My husband and I are in the middle of a huge decluttering binge right now — I’d say the biggest we’ve ever had (and that’s saying something, considering we’ve been pursuing a more minimalist lifestyle for ten years now). While we’d pared down many of the most used and most visible areas of our home–like the kitchen, front room, and t.v. room–we hadn’t really touched our many “storage areas” that had just basically sat since we moved into this house over two years ago.
In addition to our huge weekend decluttering parties, I also set myself a separate challenge — do the “Minimalist Game” challenge over the course of the month on my own, which is where you get rid of one thing on Day 1, two things on Day 2, and so on. While I haven’t followed it to the letter (since I’ve just decluttered a little bit every day and put the number of items under the day that it fit), I have completed the challenge, which means I’ve decluttered an extra 496 things from our home ON TOP of the items that my husband and I have decluttered together on the weekends. I’d do a lowball estimate that in the past two months, we’ve probably gotten rid of around 1,500 things.
Below I’ve detailed all the items I donated or trashed thanks to the challenge, and I also left commentary on some of the lessons learned through the process.
31 Day Minimalism Challenge
Day 1 – one Melissa and Doug door lock toy
Day 2 – two plastic “bubble pop” toys
Day 3 – three toy cars
Whenever I think about decluttering and don’t already have a place in mind, I almost always go to the kids’ toys first, mostly because it’s the area that I still find the most overwhelming. One thing we’ve been trying to stick to is only keeping things that fall under very specific categories (think: cars, ponies, Legos, art supplies) and then getting rid of anything that doesn’t fit into one of those. Some categories (like our cars category) are still out of control, so for those, we’ve specified a few bins of different sizes and anything that doesn’t easily fit into one of those bins gets donated. Although we’ve cut down our kids’ toys by at least half at this point (probably much more), I know we could still go a lot further.
Day 4 – one kids bathrobe, one shower curtain, and two belts
Day 5 – five washcloths
Day 6 – one canvas bag, two too-small slippers, and three unused/expired bathroom products
These days definitely consisted of more random items, the majority of which I found in the bathrooms. For some reason, the bathroom is always one of the last places I think to declutter, but it often ends up being one that makes the most difference from day to day, just because it’s a space we use so much.
I’m trying to get to the point that I not only easily part with things that are expired (such as old sunscreen), but that I’m realistic about getting rid of things that I’m just not using and haven’t used in years, like the million bottles of scented lotion I found. As the years have gone by, I’ve realized I actually don’t really like scented products much at all anymore, so as I came across anything that was scented, I didn’t hesitate to toss it this time around.
Day 7 – seven old textbooks and workbooks
When I left college, I was sure that my academically-minded self would surely find lots of time in the future to revisit old textbooks and classics that I’d read in my English major days (*insert hysterical laughter here*). Since I graduated from college 11 years ago and haven’t cracked them open more than about a handful of times (if that, and usually just when I was going through stuff to get rid of), I knew it was time.
Day 8 – eight children’s books
We LOVE books around here, so it can be hard to get rid of them, especially really good ones. Some of the ones we donated this time around were ones that I personally really liked, but I had to acknowledge that my kids were literally never pulling them out to read or asking us to read it to them, so they had just become clutter. Others were ones that were fun to read every once in awhile but not favorites, so I figured we could always borrow them from the library sometime if for some reason our kids really decided they wanted to see it again.
Day 9 – nine shirts cluttering up my son’s drawer that he never wore
We get so many hand-me-downs for our kids that their drawers are almost always overstuffed with clothes, even after I’ve done a pretty drastic pare-down when I initially go through the clothes we’ve received in that size. The nice thing about doing a declutter now is that I can easily see which shirts my kids are actually reaching for over and over again and which ones they aren’t, so it wasn’t hard to get rid of several articles of clothing during this challenge.
Day 10 – ten children’s books
Day 11 – eleven pairs of socks I was never wearing or didn’t like
My sock drawer is another place I tend not to think to declutter, but it’s almost always one that’s ripe for the picking whenever I do think about it. The fact is, I gravitate towards the same dozen pairs of socks over and over again and only wear the others if the ones I like more are all dirty or getting holes. It makes much more sense just to get rid of the ones I’m not choosing as my favorites and then just treating myself to a new package of socks every six months or year or so when I need to replace some.
Life’s too short to waste on socks that fall down, are weirdly stretched out (or that are too tight), or that are made of materials that aren’t my favorite.
Day 12 – twelve books, most representing some version of a “dream self”
In addition to the reading-textbooks-for-fun dream self I had, I also wanted to be the kind of person who regularly perused volumes of poetry and who re-read classic literature I’d already finished so that I could get more out of it on subsequent readings. While I did still keep some of my favorite anthologies of poetry, I finally acknowledged that certain types of poems didn’t really speak to me anymore in this current season of life, and I also finally acknowledged that if I didn’t absolutely love a classic the first time around, there was no point in making myself read it again later.
Day 13 – thirteen random items from our medicine cabinet, including expired medication and lightbulbs
The medicine cabinet is another place that’s ripe for the picking when I finally get around to decluttering there. In addition to expired medications, there’s almost always other random things I can part with, like cheap thermometers we never use and random samples from hospital stays.
Day 14 – fourteen pieces of maternity clothing that no longer fit or that I likely won’t wear
Day 15 – fifteen (more) items of my clothing, including more maternity and unused workout wear
I cannot tell you how freeing it’s been to know that this baby I’m pregnant with is going to be our last. It’s made it possible to immediately donate loads of baby clothes we were keeping “just in case” (aka, as soon as we found out this baby was a girl, we donated all the boy clothing up to the size of my youngest son), and it also meant that I could part with any maternity clothing that I had already grown too big for or that was in the wrong season or that I just didn’t like that much.
