

The constant inflow of new belongings becomes a problem for many of us because we don’t ensure that it’s met by a constant outflow of things.

We don’t admit that we bought something we actually don’t need and don’t use. And so we keep it, out of guilt or shame, or just because we forget about its existence.

Also, we don’t pay attention to that point in time when our formerly needed and used belongings have done their job and become clutter. We keep them, too.

Why do we struggle to make decisions and to let go of what no longer serves us?

There are as many reasons why clutter is kept as there are people who keep clutter.

We all have our very personal reasons and explanations.

Some of them are:

The remaining financial value

We are hesitant to give away things that we spent a lot of money on. We believe that the items still hold a high value because we remember what we spent on them. It feels wasteful to just let them go.

Feelings of guilt or shame

We keep things because we feel guilty for the money we spent on them already and don’t want to feel even more guilt for giving them away – although we don’t use them (any longer).

Guilt is also holding us back from letting go of things we have been given as gifts and have never used/liked.

Holding on to the past

We might still appreciate and feel grateful for the value that some of our belongings have added to our life in the past. Now we continue to hold on to them because we still cling to our past and struggle to let go of anything that relates to ‘the good old times’.

Avoiding change

Change is seldom easy and letting go of things equals actively making changes in our lives. This can feel terrifying. Thus, we prefer to persuade ourselves that we are comfortable with how things are now and that there is no need to change/declutter anything.

Avoiding decision-making

The success of any decluttering process depends on our willingness to make decisions. Decision-making sucks energy. And it’s risky. What if we decide to give something away and later regret that?

General fear of letting go

As soon as we start to consider getting rid of things, we begin to rationalise how useful they might potentially be, even if we haven’t used them for years. Suddenly something we have nearly forgotten about becomes an important possession again.

Lack of self-awareness

We can’t say with confidence what’s important to us and has to be kept, and what’s no longer important and can go. This happens when we are not aware of our core values. We can’t decide what items no longer serve us if we don’t know what actually does serve us and adds value to our life.

Lack of declutter-skills

Some of us grew up in a cluttered environment and/or never were taught how to organise and arrange our households and belongings. If we don’t know how to do the decluttering and how to start, it’s no wonder that we never start.

Lack of time

Not having enough time to declutter has to do with our priorities. If our days are filled with tasks and work we value higher than our decluttering project, we feel it’s justified to postpone the clearing job again and again.

Desiring, buying and owning things is not the problem when it comes to clutter.

The problem comes when we are not willing or able to take full responsibility for the consequences that our decisions about the inflow and outflow of things have on our home and our life.

Creating greater self-awareness results in better decision-making,

it is the necessary first step of our journey into a clutterfree life:

    • Becoming aware of our core values helps us to determine what’s important to us and what’s not.
    • Defining our purpose, the vision of the current or next chapter in our life, ensures that we can confidently decide what not longer serves us and holds us back in the past.
    • Honestly assessing our belief systems and emotions enables us to uncover the self-limiting feelings and behaviours that contribute to the creation of the clutter in our homes/lives.
    • Evaluating our personal strengths and weaknesses allows us to identify the skill sets we intend to develop ourselves and the type and extent of support we need from others.



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.

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.

The ‘Clutter Series’, Part 4 – What causes clutter? Part 1 – The inflow is too high


The ‘Clutter Series’ discusses important aspects of the clutter in our homes and minds, including the close relationship between clutter and our general wellbeing.

Click here to read a summary of the main insights of this series.

What causes clutter? – Part 1: The inflow of new possessions is too high

The cause of ‘fake’ clutter

In some cases, a lack of organisational systems can create the incorrect impression that our place is full of clutter.

In this case, the seemingly ‘cluttered’ area is actually not covered by clutter-items. Instead, the things lying around in a messy way are truly valued possessions, things that serve us and are used frequently.

The only problem with these spread around items is that they don’t have found a home yet, we haven’t assigned a place where they are kept between the times we use them.

The solution to this ‘clutter’ problem is to set up clear rules and to determine where we store our possessions when we don’t need/use them.

The causes of ‘real’ clutter

Usually, though, the accumulation of our ‘true’ clutter – things that don’t serve us (any longer) – is caused by an imbalance in the circulation of stuff:

    • The inflow of new possessions coming into our home is too high,
    • and the outflow of no longer used/wanted belongings is too low.

Why do we bring so much stuff into our homes?

Sometimes, we are not directly responsible for the things that enter our home:

    • We inherit belongings from a relative,
    • we take in stuff after the death of a close family member,
    • we are given gifts from family and friends,
    • our new partner moves in and brings along a complete set of household belongings,
    • etc.

In most cases, however, we are the ones who initiate, arrange, allow the inflow of new stuff:

We go shopping.

Acquiring new things has never been easier than today and many of us spend a lot of time (and money) in shopping malls and with online shopping.

Not always, but sometimes (or often?) our shopping trips end with us carrying heavy bags of new stuff home that we actually don’t need or like.

Impulsive and excessive shopping has many causes.

