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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?

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.

Your sentimental items – Are they treasures? Or clutter?

Sentimental items – Why are we so sentimental about them? 

The difference between aspirational and sentimental belongings

Most of us share the experience that it is particularly tough to make decluttering decisions with regard to these two types of belongings:

We particularly struggle to let go of aspirational and sentimental belongings.

Our aspirational belongings have to do with our future, or our former dreams of the future: They represent our current and past ambitions and aspirations, our ideas of our ideal ‘fantasy’ selves and lives.

Our sentimental attachment to certain possessions is usually linked to our past – to previous phases in our lives and to our past identities: Sentimental belongings refer to past experiences, remind us of people who were/are important to us, or keep memories of special events and accomplishments.

I shared my thoughts about aspirational belongings in a recent article (click to read).

Today I wish to discuss

Our struggle with letting go of sentimental items.

Why we ‘feel sentimental’ about some of our belongings

We all feel – more or less – emotionally attached to some (or many) of our belongings. These belongings remind us of something, usually something related to the past – they remind us of special people, eras, places, experiences, feelings in our life.

Often, sentimental items have no real use or monetary value. And in most cases, we are the only ones who appreciate and value them.

Some of us keep things from our childhood or teenage years such as stuffed animals, books or clothes, some of us have a collection of photographs and papers that remind us of important situations in our lives, some of us act as the guardians of the family heirlooms.

There is nothing wrong with these sentimental things.

If we truly value them and can easily store them in our home, there is no reason to say goodbye to them.

So, why does the expression ‘sentimental stuff’ have a slightly negative connotation?

Why do many of us feel uncomfortable when they talk about and explain the existence of their sentimental belongings? Why do we often feel we have to justify why we keep certain things?

Little Exercise – How well do you know your sentimental belongings?

Lean back for a moment and think about your home and all the things that ‘live’ there with you, all the items you have given permission to move in and to stay with you.

Imagine yourself walking through your rooms, looking at the walls and open shelves, opening cupboards, wardrobes, and drawers, pulling the boxes from under the beds or behind curtains.

Now make a list of the things with emotional value that come to your mind.

What does your list look like?

    • How many sentimental items do you remember (without getting up and checking out!)?
    • Do they all belong to one category of belongings, such as photos, images, papers, clothes, books, collections, etc.?
    • Do all the things you remember refer to one special phase in your life? Are they all linked to one special person? Or one special experience/event?
    • Or do you keep a wide variety of sentimental items linked to different phases of your past?
    • What kind of emotions do you have about the things you remember? Positive feelings? Or negative? Or neutral?
    • How much space does the sentimental stuff on the list occupy in your home?
    • Do you think your list is complete? Or do you assume there are many more things you keep for sentimental reasons but can’t remember at this moment?

Now evaluate the insights you gained from the little exercise.

Do you feel completely happy about the sentimental stuff in your home? Or is there a little nagging feeling that there might be some value in having a closer look at them?

When do sentimental belongings become problematic?

There are three main reasons why sentimental items can develop into problem items and become a burden that makes us feel overwhelmed and stressed.

Let’s find some little example stories to understand them better:

#1 – We keep too many sentimentally charged belongings.

It’s nice if our wedding photo on the shelf in the living room evokes a smile on our face whenever we look at it. But do we really need to keep the other 850 wedding photos in the huge box in the basement that we haven’t looked at for ages?

Our favourite teddy bear is very successful in causing memories of our childhood and warm feelings in our stomach. But does it need 13 other stuffed friends around it?

The vase from Auntie Mary looks really nice on the dinner table. But the three tubs with all the other vases, crockery, and cutlery we inherited from her actually only collect dust and spider webs in the garage, don’t they?

#2 – We hold on to things that are not valuable to us personally.

We never liked landscape paintings. Now we have four such paintings hanging on the walls in the guest room. They had decorated the living room of our grandparents for as long as we can remember. We just didn’t dare to say ‘no’ when they moved to a small apartment and needed a new home for their paintings.

We inherited our father’s coin collection which we actually hate. It reminds us of all the arguments our parents had whenever our father spent money on a new coin.

