In order to help us with the task of decluttering, we took tips from Marie Kondo's famous book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying, various articles online and documentary Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things. We did not apply all those ideas at 100% since some seem a little extreme for our lifestyle. But we did adapt to some of those ideas and it definitely helped making a big change in the way we consume and the type of things we accumulate (aka clutter).
Decluttering was a really good step for us as we rent a fully furnished small 2-bedroom apartment and it feels like the moment you bring in something new, it fills up the space really fast (if it were up to us, we would definitely go for furniture with clever storage spaces). We applied different ways of decluttering with our limited space in mind but I feel it could be useful even if we move to a bigger place in the future (the near one hopefully!) as it definitely gave us a more mindful approach to what we buy as well.
I am not making a statement here that everybody should absolutely declutter and I also want to reassure you that we are not minimalists (far from it). It is really up to you but I know this might help people who are interested in finding ways to declutter their homes when it comes to it.
Here is how we decluttered most of our home (it is not really something we were willing to do in one day/one sweep and it is still a work in progress).
I may as well start with a chapter on things that I know are not easy to get rid of for many of us.
This is something that I personally had to be very ruthless about. I used to get ridiculously attached about specific items of clothing ("that skirt from a beautiful French brand that I bought with my first real job wages", "that lovely little silk dress I wore once at one of my cousin's wedding", I could seriously go on...). I put all of my clothes and accessories into one pile on the bed and examined each item. The rule was: when is the last time I really wore this, is it more than a year ago? Is it still wearable? Does it actually fit anymore?
This is when the ruthless part happened: whether it was one of those 'beautiful French brands' (I am not talking about luxury brands here by the way, it is just lovely brands I am really fond of for the quality of fabrics and how they are made, their design), whether it was a case of "oh but I might wear it one day or get to fit into it again?", it was just a big no, especially if the specific item had not been worn in more than a year (I make a clear exception for my wedding dress - which as it happens is a navy cocktail dress that can be used for other special occasions).
A lot of my clothes, shoes and accessories being still in good condition, I packed them into bags that went straight to charity. Instead of being left at the bottom of drawers or hanging slightly hidden in the wardrobe, they get to be used by someone who will appreciate and give them a new life.
So, two things:
I can now fit the entire content of my wardrobe and drawers into one large suitcase, which is honestly something good to consider when you are renting and might have to pack up things to move to other places (I am really not a fan of packing things to move to new places...).
I am definitely more mindful in terms of the clothes and accessories I buy. I have stopped shopping in fast fashion stores and instead prefer to put my money into more ethical and better lasting quality clothing. Some of the brands I favour sell items that are a bit more expensive for sure but also have values that correspond to what I prefer. Again, those are not luxury brands and when you think about it, one quality t-shirt will not only last longer, most certainly use better material but is also cheaper than buying 4 or 5 t-shirts just because they are a 'bargain' or on 'sale' (from experience, those cheap items have never lasted me long - I had bought Pilates leggings recently from one of those fast fashion places and after two washes, they were almost see-through!).
Another hard one for the book lovers in us.
We have a lovely bookshelf but it was starting to get very (very) crowded with books on top of rows of books, piles of books under the bookshelf itself and in other places in our home.
We took all the books out of the shelves and seriously considered what was worth keeping. There are quite a few books that have a sentimental value to us or that we know we go back to every now and then. But the rest? If there is no chance it will be looked at ever gain or re-read? Rather than gathering dust on top, off it goes! Plus, it will get a new life and be enjoyed by another book lover.
The hardest for me was getting rid of cookbooks but I realised some had never been opened or did not actually interest me whatsoever. I know it looks nice to have a beautiful shelf filled with cookbooks but wouldn't it be even nicer to know someone else will appreciate cooking from it?
We packed a large amount of books into bags and gave them to charity. Charity shops do not accept all books so make sure you pack carefully. For example they do not take books in foreign languages around here so I passed on my books in French to a friend who loves reading as much as I do and I kept some of them to give to my mum next time we visit. They also will not take educational/study books so maybe check with your local libraries or students if they are interested in having them.
When we moved to our rented apartment two years ago, the one room that took me a while to adapt to was the kitchen: it is small. And when I say small, there is not a single drawer that you could put cutlery or other tools into. This is a place where I spend a lot of time and want to be comfortable working in.
The key here was to get rid of unnecessary things and stick to kitchen essentials (no waffle maker or fancy mixer beautifully standing on the counter for us I'm afraid...).
In terms of tools and crockery, the way we proceeded was to look in each and every space in the kitchen and pull out things that had not been used in a long time (or unused altogether). We had a huge collection of mugs (the amount of mugs and cups gifted to us has become a laughable subject in our home...) so that was the first thing we packed into bags for charity. We followed with novelty items (we have all had that one tool that only has one very unique purpose and that only gets used once a year, if not less...) and multiples of the same thing (12 soup spoons but only four soup bowls for example...).
I also went through all the props I had accumulated for my photography and gave a lot of it away. Instead, I invested in certain items that are pretty neutral and can be used in many occasions/images (I like the food to be the main focus rather than the props surrounded it taking over).