We all have our own special and very personal reasons why we buy what we buy and why we sometimes acquire too many or the wrong things.

Often, we are not even aware of the motivations behind our shopping decisions.

These are some of the reasons why we acquire more than we need / are able to use:

Escape from difficult emotions

We don’t want to experience ‘negative’ emotions such as feelings of loneliness, depression, anxiety, boredom, and use shopping as a distraction or avoidance strategy.

Fear of missing out

We constantly compare ourselves with others and fear that their life(-style) is better or more exciting than ours and that we risk to fall behind if we don’t follow the latest trends and buy the current ‘must-haves’.

Reminders of past experiences

We buy souvenirs and other mementos as reminders and proofs of places we visited, achievements and experiences we made, events we attended.

Fear of lacking resources

We buy things we don’t want to use now but fear we might need/miss at some point in the future.

Running after life improvements

We believe advertisements telling us that we will feel happier, have more fun, look better if we acquire and use certain things.

There are so many other reasons – Which are yours?

When do our new possessions become clutter? 

If we define ‘clutter’ as belongings that don’t serve us, we have to admit that some of our newly acquired possessions become clutter as soon as they enter our home – we never use them.

However, most of our clutter doesn’t actually start its life as clutter.

We first use/love the things we bring in, we appreciate their existence and honour their value.

But in time – over months or years – they loose their attractiveness and usefulness, we no longer need, use or like them.

If we don’t make the decision to discard them, they become clutter.

In the next article of this series, we’ll discuss the other big cause of clutter:

The outflow of no longer needed belongings is too low.

The ‘Clutter Series’, Part 3 – The benefits of a clutterfree home


The ‘Clutter Series’ discusses important aspects of the clutter in our homes and minds, including the close relationship between clutter and our general wellbeing.

Click here to read a summary of the main insights of this series.

What are the benefits of a clutterfree home?

Living in a clutter-free and organised home has significant positive effects on our daily life and personal well-being.

Think about your own situation. What do you wish to change? How would you like your home/life to be different?

Then have a look at this list of the benefits you can expect to gain as soon as you have got out all the clutter from your home, mind and life:

More space

    • Having less stuff means having more room for activities such as entertaining guests or working on projects, playing with the kids.
    • Having less allows us to use storage areas more efficiently.
    • Having less stuff lying around in our home lets us move around easily and safely.
    • More physical space creates more openness and space for new things to come into our life.

More time

    • Having less means having less things to sort and arrange, to take out and put away.
    • We save time because tidying and cleaning becomes faster and more efficient.
    • Having less means less effort and time to keep everything organised.
    • We save time by quickly finding what we need when we need it.
    • We need less time to choose what we want to use/wear.

More money

    • We save money by not having to buy duplicates of things we own but can’t find.
    • We know and we like what we own, which keeps impulsive or frustration shopping at bay.

More productivity

    • Having clear surfaces and working areas makes starting to work on a task at any time easy.
    • We can easier focus on what we are doing when there is little to distract us.
    • More order and clear spaces give more room for creativity and imagination.
    • Our household work can be organised and done faster and more efficiently.

More peace of mind

    • There is also less mental work to do: The less we have, the less we have to take care of or worry about.
    • A spacious environment without clutter allows our mind to relax and calm down.
    • We enjoy our home more when we are only surrounded by things we like and use.
    • We feel more in control when we know that there is nothing that shouldn’t be there.
    • We experience less anxiety and confusion if our surroundings no longer feel out of order.

What are your top 3 upsides of a clutterfree home?

What’s the final goal of your decluttering / change project?

Being aware of the positive changes you wish to create will help you to stay motivated and excited during the decluttering process.


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.

The ‘Clutter Series’, Part 2 – The negative side effects of clutter


The ‘Clutter Series’ discusses important aspects of the clutter in our homes and minds, including the close relationship between clutter and our general wellbeing.

Click here to read a summary of the main insights of this series.

What are the negative side-effects of clutter?

If we struggle to make let-go decisions, if we keep things in our life that no longer serve us, we end up with clutter – in our homes, in our relationships, in our work, our finances, in/on our body, in our behaviours and habits.

The clutter in our home and life is all caused by the clutter in our mind – unhelpful and self-limiting thoughts.

However, it also works the other way around:

Having too much clutter in our home, for example, can create additional clutter in our mind, and can make our life unnecessarily difficult and frustrating.

Clutter steals our energy, it limits our personal potential, and decreases our decision-making ability – we tend to feel stuck, overwhelmed and stressed. We often struggle to take action to change our life to the better.

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

These are just some of the many negative side-effects of physical clutter:

      • It’s difficult to feel energised and excited if clutter pulls us down.
      • It’s difficult to gratefully appreciate what we value and love if it’s hidden under layers of other stuff.
      • It’s difficult to get active and take control if we feel encircled and besieged by an ‘army’ of clutter piles.
      • It’s difficult to focus on projects and tasks if the clutter around us suppresses our attention and creativity.
      • It’s difficult to engage with family and friends if our clutter leaves no space to entertain them.
      • It’s difficult to sit back and just relax if our clutter stares at us and makes us feel lazy and guilty.