Day 16 – sixteen kitchen items, mostly dishtowels and washcloths
My kitchen’s already pretty pared down from past decluttering projects, but I was able to part with a few more things, like ratty towels and washcloths and a kitchen gadget (with all its pieces) that I wasn’t really using.
Day 17 – seventeen articles of newborn baby girl clothing
With baby girl coming next month, it was time for me to go through the bin of newborn baby girl clothes, and I was able to find several things I could part with immediately, like onesies that were super stained, surplus blankets and hats, outfits that were going to be in the wrong season, etc.
Day 18 – eighteen shoes
I finally acknowledged (after years of denial) that I flat-out (no pun intended) don’t like wearing heels anymore. Period. I’d held onto a few of my favorite pairs of heels just in case I might “need” them for some occasion down the road, but then I realized that even when just such occasions actually came up (rare though they were), I was still choosing to wear flats, even if they didn’t look as nice or dressy.
I also finally acknowledged that I’m the kind of mom who basically has my kids wear the same two pairs of shoes over and over again (sometimes three) and that the rest can go. No fashionistas over here!
Day 19 – nineteen too-small pairs of kid’s underwear
Day 20 – twenty+ unused or partially used bathroom items (i.e., travel lotions, samples, etc.)
Day 21 – twenty-one items of clothing from my youngest son’s drawer so he could actually close it
Day 22 – twenty-two books (mostly from college)
Day 23 – twenty-three old writing utensils + the cups holding them
Pencils and pens are like socks — once I realized I was reaching for the same favorites over and over again, what was the point in keeping 50 different writing utensils that I didn’t even like?
Day 24 – twenty-four (and then some) blank greeting cards, stationery, etc. + a magazine holder
I had literally never decluttered my stationery before, so I had cards and envelopes in my desk drawer that I’d gotten back when I was a teen. It finally dawned on me that if I was only writing 8-10 cards a year (and only reaching for the stationery I’d picked out as an adult), there was no point in keeping stacks and stacks of cards that I was never going to use.
Day 25 – one set of geometric shapes for homeschool math (counting the zillion pieces as just 25 here)
This one was hard, just because my kids did love playing with the different shapes and could make amazing patterns out of them whenever I actually let them take this bin out. But inevitably there would be small pieces that would not make it back into the bin, and we were finding them EVERYWHERE. I hate lots of little pieces, and it just got to the point that I wanted the peace of mind from no more pieces more than I wanted my kids to have a fun pattern-building activity every couple months.
Day 26 – one dollhouse with twenty-five pieces of furniture
Day 27 – twenty-seven articles of kids’ clothing that they didn’t want anymore
The great thing about the fact that I’ve regularly been decluttering things from our lives for over ten years now is that the process is nothing new to my kids. They don’t dread it or resist it or anything. They still don’t always part with as much as I maybe would, but they’re pretty good at acknowledging if there are toys or clothes they just don’t use anymore.
On this particular day, I had my two oldest go through all of their drawers and tell me what THEY were willing to donate, rather than me doing it for them. They both got rid of a lot, and my son actually got rid of more than I would have! Something that made it easier for them to be a little more ruthless was that they’d both been complaining that it was hard to put their folded laundry back into their drawers because the drawers were so full, so reminding them that we were doing this to make it easier to get dressed and to put clothes away helped them to really assess how much they actually liked different things.
Day 28 – play-doh set with twenty-seven pieces + the tray/holder
Day 29 – twenty-nine newborn baby girl shoes and socks
I’ve finally learned that I just don’t put my kids in shoes until they start walking, so there’s really no point in me keeping a bunch of newborn baby shoes, no matter how darling they are. I did keep two pairs (I think) just in case I want them for special occasions or pictures, but that’s it. Also, I tend to put my kids in the same pairs of 6-8 socks over and over again, so there’s no point in having 30 different pairs.
Day 30 – thirty DVDs
My husband and I used to be massive movie collectors, and at the height of our obsession, we probably had between 200 and 300 DVDs. Now that we hardly watch movies at all anymore (and if we do, it’s often on streaming services), there’s not much point in keeping DVDs unless they are absolute favorites that we want access to all the time.
Day 31 – thirty-one children’s books
Final Thoughts + Resources
With ten years of decluttering under my belt, I can definitely say that my decluttering “muscles” are much stronger than they used to be; I’m now able to part with things that I’ve literally held onto for decades. At this point in my life, I’m willing to get rid of things that still have use or that I even still like if they aren’t my absolute favorites because I realize that my peace of mind is worth more than that $10 thing I might use once two years from now.
Being a frugal person by nature and by choice means that this new mindset does not always come easily, but having decluttered SO MUCH over the past decade (and not missing any of it), I’m definitely getting closer to the truly simplified and minimal(ish) home that’s been my goal for years.
Here are some of the resources that have helped me the very most in this last big push (all found on YouTube on The Minimal Mom’s channel):
- Radical Mindset Shifts to Declutter Your Whole House
- The Biggest Myth About Your Things
- House Still Cluttered Even After Decluttering?
- The “Use It or Lose It” Rule
In thinking about the challenge as a whole, I think it’s something I might consider doing again in the future. It definitely made decluttering a regular habit, and it also pushed me to simplify areas I hadn’t really considered going through before. The only thing with a challenge like this is that it does create some extra work if you’re wanting to document your progress, as I was — sometimes the thought of having to go the extra step of taking the picture and writing down the donated items was enough to kill any decluttering motivation I might have been feeling. In the future, I’d probably just do the challenge for myself if I was needing an extra nudge.
In the end, any items out of my house count as victory in my book, and I especially liked that because I’d tended to choose more high traffic areas for this challenge, I did notice more of an immediate difference compared to the storage area declutters we were doing on the weekends.
Have you done any decluttering yet this year?