In terms of food itself, having a small kitchen and a tiny fridge means we cannot store a lot of things (we cannot even freeze food since our fridge only contains an ice box that can fit about two trays of ice cubes). I had a small tendency to multiply the jars of spices and dried herbs because I would go to the shop and forget I already had some at home (raise your hand up if you just found a third jar of dried thyme in the back of a shelf!). Over the last few months and with our new steps in order to declutter, I have taken the habit to make a menu plan for the week before going grocery shopping. I make sure to look at what we already have in terms of ingredients so we do not double up. It allowed us to be more mindful about the way we consume food: we not only cut a lot on waste but the process has also meant we have been saving more than usual on our food budget.
All in all, our kitchen is much more manageable with counter space reclaimed for better purposes: preparing delicious things to eat!
We have a small bathroom so it is easy to think not many things can fit into it.
However, last October, we decided to take on the Minimalists challenge (on the first day of the month, get rid of one thing; on the second, two things; on the third, three things and so on...) and I was utterly baffled by how many things we got rid of from that tiny bathroom only!
I took everything out of the little cabinets above and under the sink. I made three piles: keep, give away and garbage.
The things we got rid of (in any of the two latter piles where it had to go eventually) included: multiple sample packets given with purchases (shampoo, body lotion, face cream, etc.), many hotel shampoos and soaps (we don't plan on opening a hotel any time soon...), a useless hairbrush, expired cosmetics, a lot of bobby pins that cannot even hold hair anymore (maybe I was keeping those for a future Museum of Unusable Bobby Pins, who knows!), luxury cosmetics I was gifted but that don't suit my skin whatsoever (I donated those), etc.
In terms of everyday products, my skin is quite sensitive and if a product works well for me, I prefer to stick to it and not go and buy many other moisturisers, shower gels, body lotions etc. just for the novelty.
Those bargains and 'three for the price of two' offers in cosmetics and toiletry shops are certainly very attractive but I tend to walk past it now. What if you buy multiples of one thing and realise half way through using it that it doesn't suit you (it could be the smell you don't like, it could be having a bad effect on your hair/skin, etc.)? Then you are stuck with a lot of it that you cannot even use.
A lot of products are also specifically aimed at women and men but at home, we tend to stick with neutral products that work for both of us (shampoo, shower gel, face wash). It really cuts the amount of items sitting on the sink or standing in the shower.
As for cleaning products, I have also reduced the amount we use and chose products that are eco friendly. Our spray cleaner is even homemade and works for both kitchen and bathroom (it is great to reclaim that space under the sink too).
I could also have called that chapter 'papers & stuff'. Do you know what I mean by stuff?
All the many many things and knickknacks that accumulate on shelves, in boxes, at the back of cupboards, in mystery storage spaces...
I know mystery storage space sounds vague but to give you an idea we currently have some in our allocated coal shed outside the building. It consists of huge plastic boxes (three big ones) we stored there two years ago when we moved in and have not checked since then. I can guarantee you it is filled to the top with 'stuff'. To be honest, neither of us could tell you what is currently in it. Those are the things that could probably go straight into bags and be donated. It is our plan for the next couple of weeks once the weather cools down (my real excuse for the delay is that there is an impressively large spider guarding the boxes...).
But let's focus on what is inside the home (and not guarded by a scary spider...).
Paperwork is a hard thing to declutter: what should we keep, what should we shred? Oh yes, by the way, I would invest in a paper shredder or borrow one when it comes to decluttering paperwork.
Family and personal documents, school and college certificates get kept safely in a folder, as well as our company documents and receipts (we also scan and keep important documents into folders on our computer and on the cloud).
Other than that, we opt for paperless statements and invoices as much as possible.
If I find something interesting in a magazine, I photograph it with my phone and store it on my Evernote app (I also use the Scannable app which is pretty handy to scan articles as well as receipts). I can then pass on the magazine to a friend or recycle it.
We have also started the habit of scanning the greeting cards we receive (Christmas, birthdays, wedding and birth announcements etc.) into folders on our computer and then we recycle them.
As for knickknacks, it is not something I voluntary go out of my way to buy, for us or for others (see the Minimalist gift ideas I posted last Christmas for example). The less amount of objects I have to dust the better I feel (I am allergic to dust - I do dust our home though, it's just that I prefer limiting the amount of sneeze fest and red eyes it causes).
Other 'stuff' is very varied and I will not go into details but for example, I once opened a random box in my office and found such things as: a dozen non-working pens (all gathered from various hotels and companies), half a ribbon, a random broken miniature clothes peg, a 5cm piece of string (in case I need to wrap a gift for a mouse obviously...) and it went on and on and on... But all those little things when you accumulate them can amount in entire bags of stuff you can get rid of. It is quite impressive when you think of it!
Once we got started with that whole process a few months ago, we honestly could not stop finding things that were completely unnecessary in our home.
I will reiterate what I said at the start of this post though, I am not writing this as a way to tell you you should all absolutely do this. These are very personal decisions to take.
And to reassure you, our home is not exactly clutter free yet. It is still a work in progress but I can tell you one thing: I do not miss any of the things we got rid of, I can actually barely remember what a lot of them were (a sign that I really did not need them at all).
Have you been doing some decluttering at home? What has this process been like for you? What are your best tips? Please share in the comments as I am sure it can be useful to us but also other readers.