We never enjoyed the endless piano lessons our parents arranged for us when we were a teenager. Now the piano sits in our living room, silently, collecting dust and causing bad feelings.

#3 – We surround ourselves with stuff that keeps us stuck in the past so that we are unable to enjoy our present life.

Our mother passed away four years ago and we took all her belongings because it felt too hard to sort anything out. We still struggle to look through the stuff that occupies the guestroom and half of the basement.

After our divorce, we moved out and took along the dinner table from the old house. It’s actually too big for the new place, and it reminds us of the best and the worst times of the marriage. Often, when we sit at this big thing, we feel small and lonely. And angry.

We always loved cooking and our kitchen is fully equipped with anything you need to prepare extraordinary meals. However, we switched to simple and easy-to-do meals many years ago and don’t need all the cooking stuff any longer. What we actually would need is more space for our arts and crafts supplies.

How can we clear up sentimental clutter?

Try these strategies:

#1 – Asking the question ‘Why?’

This is the most helpful and effective question we can ask ourselves in any intentional decluttering process but especially when we want to declutter sentimental stuff.

Ask yourself:

    1. Why do I keep this thing? What is the reason behind my decision?
    2. And – very important – Do I like my reason?

For example:

If you use only one of Auntie Mary’s vases but keep another 11 vases in boxes in the attic, you could ask:

    • ‘Why do I keep vases I don’t like and use?’
    • If your reason is: ‘I have to. Aunt Mary was always so kind to me, I really liked her. I can’t give away her vases.’ you can ask again:
    • ‘Why do I think I can’t give them away?’
    • Your next answer might be: “I’d feel guilty and bad if I gave them away.” Ask again:
    • Why would I feel guilty? Would Aunt Mary want me to feel guilty? And even if she did, is being afraid of feeling guilt a good reason to allow things to occupy space in my home and life that I don’t like and use?’

Finding answers to our ‘Why’-questions gets easier as soon as we are aware of our personal values, our goals, and our visions for our life.

#2 – Choosing only sentimental items that give us positive feelings

It is important to uncover and ‘honour’ any negative feelings we have related to belongings from the past. But then it’s time to let them go and close that chapter of our life – so that we can concentrate on the here and now.

Positive reminders of our past, on the other hand, can sometimes help us to feel positive in the present, too.

For example:

If after your divorce the wedding dress – that you keep hidden in the back of the wardrobe – makes you feel sad, or angry, you could decide to go through those feelings one more time, and then let them go – the negative feelings and the wedding dress.

The photograph of your happy face at the finishing line of the marathon last year, on the other hand, might deserve a nice frame and a special place on the shelf in your living room.

#3 – Choosing just a few special sentimental reminders and letting go of the rest

As soon as you have got a better understanding of what’s truly valuable to you, you can make intentional decisions about what you want to keep and take care of. And what you want to let go.

For example:

Knowing now better why you don’t have any interest in collecting coins and why you always hated your father’s collection, you are ready to give the collection to someone who does appreciate it. You might want to keep one coin as a reminder of your father and his enthusiasm for his hobby but you don’t need to hold on to the whole set any longer.

#4 – Taking pictures as memory-keepers and letting go of the physical items

That’s often a good solution if we have so many sentimental belongings, or if want to keep reminders of our family heirlooms, or if we don’t like to let go of certain things but need to give them away because we don’t have the space to keep them.

For example:

If you have to drastically reduce the number of personal belongings because you are going to move to a smaller place with much less storage space, you might feel sad having to leave so much behind. Take a camera, walk around your current home, and take pictures of anything you feel attached to but can’t take along. Then create a nice photo book that you can keep forever and flip through whenever you wish.

#5 – Doing several rounds of sentimental decluttering

That’s a very good strategy if the idea of making let-go decisions about your sentimental stuff makes you freak out. You can avoid a panic attack by taking small steps to get through the process.

Take out some of your sentimental items, and start thinking about them, without any obligation to make decisions.

When you pull them out again some days later, you might notice that your feelings have slightly changed, you might feel less attached to some of the things, and you might even be able to say goodbye to a few of them.

Take out another set of sentimental items, and start the process again.