Change needs space.

If we want to change our life to the better, and especially if we have to manage a major life transition, getting rid of clutter becomes an absolute necessity:

We have to be willing to let go of the old to make space for the new.

However, our physical, mental and emotional clutter is very powerful in holding us back.

To move forward, into a new phase of our life, we need to make sure that we are no longer surrounded by stuff that’s related to the past and no longer of value to us.

We have to LET GO to MOVE ON!

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!

The ‘Clutter Series’, Part 1 – What is clutter?


The ‘Clutter Series’ discusses important aspects of the clutter in our homes and minds, including the close relationship between clutter and our general wellbeing.

Click here to read a summary of the main insights of this series.

What is clutter? – Why is your clutter different to mine?

The definition of ‘clutter’ can be tricky.

I struggled for some time to truly understand and to explain the meaning of ‘clutter’ to my clients.

As I wanted to help them make confident decisions about the clutter in their homes, I needed a definition of ‘clutter’ that was comprehensive and broadly applicable but also clear and simple.  

Studying numerous organising and decluttering books and the approaches of several renowned experts in this area helped me to have closer look at ‘clutter’ from different angles. 

Discussing the issue with other professional organisers and with my clients brought interesting insights but not the one and only explanation of clutter that everyone could agree on.

It seems that we all have our own ideas about the meaning of clutter!

And that’s exactly, I now believe, the answer to the clutter question:

There is no one final definition because we all define clutter in a very personal and unique way.

Clutter is in the eye of the beholder.

If you decide that something you have in your home/life is clutter, it’s clutter. If you decide something isn’t clutter, it’s no clutter. No matter what someone else thinks.

Our personal situation and our individual values, beliefs and perceptions determine what clutter is – it can mean something different for each of us.

Clutter can be anything that we keep in our life although it doesn’t serve us.

Clutter is not restricted to physical stuff. 

Any area of our life can get cluttered.

Clutter can show up as

    • Stuff in our home that we don’t need, use, love.
    • Thoughts in our mind that don’t serve us.
    • Feelings in our heart that disturb our wellbeing.
    • Actions in our daily life that draw us away from where we want to go.
    • Results in our life that keep us stuck.

The most damaging category of clutter is the clutter in our mind.

This type of clutter – all the self-limiting thoughts and unsupportive beliefs – is so powerful because the mind-clutter causes all the other types of clutter in our life

The ‘Mind-Decluttering Series’ is all about how we can get the mind-clutter sorted out.

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

How to make decluttering easier – Experimenting with less

The purpose of daily-life experimentation

Experimentation – “the action or process of trying out new ideas, methods, or activities” (online dictionary) – can be very helpful if we wish to learn more about ourselves.

Creating and conducting daily-life experiments 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.

Experimenting with less

‘Living-with-less’ experiments can be very helpful when we wish to declutter our stuff but struggle to make decisions about what to keep and what to let go.

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. 

The ‘Project 333’ – Experimenting with having less clothes

An even greater challenge is experimenting with a combination of ‘no shopping’ and strict ‘using less rules.

Courtney Carver introduced the minimalist fashion challenge ‘Project 333’ in 2010.

Since then, thousands of people around the world have experimented with dressing with 33 items or less for 3 months.

Click here to learn more about the ‘Project 333’:

These are the rules:

    • Limit your closet to only 33 articles of clothing. All clothing, accessories, jewellery, outerwear and shoes count towards your number.
    • Exceptions include your wedding ring, underwear, sleep wear, and workout clothing.

This is the process:

    • First you get all your clothes, shoes, accessories and jewellery out.
    • Then you sort everything into the following piles: Love, Maybe, Donate, Trash.
    • Bag up the items to donate and throw out the trash.
    • Finally choose the 33 items you want to restrict yourself to for the coming 3 months.
    • Box the remaining items up and store them somewhere else in your home.

What do you think about this living-with-less experiment?

Do you think it’s an eccentric or even stupid idea to restrict ourselves in this way? Do you feel it’s impossible to dress with only 33 items? Or do you consider to give it a try?

I conducted this experiment once, and I found it so useful and ‘enlightening’ that I assume I will do it again at some time in the future.  

And this is what my ‘Project 333’ taught me:

    • During the first days of the experiment, I enjoyed having a reduced range of items to choose from. It made it much easier to get dressed in the morning. 
    • However, after some days I realised that I had included 3 t-shirts in my selection which I actually didn’t like much. Now I had to wear them. ☹
    • I first missed my little weekend shopping trips a bit but then started to appreciate the extra time I gained for other things I like to do in my leisure time.

The ongoing effect of the experiment is that I learned to appreciate more what I have and I now use what I own with more care and gratitude.

I now know from experience that I need less than I thought in the past.

And I know better what I need and what I don’t need, what I like and what I don’t like. This also helps when I go shopping (which I do much less) – it now happens very rarely that I buy something I don’t need or like.

Yes, I think I’ll do this experiment again.

What about you?

I recommend you give it a try, especially if you are struggling with decluttering your wardrobe.