Spending some time with our sentimental items is a worthwhile experience

– whether we finally decide to keep or discard them – we always learn more about ourselves, our emotions, and our values.

And that’s a good thing, isn’t it?

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.

Why it’s so hard to declutter ‘aspirational stuff’

Clutter is a very personal issue.

We all have our own personal special clutter hotspots – those areas in our homes and those categories of belongings that accumulate the biggest amounts of stuff that actually no longer serves us.

We all define ‘clutter’ differently, which means thatyour clutter is different to mine’ (read more).

We also struggle for different reasons to let go of useless possessions, and our decluttering strategies and solutions differ.

However, most of us share the experience that it is particularly tough to make decluttering decisions with regard to these two types of belongings:

We particularly struggle to let go of sentimental and aspirational belongings.

Our sentimental attachment to certain possessions is usually linked to our past – to previous phases in our lives and to our past identities: Sentimental belongings refer to past experiences, remind us of people who were/are important to us, or keep memories of special events and accomplishments.

Our aspirational belongings have more to do with our future, or our former dreams of the future: They represent our current and past ambitions and aspirations, our ideas of our ideal ‘fantasy’ selves and lives.

Today, I wish to share some thoughts about aspirational belongings – sentimental items will be discussed in another article.

What are ‘aspirational’ belongings?

Aspirational items are the things that we bring into our homes because we want to

    • create and project a certain image and lifestyle,
    • develop or improve a special capability or activity,
    • help ourselves believe that we are a certain type of person with a certain set of characteristics and abilities.

Any category of belongings can contain aspirational stuff and therefore can also contain aspirational clutter:

books and papers, kitchen stuff, groceries, clothes and shoes, sports equipment, tools, arts and crafts supplies, etc.

Examples of aspirational stuff that turned into aspirational clutter:

    • We organise the transport of our grandmother’s dinner table with the 8 chairs to our home because we intend to entertain family and friends more often. However, we don’t make any changes in our social life. The dinner table is now a ‘waste paper collection centre’.
    • We decide to start running to improve our fitness and health and buy trainers and running clothes. Our running career ends two weeks later but we keep the equipment because we truly plan to start running again – maybe next summer?
    • We dream about starting a small business and buy any book that offers advice for start-up entrepreneurs. Three years later we are very happy in our corporate job and plan the next step of our career. However, the never-read books were so expensive, it would be a waste to give them away, wouldn’t it?
    • We moved to a new place with a little backyard garden and were looking forward to realise our ‘aspirational’ landscaping plans. We bought and now own all the necessary equipment – but we lack the time and energy to use it. However, we can’t give up our dream of becoming a gardener, at some point in the future. That’s why we feel we have to keep all the gardening stuff. 

Why decluttering aspirational clutter is so hard

Letting go is rarely easy.

Letting go of aspirational stuff is particularly hard because it involves letting go of hopes, dreams, intentions, aspirations, and ambitions.

    • We have to be willing to stop lying to ourselves, we have to admit failure.
    • We have to admit that we made some wrong decisions.
    • We have to be very honest and brave to accept that some parts of our ideal fantasy selves just don’t exist.
    • We have to be willing to experience negative feelings – such as guilt, shame, or disappointment.
    • We have to invest time and thought work to find out who we really are (not who we wished we were), what’s really important to us, and how we truly want to spend our time and life.

Practising self-awareness and intentional decluttering go hand-in-hand

While we learn to get rid of excessive and useless stuff, we simultaneously learn about ourselves and what’s meaningful to us.

And as soon as we begin to understand who we truly are and what we really want to have in our life, we find it increasingly easier to make decisions about what to keep in our life and what to let go.

How can we clear up aspirational clutter?

Asking powerful questions and taking the time to find our answers to them. 

Ask yourself:

    • Why do I keep this thing? What is the reason behind my decision? Do I like my reason?

Another powerful question related to our aspirational stuff:

    • What if now is the right time to let go of these old aspirations (and the related stuff) – so that I can create space for my current and future ambitions and aspirations?

Letting go of unrealised aspirations not only creates space.

It will also bring clarity and lightness. It makes it easier to move on – into the life we truly want to live.

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!